In Eliot’s Footsteps

Posted on by David Gelber

Dr George Steiner, the international literary polymath and extraordinary Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, recently published an uncharacteristically accessible manifesto in the page six ‘Why, oh Why?’ spot of the Daily Mail in which he announced that the age of the book was coming to an end. He welcomed this development for two reasons: that […]

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Never Lets Us Down

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The eighteenth book in Patrick O’Brian’s great naval series more than maintains the standards he has set himself. There is no falling-off, no self-indulgence. That is all O’Brian fans need to know; they need have no fears. O’Brian’s energy, humour and skill continue unabated; if anything, his canvas is wider, more ambitious, more complex than […]

Too Early for Us to Be Thankful

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The news of William Rushton’s death came just as the magazine was waiting to go to press, its departure delayed by a random and capricious power cut which removed all electricity from Lexington Street but practically nowhere else. The staff of the Literary Review were sitting around in Andrew Edmunds wine bar, shivering over some […]

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‘Ave a Good Laff

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

If you cannot judge a book by its cover, you certainly cannot judge one by opening it at random on page 83. ‘It was the lack of greenery that finally di d for me at Blackpool’ was the first sentence l read of Up North, to which I heard myself responding, ‘Yer great daft Mary […]

Towards a Discreet Form of Censorship

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

It was only two days after the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction ceremony at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand that Mr Newt Gingrich, the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, revealed that he also has written a salacious novel. A couple of fruity extracts were released at the same time to whet our appetites. Might Gingrich have […]

Rare Case of a Poet who Doubted His Own Genius

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Could we be about to witness a Matthew Arnold revival after years of disparagement of his poetry by T S Eliot and those who came after him? The multiplicity of popular editions indicates that the poetry-reading public may have its own view on the matter; now his writings on culture, long the subject of caricature […]

Glory in His Garden

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

When Edmund de Rothschild visited Japan in 1964, the Asahi Evening News described him as ‘the world’s wealthiest man, the banker who lords it over the world’s financial circles, the man who manipulates the world’s gold at will, the head of the Rothschild family of England which is still looked up to in mystical awe […]

The Curtains Were Lavender Taffeta

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Truman Persons would never have done. But, fortunately, little Truman’s mother married a second time. Instead of evoking sexless bureaucracy, the future writer had the name of a bullfighter’s cloak. His mother also provided him with a wretched childhood, so, along with talent and ambition, he had everything. George Plimpton tells Truman’s story by scissoring […]

A Talent For Shrouds

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In the late 1970s, I had a colleague in the World Service of the BBC by the name of Feyyaz Fergar. We all loved him, especially in the basement bar of Bush House on Aldwych, but alas many of us did not discover until too late that, as well as being an uplifting companion, he […]

Maybe It’s Because He Was a Londoner

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Europe is a culture with an ancient wound, a fault line which has divided it since the sixteenth-century Reformation. The division between Catholic and Protestant Europe still runs deep even where religious practice has become a marginal activity: wretched news from Belfast picks at the scab every morning when we turn on Radio Four. In […]

That Sinking Feeling

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Robert Service, twice biographer of Lenin, reveals himself in this volume to be a writer of small things: of the anekdot, or joke, which larded Russian conversation in the Communist era, and does so still; of the revealing characteristics of leaders, such as Boris Yeltsin’s habit of playing spoons on the pates of bald underlings; […]

A First-Class Man to Study these Mediocrities

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Ours is an age in which the elites have lost their self-confidence. Terrified by the thought of attempting to justify their status, they try to survive by sucking up to the mob. Alan Watkins sits like patience on a monument, smiling at this folly but refusing to demean himself by joining in. Reading him is […]

Have Things Changed?

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The fact that a millennium lasts a thousand years is, you might think, self-evident. So there is something distinctly odd about the subtitle of Rosalind Coward’s new book, which asks whether feminism is relevant to the new millennium: not the next decade, or the next fifty years, but the next ten centuries. This is surely […]

One For The Lassies?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

That definite article in the title looks rather presumptuous, not to say premature. Gordon Brown’s predecessor as Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, was the subject of two full-length biographies during his brief spell at the Treasury. Of the New Labour gang, Tony Blair and John Prescott have already been served up between hard covers, and several authors […]

Third Reich Filth

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

If you are a fugitive in fear of your life, always walk along the road against the traffic, rather than in the same direction. It ‘s harder for someone to drive alongside and shoot you. The author of this disturbing book has lived in (very justifiable) fear of his life ever since leaving the neo […]

Not Drowning Just Waving

Posted on by David Gelber

When Henry VIII’s dynastic and leg-over considerations led him to break with Rome, he can have had no idea what an odd institution he was creating in the Church of England, or how much anguish he was storing up for generations of sensitive young Englishmen. Three of the more anguished, the editor of the Spectator, […]

Out For a Drink

Posted on by David Gelber

This is the story of two crimes. The first was the bombing by the IRA of two pubs in Guildford in October 1974. Five people were killed, and many others horribly injured. The indiscriminate slaughter and maiming of innocent people out for a drink is here described in gory detail, and is as shocking now […]

In Restless Flight to be an Auteur

Posted on by Marketing Manager

I’ve become inured over the years to people telling me – in the same tone of voice reserved for inveighing against blood sports – that the theatre is a spoilt brat, a minor art, impoverished in imagination, hopeless, dull, feeble, sclerotic, rotten, boring and just plain bad. I think, perversely perhaps, that it’s to the […]

When Kicking a Dead Dog Can Upset the Applecart

Posted on by Marketing Manager

For most people, I imagine the smell of dusty books, or the sound of church bells, or even the gentle scent of marijuana would be enough to conjure up memories of university years. For me, however, it is passages like this that make me smile, close my eyes, and think dreamily of the past: In […]

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