A Sad, Useless Life

Posted on by David Gelber

As EVERYONE who has heard of Monte Carlo, Maria Callas and Jackie Onassis knows, Christina Onassis, Bolker, Andreadis, Kausov, Roussel was the much married extremely rich girl who searched for happiness in almost as ruthless a manner as her father went after wealth and power, and her step-mother, Jackie KO chased after the root of […]

We Could Do With A Few More, Monsieur

Posted on by David Gelber

‘Fantastic!’ the movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn is said to have exclaimed, on first looking into the collected works of Shakespeare. ‘And it was all written with a feather!’ Greater minds have given birth to more subtle thoughts on the subject, though not all of them as memorable. Wittgenstein, that unacknowledged humorist, worried away at the […]

Self-Castrated Beaver

Posted on by David Gelber

I once saw the bearded one – el barbudo – and was close enough to touch him. It was at a rally in Santa Clara on 26 July 1968. The murder of Che Guevara was a recent, vivid memory. The Vietnam war, horrifying enough at the time, was to get more ghastly yet. In Angola […]

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They Have Been at the Core of Great Events

Posted on by David Gelber

In this big, rambling, usually interesting, occasionally fascinating, and often irritating book, Fred Inglis attempts two things: a survey of modern journalism (that is, the journalism of the last hundred or so years) and an examination of the lives of a couple of dozen star journalists and a few of the great monster-proprietors. The former […]

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A Shilling Life

Posted on by David Gelber

‘A shilling life will give you all the facts’, and though Mr Osborne’s life of Auden costs rather more than a shilling it is certainly rich in specific information. Auden’s love-affairs are here (one of them was with a woman), and the poet’s public career is competently surveyed. But essentially the book adds little to […]

Must Be A Romantic

Posted on by David Gelber

I have always feared that Michael Foot and I have at least one weakness in common. Both of us find it almost impossible to accept Oliver Cromwell’s advice and at least consider the possibility that we might be wrong. So it is not surprising that, having been on opposite sides of what Foot calls the […]

Women who Denounced their Sisters as Witches

Posted on by David Gelber

Sometime during the 1970s the witch was transformed from a black-hatted crone to a wise medicine women. The spell was cast by radical feminist historians, determined to find their own heroic ‘foremothers’ in the dim murk of the past. The witch was a good place to start. Dunked, splattered and singed throughout the early modern […]

Courageous Women

Posted on by David Gelber

I spent five years as a boarder at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Surrey. Although the nuns taught us every day in class, a mystique hovered round them and their secret lives. The cloisters, where they slept and ate, were out of bounds. We schoolgirls were particularly fascinated by their hair, or lack […]

One of the Best Places to Think About Things

Posted on by David Gelber

Comparing themselves so explicitly with MacNeice and Auden is, for Armitage and Maxwell, a double-edged sword; it could, of course, catapult them into the canon of great twentieth-century poets, but on the evidence here it is more likely simply to point up their comparative shortcomings. When Auden and MacNeice set out for Iceland sixty years […]

When is a Nude Not a Nude?

Posted on by David Gelber

The idea of the Victorians taking their clothes off seems quite irresistible to the twentieth century, judging by the numbers of books on the subject. We have had The Other Victorians, Fanny by Gaslight, The Worm in the Bud, The Victorian Underworld, to name but a few. Then we had the ubiquitous ‘Walter’, detailing his […]

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A Love Letter from the Friends He Left Behind

Posted on by David Gelber

A year or two before Peter Cook died, I arranged a meeting between him and my editor at Century, Mark Booth. Mark wanted him to write an autobiography. They met at Rules. Peter arrived announcing that he had just finished his autobiography, and that he had it with him. ‘I’d love to see it,’ said […]

The Frightful Toil

Posted on by David Gelber

‘Writing about one’s own work carries with it certain risks, including that of seeming egocentric,’ David Lodge acknowledges in this collection of essays, ‘but I have never felt that there was any conflict between being a self-aware creative writer and an analytical, formalist critic at the same time – on the contrary. T S Eliot […]

Life in a State of Anarchy

Posted on by David Gelber

Since 1945, there have been about 150 conflicts of all kinds; perhaps 20 million people have perished in them, not to speak of the maimed, the bereaved and millions of refugees. In this grim catalogue of mayhem, the Lebanon occupies a unique place. It used to do so, in the troubled Middle East, as an […]

What Happened to Lincoln?

Posted on by David Gelber

In 1982 Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln wrote a book called The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, which revealed-a number of surprising facts. The wedding at Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine, had in fact been Jesus’s own wedding, to Mary Magdalene. The happy couple had had issue, including one unruly […]

Sacred Cows

Posted on by David Gelber

There is a respectable quantity of accredited poetry by women – respectable, that is, compared with other art forms – and it is striking that these two anthologies, though they obviously overlap in major areas, do not, overall, contain the same work. Women have always composed poetry – the first identified writer in the world […]

Does Karamazov’s God Exist?

Posted on by David Gelber

‘What do you believe?’ For most of us the question is embarrassing. Even the minority who subscribe to a particular faith, or denomination within one, find it difficult to distinguish between what they ought to believe and what, at root, they actually believe. For the non-believer, perhaps, the question deserves to be more embarrassing than […]

The Book We Have Been Crying Out for

Posted on by David Gelber

I am tired of people telling me that penises aren’t interesting, because they are; and, though I’m no Freudian analyst, I strongly suspect that these ignorant folk are trying to conceal a preoccupation which is embarrassing to them. How can anything be boring that has, through the course of human history, been worshipped, admired, feared, […]

Miles from Nowhere

Posted on by David Gelber

Several full-length biographies of Miles Davis have been published since his death in 1991. Davis’s album Kind of Blue, recorded in 1959, still sells five thousand copies a month in the United States alone. He is the one modern jazz musician likely to be represented on the meagre jazz shelves of shops; in amongst the […]

Language and Ideology

Posted on by David Gelber

Upon the deep and unalterable foundations of the male and female sexes, people have constructed the fragile castles of the masculine and feminine genders. These structures have been re-embellished, refortified and sometimes entirely rebuilt in order that each sex should retain its mystery, its charm and its danger for the other. And one mark of […]

Rare Opportunities

Posted on by Tom Fleming

What do we mean by ‘rare’? That may sound a little like Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty: ‘When I use a word … it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’ The online Cambridge Dictionary offers a more mundane answer: ‘1. not common; very unusual: 2. (of meat) not cooked […]

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