Paul Taylor talks to Beryl Bainbridge

Posted on by David Gelber

The day I dropped in on her at her Camden Town home, Beryl Bainbridge was feeling a bit below par. The previous day (a Sunday), she had found herself in the kind of situation that might have been patented by Binny, the heroine of her Whitbread award-winning novel, Injury Time. An ex-boyfriend of her daughter […]

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Agnostic Faith

Posted on by David Gelber

Sheer bluff, calling a book like this The Critical Heritage. The Critical Detritus would be nearer the mark. Any good writer needs to be read in a new way; it might be argued that the creaks and groans of contemporaries in the presence of an original are instructive, deserving of record. But in fact reading […]

Paving the Way in a Man’s World

Posted on by David Gelber

When I first came to west Cornwall in the 1960s Barbara Hepworth’s small, dark, intense figure seemed as much part of the landscape of St Ives as the sculptures she made to adorn it. Her decision to stay there after the war was a major factor in the transformation of a small fishing town into […]

Awe-Inspiring Account of Himalayas and Hindu Kush

Posted on by David Gelber

Wilfred Thesiger must be fed up with being hailed as the last of the great Victorian travellers, striding along behind Livingstone, Burton and Stanley. After all, he was not born until 1910, and his life of wandering started only in 1933. when he risked his neck (and other delicate parts) on a trip to the […]

Fairest And Best

Posted on by David Gelber

‘This going into Europe’, remarked E P Thompson in The Sunday Times a quarter of a century ago, ‘will not turn out to be the thrilling mutual exchange supposed. It is more like nine middle-aged couples with failing marriages meeting in a darkened bedroom in a Brussels hotel for a Group Grope.’ Hugo Young sees […]

I Just Enjoy It

Posted on by David Gelber

In the soft-centred mush that today passes for political discourse, Roger Scruton’s discordant voice is a joy. He challenges the assumption on which our ‘society of wimps and scroungers’ is founded: he holds that ‘human beings neither are nor ought to be equal’. For this heresy he has been subjected to the abuse of his […]

Who’s Heard Of Her

Posted on by David Gelber

Had Dorothy Hodgkin been a man, she would have been the subject of a spate of full-length hagiographies by now: Tariq Ali would have weighed in with ‘Pugwash Warrior: Fighter for Peace’; Professor Steve Jones might have contributed ‘Biological Magic: The Story of the Quest for Proteins’; Roy Jenkins’s pen portrait would have been entitled […]

Heady Celebrations of Style

Posted on by David Gelber

The essays collected in Against Interpretation date from 1961-65, and created enough of a stir to be republished in book form in 1966. In the preface to that edition, Sontag points out that they belong to a ‘period of search, reflection, and discovery’ between the writing of her first and second novels, and she returns […]

Uninvited Intimacy

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

I suppose that ‘intimate’ is going to be this year’s publishers’ word, in the same way that last year’s was ‘Trivia’. ‘Secrets’ has long been a standby. But even those well used to the optimism of publishers might be surprised to discover absolutely nothing remotely intimate or secret on any page of Uninvited Guests. ‘The […]

Inky Fingers: December 2018 Children’s Books Round-up

Posted on by David Gelber

As children, the Brontë siblings developed a magnificently rich imaginative world populated by armies, generals and editors. Their literary ambitions were in evidence from an early stage: they carefully wrote their stories down in tiny books, complete with the names of the author, publisher and editor on the title pages. In Celia Rees’s Glass Town […]

December 2018 Crime Round-up

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

My books of the year Belinda Bauer’s Snap (Bantam), longlisted for the Booker Prize, is a funny, agonising account of what happens to three children in the aftermath of their mother’s kidnap on a motorway hard shoulder. Mick Herron’s London Rules (John Murray), the precursor to The Drop (reviewed above), continues the adventures of the […]

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Between the Covers

Posted on by Tom Fleming

On taking possession of Sissinghurst Castle in 1930, Vita Sackville-West’s first step was to create an airy writing room on the first floor of the Tower. Her husband, Harold Nicolson, claimed a cosier space on the ground floor of nearby South Cottage. The working libraries of two prolific authors, both rooms are to this day […]

Shahidul Alam

Posted on by Tom Fleming

To mark the Day of the Imprisoned Writer on 15 November, PEN highlighted the case of the award-winning Bangladeshi photographer, writer and activist Shahidul Alam, who was arrested in Dhaka on 5 August 2018. Shortly before his detention, Alam had given an interview to the news agency Al Jazeera in which he criticised the government’s […]

Big Foot Gets It

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Janina Duszejko, the narrator of Olga Tokarczuk’s newly translated Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (first published in Poland in 2009), lives in the remote Polish mountain hamlet of Luftzug. An English teacher and ‘guardian’ of her neighbours’ properties while they are empty over the winter months, she suffers from a variety […]

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Heads Will Roll

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Novelists don’t give themselves much leeway when they seek to render in fiction the lives of well-known historical figures. For subjects who lived through cataclysmic events such as the French Revolution, this is fortunately no drawback. In the case of Edward Carey’s rendering of Madame Tussaud’s story, a macabre imagination must have been the only […]

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Oh for the Age of Chivalry

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Adam Roberts writes a lot. In the space of twenty years he has written eighteen novels, seven novellas and three collections of short stories. He has authored or coauthored eight books of criticism and nonfiction, along with nine book-length parodies of famous novels. Four books by him have been released in 2018 alone, including his […]

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If Art Critics Ruled the World

Posted on by Tom Fleming

On Wandsworth Bridge is many things. It is an acerbic satire on the art world. It is a sci-fi novel in which time travel features freely. It is a love story. It is a feminist exploration of the place of women in the world, now and in the future. It is a warning against cults […]

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Passion Plays

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The very titles of the two novels by Vladimir Sharov currently available in English, Before and During and The Rehearsals, speak to the Russian author’s career-long concern with questions of time. Indeed Sharov, who passed away earlier this year at the age of sixty-six, was trained as a historian. But even a quick glance at […]

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Male Order

Posted on by Tom Fleming

To misquote Simone de Beauvoir, one is not born but rather becomes a man. This is the premise of What We’re Teaching Our Sons, a satire, alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, of all those earnest treatises on fatherhood. Although very accessible, Owen Booth’s debut is as difficult to pin down as the notion of masculinity in […]

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Sussex Apocalypse

Posted on by Tom Fleming

This novel, if we can call it that, plots a course towards apocalypse with an admirable lack of overexcitement. It’s a novel in which things fall apart, in which the centre cannot hold, but in which there is always time for a detour into local history. It’s a hallucinatory piece of work – Gareth Rees, […]

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