A Great, Wonderful Storybook

Posted on by David Gelber

Debussy once asked Mallarme if he could set one of his poems to music. But, replied Mallarme, have I not already set it to music? Hilary Mantel has decided to treat the French Revolution as a novel. But was it not already a novel? The Revolution forms a concentration of extraordinary events that defies ordinary […]

My Spermy, Fattening Gland Turned Cold

Posted on by David Gelber

We learn from the Faber publicity blurb that Ted Hughes’s appointment as Poet Laureate is the ‘most inspired’ since Tennyson’s. We also learn that Hughes, in discharging his Laureate duties, ‘has found the means to express a comprehensive vision of reality and nationhood that goes far beyond the courtly doggerel of most of his predecessors’. […]

Caught in the Groove

Posted on by David Gelber

Toni Morrison’s new novel is like the music that gave it its title. It is rhythmic, emotional, controlled even in its wildest moments, skilful, subversive and irresistibly seductive. It is born out of, and evokes, both pain and pleasure. It laments and celebrates black experience; it takes themes and plays variations upon them; it plunges, […]

Pale Ghost of a Very Good Novelist

Posted on by David Gelber

Norman Mailer’s new novel opens with a sequence so good you believe for a moment he may have written the book his friends and critics agreed was inside him. On the coast of Maine, lyrically described, there is a car smash, a house, two women, a ghost, sex, an air of menace and a series […]

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Pull the Other One

Posted on by David Gelber

So, who told the biggest whoppers? Was it Amerigo Vespucci, the oily Florentine who claimed to have discovered America a year before Columbus, thus succeeding in having the New World named after him? Or perhaps you prefer Alexander VI – the Borgia Pope – who dissolved his daughter Lucrezia’s first marriage on the grounds that […]

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Joys of Young Love in a Superb Ghost Story

Posted on by David Gelber

Just towards the end of Penelope Fitzgerald’s brilliant new novel, the reader is treated to a ghost-story, told in the manner of M R James. It is the harrowing tale of an 1870s archaeological dig in a field near Cambridge, on the site of an ancient nunnery dedicated to St Salome (‘the Virgin Mary’s midwife’). […]

Wacko People

Posted on by Tom Fleming

William Boyd is a maddening writer, by turns brilliant and glib, glittery and prosaic. Settings are exotic, geographically and historically. Nothing is on the level, everybody is somehow abroad but nobody is innocent. This is the case more than ever in Boyd’s second collection of short stories, an eclectic mix of high comedy and almost […]

True to Himself, but Exhausting for Others

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Nothing is more irritating for novelists than the expectation of the public that they will remain true to previous form in every way. Publishers in particular are keen on consistency. There is always great in-house consternation when novelists who have built up a following and become profitable with one kind of novel suddenly produce a […]

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A Theory of Love

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The last thing the general reader of books on sexual politics (if there is such a person) is likely to want, after the abominable crime not to be named among Christians, Uranianism, homosexuality, being gay and being capital Q Queer, is a new word for the condition all these words attempt to define, or to […]

A History of the Human Heart

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The ten essays on art and the role of the artist which make up Art Objects are a manifesto written for the turn of the new century which echoes the tenets and the manifesto-making of High Modernism. Jeanette Winterson calls upon the artist to ‘make it new’ (Pound), elaborates the metaphor of the artist as […]

Smiley With The Knyf

Posted on by Tom Fleming

No admirer of John le Carré’s spy fiction can believe that international espionage is glamorous or exciting in the way that lesser practitioners of the genre have represented it. He has shown vividly what it is: a bureaucratic operation to accumulate and sift through huge amounts of trivial information. So the essential qualities called for […]

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