Jim Holt Gives Us His Measure

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Now that President Bush has declared the Nineties to be ‘the decade of the brain’ (as Dan Quayle gnashes his teeth), it is perhaps a good time to look back at the tremendous progress that Western science has made over the last couple of millennia at understanding the nature of this organ, with its gyri, […]

Jim Holt Remembers Teenage Telephone Conversations with B F Skinner

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Back when I was an adolescent, the first big challenge to my faith came from reading the works of B F Skinner. Prompted by a cover story about the Harvard psychologist in Time magazine, I delved into his Walden Two and Beyond Freedom and Dignity. ‘By God’, I remember thinking, ‘there’s no such thing as […]

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Jim Holt Guides Us Around Greenwich Village

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Many years ago, when I was a child, my mother and father brought me to New York City to see the sights. We took a boat to the Statue of Liberty, went to the top of the Empire State Building, and caught Camelot on Broadway with Richard Burton as King Arthur, which I liked rather […]

Jim Holt sets out to Review Quentin Crisp

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Although the stately homes of England remain by and large where they were erected, many of the stately homos of England have transplanted themselves to the United States, to our (I speak as an American) good fortune. One of these is Quentin Crisp. Crisp has been living in the East Village in New York since […]

The Best All-Night Party in New York

Posted on by Tom Fleming

For all the chaos that prevails these days in New York, there is one aspect of the city which remains the very soul of rationality, and that is its street-plan. The rectilinear network of numbered streets and avenues affords instant orientation to the visiting out-of-towner. It is not, to be sure, flawlessly Euclidean in its […]

Jim Holt on the Discreet Charm of Some Disnoids

Posted on by Tom Fleming

There comes a point in life when one tends to get lazy about culture. Aesthetic entropy sets in. One loses the resolve to take on Tolstoy’s novels in the original Russian, to master the Goldberg Variations on the harpsichord, to write an epic poem, to reinterpret the prophetic works of Blake. When this happens, it […]

A Reason for Incest

Posted on by David Gelber

There are few images more beguiling than that of the gilded White Russian reduced to beggary by the Revolution. Some of the stories are tragic. One need only think of Natasha Romanov, the wife of the Tsar’s brother, dying alone and penniless in a Parisian charity hospital. Other images are less dramatic but just as […]

Something to Read in the Evenings

Posted on by David Gelber

As an experienced Parsons-watcher (right back to his late-Seventies days, when he featured as one of the two ‘hip young gunslingers’ of the New Musical Express), I wasn’t looking forward to his novel. Books often resemble their authors, or rather their authors’ public performances, and so cockiness could have been the order of the day. […]

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Dalí was not Alone

Posted on by David Gelber

Ruth Brandon has set herself the unenviable task of sorting out the history of the Surrealists between 1917 and 1945, and trying to define what Surrealism meant at any given moment. The word first appeared in Paris in May 1917 and was coined by the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, but he died of influenza soon afterwards. […]

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The Woman Behind the Wheel

Posted on by David Gelber

When considering wives of twentieth-century artists, the line between muse and typist can be hard to find. Ditto chauffeur. Vladimir Nabokov could neither drive nor type, nor remember a telephone number. His beautiful, clever, capable, devoted Véra did it all for him and gave his lectures, too, when he was indisposed. She helped him chase, […]

Impossible Not to Be a Bit Pleased with Himself

Posted on by David Gelber

This is the autobiography of the first man to reach the top of Mount Everest, and return to tell the tale. His friend and comrade Tenzing Norgay was second on the rope to the summit: whether George Mallory and Andrew Irvine had got there twenty-nine years before we shall probably never know. Edmund Hillary was […]

Jim Holt looks for Something to Read in New York

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Walter Benjamin wrote somewhere that a true bibliophile has no desire actually to read his precious books . Well, I wouldn’t know about that, for I am by way of being a bibliophobe. I prefer reissues to first editions, paperbacks to hardcovers, and bound galleys to paperbacks- though I draw the line at unbound galleys. […]

Straw Men in Mufti

Posted on by Tom Fleming

During the long nights of the second Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683, the Viennese were unnerved by the nightly scratching and chipping of the Turkish sappers, seemingly just under their floorboards, as they worked to plant mines to force a breach in the walls. The siege failed and the Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa, commander […]

Starting Points

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Regina Porter’s remarkable debut novel leads us on a journey through America’s mottled history, beginning in the aftermath of the Second World War and ending in the early years of Barack Obama’s presidency. It’s a story told through the tangled lives of a host of characters – black, white, straight, gay, navy veterans, Shakespeare scholars, […]

The Road Less Travelled

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Travel writing is today a genre of its own, flagged up in bookshops, studied and taught in universities. Alongside the many excellent contemporary exponents, a canon has emerged of historical writers whom everyone ‘ought to read’: men and women who underwent amazing experiences, demonstrated remarkable powers of initiative and endurance along the way and wrote […]

Regicides on the Run

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The story of Edward Whalley and William Goffe, two of the three signatories of Charles I’s death warrant who fled to New England after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, has seen a revival of interest in recent years. No fewer than three popular history books have tackled their adventures in Connecticut and Massachusetts in the past

Very Important Party Person

Posted on by Tom Fleming

If you know what’s what, just a first name will do in certain very evolved milieux. In decoration land on the Pimlico Road, round the showrooms of Chelsea Harbour and in the Condé Nast corner of Hanover Square, there’s only one Nicky. Dean of interior decorators (they’re called ‘designers’ now, but Nicky likes the old […]

Behrouz Boochani

Posted on by Tom Fleming

I first wrote about the Kurdish-Iranian writer, journalist and filmmaker Behrouz Boochani in these pages in December 2016. Boochani is currently stranded on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, where he has been held, on order of the Australian authorities, for the past six years. Those seeking asylum in Australia are often detained for years and […]

Love & Loss

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Naomi Wood’s third novel is as well timed as it is well written. Coinciding with the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus, The Hiding Game traces the chequered friendships, messy relationships, thwarted hopes and misplaced dreams of a set of students at the German art school. The narrator, Paul Beckermann, explains at the outset, […]

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