Sucking Polo Dry

Posted on by David Gelber

Travel writers who have long been seeking to earn an honest crust naturally find the present surge of interest in their genre an economic Good Thing. It is not, however, a literary Good Thing. For a decade or more, droves of enterprising travellers have been going to X, Y or Z with camels, snow mobiles, […]

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Punks in Perspective

Posted on by David Gelber

As the poet and lyricist Pete Brown once put it: ‘Things may come and things may go, but the art school dance goes on forever.’ The particular variation of the art school dance into which Greil Marcus stumbled while pursuing his fascination with the Sex Pistols has turned into a frisky old fandango indeed; keeping […]

They Hanged Him Just The Same

Posted on by David Gelber

Everything we thought we knew about Göring is true, and more besides. He had a huge toy train set – with dive-bombing planes. He wore gaudy uniforms and medals – and togas, jewelled sandals, red boots with gold spurs, rouge, nail varnish and permed, peroxided hair. A penniless morphine addict in 1923, he became Reichsmarschall, […]

Visual Fictions

Posted on by David Gelber

The Museum of Modern Art at Oxford has often been the venue for unusual events, but the happenings of the past month must have been among the oddest it has seen – sixty children wielding brushes, attacking a vast mural under the exuberant direction of Jan Pienkowski, small groups producing meticulous, collectable drawings with Helen […]


Posted on by David Gelber

Cape have timed the re-issue of Lowry’s masterpiece to coincide with the release of the film; but re-issue and reappraisal have long been overdue in any case. Under the Volcano, despite steady sales, has never been much more than a cult, and the time has come for it to be generally acknowledged as one of […]

The Czech Dissidents

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In Milan Kundera’s (b. 1929) novel The Farewell Party (1973), Jakub, a political dissident, comments cynically – ‘How many young people have been thrown out of school because the parents fell into disfavour, and how many parents resigned themselves to a life-time of cowardly submission just to avoid embarrassing their children… anyone who wants to […]

Rome Diary

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

‘Today Italy is a country like any other,’ Moravia declared in a recent interview, and there is more than a grain of truth in this. More than five years have passed since Pasolini took the disappearance of fireflies, dense sparkling clouds that hung over the countryside on summer nights, as a symbol of the impoverishment […]

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After Dallas what?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Elliott Baker is an American. This is, I think, his sixth published novel. Norman Mailer finds Baker one of the funniest writers he knows. And We Were Young is dedicated to Norman Mailer. Elliott Baker is pictured on the back cover and he looks like Dennis Norden minus the spectacles and with a more expensive […]

Drieu La Rochelle: Double Agent

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In 1944-45, after his suicide attempts and with trial for collaboration an increasingly likely possibility, Drieu La Rochelle blamed his inability to live up to the fascist ideal on his class inheritance: ‘I was basically, essentially, weak. The son of timid, frightened bourgeois … I’ve always been frightened of everything. There was in me another […]

Epater la bourgeoisie

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Moravia is perhaps the only Italian novelist to attain world, stature (Italian Nobel prizewinners have tended to be poets). This is undoubtedly due to his work being less Italian and more worldly than that of other Italian novelists. A period of illness as an adolescent started him on an exploration of world literature and it […]

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The King Who Liked his Hamburgers Well Done

Posted on by David Gelber

Despite what the more lurid American magazines periodically tell us, Elvis Presley is as dead as a doornail. What survives of him is his reputation and, of late, that too has been in rather poor health. The equally deceased Albert Goldman, in his biography of the world’s first great pop star, delivered an unforgettable picture […]

Judaism Explained

Posted on by David Gelber

There is a great art to teaching lightly. And Rabbi Sidney Brichto has undertaken a general introduction to Jewish culture, religious practice, stereotypes, humour and nuance on precisely this accessible, pleasant plane. The title, Funny… You Don’t Look Jewish, is slightly misleading in its promotional levity. This is, at its core and despite some good […]

Half Hero Half Baby

Posted on by David Gelber

When Nelson was under-rewarded with a barony for winning the Battle of the Nile, the furious Emma Hamilton wrote to him: ‘Hang them, I say! If I was King of England, I would make you the most noble puissant Duke Nelson, Marquis Nile, Earl Alexandria, Viscount Pyramid, Baron Crocodile and Prince Victory.’ Nelson himself was […]

The Magical Power of Money

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

IT IS one of the ironies of American history that the founder of the Pinkerton detective agency, that efficient tool of post civil war capitalism, left Scotland to avoid arrest after his involvement in a Chartist demonstration in 1842. He was, after his arrival in the land of the free, an ardent abolitionist deeply involved […]

Too Bad About the Novel

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Bam! … Biff! … Pow! – Look out! Here he comes … It’s Tom! Dapper Tom Wolfe in tailored pin-stripes! Black stripes on white, you notice, not the other way round. Ass-backward in fact – that’s Tom, turning the world upside down and inside out and setting it write again! Crack! There goes Bellow, knocked […]

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Gawain Douglas Looks at Three Books About Wilde

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Welcome, St Oscar! A new canonisation for the Millennium? As we approach the centenary of Oscar Wilde’s death, there will be many books, lectures and exhibitions to sharpen our focus on this brilliant playwright and failed poet, now emerging as a magus. A good introduction to his philosophy might be Table Talk, edited by Thomas […]

Need for Magnificence

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Susan Bridgen is a rare creature among Tudor historians writing for a general audience. Her style is spare, her manner cool and impersonal. Not for her the luxuriant prose, the passionate engagement with the red-haired monarchs who first gave the English a sense of national pride. Yet out of this quietness she has produced a […]

A Prodigious Feat

Posted on by Tom Fleming

History is accelerating, chiefly because the growth of knowledge is increasing exponentially, and knowledge is a powerful fuel. Travel, political decisions, the exchange of information, the inception of war, deals and trades in the world’s markets, discoveries in science and medicine and their effects on human societies, all happen so much more rapidly than ever […]

Now We Can Know

Posted on by Tom Fleming

‘Is Lees-Milne a homosexualist?’ This was the first question put to me by the Editor-in-Chief of the Literary Review when I met him back in the 1970s, at a Private Eye lunch. Disconcerted at hearing one of my special heroes – whom I revered for his architectural writings, his acutely observed diaries and his enchanting […]

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