No Cannes Do

Posted on by David Gelber

Sheathed in silver and sporting a seductive sobriquet, Jim Ballard’s latest novel is as alluringly tricked out as any lame starlet from the Riviera it describes: a companion piece to 1996’s Cocaine Nights, it once again explores this startlingly talented author’s fascination with the way crime and recreation may interact with the technological temptations of […]

Life in the Trees

Posted on by David Gelber

The premature death of Italo Calvino made front-page news in Italy. In the Corriere della Sera John Updike, the writer responsible for introducing him to the Americans, wrote that Calvino’s death had ‘deprived world literature of its most refined and civil voice’. Umberto Eco’s obituary nearly took precedence over news about the Mexican earthquake. Messages […]

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Whores with Haloes

Posted on by David Gelber

Prostitution is a muddled and muddling issue, and The Prostitute in Progressive Literature doesn’t really clear the fog away. A mixture of history, sociology, literary criticism, it is a richly informative labyrinth that loses the reader even as it enlightens him. Paradoxical, I admit, but then the subject of the harlot’s solicitations is full of […]

The Globe Entire

Posted on by David Gelber

James Fenton’s poems are published by his brother Tom, who runs The Salamander Press in Edinburgh. They should be bought in this form because the craft of poetry is visual as well as aural and intellectual. The Salamander Press give time and trouble to the look and feel of the thing; this has, happily, spilt […]

Saint Satchmo

Posted on by David Gelber

The last time I cried at the cinema was when Louis Armstrong welled up on the soundtrack of Good Morning, Vietnam, singing ‘What A Wonderful World’ in that black croon-drawl of his as scores of raw American recruits, poor boys all, trundled past the camera on their way to faraway deaths. It was a devastating […]

The Squeak of a Frozen Pea

Posted on by David Gelber

The Satanic Verses is a novel with a devilish delight in disaster, transforming the sufferings of a manic world with a jubilant, generous spirit. In style, conception, and sheer creative energy, it is as unmistakably Salman Rushdie’s as Midnight’s Children and Shame. Proper London, bhai! ‘ a man yells as he falls alive from the […]

Blind Man in Trouble

Posted on by David Gelber

Disability makes hypocrites of us all. I would always hold the door open for someone in a wheelchair, but I’m not much inclined towards books, films or plays about the physically or mentally impaired. As Sammy Samuels, the hero of this novel, might say, ‘it doesnay bear thinking about’. Sammy is a vivid, gutsy and […]

Life Without Men

Posted on by David Gelber

There must have been rejoicing in the House of Virago when they got their hands on Ali Smith’s novel, as Like embraces many of the subjects they hold dear – Sapphic love, single parenthood, anti-Thatcher politics and Scottishness. It is the story of Dr Amy Shone, a brilliant scholar and Fellow of Cambridge University and […]

Going Down the Drain

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In Europe, Europe Hans Magnus Enzensberger, renowned poet, essayist, journalist and dramatist, has turned his hand to a type of protracted travel-writing. His pen-portraits avoid the ‘great powers’ of Europe, dwelling instead on the satellite countries and giving an impression of a lumpen Occidental under-class which strikes a resounding note of discord with the ‘white-heat’ […]

Muddy Waters

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

It is a typically French idea that the relation between society and one element of its evolution – in this case water – provides the clue to understanding the whole of social progress. This is the ideal time for the British to read a book which places water at the centre of things and Gaubert’s […]

Jolly Hockey Sticks

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The life of actress and amateur philosopher Joanna Lumley is like those dramatic conversations you half-hear from the next table in a restaurant – considerably less fascinating, and slightly disappointing, when you give them your full attention. Lumley’s doings have covered many inches of salacious newsprint, and now her autobiography promises to tell all. We […]

Getting to Know the Sticks & Stones

Posted on by David Gelber

Max Hastings has written what for me is a marvellous book. Enthusiasm is at a discount in our colourless age. One warms to Hastings because he is an unashamed enthusiast. He may not dispel the hostility of those who consider shooters and hunters as latter-day barbarians; but at least they may catch a glimmer of […]

Laced With Tension

Posted on by David Gelber

In Hollywood now, apparently, the talk is of ‘high-’ and ‘low-concepts’, a high-concept film consisting of a single, simple idea that can be summarised succinctly on the back of a cigarette packet. Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger as twins! Tom Hanks as an eleven-year-old! Nicholson Baker’s extraordinary, hilarious novel is a high-concept book, and this […]

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