Our Man in Japan

Posted on by David Gelber

Alan Booth, who died in 1993 at the age of forty-seven, was a London-born writer and journalist who lived in Japan for twenty years and wrote two well-loved travel books, The Roads to Sata and Looking for the Lost, which have become classics owing to their sharp depictions of Japanese life and their bracing humour. […]

Fronte Femminile

Posted on by David Gelber

Like other Italian regions, Piedmont, occupying the country’s northwestern corner, has a powerful identity of its own. An area of Alpine mountains fringed with vineyards, it is dominated by the city of Turin, a capital laid out in the 17th century by the insatiably ambitious dukes of Savoy, whose descendants became kings of a united […]

A Play by Any Other Name

Posted on by David Gelber

Anyone interested in books knows of the First Folio, the collection officially titled Mr William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, which was published in London in 1623. But they may not have seen a copy. More often seen is the image of the author on the Folio’s title page. Some people will also have looked […]

Dr Stella Nyanzi

Posted on by David Gelber

In September 2018, the Ugandan writer and feminist activist Dr Stella Nyanzi published a poem on Facebook in which she criticised Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, and insulted his late mother. Nyanzi was charged two months later with ‘cyber harassment’ and ‘offensive communication’ under sections 24 and 25 of the 2011 Computer Misuse Act. At the […]

Notes from Underground

Posted on by David Gelber

The Starless Sea is a high-stakes fantasy, a charming tribute to the art of storytelling and a loose collection of the average millennial’s angsty thoughts. Prompted by finding his own life story in the contents of a book, PhD student Zachary Ezra Rawlins delves into the secrets of a subterranean society of bibliophiles and experiences […]

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Matters of Debate

Posted on by David Gelber

We meet Adam, the main character in The Topeka School, as a teenager in the mid-1990s. He is on a boat in the middle of a lake with his girlfriend, Amber. Without looking at her, he talks ‘for a long time’ about his feelings. Turning to see the effect of his words, he finds Amber […]

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Nan about Town

Posted on by David Gelber

The protagonists in Salley Vickers’s novels tend to be either artists or in some way transformed by works of art. Her debut, Miss Garnet’s Angel (2000), centres on a series of paintings featuring the Archangel Raphael that Miss Garnet stumbles across in a Venetian church. In Vickers’s 2018 novel The Librarian, the main character is […]

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Remains of the Day

Posted on by David Gelber

In the fictional world Elizabeth Strout has created in the small towns of coastal Maine, characters are reassembling like old friends at a funeral. The redoubtable Olive Kitteridge is there, of course, first introduced to the world in 2008 in the novel that bears her name. Jim and Bob Burgess, from The Burgess Boys (2013), […]

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Roman Holiday

Posted on by David Gelber

One of the most moving passages in André Aciman’s 2007 novel Call Me by Your Name is a heart-to-heart between father and son at a moment when seemingly all is said and done. Elio Perlman, the seventeen-year-old protagonist, has just bid a tearful farewell to Oliver, the young academic who

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A House But Not a Home

Posted on by David Gelber

It is a strange feeling to gaze at a familiar house, a one-time home, knowing that someone else now has the keys. In Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House, the siblings Danny and Maeve are consumed by this sense of dispossessed longing. Losing their parents at a young age, and exiled from the house by their […]

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Marian Evans, the Radical

Posted on by David Gelber

A wise reader once remarked to me that reading George Eliot is like having a conversation with one’s cleverest, most clear-eyed friend. In which case, In Love with George Eliot is like peeking into their diary and learning their secrets. Kathy O’Shaughnessy’s novel follows Marian Evans (Eliot’s real name) from her first steps into London […]

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Out on a Limb

Posted on by David Gelber

By the time the islanders notice the ‘disappearance’ of their left legs, they have become accustomed to the process. Many things have been lost in the same manner on their island ‘full of holes’: hats, emeralds, birds, photographs, the ferry on which they had, in years past, travelled to and from the now-inaccessible mainland. What […]

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A Sorry State

Posted on by David Gelber

In April 1917, as conflict raged across Europe, the British government reached a crucial decision. Lord Devonport, a grocery magnate taken on by Whitehall as minister of food control, imposed a ban on the manufacture of ‘fancy cakes’, a move designed to maintain supplies of vital necessities. The fact that a minister had such power […]

Swags & Sofas

Posted on by David Gelber

Phaidon made its reputation with big books. Back in the 1990s, titles such as The Art Book and The Fashion Book were so arresting that you had to have them on your coffee table and so wittily put together that they never became wholly embarrassing. These surveys of entire genres followed a simple formula: one […]

Net Losses

Posted on by David Gelber

The 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa was supposed to herald a fresh dawn for African football. When winger Siphiwe Tshabalala scored for the hosts against Mexico in the opening match, the commentator Peter Drury encapsulated the moment for a UK audience: ‘Goal Bafana Bafana! Goal for South Africa! Goal for all of Africa!’ […]

Convince Me

Posted on by Tom Fleming

David Bromwich is among the most accomplished literary critics writing in the United States today. More than that, he is a major intellectual voice there. He brings considerable reserves of historical knowledge and philosophical insight to the various issues that concern him. Partly because of this, his work extends beyond the confines of any disciplinary […]

From the Abattoir to Amazon

Posted on by Tom Fleming

What do we talk about when we talk about books? Over the course of five chapters, Leah Price takes us on an excursion through the hidden trails and forgotten routes of books and reading during three centuries, uncovering the relationship between the printed cultures of the past and more recent developments in the media landscape, […]

Still Standing

Posted on by David Gelber

The greatest line in the film Beaches comes from Bette Midler, playing the narcissistic Broadway performer C C Bloom: ‘But enough about me, let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?’ Both Elton John’s and Debbie Harry’s long-awaited memoirs deliver in spades stories of the kind of self-regard, solipsism and opportunism that run […]

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