Pain, Folly and Joys of Romantic Love

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Joanna Trollope has written a series of novels exploring the effects of unexpected crisis on middle-class lives. A clergyman’s wife braves her husband’s anger to stack shelves in the local supermarket. A happily married woman takes a lesbian lover. A farmer commits suicide after his brother’s wife dies of cancer. Each of these events acts […]

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Benares Memories

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Pankaj Mishra is known in this country as the messenger who first brought news of Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, and as the author of penetrating literary essays in the New York Review of Books, the New Statesman and the TLS. As an essayist, Mishra is fastidious, his prose plain and precise, eschewing […]

Muslims in Willesden

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Such is the cult of the celebrity author in contemporary publishing that it is easy for a work of real talent to be smothered, or swept away altogether, by the tide of hype that inevitably surrounds the discovery of the latest bright young thing. Two years ago, when Zadie Smith was only twenty-two, her unfinished […]

He Left No Signs When He Sank

Posted on by David Gelber

John Pollock’s biography of Lord Kitchener is the second of two volumes. The first took its hero – and it is clear that to Pollock Kitchener is a hero – up to 1902 and his appointment as Commander-in-Chief in India. This one describes his time in India and then as proconsul in Egypt, and, finally, […]

Doppelganger Problem

Posted on by David Gelber

Lord Lucan’s murder of his children’s nanny and his subsequent disappearance is one of the most rehashed fables of our times. Everyone has a pet theory, the most likely being that he drowned himself in the early hours of the morning after the debacle. The theory I like best, though, is my husband’s. He believes […]

Fair Question

Posted on by David Gelber

This is a first-person, mock-confessional novel, the autobiography of Charlie Fairburn, a successful screenwriter who is given a few months to live by his doctors. He decides that he must write something worth while, a novel that will be his legacy to the world. Leaving his daughter and ex-wife behind, he sells his house and […]

No Love, No Desire

Posted on by David Gelber

Europe, it has been said, is a bore. The government of Europe bores absolutely. Not the least of the virtues of Larry Siedentop’s Democracy in Europe is that it serves to undermine this generalisation, rescuing as it does some of the key issues of our time from the arid grip of the politicians and the […]

Talking It Over Again

Posted on by David Gelber

‘Every love story begins with a crime’, claims one character early on in Love, etc. Julian Barnes more than rises to the aphorism’s challenge: his novel’s quietly tense suburban narrative both begins with a crime and ends with one.

Enjoyable Trip through a Turbulent Century

Posted on by David Gelber

Along with writers as diverse as Somerset Maugham, Catherine Cookson and Jeffrey Archer, Amitav Ghosh possesses the one attribute essential to any novelist in search of popular success: he is a born storyteller. With a plot spanning the lives of three generations, and set against a succession of cataclysmic events in India, Burma and Malaysia […]

It Is No Yoke

Posted on by David Gelber

‘Why chuck good money after him?’ That was the reaction of my Greek barber, when we were recently discussing the possible restoration of King Constantine: ‘those kings, they just milk the people’. His words caught the gist of the anti-monarchical tradition in Britain, too, as revealed in Frank Prochaska’s crisp and cogent survey of the […]

Gombrich For Ever

Posted on by David Gelber

Most festschrifts are works of piety rather than serious scholarship. This is different. It would be hard to exaggerate the knowledge I have gained or the pleasure and stimulation I have received from studying this book. That is as it should be. Sir Ernst Gombrich, now eighty-five, is the greatest art scholar of his generation, […]

Not For The Proles

Posted on by David Gelber

In his own country, it is said, Georges Bataille is revered as a philosophical sage, ‘one of the most important writers of the century’ according to that dubious icon, Michel Foucault. Cynical foreigners may suspect this is due to the erotic violence of his novels, several of which, awash with slavering carnality, are available in […]

Another Shandy?

Posted on by David Gelber

Middlesex is a rare and curious literary artefact. I can think of only one other book in which a first-person narrator describes, as if an eyewitness, the action that takes place before his or her birth. In Tristram Shandy, we’re four chapters in before Tristram is born and, subsequently, unmanned by an unmentionable accident involving […]

Are You Politically Correct?

Posted on by David Gelber

Stephan Thernstrom, 56, a professor at Harvard University for 25 years, is considered one of the pre-eminent scholars of the history of race relations in America. He has tenure. He has won prizes and published numerous articles and four books and edited the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. For several years, Thernstrom and another […]

Body Beautiful

Posted on by David Gelber

Not too likely judging by my current rate of promotion, but if I were God and mulling over a bit of fire and brimstone for the House of Commons, Richard Body’s membership might stay My hand. We get plenty of cloudy abstractions about Europe but Sir Richard, the very model of the English genius-eccentric, quietly […]

But When Does She Clean Her Teeth?

Posted on by David Gelber

Michael Ondaatje specialises in hauntings. He has no time for the ordinary. His last novel, The English Patient, won the Booker Prize, and no one who read it – or saw Anthony Minghella’s film – will ever forget the Icarus-like figure at its centre. I admired the novel, but with reservations. I felt, without quite […]

Clinton As Greek Hero

Posted on by David Gelber

From the 1960s to the 1980s, campus fiction was a version of pastoral, comically recounting erotic antics, ideological squabbles and international misunderstandings peculiar to an academia depicted as a world apart, disconnected from the rest of society. In the past decade, however, the tone has become more sombre: David Mamet’s Oleanna, J M Coetzee’s Disgrace […]

Big Bad Wolf

Posted on by David Gelber

The jacket of Fred Halliday’s book shows a photograph of a characteristic group of Islamic Afghan rebels, sub-machine guns and rifles in hand, standing atop a captured Soviet armoured vehicle, east of Kabul. It is probably the most potent image of that country – one that has been effectively propagandized in the West ever since […]

Romantic Fables

Posted on by David Gelber

Berlioz made a forceful impression on his contemporaries. In 1831 Mendelssohn wrote to his father: Berlioz is a freak [verzzert, distorted, out of shape], without a spark of talent, fumbling about in the darkness and imagining himself to be the creator of a new world; he writes about the most terrible things, and dreams and […]

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