A Celebration of Wole Soyinka

Posted on by David Gelber

There can’t be many people who care for literature, for all round excellence, who wouldn’t be moved by the fact that Wole Soyinka has, at last, been awarded the Nobel prize. In my opinion he entered that class in 1965, when he was thirty one years old, with the publication of his play, The Road. […]

Costume Dramas

Posted on by David Gelber

Londoners consists of interviews with about two hundred of the six million or so people who call themselves Londoners. ‘My criterion for selecting them was simple, perhaps unashamedly so’, Nicholas Shakespeare explains. ‘I pursued those people living in the city who caught the corner of my eye.’ Londoners therefore is essentially a guide to the […]

Designs on the World

Posted on by David Gelber

‘Design’, said Picture Post firmly in 1946, ‘has yet to fit comfortably into the British home’. This, coming in particular from such a famously well-designed magazine, is rather like Molière’s Bourgeois Gentilhomme not believing he can speak prose. ‘Design’ in the British mind, like good food, means something foreign, flash, not to be trusted, and […]

Bad Craziness

Posted on by David Gelber

We were somewhere around Plaistow on the edge of the desert when the earphone sang. I slowed the Lambo Ballbuster and signalled for Heem, my butler, to take the call. ‘It’s a woman’, he said, ‘called Literary Review. There’s been a change of plan. You’ve got to cover the latest Hunter Thompson instead of those […]

Interview: Clive James

Posted on by David Gelber

On the day, Other Passports, Poems 1958-1985 was published, Clive James was up early doing his stuff on TV-am. ‘Well, Clive James,’ purred Anne Diamond. ‘You’ve written a book of poetry!’ Embarrassed, she said it in a mock-posh accent: peh-tray. The professional funny man seems to have a problem with the more serious side of […]

Pain In The Desert

Posted on by David Gelber

Elinor Grace, exploring Arabia in 1911, travels with a supply of plum puddings and a certain sense of personal inadequacy; ‘Mother’s shawl will prove a godsend in the mountains; its strong Persian blues enliven my rather ordinary plainness…’ She is no novice traveller, is used to her own company; but still, she is a virgin, […]

December 2019 Crime Round-up

Posted on by David Gelber

My crime novels of the year Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham (Sphere). An account of the developing professional relationship between a psychologist and a violent young woman, who has been discovered emaciated and filthy behind a false wall. It is an extraordinary exploration of emotional damage, full of humour and humanity. Worst Case […]

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Cooking the Books

Posted on by David Gelber

A set of the first editions of the Voyages of Captain Cook is an imposing thing in any library. The official accounts of his three voyages translate into eight quarto volumes, accompanied by a folio of detailed engravings. Like James Dean, whose stellar three-film career was ended by a car crash, James Cook achieved a […]

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Svetlana Prokopyeva & Yuri Dmitriev

Posted on by David Gelber

Writers, journalists and activists in Russia continue to be routinely intimidated and judicially harassed. They are often imprisoned on trumped-up charges. The increasing use of antiterror legislation to silence journalists is particularly alarming. On 6 February this year, Svetlana Prokopyeva, a reporter for Radio Svoboda and the Pskov branch of Radio Ekho Moskvy, had her […]

Luxurious Desultory Twining

Posted on by David Gelber

The ultimate purpose of what is now only the second least reputable literary prize going is to render itself redundant by discouraging poorly written, gratuitous or unnecessary passages of sexual description in fiction. Sadly, the fact that this year’s thicket of smut is as dense as ever shows that the award has not yet fulfilled […]

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From Socialite to Socialist

Posted on by David Gelber

The best-known photograph of Inez Holden (1903–74) was taken at a Bright Young People ‘impersonation party’ in 1927. Here, late at night in a Chelsea garden, a group of archetypal Twenties figures ostentatiously commingle. Stephen Tennant masquerades as the queen of Romania; Elizabeth Ponsonby (the model for the Hon Agatha Runcible in Vile Bodies) takes […]

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Mr Salteena’s Comportment Classes

Posted on by David Gelber

‘Mr Salteena was an elderly man of 42 and was fond of asking peaple to stay with him.’ Surely this is one of the more famous first lines in literature, even if it is not quite as well known as Jane Austen’s quip about matrimony and L P Hartley’s line about the past being a […]

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What Lies Beneath

Posted on by David Gelber

Anticipating her imminent transformation into a vixen, Sophia – the subject of ‘Mrs Fox’, the unsettling, erotically charged short story that opened Sarah Hall’s previous collection, Madame Zero – ‘dreams subterranean dreams, of forests, dark corridors and burrows, roots and earth’. Two years later, Hall has produced a new set of ‘subterranean dreams’. Sudden Traveller […]

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Happy Holidays!

Posted on by David Gelber

Benjamin Markovits’s follow-up to his meditative and immersive novel of family life, A Weekend in New York, takes up the lives of the Essingers not long after the action of the previous book ended. Younger brother Paul has retired from professional tennis and is separated from his partner, Dana, though they’re still having desultory post-relationship […]

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Death by Hydrangea

Posted on by David Gelber

We live at the present time in mortal fear of the natural world. As activists line the streets to threaten sabotage, as a child preaches to politicians about the coming catastrophe, as we note shifts in weather patterns and murmur nervous platitudes about the persistence of rain at this time of year, there is a […]

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Tales from the New Bedlam

Posted on by David Gelber

Future historians researching cultural responses to Brexit will find a rich seam in the work of Christopher Spencer, better known as Cold War Steve, whose satirical photomontages depict a world of flat-roof pubs, sink estates, blighted postindustrial landscapes, burnt-out caravans, holiday camp buffets and working men’s clubs, all populated by world leaders and D-list celebrities. […]

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What Would David Do?

Posted on by David Gelber

Is it just a writer’s insecurity? As though worried that he, or we, might forget what he’s up against, J M Coetzee regularly produces books that measure themselves alongside canonical predecessors: Life & Times of Michael K wears its debt to Kafka in its title, just as Foe beckons to Robinson Crusoe. The Master of Petersburg is a fantasia that bends Dostoevsky into The Brothers

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After the Flood

Posted on by David Gelber

Imagine a noble building in ruins, ruins so ruinous that its original purpose is unclear. And what style is it in? Even the floor plan is half erased by time. In the late 19th century restorers get busy on the house. They tudorise it, classicise it, gothicise it and finally, in a wild spirit of […]

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