A Gross Indecency

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Sir Henry Irving was by any measure an eminent Victorian, a celebrity of his age. For three decades his Lyceum theatre mounted lavish historical extravaganzas, with specially composed orchestral music, performed in front of such spectacular scenery that audiences sometimes stopped the show to call for the painter to take a bow. Irving had a […]

December 2020 Crime Round-up

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

My crime novels of the year: Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton (Viking) portrays a Somerset school in lockdown as terrorists threaten the staff and pupils. A brave examination of goodness in the face of cruelty. Brixton Hill by Lottie Moggach (Corsair) is told from the points of view of a man on day release and […]

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Belarusian Democracy Movement

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In September, one month after Belarus’s disputed presidential election, the Belarusian Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich commented: First they seized our country, and now they are seizing the best of us. But hundreds of others will come and fill the places of those who have been taken from our ranks. It is the whole country which […]

Humps in the Road

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Any novel that mentions the Baldock bypass on the first page is going to appeal to a certain type of reader, one who knows the A roads of Britain and the difference between a Ford Zephyr and an Austin Cambridge Mark II. Beneath the Trees of Eden is the eighth novel by veteran publisher Tim […]

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Pub Crawls & Paddle Steamers

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Set predominantly in the northwest of Ireland, That Old Country Music is Kevin Barry’s third collection of short stories. In ‘Old Stock’, a man travels to Donegal, where he inherits a cottage – and a warning – from his uncle Aldo: ‘I can’t explain it but the women go mental fucken gamey as soon as […]

A Visit from Mother

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

A couple of years ago, I came across a short story by the then-unknown young writer Bryan Washington in the New Yorker that captivated me instantly. It seemed to get better with each rereading. It’s called ‘Waugh’ and forms part of Washington’s debut collection, Lot, which was published in 2019 to critical acclaim. The interconnected stories […]

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Roads Less Travelled

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Two months after the end of the Second World War in Europe, a photographer finds himself in a German town on the northern reaches of the Rhine. His job is to photograph one of the death camps. When that assignment ends, he is given a car and a driver so that he can travel through […]

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Soldiers of Misfortune

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In 2014, the former US marine Phil Klay, who served in Iraq from 2007 to 2008, published Redeployment, a collection of twelve brilliant, brutal short stories that won him the National Book Award for Fiction. In these stories Klay offered up a huge range of different voices, from a self-reflective army chaplain to a host […]

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In Full Flood

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In 2017, Christopher Fowler included Barbara Comyns in The Book of Forgotten Authors, suggesting that her novel The Vet’s Daughter, published in 1959, brought her a moment of fame before she sank into obscurity. But Comyns has never been completely forgotten. The last novel she wrote, The Juniper Tree, was published to excellent reviews in […]

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Sex on the Brain

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Lara Feigel is the author of several nonfiction works and professor of modern literature and culture at King’s College London. This, her first novel, riffs on a classic, Mary McCarthy’s The Group, first published in 1963 and never since out of print. Set in 1933, McCarthy’s study of eight women, based on her contemporaries at […]

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Blackout Sunday

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Since the behemoth Underworld (1997), Don DeLillo’s novels have tended towards brevity, with even the longest, 2016’s Zero K, coming in at under three hundred elegantly spare pages. While they have been slim, however, these novels have not been slight. Their meditations – the word is apt for a novelist fascinated by the esoteric in […]

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Like Hell

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, the Taiwanese-American writer Tao Lin was a talisman of ‘alt-lit’, a kind of internet-inspired literary mumblecore. Works such as Eeeee Eee Eeee and Shoplifting from American Apparel described the ‘exploits’ (as he might have put it) of Xanax-addled digital natives in lo-fi prose seemingly embarrassed by language itself: […]

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One for the Woad

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Robert Twigger is always worth reading. His gonzo Angry White Pyjamas, an account of joining a hardcore martial arts school in Japan and being put through his paces, is one of my favourite travel books. Just as fearless have been his journeys into the Canadian northwest, which he crossed by birchbark canoe, and across the […]

Sequins & Synthesizers

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The term ‘New Romantic’ was coined by the pioneering electronic musician Richard Burgess to describe the showy pop subculture that exploded in the British club scene in the late 1970s. As those present will attest, the New Romantics were never anything as unified as a movement. Some called themselves ‘Futurists’ and ‘gender benders’. The press […]

Piano Man

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

There is no lack of published biographical material on Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart (1756–91), the singular musical genius who put the piano concerto on the map, birthed some of the greatest operas in the repertoire and left behind him a stream of glorious melodies. He was also, from the evidence of his letters, uncouth […]

Off the Cuff

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

As the senior curator of fashion at the V&A, Claire Wilcox knows more than most about the feel of fabric and buttons, the hang, cut, history and context of clothing. She understands that what we wear is more than just what we wear: it’s an expression of something deep about what we are, our personal […]

Gravy with Everything

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Here are two huge subjects, and one of them, class, is tricky, to say the least. This book attempts to mesh them together. What is British food? Some countries don’t have a cuisine. Well, they do, but it isn’t often mentioned. You never hear of anybody rushing to a German restaurant – outside of Germany, […]

It Gets Better with Age

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Ben Hutchinson, a mere forty-three, considers that he has reached middle age. In this I suggest he is being a little doomy, but no more so, perhaps, than one of the authors to whom he turns for wisdom and philosophical support, Michel de Montaigne, who retired from political and social life at the ripe old age of thirty-eight to his ‘citadel’ in the Dordogne to compose his meditative essays.

From Cabinetmaker to Cabinet Maker

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Indonesia, with a population of more than a quarter of a billion, is the fourth most populous country on the planet. It is home to more Muslims than any other country, but also to millions of Christians, Hindus and others. It has long been both an ally of the West and a beneficiary of Chinese […]

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