Tick Tock Travelogue

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The Doomsday Clock – created after the Second World War to serve as a graphic reminder that the end may be nigh – is currently set at a hundred seconds to midnight, the nearest to that hour it has ever come. But humans worried about the passage of time long before they invented devices to […]

Sebald’s Paradoxes

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

When the books of an unknown German writer called W G Sebald began to be translated in the mid-1990s, readers around the world were astounded by their mystery and melancholy, and above all by their deep empathy with the victims of history and the whole of nature. But researching and writing his biography, I learned […]

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Money for Nothing

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Arif Naqvi attended his first World Economic Forum (WEF) event in June 2003, a few weeks after George W Bush declared the Iraq War over. The 42-year-old Pakistani-born investor went to one of its sessions on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan. It was an experience that transformed his life. According to Simon […]

The XX Factor

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

How hard is it being a woman in the workplace? The answer is very, as Mary Ann Sieghart in this eminently readable book convincingly tells us. It seems to require a good deal of acting talent. It’s no use just following advice to behave like a man – something that itself requires quite a lot […]

A Riot or a Revolution?

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

His name was Martin Chambers. Around 6.30pm on 11 June 1967, James Calvert, a white Tampa patrolman, shot the black nineteen-year-old in the back as he was allegedly fleeing a burglary. Chambers’s death ignited four nights of riots. As Cleveland’s African-American newspaper Call and Post reported, ‘angry Negroes romped through four sections of Tampa throwing […]

Pedestal Pushers

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

For her new book, Alex von Tunzelmann has chosen a subject that has recently become something of a minefield: statues. With her erudition and lightness of touch, Tunzelmann is as skilled a guide to the topic as one could wish for. There is not a dull sentence in the book, which begins with the moment […]

Easy Writer

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Lady Boss, Laura Fairrie’s lush-looking but rather desolate documentary about Jackie Collins and her shag-happy fiction, suggests a sexual position in its title: this is to be about a woman on top, bestraddling men who are little more than anthropomorphised dildos. As though to confirm this suspicion, we are treated to a scene from the […]

Changing the Tune

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Ian Bradley goes out on a limb in his refreshingly succinct and bracingly revisionist biography of the greatest English composer between Purcell and Elgar: he claims that although Arthur Sullivan will inevitably be remembered and revered for his partnership with W S Gilbert, church music was ‘his most abiding love’ and his largely undervalued oratorios, […]

Unrequested Feedback

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

This is what it’s like to be a writer. You become aware in your teens that you’re different. You’re more sensitive than other people. You feel more deeply. Then you start writing with a feverish compulsion. You scribble things in notebooks, on the back of your hand, on the backs of other people’s hands. You […]

All Yesterday’s Parties

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Sometime in the early 1990s, I was working on a monthly magazine in an office in Covent Garden where, due to copy flow and printing schedules, there was very little to do in one week out of four. One way of passing the time was creating mixtapes with various themes; songs you’re embarrassed to have […]

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Boy

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In Introduction 3: Stories by New Writers (1967), Faber published Roy Watkins along with four other newcomers (including Christopher Hampton); Ted Hughes singled out Watkins’s stories for praise. Watkins was born in Southport, Lancashire, in 1939 and, after spending the early war years with his Welsh grandparents in Liverpool, was brought back to Southport by […]

In Search of Lost Pediments

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The cover of Holland Blind Twilight, the second volume of John Martin Robinson’s memoirs, shows the author in herald’s uniform within a Gothic ciborium. It points to his twin identity as modern courtier and architectural historian with a belligerent preference for the decaying, the feudal and the Catholic. The first volume, chronicling his upbringing in […]

Knowing Me Knowing You

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Medical writing about the mind and brain is in rude health. Sigmund Freud was its first successful modern exponent, though his writing sometimes strayed too far towards imaginative literature. Like Freud, Karl Deisseroth tries to locate human behaviour and feeling within neurons and the energy flowing through them. Unlike Freud, when Deisseroth talks about such […]

Never Mind the Neurobollocks

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Despite its unappealing, formulaic title (the even more hackneyed Your Brain on Plants had already been taken), Michael Pollan’s intertwining of reportage, citizen science and historical scholarship is a delightful and informative read. A censored version of the first section of the book, devoted to opium, appeared in Harper’s Magazine in April 1997, at the height of the US government’s ‘war on drugs’

All by Himself

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

What are we searching for when we turn our backs to the world and look inwards? Nat Segnit’s first non-fiction book attempts to answer this question. Retreat is an investigation into the quest for solitude and silence across time periods, cultures and religions – and it is a sharp and lively one at that. It explores the undertaking in its various guises – as a spiritual practice with philosophical or religious underpinnings and in the context of secular

Dreaming in Concrete

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

It is nearly a century since Le Corbusier published Vers une architecture, a battle cry for modernism that would variously inspire and enrage readers for years to come. And it is more than five decades since the collapse of the east London tower block Ronan Point that was widely believed to mark the end of […]

Full of Spikes & Fish Bones

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

This year, Tate is hosting four exhibitions devoted to women artists: Paula Rego, Lubaina Himid, Yayoi Kusama and Sophie Taeuber-Arp (a further show devoted to Magdalena Abakanowicz is in the pipeline). Opening on 15 July at Tate Modern, the exhibition ‘Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Living Abstraction’ comes with an excellent catalogue, which includes sixteen essays that survey her remarkable range. This Swiss artist, born in Davos in 1889, created textiles, beadwork bags and

The Voice of Time Itself

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

A century ago this summer, Walter de la Mare arrived by train in Dorchester to meet Thomas Hardy. The two had been in correspondence since Hardy had written to introduce himself three years before. Hardy told de la Mare that he had been clearing out a cupboard when he had come across the latter’s generous review […]

Root & Branch Reform

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Jungle feels as if it has been written by two different incarnations of Patrick Roberts. The first half of the book provides a fascinating account of life on Earth, from the first appearance of primordial slime to the ascent of Homo sapiens. Here, Roberts’s insights are based on his training as an archaeologist and anthropologist […]

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