Author Archives: David Gelber

Nobody Loves Them, Nobody Cares

Posted on by David Gelber

In the new boastful atmosphere being encouraged by Tony Blair, where Britons are supposed to take pride in the notion that we make the best vacuum cleaners, the best pop music, design the best cushions, nobody has had much to say about the nation’s writers. In fact, it was noticeable that once again in this […]

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When Neutrality Becomes a Cause for Scandal

Posted on by David Gelber

Fort anyone who has ever worked for an international humanitarian, human rights or development organisation, Caroline Moorehead’s engrossing history of the Red Cross describes familiar problems: the internal political wrangling; the clash of strong-willed personalities; the tensions between international headquarters and local branches; the perpetual disagreements over strategy and message. All these appeared during the […]

Secrets of the Oxford English Dictionary

Posted on by David Gelber

No doubt I will not be the last to remark that this is the most fascinating book Patrick McGrath did not write. It has all the ingredients of one of McGrath’s icily stylish novels: madness, violence, arcane obsessions, weird learning, ghastly comedy, all set out in an atmosphere of po-faced, high neo-Gothic. The geographical span […]

How Two Great Americans See One Garbage Dump

Posted on by David Gelber

Suddenly and unprecedently, there are writers in the US displaying peak form in their fifties, sixties and even seventies. This really isn’t supposed to happen: the American novelist’s destiny is to burn himself out young like a sports star or drown his talent in booze. Books about oldies are consequently rare – even the émigré […]

Even So, He Had No Right to Beat Up Bibbles

Posted on by David Gelber

One man lived D H Lawrence’s life; it has taken three to write it. John Worthen covered D H Lawrence: The Early Years 1885–1912; Mark Kinkead-Weekes was responsible for the middle stretch, D H Lawrence: Triumph to Exile 1912–1922. Now David Ellis, to whom the home straight was assigned, has carried the story to the […]

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Woe be Unto Thee, O Moab!

Posted on by David Gelber

My December sermon from the pulpit, as a few people may remember, ended with a paean of praise and thanks to Stephen Fry, who kindly agreed to present the prizes at the Literary Review’s annual award for Bad Sex in Fiction – won this year by Nicholas Royle, whose original and stimulating novel The Matter […]

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No Literary Mafia in This House

Posted on by David Gelber

Several people have enquired why we carried no review of Stephen Fry’s autobiography, Moab is my Washpot (Hutchinson £16.99), in a magazine which boasts of its efforts to cover all the month’s worthwhile books at the beginning of the month they are due to appear. They will be puzzled to see no review even in […]

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How Britain’s European Future was Compromised

Posted on by David Gelber

This year’s Conservative Party Conference at Blackpool resembled a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous or a gathering of the pre-war Oxford Group, when participants made public confessions of their sins to all their fellow members. Former Ministers queued up to confess to faults of harshness, intolerance, sleaze and all the other political sins. There was one […]

Still Writing Fiction, All Those Seatons Later

Posted on by David Gelber

There is something almost touching about the fact that Alan Sillitoe is still writing fiction. It is thirty-nine years since he ambled on to the scene with Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, accompanied by a cluster of aggressive young writers who briskly switched the focus of the novel from the cosy delusions of the middle […]

An Actress, perhaps, but Granny was not a Tart

Posted on by David Gelber

Valerie Susie Langdon was born in the gutter – and stayed there – until the night in 1878 when she walked into the bar of the Horseshoe Tavern in Tottenham Court Road and met Henry Meux, the feckless, dissipated and weak-willed heir to a brewery across the street. The two married, in haste and in […]

A Sad Plop

Posted on by David Gelber

When I first announced what was then called the Literary Review Grand Booby Prize for Bad Sex in Fiction all those years ago, I wrote as someone who had been reviewing a novela week for many years, and complained bitterly that many of them were ruined by bad sex scenes – perfunctorily introduced and charmlessly […]

We Must Learn How The Modern World Was Made

Posted on by David Gelber

Hugh Thomas tells us that he began writing this book over three decades ago, following an encounter with Eric Williams, then Prime Minister of Trinidad. Williams gave him a copy of his classic work Capitalism and Slavery, first published in 1944, which argued that profits from slavery had fertilised every sector of the British economy […]

Beyond The Pancakes

Posted on by David Gelber

Crime in New York City is falling year on year – which parallels, curiously, the common complaint that the Big Apple is losing its buzz – but there is little chance that racial paranoia will subside. The film director Spike Lee has made a career of this conflict, homing in on race tensions in Do […]

She Made History More Interesting

Posted on by David Gelber

‘I will never forget his kiss’, the Princess Marthe Bibesco wrote in 1933, ‘so young, so strangely chaste, insistent, searching my lips and sealing them with his … a moment we both felt had been long in coming.’ The words smack of the bodice rippers she churned out, when times were hard, under the pseudonym […]

Owners Move Back

Posted on by David Gelber

As a would-be fogeyish young clubman in the late Sixties, I took a shine to a still raven-haired Twenties dandy called Peter Fleetwood-Hesketh, Lancastrian squire, pioneering figure in the Georgian Group and Victorian Society, and friend of John Betjeman, whom he had briefly succeeded as architectural critic of The Daily Telegraph. (The arrangement came to […]

Disappearing Act

Posted on by David Gelber

There are diaries, and then there are diaries written for publication. Editing those of Sir Noël Coward a decade or so ago, with his lifelong friend Graham Payn, it occurred to us that though they had languished for several years in a bank vault, so sharply and professionally and, sometimes, all too tactfully were they […]

Romantic on the Loose

Posted on by David Gelber

There is no one at the present time who writes like Oliver Sacks. Living proof that there need be no impenetrable divide between the arts and the sciences, this Clinical Professor of Neurology at one of New York’s finest medical schools writes of disease and disability with profound empathy and impressive erudition. He is a […]

No Cause to be Proud of our Victor’s Justice

Posted on by David Gelber

The title of David Irving’s latest volume is well chosen. The Nuremberg trials were indeed the last engagement between the Third Reich and the four principal Allies. They were also the first engagement between those four Allies on many of the points that would later be subsumed under the heading ‘Cold War’. And they constituted, […]

Did They Pullulate?

Posted on by David Gelber

Whatever else one can say about this book, it is at least brilliantly timed. There are few subjects more topical than the sexual foibles of the Roman Catholic clergy; and to judge from the reports in the American press, vice and wickedness peep from beneath the hem of almost every cassock. One has a similar […]

She Stripped Off And Plunged In

Posted on by David Gelber

Ian McEwan is no longer a young man. This might seem obvious, but it needs saying if we are to make sense of where McEwan has gone with his writing. He was twenty-two when, in 1970, he enrolled on the University of East Anglia’s inaugural Creative Writing MA. The short-story collections that followed were brilliantly […]


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