Author Archives: David Gelber

Vital Imagination

Posted on by David Gelber

The fifties was the great decade of radio soap-opera. I myself am always very mindful of this aspect of the period since my own godmother devised and was the principal coordinating scriptwriter of Mrs Dale’s Diary, and for that reason, as a child, I was as confirmed an addict of that seemingly unending serial as […]

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Colossus or Gargantua

Posted on by David Gelber

Jean-Paul Sartre must be the first philosopher to have created his own industry. Witness the rush of bestselling pocket guides to existentialism in the forties, the scoops for Ce Soir on Sartre’s latest amorous adventures and of course the biographies, of which Annie Cohen-Solal’s will probably be the most widely read in France, where this […]

Mickey Mouse of Tap Dance

Posted on by David Gelber

Philip Larkin used to say say that his favourite jazz set his toes tapping and his shoulders heaving. It was never easy to imagine that large and ponderous man in such an attitude but one saw what he meant. As for Fred Astaire, none but the most resolutely earthbound can have seen or heard him […]

The Old Folks at Home

Posted on by David Gelber

Toni Morrison’s new novel is set in Cincinnati in 1873 after the abolitionists’ deafeat of the slave-owners and tells the story of Sethe, an escaped slave, who cut her child’s throat with a handsaw rather than surrender her to slave-catchers. Beloved is Sethe’s dead baby. Beloved is the only inscription on the tomb-stone. Sethe paid […]

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Aussie Robin Hood

Posted on by David Gelber

You are too young to understand a word I write, dear daughter, but this review is for you. I’ve never written to you like this, and I’m doing so now only because Carey’s novel has set me thinking about the relationship between father and child. His book, you see, takes the form of an address […]

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Eating Misery

Posted on by David Gelber

Ugwu is a teenager from a village in Nigeria who goes to work as a houseboy for a university lecturer, Odenigbo. His aunt tells him that if he works hard, he will eat well. ‘You will even eat meat every day,’ she says. Food is everywhere and everything in Half of a Yellow Sun. Ugwu […]

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The Gracious Curmudgeon

Posted on by David Gelber

For almost forty years, Robert Hughes has turned his shrewd and perspicacious gaze to the world of the visual arts. Through television, most famously his vigorous defence of modernism in 1980, The Shock of the New; through a series of impressive monographs, not least a masterly study of Goya; and through his prolific contributions to […]

The Courtier’s Craft

Posted on by David Gelber

Sir Alan Lascelles, known to his friends as ‘Tommy’, was a courtier. He served as Principal Private Secretary to King George VI from 1943 until his death, and to the Queen for the first two years of her reign. From 1935 to 1943, he had been Assistant Private Secretary to three sovereigns, and during the […]

Natural Inclinations

Posted on by David Gelber

Describing in an American publication her puritan, nonconformist family, Beatrix Potter wrote: ‘I am descended from generations of Lancashire yeomen and weavers, hard-headed, matter of fact folk … Your Mayflower ancestors sailed to America; mine at the same date were sticking it out at home, probably rather enjoying persecution.’ And later: ‘I am a believer […]

An Ambivalent Authority

Posted on by David Gelber

In 1927 Paul Valéry wrote that Europe dreams of being ruled by an American Commission, and for many Europeans America is still seen as having an enviable freedom from the burdens of the past. There may be few who would now want to be subject to American rule but there are still many who see […]

A Love Letter to Jo’burg

Posted on by David Gelber

I sometimes think that book and play reviews are really only truly interesting after you have seen the play or read the book for yourself. The South African writer and publisher’s editor, Ivan Vladislavic, has written a wonderful book about Johannesburg. For me it has been like reading an exceptionally perceptive reviewer on a play […]

Photographs of Hitler Around the House

Posted on by David Gelber

Even for a rock star, even for ‘the most enigmatic, elusive and misunderstood of the Fab Four’, there seems something strangely paradoxical about spending your life searching for mind-expanding spiritual enlightenment and choosing to settle first in Esher, and then in Henley. Yet perhaps this is to misjudge the man and, indeed, the place he […]

Sixty-a-Day Chap

Posted on by David Gelber

There is now a thriving C S Lewis industry. It would be very surprising if this were the only book about Lewis to appear this year. Of course, there is also something of an A N Wilson industry. It would be equally surprising if this were the only book by Wilson to appear this year. […]

Telephone Calls From Stalin

Posted on by David Gelber

Boris Pasternak put his signature on every page he wrote. His lyric poems, letters, memoirs brim with personal feeling. Even Dr Zhivago is as much autobiography as epic. By contrast his son Evgeny, author of this sober account of the last thirty years of his father’s life, stays austerely in the background. You might guess […]

Public Lending Right as an Insult

Posted on by David Gelber

February is the month when the Public Lending Right computers eventually produce the sums they have been mulling over since June. The result is that 17,594 registered authors share between them the sum of £3,072,000. This should give the authors an average of £174.61p each, to compensate them for the free gift of their work […]

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Time to Nationalise Northanger Abbey?

Posted on by David Gelber

Relatively few economists use Balzac and Austen as primary sources. Thomas Piketty is an exception. In his discussion of income and wealth inequality in 19th-century France, he points to the story of Père Goriot as an example of wealth accumulation and decumulation. Having made a small fortune in the pasta trade, Goriot lost

Imprisoned Souls

Posted on by David Gelber

Ever since Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf and Semiramis, the founder of Babylon, was brought up by birds, legends of feral children have fired the imagination. But fable turned to fact only with the Age of Reason. As science supplanted faith, answers to the question ‘What is it to be human?’ began […]

Atrocities that Should Not be Forgotten

Posted on by David Gelber

‘The hope is that this body of law will serve as a barrier against the collective wickedness, greed and folly of any nation’, wrote Martha Gellhorn as she watched the twenty – one German leaders being sentenced at Nuremberg. That it singularly failed to do so is only too clear from Elizabeth Neuffer’s very readable […]

A Taxi Driver Writes

Posted on by David Gelber

I read in Cab Driver magazine that the Public Carriage Office has issued a warning that a number of fulcrum pins, which are fitted to the front suspension of cabs, have recently fractured. ‘Such failures could result in a very serious situation leading to a total loss of control of the cab,’ says the PCO. […]

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A Taxi Driver Writes

Posted on by David Gelber

In 1977 I bought a new motorbike for the first and almost certainly the last time. It was a Honda 400/4. I think it was the best-selling motorbike the company ever made and I bored a lot of people by explaining why it was so good. It was beautiful to look at, sparsely furnished with […]

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