Author Archives: Tom Fleming

Wacko People

Posted on by Tom Fleming

William Boyd is a maddening writer, by turns brilliant and glib, glittery and prosaic. Settings are exotic, geographically and historically. Nothing is on the level, everybody is somehow abroad but nobody is innocent. This is the case more than ever in Boyd’s second collection of short stories, an eclectic mix of high comedy and almost […]

True to Himself, but Exhausting for Others

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Nothing is more irritating for novelists than the expectation of the public that they will remain true to previous form in every way. Publishers in particular are keen on consistency. There is always great in-house consternation when novelists who have built up a following and become profitable with one kind of novel suddenly produce a […]

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A Theory of Love

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The last thing the general reader of books on sexual politics (if there is such a person) is likely to want, after the abominable crime not to be named among Christians, Uranianism, homosexuality, being gay and being capital Q Queer, is a new word for the condition all these words attempt to define, or to […]

A History of the Human Heart

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The ten essays on art and the role of the artist which make up Art Objects are a manifesto written for the turn of the new century which echoes the tenets and the manifesto-making of High Modernism. Jeanette Winterson calls upon the artist to ‘make it new’ (Pound), elaborates the metaphor of the artist as […]

Smiley With The Knyf

Posted on by Tom Fleming

No admirer of John le Carré’s spy fiction can believe that international espionage is glamorous or exciting in the way that lesser practitioners of the genre have represented it. He has shown vividly what it is: a bureaucratic operation to accumulate and sift through huge amounts of trivial information. So the essential qualities called for […]

Interview with Iris Murdoch

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Born in Dublin, Iris Murdoch was brought up in England and took a degree in classics at Somerville College, Oxford, in 1942. After two years as an Assistant Principal at the Treasury, she worked for a further two years (1944-46) with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in Belgium and Austria. She held the […]

Sophisticated Innocence

Posted on by Tom Fleming

What do we mean by calling an artist ‘a primitive’? Leonard Adam, writing on the subject in 1940, quotes G A Stevens: Primitive art is the most pure, most sincere form of art there can be, partly because it is deeply inspired by religious ideas and spiritual experience, and partly because it is entirely unselfconscious […]

A Childish Hand

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The Tidy House is an elaborate and absorbing account of the way three eight-year-old working-class girls wrote a story in the long hot summer of 1976; why they wrote it, how they wrote it and what it meant to them. Carolyn Steedman was their class teacher. Although she tries hard to keep her book as […]

Faith and Hope in the United Nations

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Shortly before Christmas 1996, six people working for the International Committee of the Red Cross were shot dead in their beds in Chechnya. The turnout at their funeral in Geneva’s St-Pierre Cathedral was vast; and so was the sense of shock. For almost the first time in the history of the Red Cross its delegates, […]

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Proud to be White, Even If They are Lost

Posted on by Tom Fleming

At the end of the long history of European imperialism a strange flotsam of white survivors remains in small forgotten communities throughout the globe. Some, like the Baasters of Namibia and the Burghers of Sri Lanka, are descendants of the first conquerors; others, like the Poles of Haiti or the Germans of Jamaica, are relics […]

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Nation and War

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In America, at least as yet, there is nothing to match the bitter controversy that has developed in Britain between town and country. New York or San Francisco are impossibly remote from the vast tracts of Midwestern corn belt or Texan ranch country. The countryside – in so far as one can use the word […]

They Mistook Kenya for the Home Counties

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Empires are usually travesties of home. On every frontier you can sense the tension: on the one hand, the ‘frontier effect’ draws restless spirits, rebels, outcasts and escapees to open a new kind of society, unfenced or utopian. On the other, cultural baggage piles up: people crave the comforts and recreate the ways of home. […]

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Up to the Oxters

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Some novels are hard to review, some are easy. Some are so difficult you don’t know where to begin…but, then, a gift: the author saves you the trouble by more or less reviewing the book for you. So here’s how Iain Sinclair (via one of the peripheral characters, to his narrator) sums up Landor’s Tower: […]

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Loathsome Collection

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Simple, uncomplicated loathing, like fine wine and expensive cigars, is one of the unexpected pleasures of middle age. It is often purely visceral — an instinctive and unreasoning dislike of a gesture, a turn of phrase, or a point of view — but it is rare to feel such confidence in your dislike as you […]

God Sits on His Crane

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Recently there has been much discussion in the papers about the demise of the plot in modern novels. In its place, it is suggested, we are now given style, and a sort of clever knowingness. If there is any truth to this contention, then Muriel Spark’s Reality and Dreams is as fashionable as novels come. […]

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The Fruits of Old Age

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Nobody objected to proposals in the House of Commons for a Warm Homes Bill providing increased grants for old people to insulate and heat their homes in winter. It may seem an entirely benign suggestion but I wonder if the Commons are out of touch with public opinion. What the Warm Homes Bill Campaign is […]

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Posted on by Tom Fleming

Looking through Bloomsbury’s Spring catalogue a month or so ago, l found myself reflecting, in more than usually despondent terms, on the way in which fiction gets reviewed in this country. Seen en masse, books are rather sickly things – especially the sort singled magazine books pages, if not one by David Park or Christopher […]

Stan Smith: Adrian Mitchell

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Inside every slim volume there’s usually a slimmer volume trying to get out. In Adrian Mitchell’s case it’s positively anorexic. There are one or two good poems (or parts of poems) here, but the overall performance is such that it’s clear Mitchell intends to shock us into realising that there are more important things in […]

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Ambushed by Language

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In the middle of his long poem From the Rising of the Sun, Czeslaw Milosz contemplates a remote river in Oregon. Its name is the Rogue River, a translation of the French ‘Riviere des Coquins’; the French name arose after Indians had ambushed some French trappers; the Indian name is lost forever. ‘A word should […]

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