Lines in the Sand

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Once upon a time, two little girls grew up in Delft in the Netherlands. Both born in 1954, they were for a while ‘best’ friends. They drifted apart in their teens, met again as young women and finally came together with a bang when they both found they had breast cancer in their late forties. […]

Gay’s the Password

Posted on by Tom Fleming

A boy I knew as an adolescent, five years older than me and rather intimidating, looked like James Dean, loved Elvis and dressed as a Teddy Boy. I assumed it was some kind of virile self-identification. Growing up a bit of a sissy, I took against Dean, Presley and Teds. How surprised I was when […]

Through a Microscope, Darkly

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In 2008, Dr Paolo Macchiarini, a charismatic Swiss-Italian surgeon, began to perform daring transplants using synthetic tracheas made of plastic and seeded with the patients’ stem cells. It sounded like science fiction, but the results were compelling and were published widely in prestigious medical journals. Macchiarini was elected soon after to head a research team […]

The Final Countdown

Posted on by Tom Fleming

On the morning of 28 January 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded soon after launch, killing its seven-member crew, which included the world’s first ‘citizen astronaut’, schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. Viewed live on television across America, the disaster was a national trauma that drew comparisons with the Kennedy assassination. A subsequent inquiry exposed a shocking catalogue […]

Reading Livy in Lviv

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In 1962, the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, 25-year-old Andriy Sodomora published his first translation, of Menander’s comedy Dyskolos. The Soviet Union imposed massive restrictions on the use of the Ukrainian language and Sodomora was uncertain whether to translate the ancient Greek work into Russian, the state language, or Ukrainian, his mother tongue. His […]

Waiting for Benaud

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Today is the golden age of cricket writing. We have moved way beyond the biographies that came to fill libraries in the 20th century. The game is being explored and reinterpreted by writers using the techniques of professional historians. In South Africa, a school of new historians led by André Odendaal is applying the insights […]

In the Beginning

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Marilynne Robinson, whose acclaimed novels boldly explore the unfashionable subject of religious conviction, has now applied her judicious mind to Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament and the dramatic opener to the whole Bible. Genesis is supposedly the horse’s-mouth story of our origins, as told by God to Moses. Modern scholarship more mundanely […]

But is It Art?

Posted on by Tom Fleming

This is a brave book, fluently written, at times almost in a torrent, about what Rachel Spence dubs ‘Planet Art’. It gives a convincing account of the ‘global expansion which, over the last half century, and much accelerated since the turn of the millennium, has driven the strategies of museums, auction houses, private galleries and […]

Scholarship, Slander & Sherry

Posted on by Tom Fleming

For those who fancy studying there, choosing an Oxford college can seem a daunting task. On paper – and online – they all present themselves as essentially the same. Their prospectuses uniformly claim that candidates will find them friendly, inclusive, supportive. Inevitably, they have at least one image of a suitably varied mix of students walking past ivy-covered walls. There’s almost always

Auto-Croon

Posted on by Tom Fleming

When I was a young music critic, the first piece of writing I got paid for concerned a compilation album devoted to what was billed as an underground genre of South African club music called gqom. It was loud, forceful and, above all, to Western ears new. As the Scottish producer Kode9 put it, this […]

Quote at Your Own Risk

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Those writing in Literary Review and other journals work under the assumption that they may lift passages from the books under review to illustrate their points and give readers a flavour of the authors’ latest offerings. This, despite the forbidding notice on the book’s copyright page: ‘No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored […]

Posted in 529 | Tagged , | Comments Off on Quote at Your Own Risk

Diet Another Day

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Johann Hari’s Magic Pill opens with the author, aged nineteen, attending a student drama festival in Scarborough, where he falls in with the entertaining, if heavy, Hannah. That evening they tour the seaside town’s fast-food outlets – shops selling fish and chips, kebabs and fried chicken. This marks the beginning of a close relationship, fuelled […]

Guilt by Algorithm

Posted on by Tom Fleming

It was in the barrio of Norte Grande, in the foothills of the Andes in northwest Argentina, that in 2018 a project was rolled out to try to predict who would become pregnant. Powerful machine learning, supported by one of the largest tech companies in the world, was deployed to identify the women most likely […]

From Beer Street to Gin Lane

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The first question one usually thinks to ask an author is what drew them to their subject. But what book other than Drink Maps in Victorian Britain would we expect from a home-brewing, exam-certified beer judge and past president of the Boston Map Society? Kris Butler’s CV combines adjudicating ale competitions in the USA and […]

In Search of Indonesia

Posted on by Tom Fleming

How much do you know about Indonesia? Measured by population, it is the fourth-largest country on earth. But it certainly isn’t the country with the fourth-highest profile. Its presidential election in February, in which 200 million people were eligible to vote, passed largely unnoticed in the West. One reflection of Indonesia’s low international profile is […]

Bobos versus Beaufs

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Those of us who romanticise France are familiar with books in which a British person attempts to ‘live the dream’ there. They’re essentially travel books, evocations of sunsets and cosy bistros offset with the social comedy of dealing with the less cosy French. Impossible City is almost that sort of book, but perhaps a bit more like a portrait of Parisian society with autobiographical elements. 

The style is elegant and flinty, the humour dry. Kuper quotes his wife’s response to gaining French nationality: ‘I was hoping I’d become

Shrub Crawl

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

They are a curious bunch, the rewilders. They inhabit the same world as the rest of us, but they look at it very differently. They dream of a landscape roamed by aurochs and bison, prowled by lynxes and wolves, where beavers munch trees to make dams beside crystal streams. It would be a land free […]

Tough Nutcracker

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Although this book is ostensibly focused on the lives of a group of black women, it is most worth reading for its vivid portrait of an African-American man who tyrannised and mesmerised them. Along with Jacques d’Amboise and Edward Villella, Arthur Mitchell was one of the few male stars of George Balanchine’s New York City […]

God, Drugs & Music

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The pages of my copy of The Blues Brothers started to fall out as I was reading it, just as John Belushi entered the story. It was perhaps fitting, since his considerable talents were matched by a gift for self-destruction. Belushi was at the front of a wave of talented actors and comedians who announced themselves to America on NBC’s Saturday Night, which then

Apocalypse Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The end of the world is in the air. Should we be surprised? The climate emergency claws at every aspect of our lives, from holidays to the cost of food. We’ve just lived through a global pandemic. War in Europe continues, while the UN describes a genocide emerging in Gaza. The news is not good. Culture responds. Dorian Lynskey highlights some recent touchstones at the start of his capacious survey of apocalyptic

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March