Beyond Bristol

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Republishing journalism and other ephemeral work is a tricky business. That is not to say that it should never be attempted: much fine writing would be lost if there were no anthologies of work by journalists and (in the book to hand) travel writers. It is best to be relaxed, however, when reheating past dishes. […]

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Peripheral Visions

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

‘Edgelands’ seems an apt name for that strange territory where the city squares up to the countryside, the farms process sewage and the parks cultivate retail or business. Pushing together the tidy border of an ‘edge’ with the spatial and imaginative amplitude of ‘lands’, the term catches the friction that characterises our attitude to this […]

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Up and Under

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

‘Sewers’, says Peter Ackroyd in London Under, ‘exercise a curious fascination upon otherwise healthy and happy people.’ They figure quite prominently in Ackroyd’s new book, from medieval waste pipes, through Joseph Bazalgette’s labyrinthine marvel (‘the most extensive and wonderful work of modern times,’ said the Observer in 1861), to the Thames Tideway Tunnel, a 32-kilometre-long […]

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Murder in Tokyo

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

When the disappearance of Lucie Blackman made the news, I was covering it as a reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest newspaper. By necessity rather than by choice, I was already familiar with the darker side of the country: I had spent 1999 to 2000 as a police reporter assigned to the 4th District, […]

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Jekyll & Clyde

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In so many ways Edinburgh and Glasgow express the duality of Scotland. Their intense rivalry, dating back to the 17th century, has been likened to that between New York and Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Moscow and St Petersburg, and Sydney and Melbourne. An original slant on this pairing was provided by the interwar travel writer H V Morton

Post-Apartheid Bling

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The African National Congress (ANC) governs with an infuriating torpor. A scandal over the failure to deliver school books? A crisis in the police? A series of strikes threatening to disillusion much-needed investors once and for all? South Africa’s ruling party obfuscates, splutters and then sets up its umpteenth committee of review. In due course […]

Paribartan Now

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Indian book reviews are not for the faint-hearted. Amit Chaudhuri likens the literary sections of the newspapers to a lawless part of town from whose thuggery the author is lucky to escape with life and dignity intact. My own first book, an inoffensive introduction to the country from a diffident novice, was incinerated in The […]

The Shrinking Drinkers

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In House of Meetings, a novel of the Gulag that takes a percipient interest in Slavic demography, Martin Amis calls the phenomenon the ‘Russian cross’: the steep downward lurch of the country’s birth rate, intersecting with an upward leap in the death rate, which together have caused a population shrinkage more suggestive of war or […]

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