Glory in His Garden

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

When Edmund de Rothschild visited Japan in 1964, the Asahi Evening News described him as ‘the world’s wealthiest man, the banker who lords it over the world’s financial circles, the man who manipulates the world’s gold at will, the head of the Rothschild family of England which is still looked up to in mystical awe […]

The Curtains Were Lavender Taffeta

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Truman Persons would never have done. But, fortunately, little Truman’s mother married a second time. Instead of evoking sexless bureaucracy, the future writer had the name of a bullfighter’s cloak. His mother also provided him with a wretched childhood, so, along with talent and ambition, he had everything. George Plimpton tells Truman’s story by scissoring […]

Plenty of Dish

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The heat and dampness are descending on New Orleans and it is like a Turkish Bath only not as socially inspiring. So I am wondering whether to go East or West. From the look of things generally, one would do well to get clear out of the country and stay out for at least the opening stages of ‘The American Century.’

Final Frontiers

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In this beautifully observed, lyrical and meticulously researched book, Christian Donlan details his experiences of the unpredictable anatomical ravages that multiple sclerosis (MS) inflicts upon his body and mind. His explorations of his own erratic pathology are informed by his day job as a reviewer of video games for Europe’s largest gaming website. He regards […]

Glad to be Gai

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Anyone seriously interested in contemporary Japan, in particular its theatre, cinema and struggles with national identity since the American occupation, will most likely have at some time read Ian Buruma. There are only a few scholars, journalists, critics and commentators writing about Japan in English worth reading, and Buruma is one. So I wondered

Navigating the Past

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

This odd and amiable book could best be described as a memoir told with the aid of maps. Each chapter is prefaced with a map; Ordnance Survey maps show where the author was born – Chipping Norton – and other Oxford villages where he lived as a child. Maps of Niagara Falls and Jamaica, of […]

Champagne & Kindness

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Many of Dirk Bogarde’s best performances on screen involved the use of significant pauses: the enigmatic look on his face as he regards the sleeping James Fox in the first scene of Joseph Losey’s The Servant, the slight twitch in Aschenbach’s mouth in Visconti’s Death in Venice, the bowed shoulders, then the little cough, as […]

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‘Life is the Only Cure for Life’

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Katherine Mansfield was a miniaturist of genius, whose characters arrive without baggage in stories which often begin and end with a question. Her characters are both desperate and comic. They burn with life as they miss one point and fix on another (which won’t save them either), while in the background the sea heaves and […]

Love From Snoopie

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In her poignant short story ‘Mad About the Boy’, Georgina Hammick describes a teenage flapper writing a fan letter to Noël Coward. Having received no response after several attempts, the persistent admirer tries once more, only this time signs with a boy’s name. By return of post comes an autographed photo. This has such a […]

How the Poet Became

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

For a huge book somewhat solemnly intended as a further pillar for a huge reputation (complementing a Collected Poems in 2003 and a Selected Translations in 2006), these letters of Ted Hughes are surprisingly relaxed and readable. But first a few reservations. The general reader should not feel guilty about passing rapidly through some of […]

The Economist’s Progress

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

‘This book is in part a detective story’, writes Alan Greenspan. It is an attempt, he adds, to understand the nature of the global capitalist economy and why it has become vastly more flexible, resilient, open and self-correcting than it was even a quarter of a century ago. On 9/11 he knew, if this view […]

Eminence Rose

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Clarissa Churchill is the niece of one prime minister, Winston Churchill, and the wife of another, Anthony Eden, who succeeded Churchill. From this you might deduce that she is a political groupie and hostess who spent her youth in the Churchill bunker being groomed for Number 10. In fact, as her memoir shows, this could […]

A Family Affair

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

A M Homes, novelist and New Yorker, was in her thirties when her adoptive mother received a telephone call from a lawyer saying that Homes’s biological mother wanted to get in touch with her. In 1961, Ellen Bellman, a young shop assistant having an affair with her married boss, had given up her newborn daughter […]

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Look Back In Amusement

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Even in this golden age of autobiography, Brian Thompson’s Keeping Mum made a deservedly huge impact when it appeared last year. The catastrophic marriage between his manic-depressive mother (Peggy, aka Squibs) and ruthlessly unfeeling, upwardly mobile father (Bert), the irrational decision to send him during the war from safe Cambridge to his uncle and aunt […]

From Bromsgrove to Trinity

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Housman, one of the egregious eccentrics of English poetry, was the son of a busy solicitor who practised in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. He had two sisters and four brothers, one of whom, Laurence, wrote a West End smash, Victoria Regina. He had a passion for Latin and Greek but not much interest in classical history and […]

The Pathology of Faith

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Ed Husain begins one of the chapters of The Islamist with a quotation from Syed Qutb, the chief intellectual founder of Islamism, outlining the purpose of Qutb’s most influential book: ‘I have written Milestones for this vanguard of Islamists which I consider to be a waiting reality about to be realised.’ Qutb’s use of the […]

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