Lord Gnaim Writes: Not A Manifesto

Posted on by David Gelber

For the first time in its brief but distinguished history the Literary Review has a male editor. Many will see this as a retrograde step, and for my own part I will have no objection if correspondents wish to continue addressing the editorial chair as ‘Dear Madam’ – whether in deference to the shades of […]

Language and Ideology

Posted on by David Gelber

Upon the deep and unalterable foundations of the male and female sexes, people have constructed the fragile castles of the masculine and feminine genders. These structures have been re-embellished, refortified and sometimes entirely rebuilt in order that each sex should retain its mystery, its charm and its danger for the other. And one mark of […]

Should We Intervene?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

It’s not always predictable just what will bring monstrosities to widespread attention. In Afghanistan, unnoticed horror has been piled upon horror for years, most recently under the government of the Taleban, a gang of despotic and brutal men calling themselves Islamic. Consider this: in the middle of 1998, the Taleban massacred about 8,000 people in […]

Critical Times

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The Cambridge English faculty was founded in 1919, but when I went up to read the subject sixty years later my college had only just started admitting undergraduates to do so. It didn’t even have a dedicated director of studies. When I asked why, I was told that, until recently, the fellowship had believed that […]

‘The Play’s the Thing’

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Discussion of the impact of digital technology on books has been largely confined to hysterical pronouncements about the death of the printed book, but we might be looking in the wrong direction. It’s now clear that e-books and Kindles will not see off physical books any time soon. Last year 360 million printed books were […]

Warning to a Theme

Posted on by Tom Fleming

As if America does not already have enough problems, a Sinclair Lewis revival is going on. Within a week of the November 2016 election, Amazon had sold out of Lewis’s novel It Can’t Happen Here, first published in 1935. Senator Berzelius ‘Buzz’ Windrip, the novel’s protagonist, is a crass nativist who wins an election

‘He Wrote This Specially For Me’

Posted on by David Gelber

In ordinary circumstances the link between a novel published last autumn on the fashionable topic of multiculturalism and the memoirs of a late-Victorian man of letters might be thought rather tenuous. Nevertheless, reading the reviews of Zadie Smith’s Swing Time as they poured from the presses three or four months ago, I found myself returning, […]

All Shall Win Prizes

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Poetry just now is gloriously renascent. That, at least, is the assertion of the poetry editor of Penguin Books, Donald Futers: ‘There’s a strong case for our finding ourselves right now in a golden age for poetry,’ he claimed at the launch of the new series of Penguin Modern Poets last summer. As someone who, […]

Memoiranda

Posted on by David Gelber

Postwar prime-ministerial memoirs are a mixed bag. The news that David Cameron has signed a contract to write his and is already hard at work on them prompts me, presumptuously, to offer him some advice from a historian’s perspective. Churchill was explicit. ‘This is not history,’ he told Bill Deakin, the ghostwriter for his six-volume history of the Second World War. ‘This is my case.’ In his superb five-volume

Judging by the Cover

Posted on by David Gelber

Literary Review has a new look and we hope you’ll share our enthusiasm for it. Chris Riddell, who succeeded Willie Rushton as our cover artist in February 1997, will continue to provide us with his witty and colourful encapsulations of our lead review, but with a larger canvas at his disposal. The pages inside have […]

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Whose Life Is It Anyway?

Posted on by David Gelber

Imagine the scene. Go on, project yourself into that marquee at the Brisbane Writers Festival this September when Lionel Shriver stood up at the pulpit to give the keynote speech, entitled ‘Fiction and Identity Politics’. She had been asked to speak on the subject of ‘community and belonging’, but, as she put it, expecting a […]

True to Type

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I wrote this on a typewriter, a 1926 L C Smith No 8. I suppose my technical history is no different from that of any other writer: from first love with pencils and pens, I moved to teenage experiments with a portable typewriter, a disastrous romance with a word processor that had trouble processing my words […]

Pages for the Ages

Posted on by Tom Fleming

On a recent trip to Paris, researching my book Footnotes, I regularly stepped out for a run. My route invariably took me past the Panthéon, the large, neoclassical domed mausoleum some eighty metres in height. Despite many visits over the years, my association with that building was in fact first forged when, at the age […]

Confessions of a Bookseller

Posted on by David Gelber

The 2003 Granta list of the best young British novelists has just been published. As the years roll by I grow crustily nostalgic of course, but will this lot prove to hold a candle to that truly phenomenal Granta list of 1983? What stars there were in that decade, and what fun we at Waterstone’s […]

In Praise of Blogging

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I am a blogger. This is something I hesitate to admit in polite society, where the response is likely to be a thinly disguised sneer. However, I’m sure I can safely ‘come out’ to the open-minded readers of Literary Review and proclaim, loud and clear, the joys of blogging. I never intended to be a blogger. […]

Mythomania

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

We think we know the Romantics. Their endlessly retold lives have become  familiar through shorthand vignettes: Blake and his wife sitting naked in their summer house; Coleridge scribbling poetry under the influence of class A drugs; Wordsworth jumping his own sister; Shelley committing suicide by sailboat; Keats born in a stable. What does any of […]

Publish & Be Slammed

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

What excuse is there for Ian McEwan? He may be one of our finest novelists and have won every major award for fiction over the last four decades, yet earlier this year he erred. In April the novelist gave a talk at the Royal Institution on the nature of the self and its evolution throughout […]

Shelf Help

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Whenever a council is called upon to make ‘cuts’, its bean-counters head for the soft underbelly, which usually means public libraries. I am no lawyer, but to remove a public library service completely would seem to violate the responsibility placed on local authorities under the Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964 to provide such […]

Access Denied

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Documents are the lifeblood of historians: they provide the bricks to build our understanding of the past. Making government records publicly available is an essential part of any democracy. However, the means by which researchers gain access to many documents, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), is being systematically undermined. The government claims that it […]

Seven Years’ War

Posted on by Tom Fleming

There is no nicer phrase than ‘I have written’, and none more awful, more sweaty-palmed dreadful, than ‘I am writing’. I should know. I have recently finished a book on which I have been working for an embarrassing number of years. Let’s say seven, because it sounds just about respectable and even slightly biblical in […]

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