Ian Sansom

Four dangerous visionary writers

17 February 2024 9:00 am

Simon Ings examines the lives of Maxim Gorky, Maurice Barrès, Gabriele D’Annunzio and Ding Ling, whose propagandism helped shape – and misshape – the 20th century

Have we all become more paranoid since the pandemic?

20 January 2024 9:00 am

Covid-19 proved devastating to our self-confidence and faith in others, says Daniel Freeman, who describes the ‘corrosive’ effects of mistrust on individuals and society

Why are the Japanese so obsessed with the cute?

6 January 2024 9:00 am

Some see it as a way of appearing harmless after the second world war – but an infantile delight in frolicking animals dates back to at least the 12th century

What makes other people’s groceries so engrossing?

7 October 2023 9:00 am

Ingrid Swenson spent ten years retrieving discarded shopping lists at a London Waitrose, and the result is a rare glimpse into entire, private worlds

Hail dairy

23 September 2023 9:00 am

A lifetime obsession with milk has resulted in 350 numbered, lightly edited and loosely connected remarks about milk, its colour, its smell and much else. Weird or what?

Is there any defence against the tidal wave of online disinformation?

12 August 2023 9:00 am

Grotesque conspiracy theories merge and snowball, with serious global consequences. James Ball proposes a Digital Health System to counter the ‘pathogens’

Marks out of ten

5 August 2023 9:00 am

Like a weary schoolmaster toiling over his pupils’ homework, Peter Kemp dispenses praise, encouragement or reproof to modern fiction’s big-hitters

The twists keep coming

10 June 2023 9:00 am

Murray’s immersive, beautifully written mega-tome about a family in a small town in Ireland is as funny as it is deeply disturbing

Promises, promises

18 March 2023 9:00 am

But the big ideas seem mainly to consist in acquiring new skills – like boxing and baking – and flexing the imagination muscle

Frank and fearless

11 February 2023 9:00 am

Leaving poetry aside, his memoir covers insanity, debt, drugs, narcissism, religious mania and, more generally, the lengths we go to not to be bored

The sad, extraordinary life of Basil Bunting

30 July 2022 9:00 am

Funny old life, eh? Small world, etc. In one of those curious, Alan Bennett-y, believe-it-or-not-but-I-once-delivered-meat-to-the mother-in-law-of-T.S.-Eliot-type coincidences, it turns out…

Plain tales of crookedness and corruption: Rogues reviewed

16 July 2022 9:00 am

Do not be deterred, but do be warned. Rogues isn’t a book book: it’s a kind of high-end sizzle reel,…

Where is Ruja Ignatova, the self-styled cryptoqueen, hiding?

2 July 2022 9:00 am

This is a depressing book. It’s a reminder of everything that is sick, broken and generally maledicted about the human…

The cut-throat business of the secondhand book trade

10 July 2021 9:00 am

For almost as long as there have been books, there have been books about books — writers just love to…

His own worst critic? Clive James the poet

1 February 2020 9:00 am

Clive James (1939-2019), in the much-quoted words of a New Yorker profile, was a brilliant bunch of guys. One of…

From frontispiece to endpapers: the last word on the book

11 January 2020 9:00 am

Book Parts — hardback, 352 pages, with colour plate section and in-text black and white illustrations, 234x156mm, ISBN 9780198812463, published…

What is the relationship between truth and accuracy? The Lifespan of a Fact reviewed

14 December 2019 9:00 am

At the time, I’m sure it all seemed absolutely hilarious. It was in 2012 that W.W. Norton first published The…

Why would anyone in their right mind choose to be profiled by Janet Malcolm?

27 April 2019 9:00 am

God, I wish I was Janet Malcolm. Fifty or more years as a staff writer on the New Yorker, reviews…

Detail of Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens’, with Pythagoras in the foreground. Hypatia, the first great female mathematician, is in white, beside a figure thought to be Parmenides

What the Ancient Greeks did for us

23 February 2019 9:00 am

I am undoubtedly, alas, an example of what the Fowler brothers, H.W. and F.G., of The King’s English fame, would…

Is Lionel Messi the greatest footballer of all time?

8 December 2018 9:00 am

If you don’t know who Lionel Messi is you won’t enjoy this book much. If you do, you probably will.…

Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky explaining tarot on YouTube

Is there anything weirder on YouTube than Alejandro Jodorowsky’s tarot readings?

8 September 2018 9:00 am

Alas, the great Alan Partridge never got to make Inner-City Sumo, despite his famously desperate pitch to BBC TV commissioners.…

Three generations and two royal families sit for a family portrait at Cowes in 1909. The portly Edward VII (centre) is flanked by the Tsar and Tsarina

2018: a year of dangerous liaisons with Russia

11 August 2018 9:00 am

First it was McMafia. After which it was the Skripals. Then the World Cup. Come the end of the year…

Theseus kills the Minotaur at the centre of the labyrinth. On the left, Ariadne gives him a ball of thread so that he can find his way out.

Amazing mazes: the pleasures of getting lost in the labyrinth

28 July 2018 9:00 am

When Boris Johnson resigned recently he automatically gave up his right to use Chevening House in Kent, bequeathed by the…

Modern-day Heath Robinson and YouTube star Simone Giertz. Photo: Simone Giertz / YouTube

Meet ‘the queen of shitty robots’

23 June 2018 9:00 am

Older readers will perhaps recall the once popular Sunday evening TV programme Scrapheap Challenge, in which oily, boilersuited blokes competed…

I want Lorrie Moore to be my BFF

12 May 2018 9:00 am

Is there anything more depressing than the prospect of reading a writer’s collected essays, journalism and occasional pieces? Most of…