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It took two centuries to eradicate smallpox even after a vaccine was invented

8 August 2020 9:00 am

In supposedly unprecedented times such as ours, there are compelling reasons to turn to the history of medicine. For hope,…

A tide of paranoid distrust: The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again, by M. John Harrison, reviewed

8 August 2020 9:00 am

Over the past 50 years, M. John Harrison has produced a remarkably varied body of work: a dozen atmospheric novels…

Demystifying freemasonry

8 August 2020 9:00 am

The history of rubbish can be scholarship, but the history of scholarship is often rubbish. Hindsight diminishes earlier habits of…

Trump’s autocratic antics risk becoming the new normal

8 August 2020 9:00 am

It is easy to forget the abnormality of Donald Trump’s presence in the White House. Before his election it would…

Part Beat, part hippy, part punk: the gay life of John Giorno

8 August 2020 9:00 am

John Giorno, who died last year, was a natural acolyte: he needed a superior being to set him in motion.…

Poetic miniatures: A Lover’s Discourse, by Xiaolu Guo, reviewed

8 August 2020 9:00 am

The novelist, memoirist and film-maker Xiaolu Guo writes with tremendous delicacy and nuance about migration, language, alienation, and love. A…

Madcap escapades: The All True Adventures (and Rare Education) of the Daredevil Daniel Bones, by Owen Booth, reviewed

8 August 2020 9:00 am

The narrative of an adolescent travelling by water with an older companion, undergoing trials and ordeals, encountering scoundrels and villains,…

Stockholm syndrome: The Family Clause, by Jonas Hassen Khemiri, reviewed

1 August 2020 9:00 am

Some faint hearts may sink at the idea of a torrid Swedish family drama peopled with nameless figures identified only…

Italy’s Achilles heel: corruption and cronyism

1 August 2020 9:00 am

Tim Parks is a seasoned, incisive observer of football, the railways, work, domestication and plenty more in his adoptive country…

‘I was frightened every single day’: the perils of guarding Stalin

1 August 2020 9:00 am

In Russian, the proverb ‘Ignorance is bliss’ translates as ‘The less you know, the better you sleep’. For those who…

One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure

1 August 2020 9:00 am

All it takes to turn a cast-off into a prized possession can be a bit of imagination. To a passerby,…

The dark underbelly of New Orleans revealed by Hurricane Katrina

1 August 2020 9:00 am

Home, as James Baldwin wrote, is perhaps ‘not a place but simply an irrevocable condition’. Sarah M. Broom’s National Book…

Killing time: the poetry of Keith Douglas

1 August 2020 9:00 am

Keith Douglas is perhaps the best-known overlooked poet. He died following the D-Day landings in 1944, and his Collected Poems…

We all breathe – 25,000 times a day – so why aren’t we better at it?

1 August 2020 9:00 am

Covid-19 has been bad news for writers with books coming out — unless the book is about breathing. We’re all…

The world’s largest, rarest owl is used for target practice in Siberia

1 August 2020 9:00 am

The montane forests of far-eastern Russia have given rise to one of the finest nature books of recent years, The…

If you spent a day at Action Park you took your life in your hands

25 July 2020 9:00 am

Before reading this book, the only thing I knew about Action Park was that it had lent its name to…

Oxford skulduggery: The Sandpit, by Nicholas Shakespeare, reviewed

25 July 2020 9:00 am

Melancholy pervades this novel: a sense of glasses considerably more than half empty, with the levels sinking fast. This is…

Good memoir-writing should also be self-critical

25 July 2020 9:00 am

A book about breaking confidences, not to mention friendships, rather begs the same in return. Reading Anne Applebaum’s brief memoir…

The sex life of the Monarch butterfly is positively wild

25 July 2020 9:00 am

Wendy Williams is an enthusiast, and enthusiasm is infectious. Lepidoptery is for her a new fascination, and it shows. On…

Natalie Wood’s death remains a mystery

25 July 2020 9:00 am

Are all children of famous parents told they must have a book in them? Since Allegra Huston’s wonderful memoir Love…

Sad and beautiful: The Dear Departed, by Brian Moore, reviewed

25 July 2020 9:00 am

Short story writers often find it irksome to be asked when the novel is coming out, as though their work…

R.B. Haldane: a great public servant, much maligned

25 July 2020 9:00 am

This is a strange but valuable book. The author is a private equity magnate, whose fascination for Richard Burdon Haldane…

His latest disturbing short stories show Richard Ford very much on song

18 July 2020 9:00 am

Sorry For Your Trouble (Bloomsbury, £16.99), Richard Ford’s 13th book of fiction, shows a writer still very much on song.…

A power for good: the Sharp family were a model of vision and humanitarianism

18 July 2020 9:00 am

Who would imagine that Johann Zoffany’s celebrated 1780 depiction of the extensive Sharp family happily making music on their pleasure…

False pretences: No-Signal Area, by Robert Perisic, reviewed

18 July 2020 9:00 am

A journalist and poet based in Zagreb, Robert Perišic was in his early twenties when the socialist federal republic of…