Books

Creature comforts

9 September 2017 9:00 am

As naturalist, educator and writer, John Lister-Kaye was for many years a voice in the wilderness. In 1976, when nature…

Homer Simpson meets Homer

9 September 2017 9:00 am

Milan Kundera has said that Homer’s Odyssey was the first novel. I’m not so sure — the verse kind of…

The miserly widow Mary Emsley, clutching a roll of her precious wallpaper, as portrayed in the popular press

Ill-met by gaslight

9 September 2017 9:00 am

What is it about Victorian murders that so grips us? The enduring fascination of Jack the Ripper caught the imagination…

The Normansfield Theatre in Teddington, a beautiful ‘lost’ Victorian playhouse, is still used for concerts and music-hall evenings, and by small opera companies

Pleasure palaces and hidden gems

9 September 2017 9:00 am

Theatre buildings are seriously interesting – as I ought to have appreciated sooner in the course of 25 years writing…

Punks vs. Putin

9 September 2017 9:00 am

What makes for meaningful political protest? In regimes where ideology was taken seriously (such as the Soviet Union or America…

The Korean war was the single greatest calamity of the period. Residents of Inchon surrender to American troops in 1950

Armageddon averted

9 September 2017 9:00 am

From 1945 to 1992 the Cold War was the climate. Individual weather events stood out — the Korean War, the…

Well of sorrows

2 September 2017 9:00 am

The Red-haired Woman is shorter than Orhan Pamuk’s best-known novels, and is, in comparison, pared down, written with deliberate simplicity…

Finally tired of London

2 September 2017 9:00 am

Iain Sinclair is leaving London — like the croakiest of the ravens taking flight from the Tower. It is a…

Mozart’s mischievous muse

2 September 2017 9:00 am

If you were to compare Mozart to a bird it wouldn’t be the starling. Possibly the wood thrush or nightingale,…

Stage fright

2 September 2017 9:00 am

Patrick McGrath is a master of novels about post-traumatic fragmentation and dissolution, set amid gothic gloom. His childhood years spent…

Kathy Acker in the late 1980s

The writer behind the brand

2 September 2017 9:00 am

Few publishing phenomena in recent years have been as gratifying as Chris Kraus’s cult 1997 masterpiece I Love Dick becoming…

Darwin was a martyr to ill-health all his life, and was patiently nursed by his wife Emma, whom he called ‘Mammy’

A flawed and dangerous theory

2 September 2017 9:00 am

If there were a prize awarded to the book with the best opening line, A. N. Wilson would be clearing…

‘Isfandiyar Slays Arjasp and Takes the Brazen Hold’. From Shah Tahmasp’s Shahnama (Tabriz, 1520s-1530s)

The art of the arabesque

2 September 2017 9:00 am

The title of this book, By the Pen and What They Write, is a quotation from the Qur’an and comes…

City of dreadful dusk

2 September 2017 9:00 am

Fantastic fiction loves contrasts made explicit: Eloi and Morlocks, orcs and elves, and above all humans battling vampires, Martians or…

Mysticism and metamorphosis

2 September 2017 9:00 am

‘I frankly hate Descartes,’ states a character in Nicole Krauss’s new novel, Forest Dark: ‘The more he talks about following…

Robert Louis Stevenson, photographed in Samoa shortly before his death

The last great adventure

2 September 2017 9:00 am

Towards the end of his life, Robert Louis Stevenson travelled widely in the central and southern Pacific Ocean. As well…

Master of the dark art of interrogation: Alexander Scotland in 1945

A grand inquisitor

2 September 2017 9:00 am

Hidden behind Kensington Palace, in one of London’s smartest streets, there is a grand old house which played a leading…

A clash of loyalties

2 September 2017 9:00 am

If someone was to lob the name Antigone about, many of us would smile and nod while trying to remember…

The cornucopia of food advertised by the Empire Marketing Board, 1927‑1933

The fruits of imperialism

2 September 2017 9:00 am

Imagine yourself a middle-class person in England in the 1870s. You sit down to drink a cup of tea while…

Return to the lost city

26 August 2017 9:00 am

During a press interview in Bombay about his latest book, the author-narrator of Friend of My Youth feels ‘a surge…

Light at the end

26 August 2017 9:00 am

It’s an irony of our secular age that the more we fear death, the more enticing we find it. The…

At feeding time, Jacqueline Yallop’s pigs splash their noses through the grain, ‘bringing them up white and floury, like old-fashioned Sherbet Dabs’

Swine fever

26 August 2017 9:00 am

‘Rightly is they called pigs,’ says a farmworker in Aldous Huxley’s Crome Yellow as he watches porkers grunt and squelch.…

Manning up

26 August 2017 9:00 am

Is this the best book I’ve ever read on the subject of masculinity? Maybe it is, I thought, the first…

Making sense of an unjust world

26 August 2017 9:00 am

These three timely works of creative nonfiction explore the question of race: chronicling histories of colonialism and migration; examining the…

James Gillray’s ‘The Wig’. Hairdressing was a good time to catch up on the latest novel

The pleasures of reading aloud

26 August 2017 9:00 am

‘I have nothing to doe but work and read my Eyes out,’ complained Anne Vernon in 1734, writing from her…