Books

The retiring Brian Bilston.

The great anti-hero of our time: Diary of a Somebody, by Brian Bilston, reviewed

15 June 2019 9:00 am

Brian Bilston’s life is summed up perfectly by the incident with his neighbour’s dog. The annoying Mrs McNulty comes round…

Maud West disguised as a Salvation Army worker, c. 1920

The rollicking adventures of a real-life female sleuth

15 June 2019 9:00 am

Susannah Stapleton’s erudite but hugely entertaining debut is a true-life detective story about the quest for a true-life detective. A…

Somali pirates, photographed in 2012

As long as poverty and maritime trade exist, so will piracy

15 June 2019 9:00 am

Western attitudes to piracy have dripped with hubris. In his classic history of 1932, Philip Gosse confidently argued that European…

Moby performing in Los Angeles in March this year

Moby — from teetotal vegan to promiscuous party monster

15 June 2019 9:00 am

In 2002 I flew to New York to interview the dance music producer whose 1999 release Play remains the bestselling…

Hostility to Islam has disguised a host of other prejudices

8 June 2019 9:00 am

In 2011, when the editor of Charlie Hebdo put Muhammad on the cover, he did so as the heir to…

Does a stick insect count as a pet?

8 June 2019 9:00 am

What is it that distinguishes humans from other animals? The default answer nowadays is tediously misanthropic, but a more interesting…

Joy Division was an all too short-lived joy

8 June 2019 9:00 am

Once upon a time there was the arche-typal Manchester band — half of which came from Macclesfield, in leafy Cheshire,…

Midlife crisis in Montana

8 June 2019 9:00 am

For Joanna Pocock, a midlife crisis is the moment in which ‘bored of the rhythm of our days, whatever those…

Alma Mahler — maddening, mesmerising or plain malicious?

8 June 2019 9:00 am

It must be rare for a popular song to have such a lasting influence on a posthumous reputation. However, this…

Washed-up in LA: This Storm, by James Ellroy, reviewed

8 June 2019 9:00 am

When James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential appeared in 1990, it introduced us to a world of blatant corruption, casual racism and…

Nights at the Lyceum: Shadowplay, by Joseph O’Connor, reviewed

8 June 2019 9:00 am

‘I am very, very pleased,’ murmured Queen Victoria in 1895, when she dubbed Henry Irving, Britain’s first theatrical knight. He…

The wildest waters in the world

8 June 2019 9:00 am

‘Below the Forties there is no law, and below the Fifties there is no God.’ Most sailors know some version…

From the Odyssey to Njals Saga: a voyage round the great myths

8 June 2019 9:00 am

Six remarkable stories shape this book. Tracing the trajectories of the Odyssey to the Icelandic Njals Saga, via the Kosovo…

My agonising vigil over my twins’ fight for life

8 June 2019 9:00 am

Memoirs about giving birth, a subject once shrouded in mystery, have become so popular that another may seem otiose. We…

Lusting after Bathsheba: Lux, by Elizabeth Cook, reviewed

8 June 2019 9:00 am

The novel is a wonderfully commodious creature. One might wish they made trousers like it, for it can stretch or…

Toy theatres on the stage: the set designs of Maurice Sendak

1 June 2019 9:00 am

I must have seen hundreds of opera productions in my time. Out of these, hardly any made a lasting impression…

Moon walks with the Romantic poets

1 June 2019 9:00 am

Several years ago, I was interviewing the garden writer and designer Sarah Raven at her home in Sussex when a…

Gen Xers v. Millennials: White, by Bret Easton Ellis, reviewed

1 June 2019 9:00 am

Q: What’s worse than listening to someone ranting hysterically about Donald Trump? A: Listening to Bret Easton Ellis ranting hysterically…

The London I loved: nostalgia for a dirty old town

1 June 2019 9:00 am

All cities are shapeshifters, but London is special. London is a palimpsest of places gone but not lost. Even as…

Transforming Goosefish into Monkfish: branding’s slippery secrets

1 June 2019 9:00 am

We live in a logic-obsessed world, from computer modelling of the economy to businesses run by spreadsheets. But we also…

My fictional Abimael Guzmàn turned out to be eerily accurate

1 June 2019 9:00 am

Few Peruvians today are interested in ‘the Shining Path years’, which left no traces besides 70,000 mutilated bodies and a…

The desolate beauty of the Thames Estuary

1 June 2019 9:00 am

We ought to cherish the haunted landscape of the Thames Estuary while we can. The grey hulks of old power…

Greece is the word for the New Yorker’s Comma Queen

1 June 2019 9:00 am

Mary Norris’s book about her love affair with Greece and the Greek language starts with a terrific chapter about alphabets.…

The flood-prone megacity of Wuhan on the Yangtze now has permeable pavements and artificial wetlands to soak up the water like a sponge

Towards a technological utopia

25 May 2019 9:00 am

The rebranding of John Browne has been a long and, to those of us living overseas, instructive affair. Readers will…

Two geishas relax after entertaining a client. Inset is the curfew bell at Asakusa, the major entertainment centre of old Tokyo. Woodblock print by Toyohara Chikanobu

Passing bells for old Tokyo

25 May 2019 9:00 am

In Edo (now Tokyo), before the Meiji restoration, bells marked the beginning of each hour. The hours were named after…