Books

Looking back, losing bits

16 September 2017 9:00 am

As Roddy Doyle’s 12th novel begins, Victor Forde, a washed-up writer, has returned to the part of Dublin where he…

‘Adam and Eve in Paradise’, by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1531)

The journey of Adam and Eve

16 September 2017 9:00 am

Trying to reconcile a belief in the literal truth of the Bible with the facts of the world as we…

Sappho in America

16 September 2017 9:00 am

We are gripped by gossip. Curiosity is a tenacious emotion. In her essay on Push Comes to Shove, the autobiography…

‘My witchcraft is going well’: The crazed Eva Rausing, photographed shortly before her death

Descent into hell

9 September 2017 9:00 am

It’s awful, but the surname Rausing (once synonymous only with the Tetrapak fortune) now summons up a terrible stench in…

The Templars’ final disaster: Guillaume de Clermont on the ramparts of Acre in 1291. Painting by Dominique Papety

Crusading passions

9 September 2017 9:00 am

In W.B. Yeats’s ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’, a testing allusion emerges amid a scene of nightmare: Monstrous familiar…

Beyond Timbuktu

9 September 2017 9:00 am

Every so often a monster comes along. Here’s one — but a monster of fact not fiction, over 700 pages…

A blast from the past

9 September 2017 9:00 am

If you had to choose one book that both typified spy fiction and celebrated what the genre was capable of…

Finger counting from 1 to 20,000. From De Numeris by Rabanus Maurus. (Carolingian school, 9th century)

The magic of maths

9 September 2017 9:00 am

It’s odd, when you think about it, that mathematics ever got going. We have no innate genius for numbers. Drop…

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…