Books

Fantasist, bigamist and cheat: the colourful career of Robert Parkin Peters

4 May 2019 9:00 am

In 2010, Adam Sisman published a masterly biography of Hugh Trevor-Roper, who was not merely one of the best historians…

A very tangled web: Liar, by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, reviewed

4 May 2019 9:00 am

The Hebrew word for ‘truth’ – see above left  (emet) is comprised of the first, middle and last letters of…

Desperate mothers, abandoned babies: the tragic story of London’s foundlings

4 May 2019 9:00 am

One of the oddest of Bloomsbury’s event venues must be the Foundling Museum. The handsome building on Coram’s Fields houses…

How poetry turned a failing comprehensive into one of Oxford’s most oversubscribed schools

4 May 2019 9:00 am

Kate Clanchy is an extraordinary person. She is a veteran of 30 years’ teaching in difficult state schools, as well…

Fame made Gabriel García Márquez a pedantic bore

4 May 2019 9:00 am

Gerald Martin’s titanic biography of 2010, Gabriel García Márquez: A Life, was the product of 17 years of research and…

Would Turkey exist as a nation if it hadn’t annihilated its Christians?

4 May 2019 9:00 am

Turkey greets you with a chilly blue eye, a flared eyebrow, a cliff-like cheekbone. The face of the republic’s founder…

Should adoptive parents be allowed to pick and choose their child?

4 May 2019 9:00 am

The sorrow of involuntary childlessness is profound. The award-winning novelist Patrick Flanery and his husband knew this pain. Their craving…

Satirising the global society: Only Americans Burn in Hell, by Jarett Kobek, reviewed

4 May 2019 9:00 am

An immortal faery queen from a magical gynocratic island arrives in Los Angeles to track down her missing daughter. This…

Brutus’s betrayal is a tragic inevitability. The soothsayer warns Julius Caesar to ‘Beware the Ides of March’, in a 19th-century wood engraving by Sir John Gilbert

Has Shakespeare become the mascot of Brexit Britain?

27 April 2019 9:00 am

The deployment of Shakespeare to describe Brexit is by now a cliché. It might take the form of a quotation,…

Keble College chapel, Oxford, designed by William Butterfield, whose churches were an intentionally ugly rebuke to oppressive Georgian architecture

It’s ugliness, not beauty, that spurs us to action

27 April 2019 9:00 am

Timothy Hyde’s Ugliness and Judgment: On Architecture in the Public Eye is not about why we find things ugly. It’s…

The serious games of the Oulipians

27 April 2019 9:00 am

Have you heard of the Oulipo? The long-running Parisian workshop for experimental writing? Even if you haven’t, you might have…

Cracking jokes with Dr Johnson

27 April 2019 9:00 am

I cast my Readers under two general Divisions, the Mercurial and the Saturnine. The first are the gay part of…

Would Faber & Faber still exist without T.S. Eliot?

27 April 2019 9:00 am

Like many a 20th-century publishing house, the fine old firm of Faber & Faber came about almost by accident. The…

An outsider inside: We, The Survivors, by Tash Aw, reviewed

27 April 2019 9:00 am

It’s not immediately obvious who the survivors in Tash Aw’s formidable new novel are, or who the narrator even is,…

A remote island tribe in Indonesia makes whaling seem positively noble

27 April 2019 9:00 am

Our relations with cetaceans have always been charged with danger and delight, represented by the extremes of the Book of…

Is British food really still wodges of stodge?

27 April 2019 9:00 am

‘You are what you eat.’ The old phrase always reminds me of Denzil, John Sparkes’s character in the comedy sketch…

God save us from Søren Kierkegaard

27 April 2019 9:00 am

Surely God, if He existed, would find a major source of entertainment down the ages in the activities of theologians,…

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…

A 15th-century manuscript depicting Saladin as King of Egypt

A new version of Saladin — as silver-tongued diplomat

20 April 2019 9:00 am

I can only remember one page of any of the dozens of Ladybird histories that I read avidly as a…

The murder of Thomas Becket in stained glass at Canterbury cathedral. Next year sees the 800th anniversary of the creation of Becket’s shrine and the revival of the old pilgrimage route from Southampton to Canterbury

Will the Pilgrims’ Way soon rival the Camino de Santiago?

20 April 2019 9:00 am

There are more than 100 cathedrals in England, Scotland and Wales of many different denominations (although I for one had…

Vasily Grossman: eye-witness to the 20th century’s worst atrocities

20 April 2019 9:00 am

Vasily Grossman’s novel Life and Fate (completed in 1960) has been hailed as a 20th-century War and Peace. It has…

A computer will never write the Brandenburg Concertos

20 April 2019 9:00 am

What is creativity? Marcus du Sautoy, a mathematician and Oxford professor for the public understanding of science, offers this pert…

Proper adult entertainment: Claude Rains, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Hitchcock’s Notorious (1946), with taut dialogue by Ben Hecht

The invisible man behind Hollywood’s greatest films

20 April 2019 9:00 am

What do the following filmmakers have in common: Victor Fleming, John Ford, Henry Hathaway, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Ernst Lubitsch,…

Murder in the basement: The Language of Birds, by Jill Dawson, reviewed

20 April 2019 9:00 am

Jill Dawson has a taste for murder. One of her earlier novels, the Orange shortlisted Fred and Edie, fictionalised the…

Into the woods: for the Oslo exhibition, Knausgaard chose to fill a whole section with Munch’s paintings of trees. ‘Pine Forest’ (1891–92)

The Struggle and The Scream: is Karl Ove Knausgaard Munch’s doppelgänger?

20 April 2019 9:00 am

Norway doesn’t have a world-class philosopher (Kierkegaard was Danish). Karl Ove Knausgaard declared at the end of his previous book…