Book review

Rebus is good, but not as sharp as he once was

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Cig 1 Auld Reekie . . . Edinburgh . . . brewers’ town, stinking of beer, whisky, tweeness, gentility, hypocrisy,…

The Briton whose achievement equals that of the Pharaohs'

16 November 2013 9:00 am

We constantly need to be reminded that the consequence of war is death. In the case of the first world…

How many positions are there in the Kamasutra?

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Numbers, as every mathematician knows, do odd things. But they’re never odder than in the human context. Ever since we…

Through It All I’ve Always Laughed, by Count Arthur Strong - review

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Fans of Count Arthur Strong (and yes I know he’s so Marmite you could spread him on a cheese sandwich)…

Blonde, beautiful — and desperate to survive in Nazi France

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Around 200 Englishwomen lived through the German Occupation of Paris. Nicholas Shakespeare’s aunt Priscilla was one. Men in the street…

One Leg Too Few may be one biography too many

16 November 2013 9:00 am

It’s no joke, writing about comedians. Their work is funny, their lives are not. Rightly honouring the former while accurately…

Why do the British love cryptic crosswords?

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Everyone loves an anniversary and the crossword world — if there is such a thing — has been waiting a…

A place of paranoia, secrecy, corruption, hypocrisy and guilt

16 November 2013 9:00 am

‘Is he a good writer? Is he pro-regime?’ an Iranian journalist in London once asked me of Hooman Majd. Majd…

The cover of a popular late-19th-century edition of Mary Shelley’s novel. Frankenstein confronts the monster he has created

How the Romantics ruined lives

16 November 2013 9:00 am

It is perhaps the most celebrated house-party in the history of literary tittle-tattle: a two-house-party to be precise. Byron and…

Why do we pounce on Wagner's anti-Semitism, and ignore that of the Russian composers?

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Before ‘nationalism’ became a dirty word, it was the inspiration for all sorts of idealistic and reform-minded people. This was…

What would Auden have deemed evil in our time? European jingoism

9 November 2013 9:00 am

‘Goodbye to the Mezzogiorno’ was the first Auden poem that Alexander McCall Smith read in his youth. He discovered it…

Roman baths didn't make you clean — and other gems from Peter Jones's Veni, Vedi, Vici

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Spectator readers need no introduction to Peter Jones. His Ancient and Modern column has instructed and delighted us for many…

How much can you tell about E.E. Cummings from this photo?

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Do you think you can tell things about writers from the way they look in a painting or photograph? A…

Mary Killen: Sandi Toksvig is wrong about the placement of the pudding fork

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Sandi Toksvig, as this book’s cover declares, ‘makes Stephen Fry look like a layabout’. The broadcaster, author, comedian, actress and…

Can virgins have babies?

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Mrs Christabel Russell, the heroine of Bevis Hillier’s sparkling book, was a very modern young woman. She had short blonde…

The abstract art full of 'breasts and bottoms'

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Is there any such thing as abstract art? Narratives and coherent harmonies seem to me always to emerge from the…

The man who shared a bed with D.H. Lawrence and Dylan Thomas (though not together)

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Rhys Davies was a Welsh writer in English who lived most of his life in London, that Tir na nÓg…

Is Northamptonshire not scenic enough to visit?

9 November 2013 9:00 am

I don’t know whether Bruce Bailey, a proud Northamptonshire man, agrees with the late Sir Nikolaus Pevsner that no one…

The thrill of the (postmodern neo-Victorian) chase

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Charles Palliser’s debut novel The Quincunx appeared as far back as 1989. Lavish and labyrinthine, this shifted nigh on a…

Joanne Spencer, who sold salad and rabbits from a basket in Portobello, c. 1904

Portobello's market mustn't be allowed to close

9 November 2013 9:00 am

After reading Portobello Voices, I feel more strongly than ever that the unique Portobello market mustn’t be allowed to close.…

Bill Bryson's 'long extraordinary' summer is too long

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Hands up Spectator readers who can remember the American celebrities Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Al Capone, Jack Dempsey, Zane Grey,…

How we beat Napoleon

2 November 2013 9:00 am

It feels the height of ingratitude to blame Jane Austen for anything, but it probably is her fault that most…

Village life can be gripping

2 November 2013 9:00 am

Black Sheep opens biblically, with a mining village named Mount of Zeal, which is ‘built in a bowl like an…

Why Jeremy Paxman's Great War deserves a place on your bookshelf

2 November 2013 9:00 am

The Great War involved the civilian population like no previous conflict. ‘Men, women and children, factory, workshop and army —…

Hogarth and the harlots of Covent Garden were many things, but they weren't 'bohemians'

2 November 2013 9:00 am

It was Hazlitt who said of Hogarth that his pictures ‘breathe a certain close, greasy, tavern air’, and the same…