May 26, 2019

It is often said of the greatest novels that they ‘capture life’, and this has probably been an ambition of most major authors. The nineteenth century novel did it by bringing in all social classes to create a panorama (thus capturing the life of society), by probing p...

April 23, 2019

(Warning: contains spoilers!) 

As far as I know, it was John Galsworthy that first explicitly called War and Peace “the greatest novel ever written.” The credibility of that evaluation lies partly in literary criticism, and partly on whether one can come up with a rival...

June 3, 2018

Yesterday, The Communist Manifesto arrived for me in the post, courtesy of ‘World of Books’, an accredited EBay seller. A little green package, all the way from Goring-by-Sea via Royal Mail. Which probably wasn’t the kind of thing Marx and Engels had in mind when they...

May 20, 2018

I bought my wife a year’s membership of the National Trust for Christmas. Of course, because I can’t expect her to go visiting old houses and looking round their grounds alone, I had to get joint membership. A present for myself too. So sometimes we go on excursions to...

November 15, 2017

So finally. Yesterday, Mrs May announced that she believes Russia interferes in western politics; today, Ciaran Martin, the founding chief executive of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre - a branch of GCHQ - asserted the same thing. “I can confirm,” he said, “that...

September 19, 2017

It was Mark Twain who first said, “Write what you know”. “What you know” could include a lot of things, but Twain’s prescription is often taken to mean that fiction should have a ring of authenticity.

What types of storytelling have that? Well, true stories, most obviou...

September 12, 2017

“When the book wars sweep across the galaxy, and the blood of publishers runs down the gutters of every interstellar metropolis, the resource we fight for will not be paper, or ink, or even money. It will be time. For our readers, time is the precious commodity they in...

September 5, 2017

In 2006, a community action group in Tower Hamlets launched a campaign to prevent a film production of Monica Ali’s bestselling novel, Brick Lane. Its leaders had attacked the book on publication in 2003, and claimed their influence had stopped it winning the Booker Pr...

August 15, 2017

Who won the Man Booker prize last year? Or the year before?

Difficult to say. At least, without Google. Difficult to say anything much about the Booker prize any more. Somehow, it’s dug itself into a hole of obscurity.

When I was young, it was actually quite exciting. Th...

August 8, 2017

007 is the world’s most successful film franchise. Fifty years and counting, and doubly unique in being directly descended from its creator, Ian Fleming. A cultural phenomenon, whatever one may think of Bond. And difficult to imagine anything emulating it.

Arguably, how...

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