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Honor Clerk rss

Triumph of Apollo and Sign of Gemini, ca 1470, by Francesco del Cossa Photo: Getty

Ali Smith's How to be Both: warm, funny, subtle, intelligent – and baffling

30 August 2014
How to be Both Ali Smith

Hamish Hamilton, pp.372, £16.99, ISBN: 9780241145210

Pity the poor art historian writing a survey of painters from Giotto to, say, Poussin. In order to produce a history that is as gender-balanced as possible it is absolutely… Read more

Detail of St Christopher, 15th century, Church of St Botolph, Slapton, Northants

Wonders written on the wall

19 April 2014
Medieval Wall Paintings Roger Rosewell

Shire Publications, pp.96, £7.99, ISBN: 9780747812937

‘Take away, utterly extinct and destroy all shrines … pictures, paintings and all other monuments of feigned miracles, pilgrimages, idolatry and superstition so that there remain no memory of the… Read more

'Marcia painting her self-portrait’; detail from Boccaccio’s On Famous Women (1402)

The selfie from Akhenaten to Tracey Emin

22 March 2014
The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History James Hall

Thames and Hudson, pp.288, £19.95, ISBN: 9780500239100

If ever there was a time to write a book about self-portraits, this must be it.  ‘Past interest in the genre,’ James Hall tells us in his introduction to this… Read more

Top row, left to right: Bannockburn 1314, Montrose defeated at Philiphaugh near Selkirk 1645, the Jacobite Rising of 1745, 
Bottom row: The Royal and Ancient Golf Club founded in St Andrews 1754, Scots in India, Robert Burns’s ‘Tam O’Shanter’, 1791

Weaving Scotland's history

14 December 2013
The Great Tapestry of Scotland Alistair Moffat and Alexander McCall Smith

Berlinn, pp.318, £30, ISBN: 9781780271606

A couple of years ago, while tracking down paintings for the Public Catalogue Foundation in the far north of Scotland, I had the chance to see a rarely displayed sequence… Read more

The Florentine banking aristocracy worship the Christ-child in Botticelli’s ‘Adoration of the Magi’. 
On either side the scene is stacked with Medici sons, grandsons and associates

How to avoid bankers in your nativity scene

19 October 2013
The Ugly Renaissance: Sex, Disease and Excess in an Age of Beauty Alexander Lee

Hutchinson, pp.592, £25, ISBN: 9780091944346

In the vast Benedictine monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore between Siena and Rome, the cycle of frescoes depicting the life of St Benedict by Giovanni Anionio Bazzi includes a charming… Read more

A dried specimen of the red alga Claudea elegans from the collec­tions of the Natural History Museum in London

Seaweeds, by Ole G. Mouritsen - review

13 July 2013
Seaweeds, Edible, Available & Sustainable Ole G. Mouritsen

University of Chicago Press, pp.287, £24.50, ISBN: 9780226044361

On 14 April each year, nori fishermen gather on a hillside overlooking Ariake Bay on Kyushu in southern Japan to pay homage to ‘the Mother of the Sea’. There is… Read more

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The picture of health

14 April 2012
The Healing Presence of Art: A History of Western Art in Hospitals Richard Cork

Yale, pp.460, 50

It must have been hard to settle on a title for this book; but then this is not the book that Richard Cork originally had in mind.  In his introduction… Read more

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Ransacking the world

21 May 2011
Magpies, Squirrels and Thieves Jacqueline Yallop

Atlantic Books, pp.420, 25

Something in the air is arousing an interest in collectors and collections — both private and public — of which the success of The Hare with Amber Eyes and The… Read more

Walking wounded

19 February 2011
More Than You Can Say Paul Torday

Weidenfeld, pp.303, 12.99

Paul Torday’s phenomenal success with Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was always going to be a hard act to follow. Paul Torday’s phenomenal success with Salmon Fishing in the Yemen… Read more

The devil’s in the detail

10 June 2009
The Angel’s Game Carlos Ruiz Zaf

Weidenfeld, pp.443, 18.99

The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón Standing behind the high altar in Prato Cathedral last week, binoculars trained on a fresco some 40 feet above, I found myself puzzling… Read more

Morality tale with a difference

1 October 2008
A Most Wanted Man John le Carré

Hodder & Stoughton, pp.340, 18

A Most Wanted Man, by John le Carré Location, location, location is as much the mantra of espionage fiction as it is of another profession’s literature celebrated for making things… Read more

The circle of a lonely psychiatrist

28 May 2008
The Sorrows of an American Siri Hustvedt

Sceptre, pp.306, 16.99

Honor Clerk on Siri Hustvedt’s latest novel Born into a second generation Norwegian immigrant family, Erik Davidsen is a divorced New York psychoanalyst with his fair share of sorrows and… Read more

A new way of seeing

18 March 2008
Far North and Other Dark Tales Sara Maitland

Maia Press, pp.252, 8.99

In one of his more endearing flights of fancy, Eddie Izzard once speculated on what the Greeks did with themselves in the Wooden Horse while waiting for nightfall in Troy.… Read more

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The school of hard knocks

1 August 2007
Life Class Pat Barker

Hamish Hamilton, pp.pp. 248, £16.99

The Slade of the years immediately before the first world war has always been fertile ground for novelists. As Sarah MacDougall pointed out in her engaging biography of Mark Gertler,… Read more

An ever-present absence

1 March 2007
Over Margaret Forster

Chatto, pp.200, 16.99

It is a curious phenomenon of the modern novel that so many writers entrust their narrative voice to a character that in real life they would go a long way… Read more

A martyr without a cause

18 January 2007
Love Songs and Lies Libby Purves

Hodder, pp.394, 14.99

‘Yes, you may well sigh and beat your head on the table,’ the narrator-protagonist of Love Songs and Lies addresses the reader on page 115, but if you’re going to… Read more

A picture that tells a story

8 February 2003
WHAT I LOVED Siri Hustvedt

Hodder, pp.370, 14.99

Can it be said that anyone is sane, that anyone is healthy – or does all life consist of degrees of illness and madness? Is love a kind of madness?… Read more