James Walton rss

British Jewish author and journalist Howard Jacobson Photo: Hindustan Times via Getty

Howard Jacobson’s J convinced me that I’d just read a masterpiece

13 September 2014
J Howard Jacobson

Jonathan Cape, pp.327, £18.99, ISBN: 9780224101974

At first sight, J — which has beenshortlisted for the Man Booker Prize — represents a significant departure for Howard Jacobson. It’s set in a future Britain where some sort… Read more

Asking the questions: Victoria Coren Mitchell

Now for the really tricky question: can Only Connect survive BBC2?

13 September 2014

For some of us, the biggest TV question of recent weeks hasn’t been how Newsnight is doing without Jeremy Paxman, British drama’s fightback against American competition or even the treatment… Read more

Second coming: Kate Bush is now regarded with almost universal awe

Kate Bush Hammersmith Apollo review: Still crazy after all these years

30 August 2014
Kate Bush Hammersmith Apollo

It says something about Kate Bush’s standing in the music world that, perhaps uniquely in the history of long-awaited live comebacks, nobody has suggested — or possibly even thought —… Read more

Showing up to your prom in a tank is a bit 2013

BBC2’s Hotel India: slums? What slums?

30 August 2014

Viewers who like their TV journalism hard-hitting should probably avoid Hotel India, a new BBC2 series about the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. The tone of Wednesday’s episode was set… Read more


The case of the amnesiac autobiographer

16 August 2014
The Answer to the Riddle is Me: A Tale of Amnesia David Stuart MacLean

Short Books, pp.256, £10.99, ISBN: 9781907595165

In October 2002, 28-year-old David Stuart MacLean woke up at Hyderabad railway station. He was standing at the time, and had no idea where or who he was. A kindly… Read more

Novelist Haruki Murakami Photo: PA Images

Murakami drops magic for realism in this tale of a lonely Tokyo engineer

2 August 2014
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Haruki Murakami (translated by Philip Gabriel)

Harvill Secker, pp.298, £20, ISBN: 9781846558337

When Haruki Murakami — Japan’s most successful novelist at home and abroad — was interviewed by the Paris Review in 2004, the questions weren’t always characterised by their pithiness. Many… Read more

The Terracotta Army Museum: the warriors were built to protect Quin Shi Huuang, China’s first emperor

Barbie dolls? This girl aims for the head

2 August 2014

Channel 4’s Kids and Guns (Thursday) began with an American TV advert in which a young boy’s eyes shone with gratitude when his parents gave him a large gun, proudly… Read more

A series of indisputable masterpieces: Nile Rodgers of Chic

The quest for the perfect guitar riff is a noble one – if not quite the key to unlocking the mysteries of the universe

19 July 2014

A few weeks ago, my eight-year-old son, who’s taken up the guitar, announced that he’d learned something new. He then played a sequence of chords — approximately, Duh-duh-duuh, Duh-duh-da-duuh —… Read more

Portrait Of Elvis Presley

A tribute to the King – or a compendium of journalistic bad habits?

12 July 2014
Elvis has Left the Building: The Day the King Died Dylan Jones

Duckworth Overlook, pp.320, £16.99, ISBN: 9780715648568

With Elvis has Left the Building, the longstanding editor of GQ has inexplicably written a book that could serve as a handy, if perhaps overly comprehensive, compendium of bad journalistic… Read more

A woman of substance: Maggie Gyllenhaal as the saintly Nessa

The Honourable Woman could have done with some help from an overpaid executive in a suit

5 July 2014

BBC2’s The Honourable Woman (Thursday) began with a rather portentous voice-over bringing us the unsurprising news that ‘We all have secrets. We all tell lies just to keep them from… Read more

The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins, BBC Photo: John Lily Estate

The girl who had sex with dolphins

21 June 2014

BBC4’s The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins (Tuesday) began with the overstated-sounding claim that it would be tackling ‘perhaps the most remarkable period in the history of animal science’. In… Read more

Linda Grant

Those weren't the days

21 June 2014
Upstairs at the Party Linda Grant

Virago, pp.306, £14.99, ISBN: 9781844087495

If you wanted a brief epigraph for Linda Grant’s recent fiction, then five words from Dorothy Parker might well do the trick: ‘Time doth flit/ Oh shit.’ Certainly, there aren’t… Read more

Gabriel Byrne as Quirke and Geraldine Somerville as Sarah, BBC

Is BBC1’s Quirke bravely unhurried – or too slow?

7 June 2014

The work of John Banville — Booker-winning novelist and impeccably high-minded literary critic — might seem an unlikely source for a primetime crime series. But since 2006, under the telling… Read more

Tom Hollander as Dylan Thomas Photo: BBC

So Dylan Thomas was a drunk: does this TV drama have anything else to say?

24 May 2014

According to its executive producer Griff Rhys Jones, A Poet in New York (BBC2, Sunday) sought to rescue Dylan Thomas from the ‘forces of sanctity and hagiography that now hover… Read more

Jack's back!

Jack Bauer hits, er, West Ealing

10 May 2014

Whatever worries Kiefer Sutherland may have had about reprising the role of Jack Bauer in 24: Live Another Day (Sky1, Wednesday), learning his lines for episode one won’t have been… Read more


John Crace digested – twice

3 May 2014
The 21st Century Digested John Crace

Constable, pp.329, £12.99, ISBN: 9781480338583

Fiction ‘So how come we’re in the same book?’ Paul from The Stranger’s Child asked Florence from On Chesil Beach. ‘Apparently,’ replied Florence looking up from the introduction to The… Read more

American novelist Siri Hustvedt Photo: Getty

Caught between a New Age rock and a theory junkie hard place

22 March 2014
The Blazing World Siri Hustvedt

Sceptre, pp.379, £18.99, ISBN: 9781444779646

Siri Hustvedt’s new novel isn’t exactly an easy read — but the casual bookshop browser should be reassured that it’s nowhere near as punishing as the opening pages might suggest.… Read more

The Windsor Faction, by D.J. Taylor - review

14 September 2013
The Windsor Faction D.J. Taylor

Chatto and Windus, pp.373, £14,99, ISBN: 9780701187873

In both his novels and non-fiction, D. J. Taylor has long been fascinated by the period between the wars. Now in The Windsor Faction, he brings us a counterfactual version.… Read more

Lion Heart by Justin Cartwright - review

31 August 2013
Lion Heart Justin Cartwright

Bloombury, pp.330, £18.99, ISBN: 9781408839799

Justin Cartwright is famously a fan of John Updike — and here he seems to owe a definite debt to one of his hero’s lesser known novels. In Memories of… Read more

The People’s Songs, by Stuart Maconie - a review

20 July 2013
The People’s Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records Stuart Maconie

Ebury, pp.420, £20, ISBN: 9780091933791

For Stuart Maconie fans, this book might sound as if it’ll be his masterpiece. In his earlier memoirs and travelogues, he’s proved himself a fine writer: sharp, funny, tender and… Read more

The Spinning Heart, by Donal Ryan - review

29 June 2013
The Spinning Heart Donal Ryan

Doubleday Ireland, pp.159, £12.99, ISBN: 9781781620069

Despite being so short, The Spinning Heart certainly can’t be accused of lacking ambition. Over the course of its 150-odd pages, Donal Ryan’s first novel introduces us to no fewer… Read more

And the Mountain Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini - review

11 May 2013
And the Mountains Echoed Khaled Hosseini

Bloomsbury, pp.404, £18.99, ISBN: 9781408842423

The American comedian Stephen Colbert once joked that when he publicly criticised the novels of Khaled Hosseini, his front garden was invaded by angry members of women’s books groups. They… Read more

Striped bodysuit designed by Kansai Yamamoto, 1973, for the Aladdin Sane tour

Why David Bowie is still underrated

13 April 2013

Is it just me, or is there quite a lot being written about David Bowie at the moment? Of course, there’s the fact that the V&A’s blockbuster exhibition has coincided… Read more

Scenes from Pride and Prejudice. Left to right: Charlotte and Mr Collins, Mr and Mrs Bennet at home, Lydia claims to be taller than her sisters, Mr Collins is horrified by the idea of reading a novel, Lady Catherine de Burgh with her nephews. Illustrations by Hugh Thomson from Happily Ever After

Whatever happened to dear Aunt Jane?

26 January 2013
The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things Paula Byrne

Harper Press, pp.380, £25, ISBN: 9780007358328

Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice Susannah Fullerton

Frances Lincoln, pp.240, £16.99 (ebook £14), ISBN: 9780711233744

In 1818, an unknown critic in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine went out on something of a limb. One day, he claimed, Jane Austen would be among the most popular of English… Read more

Canadian singer and poet Leonard Cohen i

Crying and laughing about it all

10 November 2012
I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen Sylvie Simmons

Cape, pp.546, £20, ISBN: 9780224090636

For many biographers of popular musicians, the obvious problem is that the only interesting bit comes when your subjects are in their brief creative pomp. For Sylvie Simmons, the situation… Read more