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Thomas W. Hodgkinson rss

187630609

A guide to marriage, moving and fatherhood – and also not a bad tool with which to beat your solicitor to death

12 July 2014
How to Be a Husband Tim Dowling

Fourth Estate, pp.304, £12.99, ISBN: 9780007527663

Over the past 12 months, I’ve proposed to my girlfriend, moved house, got married, and become a father. The most stressful of these tests, without a doubt, was moving house.… Read more

Author P.J. O'Rourke Portrait Session at Book Soup

The man who went to Hell and back – for a laugh

The Baby Boom P.J.O’Rourke

Grove Press, pp.288, £16.99, ISBN: 9781011856118

Since the passing of Auberon Waugh, there haven’t been many really successful right-wing comedians. The Mayor of London is one. Another is the American journalist and wit P.J. O’Rourke. The… Read more

Stirring the imagination into overdrive: ‘The Sinner’ by John Collier (1904)

Sex, secrets, and self-mortification: the dark side of the confessional

1 March 2014
The Dark Box: A Secret History of Confession John Cornwell

Profile Books, pp.288, £16.99, ISBN: 9781781251089

I have a confession to make. I really enjoyed this book. It’s been a while since I admitted something of the sort, and I feel ashamed, because, although it’s smartly,… Read more

Hotel Chelsea

Where artists went to drink and die

8 February 2014
Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel Sherill Tippins

Simon & Schuster, pp.457, £20, ISBN: 9780743295611

Once below a time (to quote the man himself) the bloated poet Dylan Thomas slouched back to New York’s Chelsea Hotel in the dead of night and informed his mistress… Read more

Hitler In Weimar

Did Hollywood moguls really make a pact with Hitler?

23 November 2013
The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler Ben Urwand

Belknap Press, pp.327, £19.95, ISBN: 9780674724747

At the recent Austin Film Festival, at every ruminative panel or round-table discussion I attended, I slapped my copy of this book down in front of me. The cover, I… Read more

Bran Castle — but don’t mention Dracula

Transylvania Diary by Thomas W. Hodgkinson - diary

21 September 2013

Ehe-Gefängnis. The word, strictly speaking (which is how one should always speak), means ‘marriage prison’, and refers to an austere cell maintained in some of the magnificent fortified Saxon churches… Read more

A 14th-century French edition of Galen illlustrates the proper bedside manner

The Prince of medicine, by Susan P. Mattern - review

14 September 2013
The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire Susan P. Mattern

OUP, pp.334, £20, ISBN: 9780199605453

In the first draft of the screenplay for the film Gladiator, the character to be played by Russell Crowe (‘father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife’, etc)… Read more

Paul Bowles

Tangier, by Josh Shoemake - review

24 August 2013
Tangier: A Literary Guide for Travellers Josh Shoemake

I.B. Tauris, pp.299, £16.99, ISBN: 9781780762760

This may sound a little orientalist, but Tangier has some claim to being the most foreign city in the world. Back in the day, its position at the northernmost tip… Read more

Island, by J. Edward Chamberlin - review

10 August 2013
Island: How Islands Transform the World J. Edward Chamberlin

Elliott & Thompson, pp.241, £14.99, ISBN: 9781909653382

‘Tom Island’ — that was the name I was given once by a girl I met on an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Of course, she broke my heart in… Read more

The Emperor Elagabalus delighted in watching his dinner guests slide to the floor as the evening progressed

Confronting the Classics, by Mary Beard - review

23 March 2013
Confronting the Classics Mary Beard

Profile Books, pp.310, £25, ISBN: 9781781250488

The Emperor Augustus, ruler of the known world, once spotted a man in the street who looked a bit like himself. ‘Did your mother ever work at the palace?’ he… Read more

Pyrrhus

Pyrrhic victories

16 February 2013
The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World’s Greatest Empire Anthony Everitt

Head of Zeus,, pp.478, £20, ISBN: 9781781851036

In 193 BC, Scipio met Hannibal at Ephesus, and asked him who, in his opinion, were the greatest generals of all time. Since he’d personally defeated Rome’s most dangerous enemy a… Read more

Alexie: ‘If you want a woman to love you, you have to dance’

Indian giver

9 February 2013
Blasphemy Sherman Alexie

Grove Press, pp.480, £16.99, ISBN: 9780802120397

A 465-page volume of short stories by a Native American author — it’s not, perhaps, the kind of thing everyone would automatically reach for, if they hadn’t already heard about… Read more

Understated elegance

19 January 2013
Sorry! The English and their Manners Henry Hitchings

John Murray, pp.392, £19.99, ISBN: 9781848546646

A man raised by apes is discovered in Africa, recognised as an English lord, and escorted home. At a formal dinner, he raises a bowl of soup to his lips… Read more

The only truly great Redgrave: Vanessa in 1966

The gulf of greatness

1 December 2012
The Redgraves: A Family Epic Donald Spoto

The Robson Press, pp.361, £25, ISBN: 9781849543941

Ladies and gentlemen,’ Laurence Olivier declared in his clipped, semi-metallic tones to the audience at the Vic as he took his curtain call, ‘tonight a great actress has been born.… Read more

L. Ron Hubbard

Going overboard

24 November 2012

What is it about islands that appeals to little men with big ideas? It’s Corfu I’m thinking about, primarily. Napoleon was obsessed with the place. Kaiser Wilhelm owned a summer… Read more

Taylor and Burton on the set of ‘The VIPs’ in 1963

Man of many parts

13 October 2012
The Richard Burton Diaries Chris Williams (editor)

Yale, pp.704, £25, ISBN: 9780300180107

My father, a man not given to hero-worship, once told me that the only actor he really admired was Richard Burton. Some years later, I put the question to Peter… Read more

Orson Welles, ‘the interminable prodigy, who left his promise, though not his waistline, unfulfilled’

The stuff of dreams

6 October 2012
The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies and What they Did to Us David Thomson

Allen Lane, pp.578, £25, ISBN: 9781846143144

‘As I was writing this book and trying to discover what it was about .…’ With his very first words, David Thomson pulls out the carpet from under himself, drapes… Read more

Bob-Dylan

Sweetest songs of saddest thoughts

29 September 2012
Once Upon a Time: The Lives of Bob Dylan Ian Bell

Mainstream, pp.590, £20, ISBN: 9781780575735

In February 1966, in the first flush of his fame, an interviewer asked Bob Dylan what his songs were about. ‘Oh, some are about four minutes,’ he responded. ‘Some are… Read more

Not grinning but scowling

30 June 2012
Gold Chris Cleeve

Sceptre, pp.366, 16.99, ISBN: 9780340963432

I am deeply envious of Chris Cleeve, so maybe everything that follows should be taken with a pinch of salt. This is a guy whose first novel won the Somerset… Read more

The dirty dozen

The Twelve Caesars Matthew Dennison

Atlantic, pp.385, £12.99

I have this fantasy in which I’m the Emperor Nero. I’m relaxing in my toga, and there are these slave girls dancing for me, and one of them has the… Read more

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Old Man of Corfu

‘The woes of painters!’ lamented Edward Lear in a letter to a friend in 1862. Earlier that day, he was pottering around his apartment in Corfu Town, when, glancing out… Read more

On the way to the forum

7 April 2012
A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome Alberto Angela, translated by Gregor Conti

Europa Editions UK, pp.384, 11.99

In 150 BC, Cato the Elder arrived in the Senate House in Rome with an eye-catching basket of figs. This redoubtable statesman — often referred to as ‘censorius’, an epithet… Read more

Who’s the real monster?

31 December 2011
Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood and Invented Modern Horror Jason Zinoman

Duckworth, pp.274, 18.99

‘The first monster that an audience has to be scared of is the film-maker. They have to feel in the presence of someone not confined by the normal rules of… Read more

The best and bravest

15 October 2011
Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest Wade Davis

Bodley Head, pp.655, 25

‘The candle is burning out and I must stop. Darling I wish you the best I can ­— that your anxiety will be at an end before you get this… Read more

Driving on a dark night

5 October 2002
DEAD AIR Iain Banks

Little Brown, pp.408, 16.99

Ken Nott is the most annoying man in England. It’s his job (he’s a shock jock, a prime-time talk-radio DJ), and also his hobby (he’s unfaithful to his girlfriend, has… Read more