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Books

Tennessee Williams on the stage set of A Streetcar Named Desire (1947)

Confused, unbalanced, brilliant: the Blanche Dubois of Tennessee Williams biographies

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Anyone for Tennessee? At a best guess, the answer to that’s yes. There’s scarcely a moment these days when there isn’t a Williams play on somewhere in the West End or along the Great White Way. One reason for this… Read more

John Gielgud, left, as Raskolnikov in a production of Crime and Punishment. (Photo by Alex Bender/Denis De Marney/Getty Images)

This new translation of Crime and Punishment is a masterpiece

Books

A review of ‘Crime and Punishment’, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated by Oliver Ready. It sheds new light on an old classic

Oliver Cromwell opening the coffin of Charles I, by Paul Delaroche

Rebellion without a cause: Peter Ackroyd's curious Civil War

Books

A review of ‘Civil War’, by Peter Ackroyd. There is a fascination in watching the construction of a narrative that accommodates so little analysis

Georges Simenon aged 30 (left) and Jean Gabin (right) in the 1958 film Maigret Tend un Piège — to be shown as part of a season of Maigret films at the Barbican, London (4–26 October). For details visit www.barbican.org.uk.

A salute to Georges Simenon

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One hundred years ago an 11-year-old boy called Georges Simenon was getting accustomed to the presence of the German army in Liège. Together with his mother and his younger brother he had been forced to hide in the cellar of… Read more

The first suicide bomber was probably Samson, who died while pulling down the temple of the Philistines

Religion does not poison everything - everything poisons religion

Books

A review of ‘Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence’, by Karen Armstrong. The former nun makes a convincing case that religions are corrupted by success

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Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Hugo Williams's new poems confirm his national-treasure status

Books

A review of ‘I Knew the Bride’, by Hugo Williams. A marvellous, memorious collection drawn to the second world war and family heartache

Bobby Moore in 1966 — so far the only Englishman to lift the World Cup

‘Like Superman stopping a runaway train’: when Bobby Moore tackled Jairzinho

Books

A review of ‘Bobby Moore: The Man in Full’, by Matt Dickinson. Moore was born to be England captain

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Going for a Song, by Bevis Hillier - extract

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  On the Bust of Helen by Canova In this beloved marble view, Above the works and thought of man What nature could and would not, do, And beauty and Canova can! Beyond imagination’s power Beyond the Bard’s defeated art,… Read more

Always a better novelist than her husband: Pamela Hansford Johnson in 1949

Literature's least attractive power couple

Books

A review of ‘Pamela Hansford Johnson: Her Life, Works and Times’, by Wendy Pollard, which takes this spiky novelist – and her dreadful husband, C.P. Snow – at their own inflated valuation

Cambridge spy Kim Philby giving a press conference at his mother's home after his name was mentioned in the House of Commons in connection with the Burgess and Maclean affair. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Hugh Trevor-Roper: the spy as historian, the historian as spy

Books

A review of ‘The Secret World’, by Hugh Trevor-Roper. The future Lord Dacre's early work for MI6 shaped the rest of his life

‘Me as Dorothy’ by Grayson Perry —but what’s with the frocks?

If you hate art-world show-offs, Grayson Perry, what's with the frocks?

Books

A review of ‘Playing to the Gallery: Helping Contemporary Art in its Struggle to be Understood’, by Grayson Perry. Perry’s Reith Lectures asked pertinent questions but didn’t bother with serious answers

A group of boys riding in an army tank on the roundabout at the Hampstead Heath Fairground in 1944.  (Photo by Harry Shepherd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Beer and skittles and Lucian Freud and Quentin Crisp – a Hampstead misery memoir

Books

A review of ‘Slideshow: Memories of a Wartime Childhood’, by Marjorie Ann Watts. It’s at it’s best when chanelling the voice and mind of a child

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And one more for the road – excerpts from Roddy Doyle’s latest

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9-12-12 — See the spacer died. —Wha’ spacer? —The Sky at Night fella. —Bobby Moore. —Patrick Moore. —That’s him, yeah. Did he die? —Yeah. —That’s a bit sad. He was good, wasn’t he? —Brilliant. Very English as well. —How d’yeh… Read more

Cecil Beaton, self-portrait, 1936

Cecil Beaton, the bitch

Books

A review of ‘Cecil Beaton: Portraits and Profiles’, edited by Hugo Vickers. Katherine Hepburn had ‘rocking horse nostrils’; Mae West was a ‘nice little ape’. The photographer was a natural writer – and snob

The front door of 10 Downing Street. Photo: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

Andrew Marr thinks he’s a novelist. I don’t

Books

A review of ‘Head of State’, by Andrew Marr. Fantastical, cumbersome and unentertaining, Marr’s debut suggests he should definitely stick to his day job

David Hockney, photographed by Christopher Simon Sykes

David Hockney, our most popular and hardworking living artist, returns to the easel

Books

A review of ‘Hockney: The Biography, Volume II’, by Christopher Simon Sykes. He’s got grumpier with old age, but still Hockney retains his youthful curiosity and energy

The six books shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013. Will there be more books by American novelists in future years? Photo: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

Keep the Man Booker Prize British

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I am nothing if not patriotic. Like most Americans, I am convinced that mine is the freest, most beautiful country on earth. But I cannot pretend to be happy that two of us have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.… Read more

Tenements in the Gorbals area of Glasgow — considered some of the worst slums in Britain — are replaced by high-rise flats, c. 1960

Corrie and ready-salted crisps: the years when modern Britain began

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In Burberry’s on Regent Street on a dank December day in 1959, David Kynaston records, ‘a young Canadian writer, Leonard Cohen [...] bought a not-yet-famous blue raincoat’. For those joining Kynaston’s groaning historical wagon train for the first time, this… Read more

River Kenmare

A Troubles novel with plenty of violence and, thank heaven, some sex too

Books

A review of Ashes in the Wind, by Christopher Bland. It's not all arson, ambushes, beatings and murders. Just mostly

Lu Kongjiang, taking part in a ‘bee beard’ competition in Shaoyang, Hunan Province, China, 2011 From In Praise of Bees: A Cabinet of Curiosities by Elizabeth Birchall (Quiller Publishing, £30, pp. 255, ISBN 9781846891922)

Bees make magic: an inspirational case for biodiversity

Books

A review of A Buzz in the Meadow, by Dave Goulson. This bumble specialist narrates the lurid life histories of insects – and the devastating decline of the bee – with the enthusiasm of a young Gerald Durrell

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A flashlight into the cellar of the lawless ‘dark net’

Books

A review of The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld, by Jamie Bartlett. Essential reading for anyone engaged with the web and the effects it is having on our culture

Henry VI did at least fulfil one function of kingship — that of ‘sacerdos’. Kneeling behind him is his uncle Henry Cardinal Beaufort, and standing (bearded) is another uncle, the ‘good Duke’ Humphrey

Britain’s own game of thrones

Books

A review of The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors, by Dan Jones, who says it's all Henry VI's fault

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art

It’s not easy for a middle-aged woman to get inside the head of a 12-year-old innkeeper’s son in 1914

Books

A review of Mr Mac and Me, by Esther Freud. Though it sounds promising, Freud’s second novel doesn’t get the tone right

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

Books

But on reflection is it really imaginable that Britain will have anti-Semitic pogroms within the next few years?

Margaret Atwood Photo: Toronto Star via Getty Images

Margaret Atwood settles her accounts with this new short story collection

Books

A review of Stone Mattress, by Margaret Atwood. These sharp, wry, humane tales mark a return to form from the acclaimed author

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The jilted bride

Charles Saatchi’s new book of photos makes me feel sick

Books

A review of Known Unknowns, by Charles Saatchi. An old-fashioned chamber of horrors in the mould of Ripley’s Believe It or Not