Books

Magic lantern slides from the mid-19th century

The importance of being frivolous

18 February 2017 9:00 am

Sam Leith is delighted by the idea that having fun is the key to human progress

Simon Callow tries (again) to get inside Wagner’s head

18 February 2017 9:00 am

The dust cover features one of the best-known caricatures of Richard Wagner, his enormous head in this version opened like…

Ezra Pound as a young man

Was Ezra Pound mad?

18 February 2017 9:00 am

On 21 December 1945, Ezra Pound was confined to St Elizabeths hospital in Washington DC. He had broadcast for Rome…

The game butcher, with dead rabbits and live, caged ones beneath. (Scene from the 1840s)

How many slaves existed in George V’s Britain?

18 February 2017 9:00 am

Oddly enough, one of the most historically influential pieces of British writing has turned out to be an essay that…

Nothing happens, but everything changes in Sara Baume’s new novel

18 February 2017 9:00 am

This is an extraordinarily compelling novel for one in which nothing really happens but everything changes. Sara Baume’s narrator is…

Althea Altemus: a single mother in the Roaring Twenties

18 February 2017 9:00 am

What the secretary sawSarah Churchwell Big Bosses: A Working Girl’s Memoir of the Jazz Age by Althea McDowell AltemusUniversity of…

Cardinal Richelieu is transformed from villain to ‘physical and moral genius’ in Dumas’s sequel to The Three Musketeers

There’s swash and buckle galore in Dumas’s sequel to The Three Musketeers

18 February 2017 9:00 am

A feeble king and his scheming minister, a hunchback noble and the Daughters of Repentance, a botched assassination and a…

Cosette, by Emile-Antoine Bayard. Illustration for Les Misérables

Victor Hugo speaks volumes for the outcast and the destitute

18 February 2017 9:00 am

Somewhere between his first and second drafts, Victor Hugo decided to change the title of his great novel from Les…

How LSD saved my marriage — and my life

18 February 2017 9:00 am

Ayelet Waldman is, surely, not the first writer to have scrolled through a list of ‘Books of the Year’ and…

How to improve bedside manners

18 February 2017 9:00 am

‘A tricky part of my job,’ the GP said, scrolling through the next patient’s notes, ‘is breaking good news.’ As…

Three’s a crowd in James Lasdun’s The Fall Guy

18 February 2017 9:00 am

James Lasdun’s latest novel, billed as a psychological thriller, opens in Brooklyn in the summer of 2012. Charlie and his…

Rod Taylor works his invention in a film version of HG. Wells’s The Time Machine

Cheating death by time travel

11 February 2017 9:00 am

The concept of time travel is surprisingly recent, says Jenny Colgan. Before H.G. Wells, it barely existed

Michael Chabon’s ‘faux-memoir novel’ is a simple song about love

11 February 2017 9:00 am

Michael Chabon’s back. He’d never gone away, of course — more than a dozen books in all — but it’s…

Crimes against women

11 February 2017 9:00 am

There isn’t a clear line separating crime and literary fiction, but a border zone where ideas are passed from one…

The interior of Hagia Sophia by Gaspare Fossati, 1852

There is no one Istanbul, but a series of competing, clashing, coexisting cities

11 February 2017 9:00 am

I was a young, aspiring writer when I decided to leave everything behind and move to Istanbul more than two…

Illustration by Alfonse Adolf Bichard for the original Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Baron Munchausen is back

11 February 2017 9:00 am

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky was born in the wrong place at the wrong time. Had his Polish ancestor not been exiled to…

Molly Keane’s bad behaviour

11 February 2017 9:00 am

Molly Keane achieved fame and critical acclaim in 1981 aged 75, when she published the novel Good Behaviour, a razor-sharp…

Emily Witt is a disgrace to feminism

11 February 2017 9:00 am

‘I was single, straight, and female,’ Emily Witt begins, with all the élan of an alcoholic stating her name and…

‘The funeral of Shelley’ by Louis Edouard Paul Fournier, 1889

Why are ‘doomed’ poets considered the only good ones?

11 February 2017 9:00 am

In Deaths of the Poets two living examples of the species, Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts, retail the closing…

First Love: a hilarious send-up of chick lit

11 February 2017 9:00 am

If ever there was a book for our uncaring, unsharing times, it is Gwendoline Riley’s First Love, in which Neve,…

The unexpected delights of dementia

11 February 2017 9:00 am

August Geiger led an unremarkable life. Born in 1926, the third of ten children of a Catholic farming family in…

A frightened Bruno Hauptmann — dubbed ‘The Most Hated Man in the World’— awaits questioning by the FBI over the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby

Ludovic Kennedy — righter of wrongs

11 February 2017 9:00 am

I used to work for Ludo, as we all knew him on BBC2’s Did You See?, and was once thought…

Maipure Indians, inhabitants of the Upper Orinoco, grill the limbs of a dead enemy (Italian engraving, 1781)

Eating people is rare (and very unhealthy)

4 February 2017 9:00 am

The subject has been popularised from Homer to the Brothers Grimm, but, mercifully, human cannibalism has always been rare, says Philip Hensher

A Tibetan woman prays at the Jokhang temple in Lhasa in September 2004 after one of many harsh crackdowns by the Chinese in Tibet

Will non-violent resistance ever work against communism?

4 February 2017 9:00 am

Tibetans were once fabled warriors. Their empire, at the summit of its power in the eighth century, extended to northern…

Attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941

All at sea at Pearl Harbor

4 February 2017 9:00 am

On 7 December 1941, without declaration of war, 350 Japanese carrier-borne aircraft struck at the US Pacific Fleet at anchor…