20th Century


It happened one summer

3 February 2010 12:00 am

For those unfamiliar with Martin Amis’s short story, ‘What Happened to Me on My Holiday’, written for The New Yorker in 1997, it was a purist exercise in autobiographical fiction; not even the names were changed.


Not cowardly enough

20 January 2010 12:00 am

Nobody who reads Nigel Farndale’s The Blasphemer is likely to complain about being short-changed.


Continuity under threat

6 January 2010 12:00 am

This handsome and encouraging book is perhaps unfortunate in its title.

A lost masterpiece?

25 November 2009 12:00 am

These long anticipated literary mysteries never end in anything very significant — one thinks of Harold Brodkey’s The Runaway Soul, falling totally flat after decades of sycophantic pre-publicity, or Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers, emerging in fragments in 1975, after 17 years of non-work, to scandal but no acclaim.

Disunited from the start

25 November 2009 12:00 am

Twice in the 20th century, men have sought to create a new world order.

Chic lit

11 November 2009 12:00 am

First, I must declare an interest.

Facetious or scandalous?

11 November 2009 12:00 am

Very funny guy, John O’Farrell.

Was he anti-Semitic?

11 November 2009 12:00 am

Letters give us the life as lived — day-to-day, shapeless, haphazard, contingent, imperfect, authentic.

Engrossing obsessions

4 November 2009 12:00 am

With Blood’s a Rover James Ellroy finally finishes his ‘Underworld USA’ trilogy.

Nothing succeeds like excess

4 November 2009 12:00 am

In 1975, admitted to an institution for inveterate alcoholics, John Cheever alarmed and scandalised the staff by what they called inappropriate laughter:

Rural flotsam

21 October 2009 12:00 am

Notwithstanding’s suite of inter- linked stories draws on Louis de Bernière’s memories of the Surrey village (somewhere near Godalming, you infer) where he lived as a boy.

Voices of change

21 October 2009 12:00 am

Not every writer would begin a history of the 1950s with a vignette in which the young Keith Waterhouse treads on Princess Margaret by mistake.

Spies and counter-spies

7 October 2009 12:00 am

The origin of this unique publication is the 1990s Waldegrave open government initiative, encouraging departments to reveal more.

Jim’s especial foibles

30 September 2009 12:00 am

As a young man in the 1970s Michael Bloch was the architectural historian and diarist James Lees- Milne’s last (if, we are assured, platonic) attachment, and later became his literary executor.

Cries and whispers

23 September 2009 12:00 am

Strange Days Indeed, by Francis Wheen