Clinton Bush

Clinton vs Bush — again

26 April 2014

America is much less threatened by right-wing extremists than by the oligarchic rule of the two major political parties. The mainstream right, however, is wedded to the absurd notion that… Read more


Lost Kerouac that should have stayed lost

15 March 2014
The Haunted Life: The Lost Novella Jack Kerouac, edited by Todd Tietchen

Penguin, pp.192, £20, ISBN: 9780141394084

In 1944, when he was 22, Jack Kerouac lost a manuscript — in a taxi, as he thought, but probably in Allen Ginsberg’s room at Columbia University — and it… Read more


Europe's 'new world order' is letting Vladimir Putin run riot

8 March 2014

If Vladimir Putin’s invasion and occupation of the Crimea brings to an end the Pax Americana and the post-Cold War world that began in 1989, what new European, or even… Read more

American beat poet Allen Ginsberg Photo: Getty

American Smoke, by Iain Sinclair - review

23 November 2013
American Smoke Iain Sinclair

Hamish Hamilton, pp.309, £20, ISBN: 9780241145272

If you have read Iain Sinclair’s books you will know that he is a stylist with a love of language. You will also know that he has opinions to express… Read more


Celia Walden

16 November 2013

For a minute I just stood there with my back against the wall, staring at the credit card receipt. Then I slid down into a crouching position on the kitchen… Read more

‘Brown and Silver: Old Battersea Bridge’, 1859–63, by James McNeill Whistler

The painter of poetry

16 November 2013
An American in London: Whistler and the Thames Dulwich Picture Gallery

The famous court case in which Ruskin accused Whistler of ‘flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face’ continues to rumble through the public response to art in this… Read more

Signifying Rappers, by David Foster Wallace - review

14 September 2013
Signifying Rappers: Rap and Race in the Urban Present David Foster Wallace and Mark Costello

Penguin, pp.154, £8.99, ISBN: 9780880015356

Since his suicide, David Foster Wallace has made the transition from major writer to major industry. Hence this UK issue of a slender work of music history got up for… Read more

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer - review

31 August 2013
The Interestings Meg Wolitzer

Chatto, pp.480, £16.99, ISBN: 9780701188276

Thick, sentimental and with a narrative bestriding four decades, Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings feels above all like a Victorian novel, one which finds itself as comfortable in our time as… Read more


While Britain stagnates, America is roaring back

29 June 2013

Predicting the decline of the United States has been in vogue since the birth of American hegemony. Sputnik, Vietnam, stagflation, budget deficits, trade deficits and even the end of the… Read more


To Move the World, by Jeffrey Sachs - review

8 June 2013
To Move the World Jeffrey Sachs

Bodley Head, pp.230, £14.99, ISBN: 9780812994926

Jeffrey Sachs is the world’s best-connected development economist. An academic with highly developed communication skills, he has always managed to secure access to policy makers and to offer them advice.… Read more


If there was ever a time to intervene in Syria, it has passed

4 May 2013

It is more than ten years since I first sat down with members of the Syrian opposition. Back then they included real moderates, but even these didn’t predict a bloodless… Read more


Fall from grace

28 January 2012
Confidence Men Ron Suskind

HarperCollins, pp.528, 19.99

The Obamas: A Mission, a Marriage Jodi Kantor

Allen Lane, pp.368, 14.99

Barack Obama is not up to the job. That is Ron Suskind’s oft-repeated contention. The President, he states, compromised with, rather than curbed, failing American financial institutions, and has surrounded… Read more


The original special relationship

3 December 2011
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris David McCullogh

Simon & Schuster, pp.560, 25

Of all the cities in all the world, Paris dominates the American imagination more than any other. Although Americans may admire Rome or London, more have enjoyed a love affair… Read more

After America: Get Ready For Armageddon by Mark Steyn

5 November 2011
After America: Get Ready For Armageddon Mark Steyn

Regnery Publishing, pp.424, 19.95

There are people sent to depress us, and prominent among them is Mark Steyn, whose speciality is apocalyptic predictions. Following his bestseller America Alone: The End of the World as… Read more

Music, moonlight and dahlias

3 September 2011
Extravagant Expectations Paul Hollander

Ivan Dee, pp.264, 16.95

The words that echoed constantly in the back of my mind as I read this book were from Paul Simon’s song ‘Train in the Distance’: ‘the thought that life could… Read more


Day of reckoning

3 September 2011
The 9/11 Commission Report: The Attack from Planning to Aftermath Philip Zelikow

Norton, pp.544, 9.99

The Eleventh Day: 9/11 — The Ultimate Account Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan

Doubleday, pp.604, 20

No one could say that we didn’t have warning of these events in the most specific terms. A month before 11 September 2001, the President’s daily intelligence brief was headed… Read more

Lucky miss

9 July 2011
The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father Sally H. Jacobs

Public Affairs, pp.297, 20

In Dreams From My Father, his exploration of race and roots, Barack Obama recalled the tales heard in childhood about the man who gave him his name. His father, they… Read more

The call of the wild

19 February 2011
Bird Cloud Annie Proulx

Fourth Estate, pp.234, 16.99

Annie Proulx (pronounced ‘Pru’) began her writing career — quite late, in her fifties — as E.A. Proulx, to baffle misogynist editors; then she was E. Annie Proulx, until she… Read more


Am I offending the wrong Americans?

8 January 2011

Q. Why did God give liberals annoying, whiny voices? A. So that even the blind could hate them. Q. Why did God give liberals annoying, whiny voices? A. So that… Read more


At war with the Greeks

8 January 2011

America’s love of the ancient republics has had military consequences in the present If you’re 40 or older and I ask you to think back to the worst moments of… Read more

Bad enemy, worse lover

11 December 2010
Saul Bellow: Letters Benjamin Taylor (ed)

Penguin Classics, pp.608, 30

Five years after his death, Saul Bellow’s literary reputation has yet to suffer the usual post-mortem slump, and publication of these lively letters should help sustain his standing. Five years… Read more

So far from God . . .

20 November 2010
Amexica: War Along the Borderline Ed Vulliamy

Bodley Head, pp.336, 20

Ciudad Juárez, Mexico’s second largest border city, is clogged with rubbish, fouled with car exhaust and, increasingly, flooded with narcotics. Ciudad Juárez, Mexico’s second largest border city, is clogged with… Read more


Way out west

21 August 2010
Lighting Out For the Territory Roy Morris Jr

v, pp.282, 17.99

This year America celebrates the cent-enary of Mark Twain’s death. This year America celebrates the cent-enary of Mark Twain’s death. He is the nearest that country gets to a national… Read more


Girls from the golden West

14 August 2010
Sisters of Fortune: Marianne, Bess, Louisa and Emily Caton Jehanne Wake

Chatto, pp.394, 25

Who was the first American to marry an English duke? Most students of the peerage would say it was Consuelo Yzagna who married the eldest son of the Duke of… Read more


A smooth passage

7 August 2010
Driving Home Jonathan Raban

Picador, pp.604, 20

Jonathan Raban left Britain and moved to Seattle in 1990, when he was 47. He sold his Volkswagen on his way to Heathrow airport. He bought a Dodge with Washington… Read more