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

King and his killer

7 July 2010
Hellhound on his Trail Hampton Sides

Allen Lane, pp.459, 25

In the late days of the Bush administration, it was fashionable among liberals to call George W. Bush the ‘worst’ president since the founding of the republic and to suggest… Read more


Schlock teaser

30 June 2010
Gypsy: The Art of the Tease Rachel Shteir

Yale, pp.240, 12.99

The somewhat straightlaced theatre-going audiences of 1880s America, eager for performances by European artistes like Jenny Lind and solid, home-grown, classical actors such as Otis Skinner, were hardly prepared for… Read more


High priest of bop

23 June 2010
Thelonius Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original Robin D. G. Kelly

J.R. Books, pp.588, 20

In the Rainbow Grill in New York one evening in 1971, according to Robin D. G. Kelley, Professor of History and American Studies at the University of Southern California, Duke… Read more


Whither America?

16 June 2010
The Ask Sam Lipsyte

Old Street Publishing, pp.296, 12.99

At the beginning of The Ask, Horace sits with Burke and proclaims that America is a ‘run down and demented pimp’. At the beginning of The Ask, Horace sits with… Read more


Insufficiently honoured here

2 June 2010
Hitch-22 Christopher Hitchens

Atlantic, pp.448, 20

‘Next time it’s full buggery!’ said Christopher Hitchens as I helped him onto a train at Taunton station after a full luncheon of Black Label, Romanée-Conti, eel risotto and suckling… Read more


A girl’s best friend

12 May 2010
The Life and Adventures of Maf the Dog and of his Friend Marilyn Monroe Andrew O’Hagan

Faber, pp.279, 18.99

If you wanted to write about Marilyn Monroe, how would you go about it? The pile of biographies, memoirs and novels about poor, sad Marilyn is already teetering. How could… Read more


The map turns red

21 April 2010
The Atlantic and its Enemies Norman Stone

Allen Lane, pp.599, 30

Norman Stone forsook the chair of modern history at Oxford university for Ankara after realising that the ‘conversation at high tables would generally have made the exchanges in the bus-… Read more


Serving God and Mammon

7 April 2010
The Cracked Bell Tristram Riley-Smith

Constable, pp.288, 8.99

People have written books about America long before the United States declared itself, and we may be forgiven for asking if we really need another. Doesn’t America already loom large… Read more