Biography

A certain tragic allure

23 April 2011 12:00 am

Towards Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (1919–1980), the last or most recent Shah of Iran, there are two principal attitudes.

1.jpg

The man mountain of Fleet Street

23 April 2011 12:00 am

A. N. Wilson has a queasy feeling that he won’t be re-reading the works of G. K. Chesterton for a while

A fate worse than death

16 April 2011 12:00 am

Hugo Vickers has already produced a well-documented and balanced biography of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

1.jpg

The wisdom of youth

9 April 2011 12:00 am

‘You must write it all down’ is the age-old plea to elderly relatives about their childhood memories.

1.jpg

Cuckoo in the nest

9 April 2011 12:00 am

Caradoc King, the well-known literary agent, was adopted in 1948 as a baby into a family of three girls, shortly joined by a fourth, presided over by a difficult, unhappy mother and her feebly adoring husband.

A world of her own

2 April 2011 12:00 am

This book, written by someone whose husband was for three years prime minister of Britain, is impossible to review.

A bit of a softie

12 March 2011 12:00 am

Tom Bower’s fearsome reputation as a biographer preceded him in the Formula One paddock.

1.jpg

Black swan

5 March 2011 12:00 am

At a time when publishers seem chary of commissioning literary biographies, the conditions for writing them have never been better.

1.jpg

A serious man

19 February 2011 12:00 am

For much of the second half of his life Arthur Miller was a man whose future lay behind him.

Care or cure?

5 February 2011 12:00 am

Cancer is usually associated with death.

Consummate con artist

5 February 2011 12:00 am

‘Taylor, I dreamt of your lecture last night,’ the polar explorer Captain Scott was once heard to exclaim, after sitting through a paper on icebergs by the expedition physiographer, Griffith Taylor, that had reduced even its author to the edge of catalepsy: ‘How could I live so long in the world and not know something of so fascinating a subject!’ The True Story of Titanic Thompson is not going to be everyone’s book, but for those who can get beyond the child-brides and casual killings, Kevin Cook’s biography of a great American hustler might well provoke the same sense of wonderment.

1.jpg

Pig in the middle

22 January 2011 12:00 am

Writing an autobiographical account of middle age is a brave undertaking, necessitating a great deal of self-scrutiny at a time of life when most of us would sooner look the other way and hope for the best.

1.jpg

Lessons for life

18 December 2010 12:00 am

All modern biographies, one could say, are books of secrets; certainly all biographers during the past four decades have felt entitled to ferret around in their subject’s private as well as public lives.

1.jpg

BOOKENDS: Inspiration for a cult hero

6 November 2010 10:00 am

This is an odd book: the exhaustive biography of a complete nobody. Vivian Mackerrell was the primary inspiration for the cult that is Withnail. In that, at least, he doesn’t disappoint.

1.jpg

His own best invention

6 November 2010 12:00 am

Just as it will sometimes happen that a critic feels obliged to preface a review with a declaration of interest, so I should now declare a lack of interest.

Merging poetry and song

25 September 2010 12:00 am

The best book so far about Bob Dylan, the only one worthy of his oeuvre, is his own astonishing Chronicles, Volume One (2004), but while we wait for the next fix, Bob Dylan in America will keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay.

1.jpg

Welsh wizardry and venom

18 September 2010 12:00 am

Paul Johnson reviews Roy Hattersley’s life of David Lloyd George

1.jpg

A charismatic narcissist

11 September 2010 12:00 am

In equal measure, this book is fascinating and irritating.

1.jpg

Spiv on a grand scale

11 September 2010 12:00 am

Apart from his enormous wealth, the only interesting thing about Paul Raymond was his dishonesty, which was relentless and comprehensive, and always gave the game away.

1.jpg

Family favourites

11 September 2010 12:00 am

Because Deborah Devonshire’s journalism has nearly always made me laugh, and because she seems like one of the jollier aunts in P. G. Wodehouse — an Aunt Dahlia, not an Aunt Agatha — I had expected her memoirs to provide chuckles on every page.

1.jpg

Land of lost content

11 September 2010 12:00 am

Tom Frayn, says his son Michael in this admirable memoir, trod lightly upon the earth.

1.jpg

Beating his demons

11 September 2010 12:00 am

Some of us are still startled that Wallace Stevens was 44 when he published Harmonium.

1.jpg

Ruling the planet

4 September 2010 12:00 am

‘Facebook’, says the excitable author of this hero-gram, ‘may be the fastest-growing company of any type in history.’

1.jpg

The motherland’s tight embrace

4 September 2010 12:00 am

At nursery school, along with her warm milk, little Lena Gorokhova imbibed the essence of survival in the post-war Soviet Union.

1.jpg

The laird and his legend

28 August 2010 12:00 am

‘Stuart Kelly’ the author’s note declares, ‘was born and brought up in the Scottish Borders.’ Not so, as he tells us; he was born in Falkirk, which is in central Scotland, and came to the Borders as a child.