Book review


The best cookery books of 2013

23 November 2013 9:00 am

Nigel Slater’s books lead the field in cookery book design, but his latest, Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food…


The vengeance of Alex Ferguson

23 November 2013 9:00 am

For a quarter of a century Sir Alex Ferguson bestrode football’s narrow world like a colossus. Like his predecessor knight-manager,…

Top of the happiness scale: Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrims (English School, 15th century)

Look! Shakespeare! Wow! George Eliot! Criminy! Jane Austen!

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Among the precursors to this breezy little book are, in form, the likes of The Story of Art, Our Island…

Leonard Bernstein in 1945

Did Leonard Bernstein do too much to be a great artist?

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Nigel Simeone’s title for his edition of Leonard Bernstein’s correspondence rings compellingly, novellistically, through the force of the definite article,…

Thirty Years on2

Rebus is good, but not as sharp as he once was

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Cig 1 Auld Reekie . . . Edinburgh . . . brewers’ town, stinking of beer, whisky, tweeness, gentility, hypocrisy,…

The Menin Gate Memorial at 
Ypres lists 54,389 missing. 
Ware was determined that every individual casualty should be honoured

The Briton whose achievement equals that of the Pharaohs'

16 November 2013 9:00 am

We constantly need to be reminded that the consequence of war is death. In the case of the first world…

Strenght in numbers

How many positions are there in the Kamasutra?

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Numbers, as every mathematician knows, do odd things. But they’re never odder than in the human context. Ever since we…

(Photo: Hal Jeayes)

Through It All I’ve Always Laughed, by Count Arthur Strong - review

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Fans of Count Arthur Strong (and yes I know he’s so Marmite you could spread him on a cheese sandwich)…


Blonde, beautiful — and desperate to survive in Nazi France

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Around 200 Englishwomen lived through the German Occupation of Paris. Nicholas Shakespeare’s aunt Priscilla was one. Men in the street…

David Bowie with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in 1973 (Photo: Keystone/Getty)

One Leg Too Few may be one biography too many

16 November 2013 9:00 am

It’s no joke, writing about comedians. Their work is funny, their lives are not. Rightly honouring the former while accurately…

Two girls

Why do the British love cryptic crosswords?

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Everyone loves an anniversary and the crossword world — if there is such a thing — has been waiting a…

The Milad Tower in Tehran

A place of paranoia, secrecy, corruption, hypocrisy and guilt

16 November 2013 9:00 am

‘Is he a good writer? Is he pro-regime?’ an Iranian journalist in London once asked me of Hooman Majd. Majd…

The cover of a popular late-19th-century edition of Mary Shelley’s novel. Frankenstein confronts the monster he has created

How the Romantics ruined lives

16 November 2013 9:00 am

It is perhaps the most celebrated house-party in the history of literary tittle-tattle: a two-house-party to be precise. Byron and…

Portrait of Modest Musorgsky by Ilya Yefimovich Repin

Why do we pounce on Wagner's anti-Semitism, and ignore that of the Russian composers?

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Philip Hensher on how an impassioned, chaotic group of amateur 19th-century composers created the first distinctively Russian music

W H Auden (Photo: H V Drees/Getty Images)

What would Auden have deemed evil in our time? European jingoism

9 November 2013 9:00 am

‘Goodbye to the Mezzogiorno’ was the first Auden poem that Alexander McCall Smith read in his youth. He discovered it…

Ovid Banished from Rome, J.M.W. Turner, 1838 (Photo: The Athenaeum)

Roman baths didn't make you clean — and other gems from Peter Jones's Veni, Vedi, Vici

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Spectator readers need no introduction to Peter Jones. His Ancient and Modern column has instructed and delighted us for many…

E.E. Cummings, ‘looking like a plainsman fresh out of the barbers after delivering 300 head of Texas longhorns’

How much can you tell about E.E. Cummings from this photo?

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Do you think you can tell things about writers from the way they look in a painting or photograph? A…


Mary Killen: Sandi Toksvig is wrong about the placement of the pudding fork

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Sandi Toksvig, as this book’s cover declares, ‘makes Stephen Fry look like a layabout’. The broadcaster, author, comedian, actress and…

A fearless horsewoman: Christabel Russell and her son Geoffrey  with the West Kent hounds at Otford 
for the Christmas meet, 1928

Can virgins have babies?

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Mrs Christabel Russell, the heroine of Bevis Hillier’s sparkling book, was a very modern young woman. She had short blonde…

‘Swing’, acrylic and collage on canvas, 2003

The abstract art full of 'breasts and bottoms'

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Is there any such thing as abstract art? Narratives and coherent harmonies seem to me always to emerge from the…


The man who shared a bed with D.H. Lawrence and Dylan Thomas (though not together)

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Rhys Davies was a Welsh writer in English who lived most of his life in London, that Tir na nÓg…

One of the two pavilions at Stoke Park, designed by Inigo Jones

Is Northamptonshire not scenic enough to visit?

9 November 2013 9:00 am

I don’t know whether Bruce Bailey, a proud Northamptonshire man, agrees with the late Sir Nikolaus Pevsner that no one…

(Photo: The Art Archive/Anthony Stewart / NGS)

The thrill of the (postmodern neo-Victorian) chase

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Charles Palliser’s debut novel The Quincunx appeared as far back as 1989. Lavish and labyrinthine, this shifted nigh on a…

Joanne Spencer, who sold salad and rabbits from a basket in Portobello, c. 1904

Portobello's market mustn't be allowed to close

9 November 2013 9:00 am

After reading Portobello Voices, I feel more strongly than ever that the unique Portobello market mustn’t be allowed to close.…

Greta Garbo (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Bill Bryson's 'long extraordinary' summer is too long

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Hands up Spectator readers who can remember the American celebrities Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Al Capone, Jack Dempsey, Zane Grey,…