William Dalrymple's notebook: How I lured Jhumpa Lahiri and Jonathan Franzen to Jaipur

1 February 2014

In 2004, ten days after I moved my family to a new life in India, I gave a reading at a small palace on the edge of the ‘pink city’… Read more

Christopher Isherwood with W. H. Auden  (Photo: John F Stephenson/Getty Images)

The Rothschilds, the Spenders, the Queen...

19 October 2013
Becoming a Londoner: A Diary David Plante

Bloomsbury, pp.532, £20, ISBN: 9781408839751

The novelist David Plante is French-Québécois by ancestry, grew up in a remote Francophone parish in Yankee New England and came to London half a century ago when still an… Read more

Clive James

26 May 2012

This month has been the launching season for my new collection of poems, Nefertiti in the Flak Tower. Not many younger people, I have been discovering, know what a flak… Read more

The death of laughter

23 July 2011
But What Comes After Ruth Leon

Constable, pp.256, 16.99

If you were stranded on a desert island, Ruth Leon would be the perfect companion. She is plucky, resourceful, funny, bright and indomitable: you can see just why the late… Read more


12 February 2011

How do you persuade a peer to retire? The question is vexing my friend Tom Strathclyde, Leader of the Lords. There are 830 of us — hard to justify when… Read more


22 January 2011

I seem to have spent the first three weeks of 2011 attempting to prove my innocence. ‘So sorry to keep you, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to call… Read more


15 January 2011

We spent New Year’s Eve in Rajasthan in a kind of desert camp called the Serai, attended by every manner of hot tub and luxury. As 2010 staggered to a… Read more


8 January 2011

A hundred years ago, the only barometer to gauge the political weather was by-elections, though far more of them — 101 during the 1906–1909 parliament, compared with four in 2005–2010,… Read more


1 January 2011

The past year was one of so much gloom and doom — a smidgen of it perpetrated in print by me — that it seems embarrassing to admit that the… Read more


11 December 2010

In principle, the plan to give away one million books for World Book Night on 5 March next year is magnificent. But the wheeze — Victorian in its benevolence —… Read more


4 December 2010

P.J. O’Rourke opens his diary New Hampshire Just back from London, 40 years to the week since my first visit. It was a wonderful city then, in a cold- rooms,… Read more


27 November 2010

A.N. Wilson’s Diary The Wedgwood Museum in Barlaston, near Stoke-on-Trent, contains some of the most stupendous ceramics in the British Isles. My heart swells with filial pride at the cases… Read more


13 November 2010

Recently I was on a lecture tour in sunbelt America — Alabama and Texas — and mentioned to various people that I commute from the suburb where I live in… Read more

Miriam Gross

27 October 2010

The other day my husband and I went to Winter’s Bone, the much praised (overpraised, we thought) film set in Missouri. Both of us have normal hearing but neither of… Read more

Justin Webb

23 October 2010

One of the joys of working early mornings is not having to work after 9 a.m. But there are pitfalls. My colleague Jeremy Bowen, during a stint on morning television,… Read more

Stuart Reid

9 October 2010

Harry was so scared when we entered him in the Best Veteran category in the Friends of Tooting Common Dog Show that he tried to jump out of the ring,… Read more

In a Greene shade

2 October 2010
Chasing The Devil Tim Butcher

Chatto & Windus, pp.325, 18.99

Some travel writers, in an attempt to simulate the hardship of Victorian journeys, like to impose artificial difficulties on themselves. A glut of memorably foolish yarns with titles like Hang-Gliding… Read more

Straining for effect

29 September 2010
Decline & Fall Chris Mullin

Profile, pp.443, 20

A saint of self-deprecation, Chris Mullin closed the first volume of his diaries A View from the Foothills ‘contemplating oblivion’ after his dismissal from ministerial office. A saint of self-deprecation,… Read more


Keeping the lid on

16 June 2010
The Alastair Campbell Diaries, Volume I, Prelude to Power, 1994-1997 Alastair Campbell

Hutchinson, pp.784, 25

For all of the nine years that he worked, first as official spokesman for Tony Blair and then as Director of Communications for the government, Alastair Campbell was obliged to… Read more

A literary gypsy

4 November 2009
J.G. Farrell in his Own Words: Selected Letters and Diaries Lavinia Greacen (editor)

Cork University Press, pp.480, 39 Euros

When Lavinia Greacen undertook her magisterial yet intimately sympathetic biography of James Gordon Farrell, she gained access to his diaries and many of his letters, especially love letters and letters… Read more

Jim’s especial foibles

30 September 2009
James Lees-Milne: The Life Michael Bloch

John Murray, pp.400, 25

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… Read more

Was his diary his downfall?

30 September 2009
Alan Clark: The Biography Ion Trewin

Weidenfeld, pp.500, 25

The audiotape of Alan Clark’s Diaries — barely mentioned in this rather Dr Watsonish, sensible shoe of a biography — is well worth hearing. The audiotape of Alan Clark’s Diaries… Read more

Life & Letters

9 September 2009

Sad, but for the most part the newly published edition of Orwell’s Diaries is a bore. Not altogether, of course, but much of what is interesting — some of the… Read more

Tales out of school

15 April 2009
The Old Boys’ Network John Rae

Short Books, pp.292, 17.99

The Old Boys’ Network, by John Rae At Westminster School, under the shadow of Big Ben and at the very centre of national life, 600 of the brightest, quirkiest and… Read more


Member of the In and Out

11 March 2009
A View from the Foothills Chris Mullin

Profile Books, pp.589, 20

Most MPs who start writing diaries do so in order to prove to themselves how central they are to the political process. But by the time the diaries come to… Read more