Faustian pact

18 August 2012

When my kids grow up, I want them to go to university and read chemistry. That way they will have the skills to manufacture high-class crystal meth (or similar), make… Read more


Brief encounter

18 August 2012
Ravel double bill Glyndebourne

Glyndebourne’s last offering this season is one of the most stylish things it has done for a very long time, Ravel’s two brief operas directed by Laurent Pelly, who was… Read more


Slow art

18 August 2012
From Paris: A Taste for Impressionism|Mantegna to Matisse: Master Drawings from the Courtauld Gallery Royal Academy|Courtauld Gallery

With the death of the critic and historian Robert Hughes, a great beacon has gone out in the art world of the West. I take his absence personally, not because… Read more


Follow that dream

18 August 2012

‘Our fate lies within ourselves. We just have to be brave enough to see it,’ says Princess Merida, the winsome, feisty heroine of Disney-Pixar’s latest animated romp Brave (PG, nationwide).… Read more

Human stories

18 August 2012

‘The aggregation of marginal gains’ is the key to success, according to Dave Brailsford, the extraordinarily successful cycling coach to Team GB. You could say that’s been the motto of… Read more


Bertie: A Life of Edward VII, by Jane Ridley

18 August 2012
Bertie: A Life of Edward VII Jane Ridley

Chatto & Windus, pp.624, 30, ISBN: 9780701176143

This book deserves to be named in the same breath as those two great classics of royal biography, Roger Fulford’s Royal Dukes and James Pope-Hennessy’s Queen Mary. It shares with… Read more

Umbrella, by Will Self

18 August 2012
Umbrella Will Self

Bloomsbury, pp.397, 18.99, ISBN: 9781408820148

James Joyce once described Ulysses — in dog Italian — as a ‘maledettisimo romanzaccione’, or monstrously big novel. It has come to stand as a modernist masterpiece, and also the… Read more


Bookends: The Saint Zita Society, by Ruth Rendell

18 August 2012

Sometimes it seems as if Ruth Rendell’s heart just isn’t in all that killing any more. Certainly, her latest book, The Saint Zita Society (Hutchinson, £12.99), works best as a… Read more


The First Crusade, by Peter Frankopan

18 August 2012
The First Crusade: The Call from the East Peter Frankopan

Bodley Head, pp.282, 20, ISBN: 9781847921550

Perhaps more than any other single historical event, the First Crusade (1096-99) lends itself to the narrative technique. This was the quest — and a successful one — on the… Read more

National Service, by Colin Shindler

18 August 2012
National Service: From Aldershot to Aden, Tales of Conscripts 1946-62 Colin Shindler

Sphere, pp.352, 16.99, ISBN: 9781847444844

For over 15 years after the second world war young men between the ages of 18 and 20 were conscripted by law to serve in Britain’s armed forces for two… Read more


Occupation Diaries, by Raja Shehadeh

18 August 2012
Occupation Diaries Raja Shehadeh

Profile Books, pp.154, 12.99, ISBN: 9781781250167

A group of friends, Palestinian and foreign, go to picnic at a wadi between Jerusalem and Jericho. They are wearing bright, casual summer clothes. On a nearby rock sits another… Read more

The Daylight Gate, by Jeanette Winterson Claudia FitzHerbert

18 August 2012
The Daylight Gate Jeanette Winterson

Hammer, pp.225, 9.99, ISBN: 9780099561859

The story of the Pendle witch trials in 1612 is well known, thanks to the publication of The Wonderfull Disoverie of Witches in Lancashire by Thomas Potts, clerk to the… Read more

Even the Dogs, by Jon McGregor

18 August 2012
Even the Dogs Jon McGregor, read by Dean Williamson, 7 hours

Whole Story Audio, 13.96

Jon McGregor’s debut, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2002 and won both the Betty Trask Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award in… Read more


My Dear Governess, edited by Irene Goldman Price

18 August 2012
My Dear Governess Irene Goldman Price

Yale, pp.296, 18.99, ISBN: 9780300169898

‘I have finished Julius Caesar since I last wrote & I cannot say that it left a very glowing impression on me. It was too much like my own earliest… Read more

Being Sam Frears, by Mary Mount

18 August 2012
Being Sam Frears Mary Mount

Penguin Special, ebook, pp.45, 1.99

Sam Frears is 40. He has an extremely rare condition called familial dysautonomia, or Riley-Day syndrome; the life expectancy for most babies born with this is five years. Mary Mount… Read more


A Decade at the Donmar, 2002-2012, by Michael Grandage

18 August 2012
A Decade at the Donmar, 2002-2012 Michael Grandage

Constable, pp.227, 50, ISBN: 9781780335445

Here’s a picture book that triumphantly exceeds the narrow bounds of the coffee-table genre. At £50 it’s hardly an impulse buy, but the photographs, covering Michael Grandage’s ten years in… Read more

12/00/2002. EXCLUSIVE: Ascent of Mars mountain.

Let us enjoy peace on Mars while we still can

18 August 2012

There are some things to be said in favour of the planet Mars. Its atmosphere contains almost no oxygen, the temperature in winter reaches minus 143˚C, it is exceptionally arid… Read more

US Republican vice presidential hopeful

Can Paul Ryan save Mitt Romney

18 August 2012

Washington, DC If you read only the British press, you might get the impression that Mitt Romney couldn’t have found a more extreme running mate than Paul Ryan. The new… Read more

Politicians can’t dance, probably because they’re aliens

18 August 2012

Let us talk about politicians dancing. Specifically, let us talk about Boris Johnson and David Cameron dancing to the Spice Girls at the Olympic closing ceremony. Graceful, elegant, debonair, all… Read more

Barclays’ surprise choice for chairman: Old Father Time with his lyre

18 August 2012

I’ve had a picture on my wall of the newly appointed Barclays chairman, Sir David Walker, for about 25 years. If that sounds creepy, I should explain that it’s a… Read more


Psychedelic revival

18 August 2012

Acid is back. For the first time since the 1960s there are signs of a rekindling of serious interest in psychedelic drugs — conferences, clinical tests, and a full-blown study… Read more


The vagina fad

18 August 2012

In the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, there’s a picture that, last time I looked, was curtained off. A couple of Japanese girls came out from behind the curtain, stuffing their… Read more


Recipe for revolution

18 August 2012

It started in America. The Midwest has for weeks been suffering what is now the worst drought in living memory. Prices for maize and wheat have soared by 50 per… Read more

TS Eliot

Have it by heart

18 August 2012

Earlier this year the Education Secretary Michael Gove suggested that primary school children ought to learn a poem by heart. Even if the teaching unions had not objected I would… Read more

Afghani And U.S. Soldiers Patrol Afghan Villages

End game

18 August 2012

Britain has been at war in Afghanistan for over a decade. Many Britons now take it for granted that its country’s intervention in Afghanistan has failed and when Nato troops… Read more