Books

Rock and Roll is Life: The True Story of the Helium Kids by One Who Was There: A Novel, by D.J. Taylor, reviewed

16 June 2018 9:00 am

The narrator-protagonist of D.J. Taylor’s new novel, a mild-mannered Oxford graduate named Nick Du Pont, has resisted the lure of…

A cuerda seca tile made of stone paste, showing the figure of an archer. Safavid dynasty, early 17th century (From The History of Central Asia)

Russia’s obsession with securing a warm-water port changed the history of Central Asia

16 June 2018 9:00 am

In the 13th century, having overrun and terrorised Europe as far as Budapest, and in the process possibly bringing with…

American Histories, by John Edgar Wideman, reviewed

16 June 2018 9:00 am

This new collection of John Edgar Wideman’s short stories comes across the pond as one of four handsomely packaged volumes…

The Shape of the Ruins, by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, reviewed

16 June 2018 9:00 am

What makes Colombia remind me of Ireland? It’s not only the soft rain that falls from grey skies on the…

Happy Little Bluebirds, by Louise Levene, reviewed

16 June 2018 9:00 am

In 1940, the British Security Coordination sent an agent with an assistant to a Hollywood film studio to help promote…

Why will the myth of the yeti just not go away?

Climbing Everest with Brian Blessed is the nearest anyone will get to encountering the yeti

16 June 2018 9:00 am

In 1969 the body of an ape-like creature, preserved in ice inside an insulated box, came to light in Minnesota.…

It’s the wreckage of alcoholism, not the road to recovery, that makes for enthralling reading

16 June 2018 9:00 am

The Recovering by Leslie Jamison, novelist, columnist, bestselling essayist and assistant professor at Columbia University, makes for bracing reading. Clever,…

Johnson has a plate of food sent to him behind a screen at his publisher’s office. Painting byHenry Wallis

The wit and wisdom of Dr Johnson is still of benefit to us all

16 June 2018 9:00 am

The most irritating of recent publishing trends must be the literary self-help guide, and Henry Hitchings’s contribution to the genre…

Their Brilliant Careers: The Fantastic Lives of Sixteen Extraordinary Australian Writers, by Ryan O’Neill reviewed

16 June 2018 9:00 am

Almost 120 years ago, the Australian writer Henry Lawson offered some counsel to those who came after him, writing that…

A 19th-century engraving by Alfred Edmund Brehm of Indian snake-charmers

Was the Indian Rope Trick a myth?

9 June 2018 9:00 am

Sam Leith savours an entertaining salmagundi of marvels, myths and outrageous cons from the Indian subcontinent

The many components of the flintlock on a late 18th-century rifle were made by hand and had to be filed to fit

Have we reached the limits of computing power — and might that be a good thing?

9 June 2018 9:00 am

Arguably, the statue in Trafalgar Square should not be of Nelson but of Henry Maudslay. He had started out as…

Even in supposedly liberal circles, homophobia and racism are still quite acceptable in France

9 June 2018 9:00 am

After an absence of 30 years, Didier Eribon, professor of sociology at the University of Amiens, returned to the seedy…

Was there ever anything romantic about the Romany life?

9 June 2018 9:00 am

Damian Le Bas is of Gypsy stock (he insists on the upper case throughout his book). His beloved great-grandmother told…

Stormy weather: Florida, by Lauren Groff, reviewed

9 June 2018 9:00 am

Over the past decade Lauren Groff has written three novels; she now returns to the short story form in this,…

Tibetan thanka representing the dakini Princess Mandaravna

The Tibetan Passion Book puts the Kama Sutra in the shade

9 June 2018 9:00 am

The Tibetan artist and poet Gendun Chopel was born in 1903. He was identified as an incarnate lama, and ordained…

Does one have to dissect birds to write the biography of an ornithologist?

9 June 2018 9:00 am

At first glance, the 17th-century natural historian Francis Willughby is an ideal subject for a biography. He lived in interesting…

The B-side of The English Patient? Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje, reviewed

9 June 2018 9:00 am

In 1945, on a Putney side street, in a city full of darkness and half in rubble from the Blitz,…

Shakespeare’s Richard III is ‘pathologically narcissistic, supremely arrogant, born into wealth and a bully’

Donald Trump: a Shakespearean tyrant to a T

9 June 2018 9:00 am

‘What country, friends, is this?’ asks Viola at the start of Twelfth Night. She is shipwrecked and heartbroken; she does…

Bactrian camels in the Khongoryn Els sand dunes of the Gobi Desert

The Empty Quarter is a great refuge for lonely hearts

2 June 2018 9:00 am

When William Atkins and his girlfriend parted, he set off to explore eight of the world’s fieriest deserts, from Oman to the Taklamakan

: Clancy Sigal and Doris Lessing, sitting together on a London bus

‘Steer clear of that cave boy, James Dean, and grease ball, Elvis Presley’

2 June 2018 9:00 am

Lucky bastard. Such are the words that come constantly to mind while you’re reading Clancy Sigal’s two volumes of posthumously…

Rachel Kushner

The Mars Room, by Rachel Kushner reviewed

2 June 2018 9:00 am

Asked how he achieves the distinctive realism for which his novels and screenplays are famous, Richard Price, that sharp chronicler…

Tommy Nutter in 1973 — the most exciting tailor on Savile Row in decades, according to Hardy Amies

You didn’t have to be mad to work for Tommy Nutter — but it helped

2 June 2018 9:00 am

The tailor’s art is a triumph of mind over schmatte. Not just in the physical cutting and stitching, but in…

Claude Cahun, one of the real-life subjects of Rupert Thomson’s novel. Credit: Jersey Heritage

Never Anyone But You, by Rupert Thomson reviewed

2 June 2018 9:00 am

In a 2013 interview with a Canadian newspaper, Rupert Thomson acknowledged the strange place he occupies in the literary world.…

Meg Wolitzer. (Rex Features)

The Female Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer reviewed

2 June 2018 9:00 am

It’s because it’s the land of the loner that the United States is so loved or loathed. Yet to me…

Antony Sher: self-portrait as King Lear

Sher genius: Antony Sher’s account of playing King Lear

2 June 2018 9:00 am

Why are rehearsal diaries so compelling? One approaches them with cynicism and then ends up reading with racing heart through…