Lead book review

Eat the forbidden fruit

Eating human brains, burying one’s face in dead people’s ashes and publicly deriding the president of the United States as a ‘piece of shit’ are not among the activities usually associated with serious religious historians. But Reza Aslan is something else. An American academic born in Iran, brought up as a Muslim, converted to Jesus

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A vanishing vision

Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey were undergraduates when they met in June 1794, Coleridge at Cambridge university and Southey at Oxford. One of their earliest conversations concerned the political implications of the passions. A month later, on 28 July, the French Revolutionary Terror climaxed in the guillotining of the Incorruptible, Maximilien Robespierre. Evidence from

Sweet dreams are made of this

I’ve read several books​ ​about​ ​sleep recently,​ ​and​ ​their​ ​authors​ ​all​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​the same​ ​three​ ​things.​ ​The​ ​first​ ​is​ ​that,​ ​in​ ​the modern​ ​world,​ ​it’s​ ​hard​ ​to​ ​get​ ​enough sleep.​ ​The​ ​second​ ​is​ ​that​ ​sleep​ ​is​ ​very important.​ ​Every​ ​night,​ ​we​ ​pass​ ​out.​ ​Every morning,​ ​we​ ​regain​ ​consciousness, half aware​ ​that​ ​time​ ​has​ ​passed.​

A cold coming to Cornwall

In 1939, Barbara Hepworth gathered her children and her chisels and fled Hampstead for Cornwall. She expected war to challenge her passion for abstract form. But her commitment deepened. The solid ovoids she sculpted carried the weight of grief and the hope of eggs. To Hepworth, they became ‘forms to lie down in, or forms

Another country | 2 November 2017

In 1970 I wandered around an unfamiliar part of West Devon. Down a grassy lane I came across a farmyard in which stood three circular hay stacks, each beautifully thatched. It resembled a picture by the 18th-century painter George Morland. There was nobody about and the yard had a haunted air. In a pub a

Gerry and the peacemakers

When I recently asked a sardonic Northern Irish friend what historical figures Gerry Adams resembled, the tasteless reply came back: ‘A mixture of Jimmy Savile and Oswald Mosley.’ There are elements of both archetypes in this new unauthorised portrait, but it stops short of going the full distance. Perhaps we should not be surprised. The