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Where artists went to drink and die

Once below a time (to quote the man himself) the bloated poet Dylan Thomas slouched back to New York’s Chelsea Hotel in the dead of night and informed his mistress that he had just drunk 18 straight whiskies, which he suspected was a record. He then dropped to his knees, lowered his head onto her

Richard Branson deserves (some) respect

Tom Bower’s first biography of Sir Richard Branson, in 2000, was memorable for its hilarious account of the Virgin tycoon’s accident-prone ballooning exploits — and for its trenchant thesis that he had ‘toppled from his perch onto a slippery, downward path’, both in business and personal reputation. But what Bower depicted as ‘the beginning of

Why you shouldn’t keep elephants

On 15 September 1885, the world’s most famous elephant, Jumbo, was killed by a train. Jumbo, the star attraction at P.T. Barnum’s travelling circus, was crossing the track at a station in Ontario, Canada. His handler, Matthew Scott, saw the danger. But ‘the elephant, fatally confused, trumpeted wildly and ran towards the oncoming train’. The

Toowit-towoo! At long last, a Collins book on owls

Owls have more associations for us than perhaps any other family of birds, suggested Jeremy Mynott in Birdscapes, so it is puzzling that it has taken Collins 70 years to add this ‘Natural History of the British and Irish Species’ to its famous New Naturalist Series. It is of course primarily a zoological work, with

Germaine Greer’s mad, passionate quest to heal Australia

Like an old woman in a fairy story, Germaine Greer, now in her late seventies, has taken to lurking in a forest. Always inclined to reinterpret the world through her own changing needs and perceptions, and to instruct the rest of us accordingly, she has now written a book of passionate didactic energy about her

Portrait of a Guardian music critic

We critics seldom write our memoirs, perhaps because we skulk away our lives in dark corners, avoiding the public gaze, plying our shameful trade like streetwalkers or pushers of hard drugs. We might occasionally, in desperation, recycle our ephemera between hard covers. Edward Greenfield, the former record and music critic of the Guardian, has daringly