More from Books

Brendan O’Neill

A floating, maybe drowning voter

John Harris, the mop-topped commentator from Manchester, better known as a music journalist (and a very fine one) than a political correspondent, is in a pickle. Having voted Labour his entire adult life, he now finds himself horrified by the New Labour project, and by Blair and Blairism in particular, and wonders whether it isn’t

Huddled masses yearning to breathe free

As asylum looks like being a key election issue, Caroline Moore- head reminds us of one simple truth. No one wants to be a refugee. No one wants to leave their home. They do so out of desperation, tortured, raped, witnessing terrifying abuse, or in terrible, straitened circumstances. Of course not all would-be immigrants are

A guide who opens eyes

Is there a more charming literary companion than Al Alvarez? In this extended series of lectures he examines the writer’s creative method, or ‘voice’, as he metaphorically terms it. His own voice comes through loud and clear, a seasoned, colloquial, authoritative and highly polished channel for his telling insights and throwaway erudition. He flits with

Fits and starts

A book with a title like Epileptic does not raise high expectations: will it be an account of suffering nobly borne, or a worthy medical treatise perhaps? Not a bit of it, this memoir is a graphics extravaganza spread over 361 pages, bursting with energy and wild imaginings, a comic tour de force that is

Tunnel of love vision

Tim Madden, the narrator of Norman Mailer’s Tough Guys Don’t Dance (1984), offers a perceptive instance of literary criticism when he recalls that ‘the best description of a pussy I ever came across was in a short piece by John Updike’. However, even that is not enough for him: what he would really like, he

The painter properly portrayed

We are continually told that biography is the dominant literary expression of the age, that Britain, in particular, is a nation of biographers, and that the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the massive climax of this protracted love affair. Even our fiction suppurates with real-life figures both past and present, from Mrs Thrale

Life and letters | 12 February 2005

Russian bandit capitalism — sorry, the joys of the free market — is reaching beyond the grave. Latest victim: Fyodor Dostoevsky. The novelist’s great-grandson Dmitri has called foul on the lottery company Chestnaya Igra (‘Fair Play’), and is suing for £5,000 damages after images of his ancestor started appearing on its lottery tickets. As he