More from Books

Julie Burchill

Sins against theology and haberdashery

From the time I was a little girl, long before I knew I wanted to be a writer, I had three ambitions which I felt that I must achieve in order fully to realise my potential as an adult. And they were: to take drugs, to sleep with Jews and to be notorious. In short,

A whodunnit below zero

The more one reads about polar exploration in previous centuries, the more one comes to the conclusion that men were different in times gone by, stronger, wilder, possessed of an almost perverse capacity to withstand cold and hunger. They travelled without the benefit of radios, thermal underwear or light-weight sledges; when things went wrong no

A window on the world

It is two years since Panorama was shunted out of peak time on BBC1 into exile late on Sunday night. There were one or two protests, but the BBC reassured its critics that ‘we will strengthen the News’. Two years on, the Six o’Clock News has the agenda of a second-rate tabloid newspaper and the

A very African story

The voices we rarely hear in literature are those of the children of the men and women who have shaped modern Africa. The parents leave behind fulsome, instructive, self-justifying autobiographies as a matter of routine, but little is ever known of the plight of their offspring. Conditioned by the knock-on effects of their parents’ actions

Trees with personality

The English have loved ancient trees for centuries, have celebrated them in story and poetry, have given them names, sung songs and danced dances in their honour, have invested them with railings, plaques and chains. Artists and photographers have tried to portray special trees, along with special horses, people and pigs: notably Strutt in 1822

Girls will be girls

You’ll have noticed them on the roads, minibuses, full of schoolgirls, being driven by harassed teachers to some country location where the girls will be put through end-of-term, healthy outdoor activities, protesting all the way. Among any group of eight 13-year-olds there’ll be a victim, a loner, a leader, and so on – it’s been

The wrong label that stuck

A young writer produced a brilliant novel that attacked religious fundamentalism, rubbished the press, found politics corrupt and the members of the British upper class shallow and boring. The date was 1930 when the 27-year-old Evelyn Waugh published Vile Bodies. Sixteen years later Kingsley Amis read Brideshead Revisited at St John’s College, Oxford and sent

From Chaucer to Channel Four

‘Everything of value in our spiritual and cultural life springs from our soil.’ Thus spake Vaughan Williams; and Peter Ackroyd has undertaken a detailed proof of that proposition in this exploration of the origins of the English imagination. He has constructed a vast genealogical table, decorated with tiny marginalia, to identify the begetters of our