Lead book review

Sam Leith

Corrie and ready-salted crisps: the years when modern Britain began

In Burberry’s on Regent Street on a dank December day in 1959, David Kynaston records, ‘a young Canadian writer, Leonard Cohen […] bought a not-yet-famous blue raincoat’. For those joining Kynaston’s groaning historical wagon train for the first time, this is a sample of the sort of thing with which it abounds. Here is a

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Who is there left that you can talk to? Days go by. ‘Friendless, deserted’ (The Beggar’s Opera?) — left in the lurch (what lurch?) — you languish. Time to make plans to die? You box up some age-stained letters, set aside more stuff, but your heart’s not in it. Tomorrow will be soon enough. Another

When Rachel Cusk went to Greece: would she be nice or nasty?

Last year in Athens, rumours raced about Rachel Cusk’s creative writing classes at the British Council. Some of the (mostly Athenian) pupils revered her for her intelligence and pitiless honesty, while others reviled her for her ‘colonial attitude’ and an apparent antipathy towards Greeks. One might suspect Greeks of tending towards intense emotional reactions, but

Charles Saatchi’s new book of photos makes me feel sick

Charles Saatchi, the gallery owner, has created his own Chamber of Horrors in this thick, square book, ‘inspired by striking photographs’. One of the most successful of these is a black and white image of male and female figures: ‘Gruesome and gaunt, they look like extras from an early piece of zombie cinema.’ They are,

Britain’s own game of thrones

Thank goodness for Game of Thrones. I think. Apparently it is inspired by the Wars of the Roses, drawing inspiration from the bloody, ruthless machinations of England’s power-brokers at the waning of the Middle Ages. Anyway, plenty of readers and watchers of George R.R. Martin’s work think that it is; what with that and BBC

Out of Reach

Think of a hand-slip, a spun summit bothered by mist, the whirr and thrum of dark metals, a stranded face minding a gap which widens, widens, leaves one candle to burn in silence, late summer wings to char on glass, unspoken words to spell their spells forwards, backwards — fine fruit to hang in armouries

A flashlight into the cellar of the lawless ‘dark net’

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the world wide web, and I wonder whether its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, would still have given it away had he known where it would be now. Had he foreseen Google and Facebook and Twitter, the conquest of web porn and the normalisation among teen-agers of misogyny and sodomy,

Bees make magic: an inspirational case for biodiversity

The importance of biodiversity, a handy concept that embraces diversity of eco-systems, species, genes and molecules, has been promoted for over three decades. Yet much life on Earth still faces unsustainable loss or extinction, perhaps because, as an otherwise upbeat Dave Goulson notes in A Buzz in the Meadow, ‘at a global level, conservation efforts