More from Books

But mad north- north-west

In 1966, a proud Tom Stoppard went to Foyles’, where to his delighted surprise 12 copies of his first novel were on display. Two weeks later, he checked up on how many had been sold: there were now 13, which led him to the paranoid conclusion that ‘people were leaving my book at bookshops’. Nearly

England’s 16th-century Stalin

Henry VIII is one of the most difficult and controversial figures in English history. The Victorian scholars who were the first to apply themselves seriously to his reign, regarded him as a lecherous despot. The king’s role in the foundation of the Church of England was either the providential by-product of his lust for Anne

The return of the colonel

This is a great Homeric return. With The Vengeance of Rome, Michael Moorcock releases his hobbled Odysseus, Colonel Pyat, from the maelstrom of history, the impossible burden of cultural memory. The original migrant — born in Kiev, assaulted and prostituted in Egypt, lionised in Hollywood — folds back into a case of greasy papers, technical

Cleverly out of step

In his second, revised edition of a history of Balliol College, John Jones — vice-master, chemist and archivist — shows the same sure touch that distinguished his earlier work as he carries the college’s story beyond the second world war. He writes with easy authority and the book rattles along to its final genuflection to

A brilliant autopsy on a dead regime

Although writers in languages of lesser currency suffer a cruel disadvantage when striving to establish themselves on the international scene, the Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare has succeeded in leaping that hurdle by the extraordinary athleticism of his writing. Translations of his novels have appeared in more than 40 countries, and in recent times he has

The long arm of technology

According to George Orwell, even homicide had its golden age. In his 1946 essay, ‘Decline of the English Murder’, he discusses what he calls ‘our great period in murder’, which was roughly from 1850 to 1925. He holds up nine murders (and ten murderers) whose reputations, he says, have stood the test of time. Jack

Conundrums that will not go away

Nicholas Fearn has arrayed before us in his latest book a procession of Western philosophers, dead and alive, hailing from the dawn of rational thought in the ancient world to the present day. In the manner of a polite and cultivated ringmaster he impartially introduces, compares and sums up, giving all his characters a say,

The most charitable interpretation

Late November 1950: United Nations forces commanded by the legendary General Douglas MacArthur are approaching the North Korean frontier when Chinese forces suddenly strike, an overwhelming onslaught precipitating a devastating retreat. At a presidential press conference held on 30 November, Harry Truman is pressed by journalists whether the atomic bomb might now be used to

Hellish motorway experience

Listening to Jim Norton reading The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man on this outstanding recording is a first-class way of either revisiting James Joyce’s autobiographical novel or of dipping your toe in the water for the first time. I am a toe-dipper and whilst there were moments when Joyce’s ‘stream of consciousness’