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Talking Haiti triumphantly

A test for you. Viz, the comic now an improbable quarter of a century old, once ran a strip called ‘Harold and Fred’. It was the sort of thing you will remember from the days of Dandy and Beano, little characters running around and falling over, all with the three expressions of thoughtfulness, joy and

Lands beyond the sunset

As we were taught in our distant childhood, it little profits that an idle king (doctor, botanist or missionary) mete and dole stuff by a still hearth. We cannot rest from travel, as these close-to-2,000 pages of double-columned small print attempt to prove. In a couple of beautifully produced volumes, each the size of a

The melancholy seven

The ordinariness of tragedy, its bread-and-butter nature at odds with Shakespearean grandeur or tabloid-style sensationalism, is the subject of Margaret Forster’s new novel. Is There Anything You Want? examines the lives of seven women in a small town in the north of England. Mrs Hibbert, Edwina, Dot, Chrissie, Ida, Rachel and Sarah are connected through

Outcasts of the world

The leprosarium of the Pacific islands in which I once worked was situated next to the Mental Wing, as the psychiatric hospital was known. The lepers derived considerable pleasure and hilarity from watching the antics of the lun- atics through the fence that separated them. This taught me an unedifying principle of human psychology, that

Decline and ascent

As a rule I decline to review books by old friends: it puts either one’s integrity or the friendship at risk. I make an exception of Father Joe because I first read it six months ago, prior to its publication in New York and, while not as overwhelmed as many American reviewers — Andrew Sullivan

Life and letters | 15 January 2005

The presentation of this year’s Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize — an annual literary award given, in alternate years, to a volume of poetry and a novel — was an occasion for harmony and reconciliation. The party took place on the penthouse floor of Faber & Faber’s offices in Queen Square, but the winner was not