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Bookends: A felicitous trouper

When, during rehearsals for a production of Lorca, Celia Imrie expressed an opinion about a bit of business, a fellow player said to her: ‘And what would you know about playing Lorca? You are nothing but a mere TV comedienne.’ She slapped the impertinent thespian’s face, and quite right too. Though proud to bill herself

An existential hero

Sam Leith is enthralled by a masterpiece on monotony, but is devastated by its author’s death When David Foster Wallace took his own life two and a half years ago, we lost someone for whom I don’t think the word genius was an empty superlative. He was an overpowering stylist, and a dazzling comedian of

Pet obsession

I declare two interests. I own a dog, Lily, and I admire the New York Review of Books. What could go wrong? Especially because, according to the enthusiastic introduction, back in 1999, by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, My Dog Tulip won golden opinions from its first publication in 1956, notably from Julian Huxley and E. M.

In Di’s guise

What if Princess Diana hadn’t died, but, aided by her besotted press secretary, had faked her death and fled to America to live under an assumed identity? Is this an interesting question? Is a novelist justified in exploring such a supposition? I believe the answer to both questions is ‘no’. What if Princess Diana hadn’t

King of spin

Draw two two-inch triangles, tip to tip, one on top of the other. A little way down the left flank of the upper triangle, take a perpendicular line out to an inch, then turn your pencil at a right angle and continue another inch. Repeat on the other side. Next, draw two short, splayed lines

Slippery Jack

A mad, muscular Sally Bercow cavorts on the Commons chair, diminutive husband on her knee, his features impish. With a few scratches of the nib, the Independent’s merciless Dan Brown, in his cover design for this biography, passes judgment more viciously than Bobby Friedman manages over the next 250 often unexciting pages. The book is

A fate worse than death

Hugo Vickers has already produced a well-documented and balanced biography of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. To follow this with the Duchess of Windsor is as bold a left-and-right as one could ask for; like writing biographies of Shylock and Antonio or Cain and Abel. ‘I will go to my grave,’ wrote the lady-in-waiting Frances