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Keeping one’s head above water in Venice

I have an unusually vivid recollection of the first time I met John Hall. I went to his flat in Chelsea to be interviewed – as I thought – to establish whether I might make a suitable lecturer for his Pre-University Course in Venice. However, when I arrived, he got straight down to the nitty-

Recent first novels

I selected Overnight to Innsbruck by Denyse Woods by chance from the reviewing shelf and discovered a real treat of a read. It is pleasantly old-fashioned in having a strong, page-turning plot, and credible characters who panic and fret in recognisably authentic ways, yet bristling with smart, contemporary dialogue and psychological insight. If only chance

Education via the gymnasium

Sven Lindqvist used to be a fairly flabby intellectual Swede with a natural disclination to engage in any kind of sporting activity whatsoever (well, he did a bit of sluggish swimming) – especially team sports. Then, at some point before 1988 (when this book was first published in Sweden), by which time he had reached

A young explorer of horror

How many people have heard of Michael Reeves? Most biographies are written about famous people or people who hobnob with famous people or lesser-known people who have led particularly interesting lives. Michael Reeves is none of these. He was an English ex-public school boy, obsessed by cinema, who made three low-budget horror films and died

Going with the wind

It is rare for a first novel to be launched with the degree of enthusiasm that Fourth Estate have bestowed upon this saga of the American civil war. The jacket comes trumpeting its triumph on release in the USA. ‘Deserves the Pulitzer Prize’, it quotes from the Toronto Globe and Mail. A cynic might say,

Blair’s lack of ‘process’

What is really wrong with the Blair government? The unease it excites is at least as strong on the articulate political Left as on the Right. Indeed the grounds for anxiety may overlap across the political spectrum. Until now it has been difficult to verbalise this sense of malaise. The citation of particular policies that