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Deborah Orr rages against her small-town upbringing

Unlike a lot of people in the media, I didn’t personally know Deborah Orr, but I know many who did, and the intensity of their love for her burned very bright after her death in October. They spoke of her wild beauty, her fierce passions and smoky laughter; what great company she was; how every

Five bluestockings in one Bloomsbury square

The presiding genius of this original and erudite book is undoubtedly Virginia Woolf, whose essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’ provided the rallying cry, whether consciously or not, for five remarkable women, all drawn at some point in their careers to Bloomsbury’s Mecklenburgh Square. There they found the freedom and independence they craved to explore

Is it a Rake’s or a Pilgrim’s Progress for Rob Doyle?

‘To live and die without knowing the psychedelic experience,’ says the narrator of Threshold, ‘is comparable to never having encountered literature or travelled to another continent.’ Magic mushrooms in Dublin, opioids in Thailand and San Francisco, hallucinogenic cactus in Bolivia and Peru, ketamine in India… he encounters terror, near-death and ecstasy by every means available,

The dark past of the pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge

A distinctive pattern of horizontal and vertical lines appears in the background of many of Eadweard Muybridge’s best-known photographs, giving his images of animal and human locomotion a strangely modern appearance, despite their being products of the 1880s. The lines also anticipate those adopted in the 20th century against which US criminals appear in police

Whores of phwoar: women talking dirty

Jonathon Green is a tosher. As a lexicographer he dives into archives and emerges with armfuls of slangy curios, such as ‘bell-polisher’ and ‘bitchin’. In Sounds & Furies he sifts English slang from tosheroons as diverse as the Wife of Bath to Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Green’s passion for his subject is infectious. His