More from Books

Brendan O’Neill

An illness or an excuse?

How many times have you heard someone say ‘I am so stressed’? I say it at least ten times a day. I said it to myself when the books editor of this magazine asked if I might turn this review around in two days flat instead of taking the usual, more leisurely week or so

Short-listing doomed intellectuals

So powerful was the image of Russia created by the extraordinary group of writers, artists and philosophers who dominated their country’s intellectual life at the beginning of the 20th century that it persists even today. Much of our admiration for Russian ballet, art and literature dates from that era, when the achievements of Russia’s creative

The best-Loebed hits

Before the dramatic expansion of Penguin Classics, it was almost impossible to find a translation of anything in Latin or Greek. Schoolboys were reduced to furtively ordering Brodies or Kelly’s Keys from the local bookshop. The great exception was the Loeb Classical Library. This was a series sponsored by James Loeb, a Harvard-educated American banker

Laughter in the howling wilderness

Hot on the heels of The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood’s retelling of the story of Penelope and Odysseus, comes The Tent, a neat, must-have little volume with scarlet endpapers, a silky marker and Atwood’s own illustrations — devilish red dogs and Egyptian-looking ladies. And inside The Tent? A splendid mix of tales, retellings of myths, fables

God in the brain

Contemporary atheist writers are increasingly inclined to forsake purely rationalist or psychological arguments against the existence of God. The current bunch are gnawing at the edges of neurological and genetic explanations, with the implication that religion may emerge as a ‘natural’, built-in navigational error. The subtitles of the two books under review say more about

A strange reluctance to be free

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 there was widespread talk of Russia soon becoming an open, democratic polity with a thriving civil society. Under President Putin such hopes have faded. The state has seized back much of the power it lost under Yeltsin, devolution has yielded to centralisation, and the prevailing tone is authoritarian

High priestess of Tory sleaze

‘She can’t stand that woman,’ an aide of Mrs Thatcher once said of Dame Shirley Porter, the notorious, scandal-prone leader of Westminster City Council during the 1980s. Such contempt was perhaps surprising, for Lady Porter was seen by many as the mirror image of Mrs Thatcher both in her outspoken character and in the aggressive