Lead book review

Speckled Footman and Maiden’s Blush

Last year, I attempted to pass through security in an American airport carrying a small black box, containing eight batteries and a visible circuit board. If the switch was flipped, the display counted down in red flashing numbers. Unsuprisingly, the officer in Salt Lake City pulled it out of my hand baggage. ‘What’s this?’ ‘It’s

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Forbidden love and the beautiful game

Nowadays, most of us living in the liberal West agree that there can never be anything morally wrong with love between consenting adults. This is good for society but bad for novelists. The tale of the grand passion that runs foul of societal mores is a staple of literature. What is Madame Bovary if Emma

According to Luke

This is an odd one, not least because it claims to be a novel, which it isn’t. Emmanuel Carrère, writer and film-maker, looks back on an earlier self when, as a young man, he had a phase of being a devout Catholic, going to Mass daily, making his confession, the whole caboodle. He decides to

The mysteries of colour

When Australia imposed generic packaging in its war on cigarettes, there was consumer research into the most deterrent colour. Pantone 448 was chosen, a sort of sludgy green-brown. When it was described as ‘olive’, Oz’s federation of olive growers formally complained. Certainly, colours move us. Interior designers know that yellow makes people angry, while in

Reason and faith

Roy Hattersley would never have been born had it not been that his mother ran away with the parish priest who instructed her in the Catholic faith before her marriage to a collier — the priest conducted the wedding; a fortnight later they eloped. This deplorable episode had one happy consequence: the birth of Roy,

Secrets of the secretaries

The minister’s private secretary wrote to another cabinet minister about the previous day’s cabinet meeting: They cannot agree about what occurred. There must have been some decision, as Bright’s resignation shows. My chief has told me to ask you what the devil was decided, for he be damned if he knows. Will you ask Mr