More from Books

Through the keyhole

Here are two books by anthropologists — Sam Gosling, from the University of Texas, and Daniel Miller, from the University of London. Both are British. Both set out to explore one of anthropology’s central questions: what is the relationship between people and their possessions? At the start of his book, Gosling says, more or less,

Flowers of Scotland

The Lost Leader is Mick Imlah’s first collection in 20 years, following Birthmarks in 1988, and it is well worth the wait. It takes in everyone from Saint Columba to John Knox, with appearances from William Wallace, medieval alchemist Michael Scot, Bonnie Prince Charlie and rugby hero Gordon Brown. But this is no dewy-eyed tribute

The Pope was wrong

In his Christmas broadcast for 1942, Pope Pius XII spoke of the ‘hundreds of thousands of innocent people who have been killed or condemned to a slow extinction only because of their race’. As part of a wider denunciation of the Holocaust this would have been brave and useful, but in fact it was to

Short and sweet | 19 July 2008

What do you make of this texting business? It took me on a surprisingly complex journey. First I felt revulsion, then doubt set in, then I sensed a developing acceptance and finally I embraced it with utilitarian enthusiasm. At one point I was even touched by a Shavian zeal that texting might usher in a

A lost painting in a crumbling mansion

This is a curious book: not exactly likeable, but certainly intriguing, and definitely accomplished. It is a debut novel, but doesn’t feel like one at all. It is smart, bold and surprising, with nothing of the crowd-pleaser about it; in fact it might irritate, or disgust, just as easily as it amuses. A disgraced professor

No denying it

Montaigne wished for a library of deathbed chronicles. ‘If I were a maker of books,’ he wrote, ‘I would assemble an annotated registry of various kinds of dying.’ Such a collection exists. Its ancestors are the ars moriendi of the Middle Ages and its modern manifestations bear uplifting titles such as The Year of Magical

A hostage to fortune

Mugging, according to a popular theory, is a consensual act. Split seconds before the assault takes place victims supposedly establish some sort of complicity with their attackers, thus turning the robbery into a contractual arrangement. The same principle is just as easily applied to political assassination. Along the lines traced by Hardy’s famous poem ‘The

The house that Jock built

When John Murray was sold in 2002 it was billed by the Daily Telegraph as ‘the oldest independent book publisher in the world’. The firm had been in the same family since the first John Murray began selling books in Fleet Street in 1768. It was also, reported the Telegraph, ‘the last of London’s “gentlemen

A Soho stalwart

Like Angus Wilson, Julian Maclaren-Ross immediately grabbed the attention of Forties reviewers and readers with a series of short stories at once ruthlessly observant and irresistibly entertaining. However, unlike Wilson, admirably self-disciplined in the organisation of a career that eventually carried him to the centre of the literary establishment, Maclaren-Ross, alcoholic and wasteful of his