Lead book review

Satire and self-deprecation

If you’re Jewish, or Jew-ish, or merely subscribe to the view that Jews should be trusted to recognise anti-Semitism rather than be accused of making false allegations to further their own malign agenda, the chances are you could do with a laugh right now. The resurgent far right’s threat feels frightening but expected, whether from

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Not for the fainthearted

In 2014 Michael Alig, impresario, party promoter and drug provider, was released on parole after 17 years in prison for the manslaughter of Angel Melendez. Alig, leader of New York’s Club Kids during the 1980s and early 1990s, features as a minor character in Jarett Kobek’s breakneck, crazed ride through NYC’s nightlife from 1986 to

Riddles wrapped in a mystery

His Bloody Project, Graeme Macrae Burnet’s previous novel, had the sort of success that most authors and creative writing students can only dream of. A psychological crime novel set in 19th-century Scotland, it became a surprise bestseller — and it was also shortlisted for last year’s Man Booker Prize. It is not an easy act

Another Eden

In December 1996 Martin Amis told listeners of the BBC’s Desert Island Discs what would relieve his solitude were he to end up cast away in paradise with one piece of music, a luxury and a book for company. He chose Coleman Hawkins’s version of the jazz standard ‘Yesterdays’ as his only record — seduction

Wonders will never cease

Different people find different things impressive. Some claim, for instance, to experience a sense of wonder at the fact of being alive. But one has nothing to compare it to, so why find it surprising? Another sensibility will find joy in the observation of E.M. Cioran, the sardonic Romanian philosopher who wrote: ‘It is not

Sex and the city | 23 November 2017

‘I should like,’ Edgar Degas once remarked, ‘to be famous and unknown.’ On the whole, he managed to achieve this. Degas is after all one of the greatest names in European art, but there is much about him that remains enigmatic. Some of his works seem secretive, even surreptitious — the extraordinary monotypes he made

Listen with Auntie

The camouflage-painted, smoke-blackened entrance to London’s 1940s Broadcasting House, moated with sandbags and battered by bombs, provided its staff with a refuge from attack. Inside, a gender-segregating blanket divided the employees’ emergency dormitory in two. But such propriety masked the energy, idiosyncrasy and influence that ballooned within the Portland Place walls during the wartime years.

Mother of the nation

It can sometimes seem — unfairly but irresistibly — as if the sole function of the myriad Lilliputian German statelets of the Holy Roman Empire was to provide the royal families of Europe with some of their most dismal consorts. In the century and a half after George I came to the throne in 1714