Lead book review

Atlas shrugs

In his Forward Prize-winning collection of 2014, A Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, Kei Miller’s hero describes his craft thus: ‘My job is to imagine the widening/ of the unfamiliar and also/ the widening ache of it;/ to anticipate the ironic/ question: how did we find/ ourselves here.’ This bringing of the

More from Books

For king and countryside

In July 1915 the poet Edward Thomas enlisted as a soldier with the Artists’ Rifles, even though, at the age of 37, he had no obligation to do so. When his friend Eleanor Farjeon asked why, he scooped up a handful of earth and replied: ‘Literally, for this.’ John Lewis-Stempel’s new book is persuasive that

Blackouts and white coats

In the cult Steve Martin film The Man With Two Brains, a doctor falls in love with a surgically removed brain. The object of his desire (fizzing, if I remember rightly, in a demijohn of formaldehyde) makes for an enduring gothic comedy of the mind. On the movie’s release in the early 1980s, neuroscience was

Joking apart | 24 November 2016

A horse walks into a bar.… David Grossman takes the opening line of an old joke for his title, which could be a signal of comedy to come; and indeed he strews his novel’s pages with punchlines — good, bad-taste and groan-worthy. But this is gallows humour at its darkest: Grossman beckons us into a

Falling out with Love

Volcanic fallings out within bands are an ever-recurring motif in the history of rock music. There’s an obvious reason for this: most musicians pick up an instrument in the first place not because they hear the call of Euterpe but because they’re sailing on the HMS Ain’t Gettin’ None. They dream of fame, fortune and

Heaven, hell and Northampton

A century ago, Sir Hubert Parry set Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ to music. The lyric had been written 100 years earlier and was part of Blake’s desperate lament for the fallenness of England. What might have been the golden streets of a holy city was instead a place of mourning, the site of dark satanic mills. He

A choice of art books | 24 November 2016

Suitably for a year so full of cataclysms and disturbing portents, 2016 is the quincentenary of the death of Hieronymus Bosch. He was of course the supreme painter of hell, with choking darkness, livid flames and the most grippingly monstrous menagerie of devils in the history of art — duck-billed figures on skates, demons with

Christmas cookbooks

New books by Raymond Blanc and Pierre Koffmann retell the truth that British food came back from the brink. If it were not for the émigré chefs, I hate to think what we would be eating in British restaurants now. Fishfingers à la King, with pea jelly ring? Such horrors existed, or let’s say they

A mystery, even to herself

Armed with their tiny Leicas and Nikons, most of the great postwar ‘street’ photographers liked to be unobtrusive; they wanted to capture life unobserved. Garry Winogrand and Henri Cartier-Bresson haunted the city in search of the ‘decisive moment’. Somebody I know was photographed by Robert Doisneau, a very ghostly snapper. Doisneau entered the room and

Pandora’s box

While I’ve read plenty of books worse than Television: A Biography, I can’t immediately think of any that were more disappointing. After all, here’s David Thomson — a film critic about whom it’s hard not to use the word ‘doyen’ — looking back on more than 60 years of TV viewing for what should be