More from Books

Granny takes several trips

Why, oh why, would a pleasant-looking, intelligent woman of 66, a retired English teacher with a grown-up son living in California, place an ad in the New York Review of Books announcing her age and inviting men to approach her for sex and then publish an account of the gruesome encounters that followed? A profound

Beholding sundry places

Here’s a Christmas present for anyone with a serious interest in travel. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an armchair aficionado or grizzled explorer. There’s something for everyone, as they say. Eric Newby, the octogenarian doyen of the travel-writing genre, has put together a wonderful literary journey through the centuries and across the seven continents. Where

Sexing up American history

This lovely little bluffers’ guide to the founders of the American Republic came out of a chat Gore Vidal had in 1961 with his old friend, John F. Kennedy. There they were, Jack, Bobby and Gore, lounging around the Kennedy holiday compound in Hyannis Port after a vigorous game of backgammon — Gore won. Jack

Making it a just so story

This new collection is, surprisingly for a little black book, decidedly unsexy. In fact, A. S. Byatt — unsurprisingly, perhaps, for those readers who persisted through the Victorian mumblings and fumblings of Possession — does bad, awkward sex rather well. Here is a gynaecologist and an art student getting together (note especially the prophylactic double

Above and below blood temperature

Who Killed Daniel Pearl?by Bernard-Henri Levy, translated by James X. MitchellDuckworth, £20, pp. 454, ISBN 0715632612 The last time Mariane Pearl saw her husband Daniel, correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, she was preparing a celebratory dinner for their last night in Karachi, and he was setting off for a final interview he believed crucial

The Dutch manipulator of the Pelvis

Behind many great stars of stage and screen lurks a mysterious, sometimes sinister manager figure, minder or mastermind, whose precise role in their protégé’s life, especially in terms of creative input, may be hard to define. Richard Burton’s career was kick-started by the Welsh schoolmaster whose surname he took. Tommy Cooper’s affairs were handled for

Hunting the killer rhyme

Twenty years ago Clive James’s poetry represented all that I most disliked about contemporary Englit. For a start it was practically ubiquitous. Barely had one laid down the Christmas number of the London Review of Books containing a lengthy Jamesian summary of the bygone year, it seemed, than one walked into a bookshop to find

A season in hell

When Philippe Labro, novelist, journalist, cineast, television producer and man about Paris, woke up one morning in 1999 at his usual hour of three o’clock it was with a profound and intimate conviction: ‘Quelque chose a changé.’ This was not occasioned by a physical malaise, although his bedclothes, even his pillows, were drenched with sweat,

Letting it all hang out

For all of us who are paid to make jokes about pop music, Sting is a bit of a godsend. Earnest to the point of pomposity, visibly self-satisfied and even more serious about his music than George Michael, the former teacher and long-term sex symbol has come to represent a certain sort of middle-aged rock

The age of innocent adventure

Between antiquity and the 18th century, aside from a couple of Portuguese priests in Abyssinia, we have no record of Europeans venturing into the heart of Africa; incredible but true. Following in the priests’ footsteps came James Bruce, the Scottish laird who returned home to be ridiculed by Dr Johnson for his tales of Ethiopians