There are quite a few things that Tina Brown doesn’t know: what ‘jejune’ means; when Louis XIV came to the throne; what the passive voice in prose is (not ‘recollections may vary’); what members of the aristocracy are called (Lady Romsey becomes Lady Penelope Romsey) or what members of the royal family are called (the ‘Dowager Duchess of Gloucestershire’ puts in an appearance).Another thing she doesn’t know (which she shares with other authors of works in this obscenely overstuffed genre) is what’s been going on between members of the royal family in the period between the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and the death of the Duke of Edinburgh – which we aren’t likely to find out until the real private papers and emails become available to some future Jane Ridley.
When it comes to education, I’m in two minds, maybe three. I was sent to private schools, including, for my ‘Oxbridge’ term, Eton, where the teaching was life-changing. But when it came to my children, no amount of cheeseparing was going to make private fees possible. From the age of three to 18, they went to our local state schools. They flourished academically, made lots of friends and enjoyed two advantages I never had: they walked to school, and mixed comfortably with children from every background.
During his brief stage career Master Betty, or the Young Roscius, was no stranger to superlatives: genius, unparalleled, superior, Albion’s glory, a Child of Nature, the Wonder of the Age. He was a child prodigy who, in the early 19th century, took British theatre by storm. Aged just 11 William Betty made his debut and was hailed as a second David Garrick. Bettymania ensued: theatres fought for his services and the House of Commons adjourned early to see him tread the boards.
Imagine that all the frequencies nature affords were laid out on an extended piano keyboard. Never mind that some waves are mechanical, propagated through air or some other fluid, and other waves are electro-magnetic and can pass through a vacuum. Lay them down together, and what do you get?
The startling answer is a surprisingly narrow piano. To play X-rays (whose waves cycle up to 30,000,000,000,000,000,000 times per second), our pianist would have to travel a mere nine metres to the right of middle C.
One could compile a fat anthology of tributes to Marcel Duchamp’s charm – especially what one friend called the artist’s ‘physical fineness’ – but it would be hard to top Georgia O’Keeffe’s memory of their first meeting:
Duchamp was there and there was conversation. I was drinking tea. When I finished he rose from his chair, took my teacup and put it down at the side with a grace that I had never seen in anyone before and have seldom seen since.
Emilie Pine writes about the big things and the little things: friendship, love, fertility, grief; waking, showering, catching the bus. She did so in her startling collection of essays Notes to Self, and she does it again in this, her equally startling debut novel Ruth & Pen. As Ruth (‘Counsellor. Patient. Wife. Wife?’) tells herself in the morning: ‘Swing the wardrobe door open, make a choice. To run. Or to stay. Or just which jacket to wear.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces has rendered what might otherwise have seemed a fairly niche study of a Soviet-era architect rather more resonant. Boris Iofan was born to a Russian-speaking Jewish family in Odessa in 1891. After initial studies in his home city and a brief period working with his older brother Dimitri in St Petersburg, he fled the war engulfing Tsarist Russia for Italy, where he trained at the Istituto Superiore di Belle Arti in Rome.
Angus Mooney is dead. Freshly murdered, he’s appalled to find himself in an Afterworld, having always rejected the possibility of life after death. Moreover, he can observe his murderer getting on increasingly well with his innocent widow.
Mooney’s Afterworld is a deeply unsatisfactory mixture of computerised bureaucracy and urban chaos. In a landscape undreamed of by Dante, his guide is no cicerone
but a woman with a welcoming bed and good contacts in Management, who knows her way around the local drinking spots.