Lead book review

A five-ring fiasco

The ambitions of the founding father of the modern Olympic Games, the Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin — that they should be ‘the free trade of the future’ and provide ‘the cause of peace’ with a ‘new and mighty stay’ — were at once wildly optimistic and strangely prescient. Considering that they were first conceived

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Nothing new under the sun

Rupert Sheldrake had it coming. In A New Science of Life (1981), he argued that animals and plants have inherited a collective memory from their predecessors, thanks to ‘morphic resonance’. This also explained why animals had telepathic powers. ‘You see, I told you so,’ I said to my wife when reading about this in Steven

The gospel truth

More brides in Britain go down the aisle to Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ than to any other tune, Simon Loveday notes. He cannot resist adding that ‘it seems doubtful that they have fully taken in the words of the rest of the song’. That must be true. ‘I’m not that chainedup little person still

Smashing stuff

‘Joe lay in bed in his mother’s house. He thought about committing suicide. Such thinking was like a metronome for him. Always present, always ticking.’ Life is always cheap in noir fiction — but it takes it that step further when the protagonist’s homicidal impulses extend to himself. The hero of this fast-moving, agreeably violent

Paean to the Starman

On 11 January 2016 Paul Morley was awoken by an urgent voicemail from the Today Programme. Could he talk about the life and — news just in — the death of David Bowie? (The researcher apologised if this was how he’d heard.) Resistant to gnashing his teeth for a few minutes of radio rent-a-commentary, Morley

‘I wish you were never born’

All parents worry about the extent to which their children will expose their private weirdness to the world. They tell their teachers that Daddy takes his tea into the toilet and Mummy ‘actually pulled the car over’ for a closer look at the dead badger they passed on the school run. But the traumatic new

Maryland’s mean streets

Quick tip, should you ever find yourself alone in the interview room at the police headquarters of Prince George’s County, Maryland: don’t go to sleep. The officers will see you through the peephole and assume you’re guilty. Anyone innocent finding themselves in that windowless, 8ft by 8ft room paces around, bounces on their toes and

Rich in legend and song

There is an immediate problem for anyone producing a guide to places in Scotland with literary connections: as Walter Scott wrote in Marmion, ‘Nor hill, nor brook we paced along/ But had its legend or its song.’ Many years ago when the Scottish Borders was marketing itself as the ‘Land of Creativity’ I assembled a