When she was a little girl, playing in the countryside around her missionary parents’ home in China, Pearl Buck used to come across the scattered body parts of babies abandoned for animals to devour. She would bury them, and tell no one.
What sort of person would you expect to be bringing out a life of J.D. Salinger two months after his death, bearing in mind that Salinger was more obsessive about his privacy than any other writer in human history and fought the publication of the last biography all the way to the US Supreme Court?
In his memoir Somebody Down Here Likes Me, Too, the boxer Rocky Graziano, on whom Paul Newman based his performance in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), describes the actor in perfect Runyonese:
Dave Eggers is the very model of the engaged writer.
Before the revolución of 1959, Havana was, effectively, a mafia fleshpot and colony of Las Vegas.
Winston Churchill was a racist. He said things like ‘I hate people with slit eyes and pig-tails. I don’t like the look of them or the smell of them’.
‘I never knew peaceful times’, Irène Némirovsky once said, ‘I’ve always lived in anxiety and often in danger’.
This book could have been a classic.
On 11 November 1743, the most sensational trial of the 18th century opened in the Four Courts in Dublin.
Angela Thirlwell’s previous book was a double biography of William Rossetti (brother to the more famous Dante Gabriel) and his wife Lucy (daughter of the more famous Ford Madox Brown).
For someone who barely left the house, Emily Dickinson didn’t half cause a lot of trouble.
Do we need another huge life of Arthur Koestler? He wrote a great deal about himself, including three autobiographical works: Spanish Testament (1937), describing his experience as a death-row prisoner of General Franco, Arrow in the Blue (1952) and The Invisible Writing (1954).
Mr Gladstone’s career in politics was titanic.
Must You Go? My Life with Harold Pinter, by Antonia Fraser
Frank Auerbach (born 1931) is one of the most interesting artists working in Europe today, a philosophical painter of reality who works and re-works his pictures before he discovers something new, something worth saving.
Badly behaved toffs have been a gift to writers since ancient times, and in English from Chaucer to Waugh.
I approached the late David Nokes’s scholarly book with some trepidation, having heard that it had been criticised for its apparent dismissal of James Boswell.
A postal strike would have been a disaster for Van Gogh.
Just as Alec Guinness resented being seen as Obi-Wan Kenobi for the rest of his life, Ian Richardson might have resented Francis Urquhart, the Machiavelli of Michael Dobbs’ House of Cards trilogy, whose catchphrase gives this book its title.
Years ago the late ‘Brookie’ Warwick, 8th Earl, asked me to ghost his memoirs.
In what was intended as the opening line of a 1951 catalogue essay to an exhibition by the painter Leonor Fini, Jean Cocteau wrote: ‘There is always, at the margin of work by men, that luminous and capricious shadow of work by women.’ Not surprisingly, Fini excised it.
Most of us are brought up not badly, but wrongly.
I’ve always thought of fraud as a relatively attractive form of crime — not, of course, in the sense that I daydream of committing it, but in the sense that it involves intelligence, imagination and nerve, rather than violence and damage.
Freudian analysis, Soviet communism and the garment industry: what do all of these things have in common? If your answer has something to do with central and east European Jews born at the end of the 19th century, you wouldn’t be far off.
‘For my generation of Essex teenagers, Dennis Wheatley’s novels represented the essential primer in diabolism,’ Ronald Hutton, the historian and expert on paganism, recalls.