Collected journalism

No nonsense in the kitchen

I rather bristle at newspaper column collections. They strike me as a bit lazy, a cheat’s way of getting another book under the belt, often just in time for the gift-giving season. When it comes to Rachel Cooke’s Kitchen Person, however, I have to eat my words. It draws from the 14 years of monthly food columns Cooke wrote for the Observer from 2009. Each comes with a postscript from the author looking back on her thoughts at the time, ensuring that the pieces hold their own as a collection, as something cohesive. You sit down to read one essay, and look up 75 pages later. The tone, too, is

Billy Wilder — the making of a great film director

Before Billy Wilder became the celebrated director of films such as Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot and The Apartment he was a busy jobbing screenwriter at UFA Studios in Berlin in the early 1930s, writing or co-writing the scenarios to more than 20 movies. And before that, he was a journalist. Starting in Vienna in the mid-1920s, where his earliest assignments included setting the crossword puzzle (a charming example is included in this volume), he quickly moved on to Berlin and became a prolific writer of occasional pieces for papers such as Der Querschnitt and the Berliner Börsen Courier. Selections of these articles have been published before but are

Spectacular invective: Jonathan Meades lets rip about Boris and Brexit

The title alludes to Jonathan Meades’s first collection of criticism, Peter Knows What Dick Likes, and to the album by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in their scabrous personae of Derek and Clive. Meades explains the title in his introduction: ‘It’s akin to “Two-Hour Dry Cleaners” where the operative, out of her head on perchloroethylene, tells you that’s just the name of the shop and it’ll be ready a week Tuesday.’ This does not exactly clear matters up but at least I found it funny. And there is much to find funny here. A critic or essayist who is incapable of humour should be discarded. That said, bear in mind

Homage to Lyra McKee — the journalist I miss most

In the two generations since Watergate, the image of the journalist has gone from that of plucky truth-seeker to sensationalist and partisan hack. Somewhere along the way the fresh-faced idealists of All the President’s Men gave way to the dissociative anti-hero of Nightcrawler. Corporate-driven news values? Probably. Phone hacking? Definitely. But what grates more is the suspicion that journalism is a clique that protects its own, disdains its audience and passes off its attitudes and preferences as the neutral norm. The perception isn’t entirely wide of the mark. Lyra McKee was a one-woman union for the reputation of journalism. To her it was more than blue-tick-on-blue-tick gossip-shopping and SEO-chasing junk