Essays

Lydia Davis, like an inspirational teacher, tempts her readers into more reading

7 December 2019 9:00 am

A good indicator of just how interesting and alluring Lydia Davis’s Essays proved might be my recent credit card statement.…

Could Leslie Jamison please stop sitting on the fence?

30 November 2019 9:00 am

Leslie Jamison is creating quite a stir in America. Her first collection of essays, The Empathy Exams, went straight to…

Vladimir Nabokov confesses to butterflies in the stomach

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Not every novelist has opinions. Some of the greatest have a touch of the idiot savant, such as Adalbert Stifter,…

It’s a dull world in which children don’t challenge their parents

9 November 2019 9:00 am

On the Shoulders of Giants consists of 12 essays that the late Umberto Eco gave as lectures at the annual…

Kathleen Jamie’s luminous new essays brim with sense and sensibility

2 November 2019 9:00 am

There is a moment in one of the longer pieces in Surfacing, Kathleen Jamie’s luminous new collection of essays, when…

Brutus’s betrayal is a tragic inevitability. The soothsayer warns Julius Caesar to ‘Beware the Ides of March’, in a 19th-century wood engraving by Sir John Gilbert

Has Shakespeare become the mascot of Brexit Britain?

27 April 2019 9:00 am

Shakespeare often seems uncannily relevant to the times – and Brexit Britain is no exception, says Daniel Swift

Why would anyone in their right mind choose to be profiled by Janet Malcolm?

27 April 2019 9:00 am

God, I wish I was Janet Malcolm. Fifty or more years as a staff writer on the New Yorker, reviews…

Alexander Chee. Credit Bloomsbury Publishing

Does an autobiographical novel really count as fiction?

17 November 2018 9:00 am

Orhan Pamuk, writing about Vladimir Nabokov’s masterful memoir Speak, Memory, noted that there was a particular ‘thrill’ for the writer…

‘Glad Day’ by William Blake

What do Walt Whitman, Jackson Pollock and Jimi Hendrix have in common?

13 January 2018 9:00 am

On 3 September 1968, Allen Ginsberg appeared on William F. Buckley’s Firing Line. Buckley exposed Ginsberg’s politics as fatuous —…

How much does a ‘1st quality’ essay cost to buy online?

14 October 2017 9:00 am

Cheat sheets The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education wants universities to catch out more students who buy essays online.…

The women tackling racism head on

26 August 2017 9:00 am

These three timely works of creative nonfiction explore the question of race: chronicling histories of colonialism and migration; examining the…

The internal dreamworld of René Magritte

6 August 2016 9:00 am

Surrealism was, at least initially, as much about writing as painting. A plaque on the Hotel des Grands Hommes in…

Oxford is full of overindulged whiners. It wasn’t like that in my day

23 April 2016 9:00 am

I was in the attic killing some Taleban on Medal of Honor when Girl interrupted and said: ‘Dad, what’s this?’…

Helen Vendler is full of condescending waffle (and not just when she’s attacking me)

25 July 2015 9:00 am

Is it possible to tell a good poem from a bad one? To put the question another way: are there…

Pricking the pomp of American society

4 July 2015 9:00 am

It doesn’t mean much to say that Renata Adler’s journalism isn’t as interesting as her novels — almost nothing is…

‘A Sounding Line’ (2006–7). Detail of de Waal’s 66 porcelain vessels in white and celadon glazes, Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

How good an artist is Edmund de Waal?

26 July 2014 9:00 am

For Edmund de Waal a ceramic pot has a ‘real life’ that goes beyond functionalism.This handsome book (designed by Atelier…

Reviewing reviews of reviews — where will it all end? 

25 January 2014 9:00 am

Sam Leith reviews the reviews of David Lodge — and wonders where it will all end

Italo Calvino's essays, Collection of Sand, is a brainy delight

26 October 2013 9:00 am

The Japanese are sometimes said to suffer from ‘outsider person shock’ (gaijin shokku) when travelling abroad. Recently in London we…

A Place in the Country, by W.G. Sebald - review

15 June 2013 9:00 am

Within a few years, and in four books — The Emigrants (1996), The Rings of Saturn (1998), Vertigo (1999) and…

Loves, hates and unfulfilled desires

18 February 2012 10:00 am

Montaigne, who more or less invented the discursive essay, had a method which was highly unmethodical: ‘All arguments are alike…

AfterWord edited by Dale Salwak

5 November 2011 11:00 am

‘Conjuring the Literary Dead’ is the sub-title of this outlandish, sometimes beguiling book. Its editor, Dale Salwak, coaxed 19 writers…

The country of criticism

13 August 2011 12:00 am

On Karl Miller's essays

Lost and found

20 May 2009 12:00 am

Making An Elephant: Writing from Within, by Graham Swift

No longer at home

21 January 2009 12:00 am

The Writer as Migrant, by Ha Jin

Arthur at Camelot

14 January 2009 12:00 am

Journals: 1952-2000, by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr, edited by Andrew Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger