The company of hens could be the best cure for depression

A friend of mine, an inspirational teacher, says that one of the best things parents can do is to allow children to believe that their dreams can come true. Arthur Parkinson met his first chicken as a toddler, growing up in a former mining town, and from that moment he longed for a brood of his own. So his father set to, building a handsome ark-shaped hen house, poring over Ad-Mag to find amusing poultry for sale, driving Arthur around country lanes at weekends in search of rare breeds. ‘If only you could bottle up the happiness of chickens, you’d be on to a groundbreaking antidepressant’ Parkinson also had doting,

The danger of making too many friends

Elizabeth Day has found her niche as an astute, approachable social anthropologist, observing emotions and behaviour we are reluctant to discuss – such as failure – and draining them of their stigma. Her new book tackles the subject of friendship, which she points out has been far less analysed than romantic relationships. Her honesty and her ability to listen make her an endearing narrator and charming interviewer. She examines why friendship has always been so important to her. Admirers of her previous book, How to Fail, will recall that her childhood involved a stint at a Belfast boarding school where she was bullied, an experience she touches on again here.

The cut-throat business of the secondhand book trade

For almost as long as there have been books, there have been books about books — writers just love to go meta. As well as all that midrash, those Biblical commentaries, the SparkNotes, the interpretations, retellings and the endless online fan fic, there are also of course plenty of guides, manuals and handbooks designed to instruct the gentleman or gentlewoman in the gentle arts of book buying, book collecting and other vaguely book-related activities. (Henry Petroski’s The Book on the Bookshelf — a book about bookshelves — being one of the all-time metabook greats.) I happen to have, by chance, a small library of books about books, including a collection

Experiences of Eton — and the success it rewards

In the summer of 2019, the journalist Anita Sethi was on a train travelling across northern England when she was racially abused by another passenger. Besides using several words too offensive to quote, the man spat that Sethi should go back to where she came from. And so she did. Sethi comes from Manchester. Her first reaction to the experience was to speak out, to alert a member of staff and to ensure her abuser faced justice; her second was to start planning a trek across northern England, the landscape that was hers and where she belonged. Following old existing tracks and forging new ones of her own, she travelled

Russian memoirs are prone to a particular form of angst

Perhaps the secret to understanding Russian history lies in its grammar: it lacks a pluperfect tense. In Latin, English and German the pluperfect describes actions completely completed at a definite point in the past… Early Russian had such a tense, but it was erased. This grammatical lack costs its speakers dear. Russian history never becomes history. Like a stubborn page in a new book, it refuses to turn over. Thus wrote the Soviet dissident and writer Igor Pomerantsev, my father, during his exile in London in the 1980s. When I returned to Russia in the 2000s I had the sense that beneath the Potemkin democratic veneer, Putin’s Russia was actually

James Kelman’s ‘Memoirs’ are a misnomer

James Kelman doubtless remains best known for his 1994 Booker prize win for How Late It Was, How Late and the subsequent furore. The brouhaha looks painfully absurd 25 years later with the plaudits Kelman has received (when not being dismissed as akin to an ‘illiterate savage’) perhaps the greatest in post-war English literature. Here is a writer to stand alongside Zola, Beckett and Joyce.Yet since then it feels as though Kelman’s audience has grown more selective — a process perhaps aided by his move to the USA in 1998 to teach creative writing at the University of Texas at Austin. But with Kelman now in his 75th year, it’s