Sebastian Faulks’s latest book, examining the great characters of British fiction, may be scorned by the literary establishment, but Sam Leith salutes its enthusiasm and humour
‘“We weren’t phoney,” Stephen said. “Our whole point was to live an authentic life, to challenge the bourgeois conventions of our parents’ generation. We wanted to make it real.”’ Such is the lifelong aspiration of Stephen Newman, the baby boomer hero of Linda Grant’s new novel.
Philip Hensher examines the relatively new genre of classic writers themselves becoming the subject of fiction
Five years after his death, Saul Bellow’s literary reputation has yet to suffer the usual post-mortem slump, and publication of these lively letters should help sustain his standing.
Why do so many aspiring writers think it best to begin with the short story and graduate to the novel? It’s madness.
Tolstoy’s legend is not what it was; but sometimes the world needs idealised versions of ordinary men, argues Philip Hensher
How am I? Very well, thank you.
Denys Watkins-Pitchford (1905-1990) illustrated dozens of books under his double-barrel and wrote at least 60 of his own under the two initials ‘BB’.
There are already three biographies of E. M. Forster: P. N. Furbank’s two- volume, authorised heavyweight; Nicola Beauman’s less compendious, more engaging middleweight; and my own bantamweight, little more than an extended essay.
The first game played by the Allahakbarries Cricket Club at Albury in Surrey in September 1887 did not bode well for the club’s future.
Stephen Potter’s Lifemanship contains a celebrated tip for writers who want to ensure good reviews.
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?
Lesley Blanch, who died in 2007 aged almost 103, did not want this book written.
‘I never knew peaceful times’, Irène Némirovsky once said, ‘I’ve always lived in anxiety and often in danger’.
On 11 November 1743, the most sensational trial of the 18th century opened in the Four Courts in Dublin.
Edmund White is among the most admired of living authors, his oeuvre consisting of 20-odd books of various forms — novels, stories, essays and biographies — though each one is imbued with his preferred subject, homosexuality.
Jonathan Cecil is nostalgic for the voices of the Bloomsberries
In a remarkable way the trajectory of Ivy Compton-Burnett’s reputation after her death in 1967 parallels that of George Meredith’s in 1909.
Concerning E. M. Forster, by Frank Kermode
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.
When Lavinia Greacen undertook her magisterial yet intimately sympathetic biography of James Gordon Farrell, she gained access to his diaries and many of his letters, especially love letters and letters to his literary agents, editors and publishers about his professional desires and requirements.
‘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.
In 1975, admitted to an institution for inveterate alcoholics, John Cheever alarmed and scandalised the staff by what they called inappropriate laughter: