Names to conjure with

5 February 2011 12:00 am

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

The real deal

29 January 2011 12:00 am

‘“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.

A novel approach

15 January 2011 12:00 am

Philip Hensher examines the relatively new genre of classic writers themselves becoming the subject of fiction

Bad enemy, worse lover

11 December 2010 12:00 am

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.

Under the skin

27 November 2010 12:00 am

Why do so many aspiring writers think it best to begin with the short story and graduate to the novel? It’s madness.

The man and the myth

13 November 2010 12:00 am

Tolstoy’s legend is not what it was; but sometimes the world needs idealised versions of ordinary men, argues Philip Hensher

How are you today?

7 July 2010 12:00 am

How am I? Very well, thank you.

A man after his time

30 June 2010 12:00 am

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’.

Not as sweet as he seemed

16 June 2010 12:00 am

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.

Odd men out

16 June 2010 12:00 am

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.

On the brink

2 June 2010 12:00 am

Stephen Potter’s Lifemanship contains a celebrated tip for writers who want to ensure good reviews.

Refusing to play the game

31 March 2010 12:00 am

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?

Her own best invention

17 March 2010 12:00 am

Lesley Blanch, who died in 2007 aged almost 103, did not want this book written.

The reality behind the novels

10 March 2010 12:00 am

‘I never knew peaceful times’, Irène Némirovsky once said, ‘I’ve always lived in anxiety and often in danger’.

The greatest rogue in Europe

24 February 2010 12:00 am

On 11 November 1743, the most sensational trial of the 18th century opened in the Four Courts in Dublin.

What a difference a gay makes

20 January 2010 12:00 am

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.

Squeaks and squawks

14 December 2009 12:00 am

Jonathan Cecil is nostalgic for the voices of the Bloomsberries

A great novelist

14 December 2009 12:00 am

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.

A long journey

14 December 2009 12:00 am

Concerning E. M. Forster, by Frank Kermode

All Paris at her feet

25 November 2009 12:00 am

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.

A literary gypsy

4 November 2009 12:00 am

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.

Cheering satanism

4 November 2009 12:00 am

‘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.

Nothing succeeds like excess

4 November 2009 12:00 am

In 1975, admitted to an institution for inveterate alcoholics, John Cheever alarmed and scandalised the staff by what they called inappropriate laughter: