Andy Miller

The horror of finding oneself ‘young-old’

It’s a familiar tale. Midway through life’s journey, Marcus Berkmann woke to find himself in a dark wood, where the right road was wholly lost and gone. Without a Virgil to guide him through the trials and torments of middle age, he composed a bestselling memoir based on his experiences, A Shed of One’s Own

Why the Monkees were never considered ‘a real group’

Among those of a certain age, no pop group of the 1960s provokes a debate quite like the Monkees – neither the Beatles, who now represent the establishment they once threatened to overturn; nor the Rolling Stones, whose shock value resides in a shameless career of cultural appropriation rather than the pursuit of sex, drugs

What happens to rockers who don’t die young?

What do the following individuals have in common: a political activist from Suffolk; a chartered psychologist from Oxfordshire, who enjoys playing golf at weekends; a funeral celebrant from Liverpool; the Birmingham-based chairperson of the Ladder Association Training Committee (‘When it’s right to use a ladder, use the ladder, and get trained to use it safely’);

David Keenan, literary disruptor in chief

Near to the heart of this wild and labyrinthine novel — on page 516 of 808 — a character in a letter addressed to his future self within the reminiscence of a disfigured and imprisoned second world war sailor who will subsequently be transformed via sorcery, surgery and sex into a medium and prophet, eventually

A true bohemian: the story of Nico’s rise and fall

It is well established that artists are not always the nicest people. On the surface, the life of the model, actress and singer Christa Päffgen, aka Nico, would appear to bear this out. Being Nico didn’t mean being nice. The story of Nico’s rise and fall usually goes like this. She grew up in the

If you spent a day at Action Park you took your life in your hands

Before reading this book, the only thing I knew about Action Park was that it had lent its name to Shellac’s 1994 debut album At Action Park. Shellac, one of whose members is the notoriously contrarian music producer Steve Albini, play pummelling, hazardous, post-hardcore rock at ear-splitting volume and occasion much joy in anyone who

The riddle of Chapel Sands

At first glance, Laura Cumming’s memoir On Chapel Sands begins with what appears to be a happy ending. On an autumn evening in 1929, a small child is snatched from a Lincolnshire beach. Her name is Betty Elston and she is three years old. The girl’s mother, Veda, is happy to let Betty play on

… and The Comedy of Errors

The phrase ‘Shakespeare comedy’ is an oxymoron with a long pedigree, one which perhaps stretches back to the late 16th century; and a running joke in Ben Elton’s Upstart Crow is that no one finds the comedies funny except their author, who thinks they’re hilarious. So it is a brave writer who, in a bid

On the run from Corunna

There is only one Andrew Miller. In the 20 years since his debut novel Ingenious Pain won both the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, he has written a series of books which have captured the imaginations of readers and critics alike. Oxygen (2001) was shortlisted for the Booker, while

Clutching at straws

For someone who is only 47 and has won a Pulitzer Prize, Andrew Sean Greer certainly knows how to get inside the head of someone who is 50 and hasn’t. Less is, among other things, a novel about the aches and pains of midlife, real and imagined; its hero, Arthur Less, turns 50 in the

The executor’s song

In 1999, Patrick Hemingway published True at First Light, a new novel by his father Ernest. In his role as literary executor of the late writer’s estate, Patrick edited an unfinished manuscript of some 200,000 words down to a more marketable ‘fictional memoir’ of less than half that length. The book hit the bestseller lists

From Bradford to Belgravia

In her debut novel, Adelle Stripe recounts the brief, defiant life of the playwright Andrea Dunbar. Dunbar was raised on the Buttershaw council estate in Bradford, one of eight siblings. Her first play, The Arbor, which premiered at the Royal Court in London when she was just 18, originated as a CSE English assignment. She

Having your cake

For those in the know, Jimmy Webb is one of the great pop songwriters of the 1960s and 70s, up there with Lennon and McCartney, Brian Wilson, Goffin and King, Holland, Dozier and Holland, and Bacharach and David. The hits he wrote for Glen Campbell alone earned him his place in the Songwriter’s Hall of

A passion for vinyl

Every year at this time, as trees come into bud and flowers bloom, middle-aged men (and a few women) sleep overnight on pavements to ensure they don’t miss the year’s crop of Record Store Day releases; April may indeed be the cruellest month if one fails to acquire that limited 12” picture disc of Toto’s

A genial green guide to 2000 AD

I can recall exactly where I was 40 years ago when I didn’t buy the first issue — or ‘prog’ —of 2000 AD. The just-launched sci-fi comic, featuring ‘space-age dinosaurs’, ‘the new Dan Dare’ and a ‘FREE SPACE SPINNER’, i.e. a mini frisbee, looked quite exciting and, at 8p, good value for pocket money; but,