Cosmo Landesman

The agony of watching friends succeed

I’ve just had the first sign that things are going back to normal — and that I’m going back to normal, too. I was suddenly struck by a feeling I’ve not had since the first lockdown last March; a feeling writers and journalists know all too well. Literary envy. Whatever your profession, envy is something

The joy of drinking alone

Thanks to a combination of night-time curfews, social-distancing rules, pubs closing, restaurants failing, the ‘rule of six’ and compulsory mask-wearing, that basic and necessary human need for people to meet for a drink has never been so difficult. Now, with the government’s new three-tier Covid strategy in place, anyone at any moment could find their

In defence of the Covid snitch

Nobody loves a bossy, busy-body. A curtain-twitching nosey-parker or that most despised creature of the popular imagination and the playground: the snitch. Once such people were the comic baddies found in Ealing Comedies and sitcoms like Dad’s Army. But the spread of Covid-19 and the accompanying lockdown rules that began in March gave them a

OK zoomer, is that really the best you’ve got?

Every generation and teen subculture likes to put the boot into baby boomers like me. I’ve been physically attacked by skinheads, verbally assaulted by right-wing intellectuals and mocked by millennials. But I never thought I would be subjected to the derision and verbal lashings of Generation Z. The ‘zoomers’ — that is, people born after

In praise of cultural elitism

At present we have a series of ‘culture wars’ over a wide range of issues — race, gender, sexuality, power and privilege. But the one culture war we don’t have any more is over culture. Yes, we fight about the ideological messages of literary texts, but not about matters of personal taste. We scrutinise and

Daddy issues | 13 June 2019

When I was growing up in the late 1960s, boys like me craved the admiration and approval of our dads; we wanted nothing more than to impress them. And now that we are dads, we crave the admiration and approval of our children; we want nothing more than to impress them. But the curious thing

Hands free

Eight years ago, I had an erotic epiphany. It was around midnight: I had sex on the brain and porn on my laptop. Suddenly, everything felt wrong and a wave of sadness washed over me. I felt like some sleazy man from a Michel Houellebecq novel. I no longer wanted to be that kind of

With friends like these

There was a time when you couldn’t walk down your local high street and not be set upon by a succession of ‘charity muggers’ — those relentlessly cheery and chatty young men and women who want your money for worthy causes like Cancer Research UK, Greenpeace, Oxfam or Age UK. These days the high streets

A class act | 10 January 2019

The English love a story of posh people behaving badly, especially one that involves sex, drugs or drink — preferably all three at once — in some stately home or Mayfair pad. In 1963, following the Profumo scandal (yes, the one involving Christine Keeler) the nation was gripped by tales of sex parties involving prostitutes,

Virtuous vice

It hasn’t always been easy being a progressive-minded man who prides himself on his sensitivity to issues of race, gender, feminism and sexual exploitation — and still gets to walk on the wild side. Political principles tend to get in the way of politically incorrect passions. You like to watch porn, but as a good

Identity theft

I got some bad news this week. I discovered that I’m a ‘privileged, white male’. It was my agent who broke it to me. We were talking about the trouble he’s having in finding a publisher for my book — a work of non-fiction — when the following exchange took place. Me: What’s wrong with

Desperate housewives

Freud famously asked: what do women want? And I think that after two marriages, a dozen long-term relationships and a thousand-and-one dates, I’ve discovered the answer to that great mystery: they want a man with a beautiful house. In my twenties I thought that what women wanted was a man who was funny, intelligent, sensitive

Problem children

There was a time when middle-class liberals used to complain that the English were a nation of child haters. They packed them off to boarding school as soon as possible and banned them from the dinner table as soon as they got back. Why-oh-why, they asked, can’t the English just relax and enjoy the presence

Bringing sexy back

Sexual intercourse, Philip Larkin famously wrote, began in 1963. And listening to contemporary commentators, you’d think that it came to an end in 2017 with the birth of the #MeToo movement. For these voices of doom, the end of the erotic is nigh; Britain is on the brink of sexual apocalypse. The recent news that

Too kind

I originally thought of calling this piece: ‘Kindness is the New Rock ’n’ Roll’ — but only as a joke. And then I discovered that the rock band Peace have a new album out called Kindness is the New Rock’n’Roll. And they aren’t joking. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that kindness is

Bring back Girl Power

The recent news of a Spice Girls reunion will, I suspect, be greeted by some former fans with nostalgic longing and others with an embarrassed cringe. But whether you’re a fan or foe, I think it’s worth remembering that golden decade of Girl Power — the 1990s — when it was bliss to be young

Do you know a flake fatale?

It was the third time in a row that she had cancelled our date for drinks. The first time she’d forgotten. The second time she remembered a previous engagement and the third time she claimed she’d got the dates mixed up. The next day I got the text she always sends: ‘Sorry darling, I’m such


These are tough times for what I call the #MeToo Men — those white, liberal, high-minded men who pride themselves on being good feminists. Disgusted with Trump and horrified by Harvey, they want to show solidarity and be good allies to the women of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. So they wear their feminist

Riot chic

Last weekend, I got into a conversation with the son of an old friend. He’s a nice middle-class boy, mid-twenties, who plays in a band and has lots of tats and piercings. We got into a conversation about summer festivals. I was telling him about a wonderful one I’d been to — the Curious Arts