D. J. Taylor

David John Taylor is a British critic, novelist and biographer

A complex creation myth: Alexandria, by Paul Kingsnorth, reviewed

‘Challenging stuff,’ my wife remarked, having alighted on the page of Paul Kingsnorth’s new novel in which a character named el supplies several stream-of-consciousness paragraphs about a ritual dance featuring ‘big Birds runnin round Pole and fyr and mam and mother and all womyn and these big things all hummin’. Dystopian, or by the time

What would Orwell be without Nineteen Eighty-Four?

43 min listen

In the first Book Club podcast of the year, we’re marking the moment that George Orwell comes out of copyright. I’m joined by two distinguished Orwellians — D. J. Taylor and Dorian Lynskey — to talk about how the left’s favourite Old Etonian speaks to us now, and how his reputation has weathered. Was he

Boats, goats and landslides

J.L. Carr’s classic novel How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup (1975) contains a character named Arthur Fangfoss. Mr Fangfoss is a rural tyrant who, when standing for the local council, limits his election address to a pithy eight words: ‘If elected, I will keep down the rates.’ No such brevity, alas, attends the

Father, son and holy ghost

No disrespect to any of the present incumbents, but Karl Miller (1931–2014) was a literary editor in an age when such jobs mattered. Between the late 1950s and the early 1970s he not only ran the books pages of two weekly magazines — The Spectator, and the Paul Johnson-era New Statesman — before moving on

Goodbye to all that | 12 May 2016

Glimpsing the title of Lynsey Hanley’s absorbing new book as it fell out of the jiffy bag, I found myself thinking of my grandmother, Mrs Lilian Taylor. This lady, who died in 1957, spent the first part of her married life inhabiting a couple of furnished rooms on the western side of Norwich and the

Cold comfort for Gibbons fans

One of the great fascinations of a ‘lost’ work by a famous name dredged up out of the vault after a lapse of several decades lies in establishing precisely when it was written. The jacket of Pure Juliet offers no clue, but parenthetic mention of Star Wars being on at the Odeon and an old

George Gissing: the last great Victorian novelist?

George Gissing’s The Whirlpool was originally published in 1897. In this shortened version of the foreword to the new Penguin Classics edition, D.J. Taylor argues that its author is ‘the last great Victorian novelist.’ In the early summer of 1896, hard at work on the manuscript of what was to become The Whirlpool, George Gissing struck up

The hooligan and the psychopath

A Season with Verona (2002), Tim Parks’s account of a year on tour with the Italian football club Hellas Verona’s notorious travelling fans (motto ‘we have a dream in our heads, to burn the south’), contains a memorable scene in which Parks spots a teenage boy screaming abuse at some rival supporters before returning to

Death of a hero

Sitting down to inspect the final volume of Pierre Coustillas’s monumental trilogy, I decided to start by counting the number of titles by or about George Gissing (1857–1903) that gleamed from the bookshelf hard by. There were 45 of them. Next, I decided to count the number of these items with which Professor Coustillas was

A Stone in the Shade, by Violet Powell – review

Evelyn Waugh once recalled the anguish with which he greeted Edith Sitwell’s announcement that ‘Mr Waugh, you may call me Edith.’ I experienced similar misgivings on the occasion, some years ago, that Lady Violet Powell suggested that I might like to call her ‘Violet’. It was not that Lady Violet — Violet — made the

Playing Possum

The contending versions of T.S. Eliot on display in the latest bumper instalment of his collected letters are practically legion. To begin with there is the hieratic, if not downright priestly, Eliot, soberly petitioning  Father D’Arcy, the correspondence columns  of the Church Times, or studious clergymen who may be flattered into taking charge of his

Bleak expectations

Shiva Naipaul died unexpectedly in the summer of 1985, six months after his 40th birthday. In his decade and a half on Grub Street, he published three novels, a brace of polemical travelogues and the scintillating miscellany of stories and occasional pieces collected in Beyond the Dragon’s Mouth (1984). An Unfinished Journey, an account of