Jeremy Treglown

The gentle intoxications of Laurie Lee

He was always lucky, and he knew it: lucky in the secure rural intimacy of the upbringing described in Cider with Rosie; in the love of some passionate, clever women, whose guidance and support get rather less than their due in As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning; and in having survived the Spanish civil

‘Saul Bellow’s Heart’, by Greg Bellow – review

Greg Bellow, a retired child psychotherapist in his late sixties, is the eldest of the novelist Saul Bellow’s offspring. Bellow Sr (pictured above in 1984), as we already knew from his part-autobiographical fictions and a readable, well-sourced critical biography by James Atlas published in 2000, was a fairly dutiful, not unaffectionate father but didn’t see

The masters in miniature

Jeremy Treglown finds something for everyone in Penguin’s new Mini Modern series It’s a cool silver-grey in colour, weighs two and a half ounces and fits flexibly into your pocket. It opens easily to reveal words imaginatively chosen and arranged in sequences so absorbing and surprising that they can make you miss your bus stop.

Lost and found | 20 May 2009

‘Book for book,’ John Banville is quoted as saying on the cover of this one, ‘[Graham] Swift is surely one of England’s finest novelists.’ This may be Irish for ‘but of course he hasn’t written all that much’, though eight novels and a collection of short stories isn’t bad going and it would be odd

Do tell me some more about Devonshire

So I Have Thought of You: The Letters of Penelope Fitzgerald, edited by Terence Dooley ‘I can’t remember whether you said you liked Barbara Pym,’ Penelope Fitzgerald wrote to an old school friend around 1980, ‘but am sending Quartet in Autumn in case you haven’t got it, otherwise it can go to the Mothers’ Union

Stein and Toklas Limited

As in her brilliant study of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, Janet Malcolm’s focus in Two Lives is on the writing of biography, especially the biography of a couple — here, the ebullient Gertrude Stein and her ugly, much exploited lover, Alice B. Toklas — and, behind that, the construction of identity itself. Like Stein’s

Sticking close to his desk . . .

The Several Lives of Joseph Conrad by John Stape Why did he do it? In his late thirties, Joseph Conrad abandoned the modestly successful career as a seaman which he had steadily built up. Though the job involved tiresome exams and increasing responsibilities, it had been his ‘great passion’, he wrote a dozen years later.

The dangerous edge of things | 10 February 2007

If you are English and love the poetry of Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, Zbigniew Herbert or Czeslaw Milosz, you probably have Al Alvarez to thank, directly or indirectly. The unostentatiously brilliant, cosmopolitan reviews Alvarez contributed to the Observer over a decade from the mid- 1950s, together with his taste-changing 1962 anthology The New Poetry and

A voracious collector

‘The only novelist now writing in English whose works are likely to stand as literary classics…who has the power, range, knowledge, and wisdom of a Tolstoy or James.’ Verdicts like this American one on John Fowles were a lot more common in the 1960s and 1970s than they have been since, and in the USA

Past glories prove elusive

Despite many allusions to Virgil and a diligent summary of various interpretations of Poussin’s ‘Les Bergers d’Arcadie’, Ben Okri’s main sense of Arcadia, with its ‘star-dust magic’, seems to be derived from pop music lite. ‘We are stardust, golden’, sang Eva Cassidy in Woodstock, ‘and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.’ Anyone