Mark Amory

The bad boys of the Hypocrites Club

Members of the Hypocrites Club were Oxford undergraduates, and those with whom David Fleming’s book is chiefly concerned were born between 1903-5. It had originally been a respectable club, founded in 1921, its two most mentioned members being L.P. Hartley, the novelist, and David Cecil, the biographer and historian. But all that changed when Harold

A definition of glamour

‘Dark Star’ is a suitable enough title in itself, but the definition makes it a brilliant one: ‘A Dark Star’, we are told in this book, ‘is shadowed, often detectable by its gravitational effect on other bodies. It is often a component of a binary star and can cause the brightness of its visible partner

A familiar life (revisited)

A Life Revisited, as the modest, almost nervous, title suggests, mainly concerns Evelyn Waugh’s life with comments on but no analysis of his books. There have been at least three major biographies already, as well as large volumes of diaries, letters and journalism and many slighter volumes. There is more to come. Waugh’s grandson, Alexander,

Behaving badly

There has never been a film of The Merchant of Venice before. This is not surprising. Different Shakespeare plays give trouble to different ages: we are not at ease with Measure for Measure, The Taming of the Shrew or The Merchant because we do not share his views on, respectively, chastity, feminism and anti-Semitism. Also,

Juliet Townsend (1941-2014)

A new literary editor looks among his acquaintance for potential reviewers. There was no one I approached more confidently in 1985 than Juliet Townsend (who died on 29 November). She had been a friend for 25 years and run a bookshop since 1977 with her husband John. They had looked over my own books to

Mark Amory’s diary: Confessions of a literary editor

Until recently I used to claim that I had been literary editor of The Spectator for over 25 years; now I say almost 30. The trouble is I am not quite sure and it is curiously difficult to find out. Dot Wordsworth arrived on the same day as me but she cannot remember either. Each

Bookends: Musical bumps

In the Christmas issue of The Spectator there was a review of Showtime: A History of Broadway Musicals, a book which ran to 785 pages. Ruth Leon, in The Sound of Musicals (Oberon Books, £9.99), deals with the whole lot, well perhaps 20 in practice, in 128 much smaller ones; so she has to be

Bookends: Musical bumps | 14 January 2011

Mark Amory has written the Bookend column in this week’s magazine. Here it is as a blog exclusive In the Christmas issue of The Spectator there was a review of Showtime: A History of Broadway Musicals, a book which ran to 785 pages. Ruth Leon, in The Sound of Musicals, deals with the whole lot,

The Half

‘The Half’ is how actors refer to the half hour before their play begins, when they ready themselves, steady themselves, for their performance. For 25 years Simon Annand has been allowed to catch these vulnerable moments and the result is a series of intimate, revealing and beautiful portraits. Many of the subjects are famous, a

Isn’t saying The Brothers Karamazov rather idiotic?

On holiday I read (not reread I am afraid in my case, as people tend to claim about great classics) The Karamazov Brothers, in a new translation from Penguin. The moment I saw the title I wondered how we had all been persuaded to call it The Brothers Karamazov all these years. Talking about the

Have the Angry Young Men won out?

Proofs of The Letters of Noel Coward and a new book about the Royal Court Theatre arrived at The Spectator together and their conjunction made me wonder, who is winning? In 1956 Look Back in Anger arrived in Sloane Square and is supposed to have blasted the genteel primness from the London stage forever. A

The balloon goes up

Enduring Love by Ian McEwan has the most memorable opening of any modern novel. This might be thought to be a virtue but it is more of a problem. It is intensely visual, which again might seem to be helpful but again is not. Every reader, and there were many, carries a vivid version of

Weirdness in Washington

They don’t make ’em like The Manchurian Candidate of 1962 any more. That weird, creepy, paranoid thriller of the Cold War flopped at first, was given retrospective topicality by the assassination of President Kennedy, and became a cult. Though it is, like Citizen Kane, a brilliant film rather than a profound or serious one, those

Blood-brother and king-maker

At a garden party in Kampala, Uganda, in 1994 I overheard Tom Stacey, a tall elegant figure, saying with some urgency, ‘The Bakonjo when I first met them 40 years ago in the west of your beautiful country …’ and later noted, ‘Tom is fascinating for quite a long time about Rwenzori, their king Charles

Diary – 17 May 2003

The trouble with holidays is that when you return there is the same work to do and that much less time in which to do it; as well as no time at all, in my case, to acquire a birthday present for my wife or take the limping, mewing cat to the vet. My immediate