Philip Hoare

Albrecht Dürer’s genius for self-promotion

Albrecht Dürer, one of the most narcissistic artists that ever lived (and it’s a crowded field), would have loved this book. It lays out methodically, with academic brilliance, the marketplace, techno-aware basis of the ‘Dürer Renaissance’ and the artist’s rise to immortal fame. With a glorious accumulation of detail, assiduous research and – as she

We should learn to love sharks, not demonise them

Such a sublime, terrible beauty, the shark. Glidingly filled with our awe, as if those glassy eyes marked us out as a bite-sized snack from the start. Evolutionarily pre-lapsarian — they’ve been around for 450 million years — sharks are wreathed in a symbolic cruelty, theirs and ours. In one of the most vivid scenes

When will the slaughter end?

Nick Pyenson, curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, is quick to tell us he’s not a ‘whale hugger’. ‘I didn’t fall asleep snuggling stuffed whales or decorate my room with posters of humpbacks suspended in prismatic light.’ Pyenson sees whales through their ancestral bones, and their contemporary entrails, digging up

Pirates of the Southern Ocean

Sea Shepherd is a radical protest group made famous — or notorious — by the American cable TV series Whale Wars and by the support of numerous Hollywood celebrities and rock stars. Having previously concentrated on obstructing whale-hunting from Japan to the Faroe Islands, it now focuses on other devastating acts of marine plunder. In

Not so cold-blooded

The recent furore over a freakshow ice rink in Japan, with hapless fishes embedded beneath the skaters’ feet, was inexplicable to some. The fish were dead already, weren’t they, bought from the market? What’s the difference between eating them and gliding over their artlessly strewn bodies, posed as if in a frozen shoal like the

Where did the joke end?

Lord Berners, by Peter Dickinson Lord Berners spent his life with his reputation preceding him.  Lovingly fictionalised as ‘Lord Merlin’, he of the multicolour dyed pigeons in Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, less sympathetically rendered as ‘Titty’ in Harold Nicolson’s Some People, Sir Gerald Hugh Tyrwitt-Wilson, 14th Baron

Out of depth

Leviathan or, The Whale, by Philip Hoare On the beautiful jacket of this book, a whale disappears from view. Its blue flukes are all that are left behind as its body slips away unseen. That tail-only view has become what we know of the whale. It is the picture of our ignorance. We don’t know