Thomas W. Hodgkinson

Thomas W. Hodgkinson is the author of How to be Cool.

Trailing clouds of perfume

In his robust new biography of Alcibiades, David Stuttard describes how the mercurial Greek general shocked his contemporaries by adopting Persian customs: Certainly, he embraced their lifestyle, tying his hair up in a bun, curling his well-oiled beard (a symbol of machismo in the Persian court), dousing himself in the perfumes for which Sardis was

Everything we know is wrong

Reading The Mind is Flat is like watching The Truman Show and realising, while you’re watching it, that you are Truman. For anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, this is Peter Weir’s 1998 fable in which Jim Carrey discovers he is unwittingly the star of the most successful reality-TV show on the planet. His world

Demonised by history

Some oleaginous interviewer once suggested to Winston Churchill that he was the greatest Briton who ever lived. The grand old man considered the matter gravely. ‘No,’ he replied at length. ‘That was Alfred the Great.’ In his hefty, hard-to-pick-up History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Churchill expatiated on King Alfred’s foremost quality: it was his ‘sublime

Christianity triumphant – and destructive

In the late years of Empire, and early days of Christianity, there were monks who didn’t wash for fear of being overcome by lust at the sight of their own bodies. Some concealed their nakedness in outfits woven from palm fronds. One designed a leather suit that also covered his head. There were holes for

Sink or swim | 15 June 2017

I used to worry that I would never be a good writer because my childhood wasn’t interesting enough. I now think there must be some other explanation. Because the truth is that, when I was still pretty young, my parents banished me to an isolated community where for years on end I was compelled to

Dark and graphic

A woman birthing bloated speckled eggs from her supernaturally swollen womb. Sushi screaming and squirming. A skull-shaped sweet, bearing the message, ‘I was you.’ Doubting yourself. Knowing you don’t love your girlfriend. Waking beside someone beautiful and new, only to notice a filigree of knife-scars etched across her breasts. If, sensitive reader, these ingredients make

Mary Beard minds her S, P, Q and R

Having rattled and routed Mark Antony and his bewitching Egyptian at the battle of Actium in 31 BC, Octavian was on his way home to Rome when he was confronted by some punter. The man produced a talking raven, which obligingly squawked, ‘Greetings, Caesar, our victorious commander!’ Octavian was delighted at this evidence of loyalty,

How cool is Britannia?

Is it true that, having lost an empire, we reinvented ourselves as an island of entertainers? Do we channel the same rigour and vigour into film and music and literature as once went into conquering continents? Is there a residual colonialist bias in our arts, seen, for instance, in our cinematic penchant for creating patriotic

Nimble-witted wanderer

It was a certain unforgettable ex-girlfriend, Harry Mount confesses — named only as ‘S’ in his dedication — who came up with the idea for this new book, which he has therefore written to honour her, or in the hope of winning her back, or possibly, in some obscure way, to annoy her. Whichever it

How Hollywood is killing the art of screenwriting

Writing is dead. Long live writing. What do I mean when I say writing is dead? That’s a whole other article, but in brief: cinema killed the novel, email killed the letter, CGI killed cinema and Twitter killed email. The good news is that, despite this bloodbath, writing is actually alive and well and living

The man who went to Hell and back – for a laugh

Since the passing of Auberon Waugh, there haven’t been many really successful right-wing comedians. The Mayor of London is one. Another is the American journalist and wit P.J. O’Rourke. The alliterative title of The Baby Boom, his 20th book, essentially sums up its author’s style, his childlike boisterousness, his resonant infantilism. Its scarcely less suitable

Where artists went to drink and die

Once below a time (to quote the man himself) the bloated poet Dylan Thomas slouched back to New York’s Chelsea Hotel in the dead of night and informed his mistress that he had just drunk 18 straight whiskies, which he suspected was a record. He then dropped to his knees, lowered his head onto her