Philip Roth is awarded a medal by President Obama. He deserves more. Image: Getty.

Philip Roth retires

10 November 2012 14:51

Philip Roth has retired. He told a French magazine that, at 79, he was ‘done’. There will be no more books. For the little it is worth, I think he… Continue reading

In Flanders fields the poppies grow. Where else in literature do they grow? Image: Getty.

Poppy appeal

8 November 2012 16:30

As Remembrance Sunday draws closer and we pin poppies to our coats, we can also see them adorning the jackets of books. This powerful symbol of remembrance features on the… Continue reading

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Samuel Richardson's Pamela - 'virtuous herione' or 'pert little minx'? Image: Getty

Puffing Pamela: Book hype, 18th-century style

7 November 2012 17:11

There are quite a few candidates competing for the title of the first novel in English literature. You can make a strong case for Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719, or… Continue reading

A novel about the Tory Wars had to be a story of ambition and fragile leadership. Image: Getty

Writing the Tory Wars

6 November 2012 16:37

On starting a new job at Westminster in the early 2000s, and despondent about my party’s lot, I began to write a political novel. Aspiring writers are told to write… Continue reading

The Collini Case is a fictionalised account of a murder that took place in Berlin. Image: Getty.

Review: The Collini Case, by Ferdinand von Schirach

31 October 2012 10:30

During the Second World War both Germans and Allies routinely shot civilians in reprisal for attacks on their armed forces. One shudders to think that a ratio could even be… Continue reading

Bobbies on the beat. Sir Kenneth Newman and chum beat the areas of North London described by Keith Ridgeway in Hawthorne & Child. Image: Getty

Review – Hawthorn and Child, by Keith Ridgeway

30 October 2012 10:30

‘The body is a multitude of ways of coming apart’ writes Keith Ridgeway in his most recent novel Hawthorn & Child. He describes these ways. It can be beaten, broken… Continue reading

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Cult author Mike McCormack talks to the Spectator about technology and the influence of J.G. Ballard on his short stories.

Cult status: an interview with Mike McCormack

26 October 2012 11:28

Mike McCormack published his first book of short stories Getting it in the Head in 1996. The debut earned him the Rooney Prize for Literature, and was chosen as a… Continue reading

Claude Monet taking in the air and the water lilies in his garden at Giverny, circa 1910. Image: Getty

Plein-air pleasures and the great indoors

24 October 2012 16:44

Some say it’s the walk there that does it. The promenade down a rambling city path and through a crowd of coffee-swigging commuters that fuels the inspiration that can only… Continue reading

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Lena Dunham is making money by being a voice of a generation of women. Image: Getty.

Jobs for the girls

22 October 2012 13:34

Unless you’re a twenty-something year old woman, you probably have no idea who Lena Dunham is. Well you will soon. Until now Dunham’s cult followers have been downloading her HBO… Continue reading

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'Train Dreams', by Denis Johnson, is the story of 'the old way of American life'. Images: Getty

Back to the start – Train Dreams, by Denis Johnson

22 October 2012 10:01

Train Dreams, the Pulitzer nominated novella by playwright, poet and U.S National Book Award winning novelist Denis Johnson, is the life story of Robert Grainer, a man who ‘had one… Continue reading

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Charlie Croker has a new book out. Image: Getty.

To take or not to take a pseudonym

18 October 2012 14:04

Literary pseudonyms have been on my mind lately, for a couple of reasons. The first is Salman Rushdie’s revelation that he chose ‘Joseph Anton’ as his cover name when in… Continue reading

Who will succeed Julian Barnes as the winner of the Booker Prize? Image: Getty.

Your guide to the Booker Prize

16 October 2012 10:29

Assorted literary grandees will squeeze into their tuxes this evening to compete for the Booker Prize. Of the debut novelists, one previous winner and a brace of old-timers, who stands the… Continue reading

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Ian McEwan has declared the novella to be the 'supreme literary form'. Where does this leave the novel? Image: Getty

Ian McEwan’s novel questions

15 October 2012 12:41

Brevity does not imply levity. That, at least, is the view of Ian McEwan. The national treasure was speaking at the Cheltenham Literary Festival over the weekend when he crowned… Continue reading


The great shroud of the sea rolled on – reading Moby-Dick

11 October 2012 18:27 is a website. It adapts Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick into an online audiobook. The content is rich: what tech executives might call “trendily interactive”, in that there are Facebook… Continue reading

China's Consumption Of Coal Steadily On The Rise

Should literature be political?

8 October 2012 17:46

‘Should literature be political?’ Njabulo S Ndebele asked Open Book Cape Town the other day. Ndebele, a renowned academic in South Africa, has written a précis of his speech for… Continue reading

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Haruki Murakami's '1Q84' has been removed from bookshops in Beijing; George Orwell would have seen the irony. Image: Getty.

China bans Haruki Murakami’s ’1Q84′: George Orwell would have seen the irony

27 September 2012 9:01

Books – or lack thereof – are the latest manifestation of anti-Japanese sentiment in China. The escalating dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands has provoked some Beijing bookshops to remove Japanese… Continue reading

'John Saturnall's Feast' would have been the ideal setting for Lawrence Norfolk's full descriptive talents. Image: Getty.

Review – John Saturnall’s Feast, by Lawrence Norfolk

25 September 2012 15:16

Lawrence Norfolk has always liked to centre his novels around a mixture of existing and constructed myth, and then let the action which happens centuries later be informed by or… Continue reading

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JK Rowling is turning her pen on the people she knows best: the middle class. Image: Getty.

Of snobs, nobs and plebs

24 September 2012 17:17

The muggles of Tutshill, Gloucestershire, have a bone to pick with J.K. Rowling. Tutshill is where Rowling spent her unhappy teens and apparently it is the model for Pagford, the… Continue reading

'Story of O' recalls what the Greeks knew best, everything in moderation. Image: Getty.

‘Story of O’ and the Oral Tradition

21 September 2012 14:40

A fascinating case was recently brought before the Italian courts. After six years of conjugal submission to her padrone (far better than master, give it that) a woman has filed… Continue reading

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Indian Muslims burn an effigy of Salman Rushdie. Image: Getty.

Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’ revisited

17 September 2012 11:34

The publication of Joseph Anton (tomorrow), Salman Rushdie’s much anticipated memoir, has given newspapers cause to revisit The Satanic Verses. The commentary focuses on the bloodthirsty and backward response that the… Continue reading

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A Possible Life is a rewarding and subtly engrossing novel. Image: Getty.

Review – Sebastian Faulks’s A Possible Life

14 September 2012 17:38

In a promotional video clip, Sebastian Faulks describes his new novel, A Possible Life, as like ‘a symphony in five movements… or an album in which the tracks are separate… Continue reading

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Howard Jacobson's Zoo Time has some claim to be the first great novel about the revolution reading is currently undergoing. Image: Getty.

Review: Zoo Time by Howard Jacobson

14 September 2012 15:19

Winning the Booker can do strange things. For one, critics tend to become noticeably shyer around authors with some bling in their trophy cabinets, hyperbole blunting their edge. But if… Continue reading

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Javier Marías is bound to win the Nobel Prize for Literature at some point, so it’s best to make sure that you’ve something to say when he does. Image: Getty

An introduction to Javier Marías

13 September 2012 12:31

The fundamental purpose of the literary critic is to incentivise his audience to read books of which he approves. He has two means at his disposal. The first of those… Continue reading

We English speakers owe so much to our roguish forebears, who revolutionised our language. Image: Getty

The language of criminals

13 September 2012 10:47

The English language is, as English would have it, an odd duck.  Its nuances are capricious — to the non-native, maliciously so — but its lyricism widely praised. My preoccupation… Continue reading

What does Howard Jacobson make of today's Booker Prize shortlist? Image: Getty.

Booker Prize shortlist announced

11 September 2012 13:10

The 2012 Booker Prize shortlist has been announced. The runners and riders are: Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists (Myrmidon Books) Deborah Levy, Swimming Home (And Other Stories/Faber &… Continue reading