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Literature

George Saunders wins the Folio Prize for his book Tenth Of December. Photo: Ian West/PA Wire

New literary award launches. But is the Folio Prize just a pretentious version of the Booker?

11 March 2014 13:53

The British Library isn’t the first place I associate with contemporary fiction. For me, it’s about the Tudor manuscripts: the support and expertise of the manuscript room staff is second… Continue reading

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Religion may be inherently strong, but without belief it is weak. (TENGKU BAHAR/AFP/Getty Images)

The inherent strength of religion cannot mask the fragility of Christian belief in Britain

10 February 2014 10:04

Terry Eagleton, the Marxist literary critic, has been something of a hero of mine since the publication of his Reason, Faith and Revolution, a thoroughgoing demolition of the Richard Dawkins… Continue reading

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Image: Getty

‘A Radical Imagination’ – Doris Lessing in the Spectator

18 November 2013 13:34

Doris Lessing’s obituaries, as much as her writings, bear witness  to the great turbulences of the twentieth century. How many of us spent our childhood in two countries which have… Continue reading

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The trailer from Danny Boyle's recent National Theatre adaptation of Frankenstein starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller.

What if Byron and the Shelleys had live tweeted from the Villa Diodati?

2 September 2013 13:38

It’s one of the most famous – indeed infamous – episodes in English literary history. In the summer of 1816 Lord Byron took a villa on the banks of Lake… Continue reading

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Elmore Leonard has died aged 87.

Elmore Leonard dies aged 87

20 August 2013 15:18

Elmore Leonard has died aged 87. Leonard began his career as a hack and ended it as a modern master. His rule was: ‘if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it’. His writing became… Continue reading

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Two scenes in Henry VIII’s Psalter, illuminated by Jean Mallard, depict the king as David: (right) in the role of penitent and (left) fighting the mighty Goliath of Pope Paul III

The week in books – Tudors, thinkers, dreamers and boozers

9 August 2013 15:54

The book reviews in this week’s issue of the Spectator is worth the cover price. Here is a selection of quotes from some of them. The historian Anne Somerset enjoys… Continue reading

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Would you hide the cover of your book from prying eyes on the Tube?

Would you hide the cover of your book from prying eyes on the Tube?

1 August 2013 9:05

‘Would you mind if I asked what your book is?’ She was in her late-thirties, with dark hair and a serious demeanour. Her reply to my question took a few… Continue reading

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A visitor examines 'The Illustrated Odyssey' of Marc Chagall (Jose CABEZAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Which Ulysses is the most heroic?

29 July 2013 15:13

From ‘Ulysses’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson                                     Come, my friends, ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world. Push off, and sitting well in order smite The sounding furrows;… Continue reading

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Summer is a time for reading. Why not re-read a favourite book? (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/GettyImages)

Summer reading? What about summer re-reading?

25 July 2013 10:17

What will you read over the summer? The newly announced Booker longlist? A selection of books from newspaper and magazine summer reading lists? A book that a Spectator columnist is… Continue reading

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Pride and Prejudice Ball To Celebrate The 200th Anniversary Of The Book

Alexander Pope, mock-epic, modernity and misogyny

16 July 2013 12:01

from The Rape of the Lock And now, unveiled, the toilet stands displayed, Each silver vase in mystic order laid. First, robed in white, the nymph intent adores With head… Continue reading

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Enthusiasts Take Part In The Annual Reenactment Of The Battle Of Hastings

The 10 “best” historical novels, sort of…

19 June 2013 11:35

The BBC adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen, which began last Sunday, has led numerous books editors to pick their 10 best historical novels. I played this silly dinner… Continue reading

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Prize winning novelist Ben Fountain warns that writers must never trust politicians.

Ben Fountain interview: Lies are an affront to writers because lying is the corruption of language

18 June 2013 16:23

Ben Fountain’s debut short story collection, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, was published in America eighteen years after he left his job at a Dallas real estate law firm to… Continue reading

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Visitors At The Hay Festival 2011

A dream come true

6 June 2013 10:03

It only took me twelve years as a published writer to get round to seeing one of my own books being printed. But when it came the experience set off… Continue reading

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(MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Sheila Heti: ‘I did worry putting sex in the book would eclipse everything else’

31 May 2013 9:27

There is a question which writers (and readers) of literary fiction get tired of hearing: which bits really happened? The traditional and respectable answer is that this doesn’t matter. Everything… Continue reading

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A picture of despair. Nick Compton walks back to the pavilion following his dismissal during the recent test match against New Zealand. (LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP/Getty Images)

Amateur fantasies and professional realities

30 May 2013 10:05

As was to be expected, it rained. Drizzle was in the air at times yesterday when the Authors XI turned out to mark 150 years of The Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack… Continue reading

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Fireworks explode over the stadium during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, an event that catalysed the measure of Chinese self-confidence captured in Chan Koon Chung's The Fat Years.

Chan Koon Chung – banned in China

29 May 2013 10:29

Chan Koon Chung’s previous novel, The Fat Years, was set in a gently dystopian Beijing of 2013, when a whole month is missing from the Chinese public’s awareness, and everyone… Continue reading

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Jane Austen’s pinny

28 May 2013 9:30

This is the third entry in an occasional series by Christopher Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Library. You can read the other instalments here. It’s almost two… Continue reading

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(MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Dangerous romance – Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley

21 May 2013 9:10

‘The bus company’s yellow tin sign on its concrete post seemed for a long while a forlorn flag announcing nothing,’ notes Stella, the narrator of Tessa Hadley’s new novel Clever… Continue reading

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A makeshift memorial for the victims of the Boston marathon bombing. Picture: Getty

God, guns and America

17 May 2013 15:27

While training as a playwright, I was taught that any gun brought onstage must go off. Anton Chekhov said, ‘One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no… Continue reading

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Lord Byron circa 1810, shortly after the publication of ‘Stanzas to [Mrs Musters] on Leaving England’, the poem which prompted his childhood friend Elizabeth Parkyns to write a savage riposte.

Taking revenge on wicked Lord Byron

15 May 2013 8:30

This is the second article in an occasional series by Christopher Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Library. You can read the first instalment here. By 1814, two… Continue reading

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Joe Dunthorne attending the premier of the film adaptation of his novel 'Submarine'. He was not included on Granta's list of Young British Novelists. (Photo by Fergus McDonald/Getty Images)

The power of Granta’s gift to British writers

19 April 2013 16:39

Philip Hensher was one of Granta’s 20 under forty in 2003, so what does he make of the new list? Writing in this week’s Spectator, he says that there are… Continue reading

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Charles Dickens as a very young man. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A.D. Harvey in The Spectator – a little tribute to Eric Naiman’s ‘When Dickens met Dostoevsky’

19 April 2013 15:22

Beginning with what he finds to be a rather implausible account of a meeting between Dickens and Dostoevsky, Eric Naiman’s recent essay for the Times Literary Supplement spins out an… Continue reading

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The Fun Stuff by James Wood is published by Jonathan Cape.

Interview with James Wood

12 April 2013 8:15

James Wood is arguably the most celebrated, possibly the most impugned, and definitely the most envied, literary journalist living. By his mid twenties he was the chief book reviewer for… Continue reading

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The British Library has been given the right to archive the digital world from today. An estimated billion pages a year will be available for researchers to access through the new archive.

The British Library goes digital

11 April 2013 9:09

If you go down to the British Library today, you’re sure of a big surprise. Because as of last weekend, it’s archiving not just every book published in the UK… Continue reading

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Ian McEwan pictured in 1979. His generation of English writers generally worship at the altar of realism. (Photo by Mike Moore/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

What is the point of fiction if not to expand horizons?

8 April 2013 9:00

While Ian McEwan’s recent piece in the Guardian is not expressly termed a treatise on the value of art, it is hard to see it otherwise. What is the use… Continue reading

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