Is 'Sherlock' compassionate or imaginative?

Writers tend to the Left because they have imagination, not compassion

10 February 2014 14:00

I apologise for writing a blogpost about a tweet, which can look a bit like over-analysis, but I was intrigued by a couple of things that writer Graham Linehan wrote… Continue reading


Has anything in the recent past had a bigger effect on writers and writing than Twitter?

12 September 2013 9:30

I’ve been trying to think of something – anything – in recent years that has had a bigger effect on the working day of the average writer than Twitter. And… Continue reading

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

David Miliband's tragedy is that he can't express himself in plain English. Here are five lessons for him.

5 lessons for David Miliband to learn in New York

8 August 2013 16:21

I have the impression that David Miliband’s valedictory essay in the latest issue of the New Statesman contains some really corking ideas; but I can’t see them through the words. David Miliband’s tragedy… Continue reading

Cumbrian Rural Bus Services Faces Cutbacks

The slow slide into senility

18 July 2013 10:16

Senility is a cunning mistress. She’s always finding new ways to twist your melon, man. The latest trick she’s playing on me is Western House Syndrome. I should point out… 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

Penny Red (Penny Laurie) speaking at rally. Image: Press Association

Dear Laurie Penny, please explain this

5 June 2013 15:54

Mr Steerpike has checked his privilege, and he’s a radical feminist. Middle class, self-loathing and instinctively liberal, how could he not be? A devotee of feminist blogs, I was intrigued to… Continue reading

Writing books is about selling books. A book should be judged by its cover; and its index, and its subheading; and typeface; and so on. Image; Getty

Writers are tarts

14 February 2013 13:48

Tarts. That’s what we are, really, us writers. Not just in the general sense of loving attention – also in the more specific, ‘professional’ meaning of the word. Our living… Continue reading

P. G. Wodehouse

In praise of Plum

8 February 2013 12:26

This blog post is not going to say anything original. You’ll have read it all before. Its sole purpose is to convince you that P.G. Wodehouse is the master so… Continue reading

A picture taken from the recent show drawing inspiration from Titian's Diana and Actaeon

Bad Sex Award

29 November 2012 9:53

Loins are girded and members tumescent, for next Tuesday sees the presentation of this year’s Bad Sex Award. The Literary Review’s annual prize for the worst description of sex in… Continue reading

A wrecked Pontiac, one of the items displayed in J.G. Ballard's 'The Atrocity Exhibition'. Image: Getty.

Meeting J.G. Ballard

20 November 2012 19:00

In the programme Frost on Interviews that was recently rebroadcasted by BBC Four, the distinguished journalist, David Frost, attempted to understand what makes a compelling interview. Frost’s programme concentrated primarily… Continue reading

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Somerset probably would have approved of NaNoWriMo, a scheme that encourages aspiring authors to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. Image: Getty

Write a novel in a month

15 November 2012 17:54

Could you write a novel in a month? Plenty of people around the world are trying to do just that right at the moment. November, you see, is National Novel… Continue reading

Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' manuscript - the days of writing in long hand have passed, but what of correcting in long hand? Image: Getty.

Paper talk

1 November 2012 10:35

The rainforests must be jumping for joy these days. Which is ironic, as they’ve largely got Amazon to thank for it. As the e-book continues its rise, there’ll be less… 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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Enid Blyton had a 6,000-a-day habit. Image: Getty

How many words are there in a day?

4 October 2012 14:37

‘Write your own name a hundred times,’ T.H. White once commented, ‘and you will be bored; seven hundred times and you will be exasperated; seven thousand times, and your brains… Continue reading

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

'His thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision.' Dr. Watson describes Sherlock Holmes. Image: Getty.

Do we need to know what a character looks like?

6 September 2012 10:06

How much attention do you pay to the physical descriptions of characters in novels? Interviewed on Five Live recently about her latest book NW, Zadie Smith said that she never… Continue reading

Robert Hughes

Robert Hughes RIP

7 August 2012 12:02

It has been a bad week for men of letters, with the loss of Gore Vidal a few days ago and Robert Hughes today. Gore was famous for his feuds,… Continue reading

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Participants at the 13th Summit of franc

Nabokov’s true love

4 July 2012 8:45

When Vladimir Nabokov’s unfinished book (not quite a novel, not quite a novella) The Original of Laura was posthumously released in 2009, consternation over whether it was right to publish… Continue reading

The 2011 New Yorker Festival: Jonathan Franzen Talks With David Remnick

The art of fiction: Jonathan Franzen, essayist

15 June 2012 18:30

Do great novelists make great essayists? Not in the case of Jonathan Franzen, at least according to Phillip Lopate, who reviewed Franzen’s new essay collection Farther Away for the New… Continue reading


RIP Ray Bradbury, 1920 – 2012

6 June 2012 18:15

The revered science fiction, horror and mystery writer Ray Bradbury has died aged 91. He was best known for Fahrenheit 451, his blockbuster of 1953. He became known as a… Continue reading