Eat butterflies with me?

Patricia Lockwood

Strong Opinions​, a collection of Nabokov’s interviews, reviews and essays published in 1973, contains an interview with the great man so brazenly bad, so shocking in each successive clause, that as long as you’re reading it, you’re dreaming of the movie version. Picture Benedict Cumberbatch hunched over a legal pad, sweating lightly, pressing Vladimir Vladimirovich...


Warfare State

Thomas Meaney

If​ you’ve been following White House briefings and mainstream US media over the past four years, you could be forgiven for thinking that Trump has radically rewritten US foreign policy. In fact, despite Trump’s pledges to extract American soldiers from foreign conflicts, troop numbers have barely fallen overall and have risen in the Persian Gulf. The administration has been...

Short Cuts

Fox News President

Deborah Friedell

Four years ago​, my brother, a philosopher, advised me to gamble, exorbitantly, on Donald Trump becoming president. If Hillary Clinton won, he reasoned, so much the better. If she didn’t, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood were going to need the money. But I wasn’t interested in hedging my bets: I knew what was going to happen. At a ‘viewing party’ to celebrate the...


Cronyism and Clientelism

Peter Geoghegan

Within six months of resigning as Brexit secretary, David Davis was earning £3000 an hour as an ‘external adviser’ to JCB – itself a major donor to the Conservative Party. Nick Clegg now works for Facebook. Sajid Javid became an adviser to J.P. Morgan barely six months after leaving Number 11. Theresa May earned more than her annual salary as prime minister from two cancelled speeches she was to give to J.P. Morgan this year. Such stories only serve to feed voters’ growing mistrust of politics. Will politicians be willing to anger Silicon Valley or big banks if the same firms are likely to feather their nests almost as soon as they step away from the cabinet table? Is the implicit message that acquiescence in office will be rewarded with a well-remunerated sinecure? Westminster is intensely relaxed about the perception of impropriety. In Washington, powerful congressional committees investigated some of Donald Trump’s most trusted lieutenants. But British politicians have little to fear beyond reprimands from toothless watchdogs or lurid tabloid headlines.


Bad News

Writing about Murdoch, moguls and media power by Raymond Williams, Deborah Friedell, Andrew O’Hagan, Suzanne Moore, Ross McKibbin, John Lanchester, William Davies, Jenny Diski and Mary-Kay Wilmers.

Close Readings


Close Readings

Seamus Perry and Mark Ford’s ‘revolutionary … ★★★★★’ (The Times) podcast about British and American poets from the long 20th century.


The Lockhart Plot

Neal Ascherson

Most​ successful conspiracies are home-cooked – designed and carried out by men and women in their own nation (that leaves aside mere assassinations or terror bombings, which are frequently committed by intruders). It’s rare to come across a full-dress conspiracy, a planned scheme to overthrow and replace a government by violence, successfully mounted by one country against...


Ars Moriendi

Barbara Newman

This book​ begins with a paradox: we speak incessantly of death, yet can’t say anything about it because it has no being. A subsidiary paradox has long puzzled medievalists: ‘It is hard to tell, when you read only the poetry of the late 14th century, that the Black Death had ever arrived,’ D. Vance Smith writes. There is nothing in all English literature to parallel...


‘The New Wilderness’

Rosa Lyster

Recently,​ reindeer herders in the Russian Arctic discovered the perfectly preserved body of an Ice Age cave bear surging out of the Siberian permafrost. Cave bear skeletons have been unearthed before, but this was the first carcass to be found with soft tissue and internal organs still intact. The bear still has all its teeth, its fur, its evil-looking nose, perfectly designed for snuffling...

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