Diary: In the Day of the Postman

Rebecca Solnit, 29 August 2013

In or around June 1995 human character changed again. Or rather, it began to undergo a metamorphosis that is still not complete, but is profound – and troubling, not least because it is...

Diary: On Disliking Poetry

Ben Lerner, 18 June 2015

What if we dislike or despise or hate poems because they are – every single one of them – failures?

On Hating and Despising Philosophy

Bernard Williams, 18 April 1996

As long as there has been such a subject as philosophy, there have been people who hated and despised it.

I do not want to exaggerate, in a self-pitying or self-dramatising way, the present...

In​ the early 1990s, the historian Gretchen Gerzina went to a London bookshop looking for a copy of Peter Fryer’s Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (1984). When she...

Love that Bird: supersonic

Francis Spufford, 6 June 2002

August 1974. Compared to the Cortinas and Maxis in the carpark, the prototype Concorde taxiing onto the runway at RAF Fairford looked astonishingly modern: but then, it always would. For the next...

First Chapters

Ursula Creagh, 3 June 1982

In the first chapter of this book, a chapter which concerns the time of our marriage, Alvarez has cast me in a variety of roles, from Jungle Jane to Giant Sloth. It may come as a surprise to him...

Diary: From the Lighthouse

Peter Hill, 6 June 1996

I spent the most bizarre night of my life on Hyskeir. If I mention The Birds you will immediately understand. 

‘Somehow I find it very consoling to confide in her,’ he wrote to one of his girlfriends. ‘Perhaps because she never does anything to shatter my self-confidence or vanity.’

Self-Hugging: A Paean to Boswell

Andrew O’Hagan, 5 October 2000

Admiration is defined by Johnson in that Dictionary as ‘taken sometimes in a bad sense, though generally in a good’, and he was, for the greater part of his life, a great engine of self-admiration, as well as a copious begetter of admiration in other people. Yet none that loved him could easily match the love of James Boswell, who puttered along for many years, joyously, drunkenly, boisterously, earnestly, with his love of Dr Johnson both a wondrous act of worship and a curious kind of self-loving.

The Cult of Celebrity

Jacqueline Rose, 20 August 1998

Admitting to a passion for celebrity, it seems, is like flaunting a shameful secret. So there might be an intimate, even passionate, connection between the cult of celebrity and shame.

The African University

Mahmood Mamdani, 19 July 2018

The African university began as part of the European colonial mission, a precursor of the one-size-fits-all initiatives that we associate with the World Bank and the IMF. And so it continued, until decolonisation.

Story: ‘Story: ‘Cat-Brushing’’

Jane Campbell, 2 November 2017

Sometimes I watch her washing herself. She licks and licks and I wonder what it feels like. I wish I could lick myself. It was P. who was best at that.

Here I must come clean and admit that one of the Egyptians frustrating Mr Golding on his trip up and down the Nile is very close to me: Ala Swafe, the Goldings’ ‘minder’, is my brother, though he chooses to transliterate his name differently.

Diary: At Home with the Empsons

John Henry Jones, 17 August 1989

One Saturday morning as I lay in bed, dying of flu, William Empson burst into my room, very sprightly, saying: ‘Now come along Jones, you must get up and come to Stonehenge.’ I croaked an apology and claimed an imminent, prior appointment with the Lord God Almighty. ‘Oh dear. I am sorry,’ he said. ‘But you would do much better to come to Stonehenge.’