Christopher Tayler

Christopher Tayler is a contributing editor at the LRB.

Like Colonel Sanders: The Stan Lee Era

Christopher Tayler, 2 December 2021

In​ 1942, Ralph Ellison had a meeting with Fredric Wertham, the director of psychiatric services at Queens General Hospital in New York. Ellison, who was eligible for the draft, didn’t want to join a segregated army. A friend had suggested that Wertham might find a way to get him a psychiatric deferment. Wertham, a German Jewish emigrant, sympathised, and though a deferment...

Dead Ends: ‘Not a Novel’

Christopher Tayler, 7 October 2021

‘Ididn’t  write the book because I wanted to become a writer,’ Jenny Erpenbeck says of her first novel – a novella really – in one of the pieces collected in Not a Novel. She was 27, had studied opera directing and was working in a bakery in her native Berlin when she started writing what would become The Old Child (1999). The germ was a news story she...

C.S.Forester, the writer of the Hornblower books, died in California in 1966. His second wife inherited the bulk of his estate. His elder son from his first marriage, who inherited $5000, began to reappraise his relationship with his father. Years later, in a self-published biography, the son would depict Forester as a manipulative fabulist, a distant, self-centred parent, a cold-hearted...

From The Blog
17 December 2020

I used to have a pet theory – outlined in the LRB in 2007 – to explain why John le Carré’s later stuff didn’t have, as I saw it, the lightning-in-a-bottle quality of the novels he wrote in the 1960s and 1970s. He had been wrongfooted by social change. More specifically, the declining pay and prestige of most kinds of public service meant that intelligence bureaucracies could no longer serve in the same way as a microcosm of the dark heart of the British establishment. Plummy chaps who, pre-Thatcher, would have made their way from prep schools, public schools and Oxbridge to the higher reaches of the BBC, the Civil Service or MI6 – the chaps whose speech and behaviour le Carré had observed with an outsider-insider’s intentness when he was starting out – were overwhelmingly concentrated now in financial services and commercial law.

In​ Italo Calvino’s novel The Baron in the Trees, a boy climbs a holm oak to make a point. Fifty years later he’s still up in the treetops: he never touches the ground again. Martin Amis began a similar feat of heroic resolve in the 1970s, and whatever you make of his commitment to an all-consuming idea of style, you can’t say he makes things easy for himself up there. In...

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