James Lasdun

James Lasdun is writing a book about the Murdaugh murders in South Carolina.

Chumship: Upper West Side Cult

James Lasdun, 27 July 2023

In April​ 1986, the Village Voice published a long piece about a cult-like community on New York’s Upper West Side led by a group of psychotherapists. The therapists had somehow persuaded several hundred well-educated ‘patients’ to give them almost total control over their lives: most sensationally their sex lives, but also their work, finances, friendships and children....

If you’ve spent time at any of the private colleges and universities in the US, you may have been struck by something mirage-like about the campuses: a distinct lightness of being, despite the stony masses of the buildings. It’s partly an effect of the heavy deployment of architectural pastiche to create the illusion of antiquity, but it may also have to do with the fact that many of these institutions arose as much out of vanity or whim as necessity. If some magnate hadn’t been seized by the monument-building urge, they simply wouldn’t exist. Whatever else it may be, Sarah Lawrence is William Van Duzer Lawrence’s tribute to his wife, Sarah; Vassar is Matthew Vassar’s tribute to himself. Smith and Williams, in Massachusetts, sprang up to commemorate their donors. But for sheer iron-willed capriciousness and morbid narcissism, nothing comes close to Stanford – or rather, Leland Stanford Junior University, as it is still officially called. As the historian Richard White puts it in his lively account of the institution’s origins, ‘without the dead child – Leland Stanford Junior – the Stanford campus would be just another patch in the suburbs sweeping south from San Francisco.’

Fishing for Potatoes: Nissan Rogue

James Lasdun, 27 January 2022

Late​ in the evening on 29 December 2019, two men posing as musicians wheeled a pair of large audio equipment cases to the gate reserved for private jet passengers at Osaka’s international airport. The cases were too big for the regular X-ray machines, and the airport staff, no doubt exhausted from a long day processing holiday travellers, waved the men and their cargo through. Out on...

The plot​ sounds like Joseph Roth at his most cynically extravagant: a demobbed soldier, down on his luck, has a chance meeting with a political agitator on the rise, and the two forge an alliance that propels the soldier onto the world stage. He marries a rich American opera singer, governs an African colony, conducts an epic legal battle with the Vatican, embroils himself in the darkest...

Bats on the Ceiling: The Gospel of St Karen

James Lasdun, 24 September 2020

The​ Tenth International Congress of Coptic Studies was held in September 2012 at the headquarters of the Order of St Augustine in Rome. Among the speakers was Karen King, the first woman to hold the Hollis Professorship of Divinity, Harvard’s oldest endowed chair. King had made her name as an interpreter and champion of early Christian texts that asserted the spiritual authority of...

I’ll have to kill you: ‘The Fall Guy’

J. Robert Lennon, 20 April 2017

It isn’t until​ the halfway point of The Fall Guy, James Lasdun’s thrillerish new novel, that we are treated to its first overtly criminal act: breaking and entering. This book is...

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Internet-Enabled: Stalking James Lasdun

Nick Richardson, 25 April 2013

How do you feel about someone who loves you but wants to ‘ruin’ you; who massages your ego as she damages your career?

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‘A woman threw her glass of wine at me,’ James Lasdun’s second novel begins. At a party held by a wealthy philanthropist in New York, a woman walks up to the narrator and asks:...

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At the beginning of James Lasdun’s novel, Lawrence Miller, a professor of gender studies at a college on the outskirts of New York, is interrupted while reading a book. When he returns to...

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Getting on

Humphrey Carpenter, 18 July 1985

‘My idea of what a novelist should do is an old-fashioned one,’ says a character in the title story in Isabel Colegate’s collection A Glimpse of Sion’s Glory. ‘I...

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