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William Skidelsky

William Skidelsky is an editor at the New Statesman.

Jonathan Lethem and back-street superheroes

William Skidelsky, 24 June 2004

Jonathan Lethem’s novels tend to be fusions of genres. As She Climbed across the Table (1997) is a science-fiction campus novel; Girl in Landscape (1998) an SF western. Gun, with Occasional Music (1994), his first novel, is a detective story set in a dystopian future. Narcotics are doled out by the state, and knowledge of the past has been eradicated. Children have been genetically...

Geoff Dyer

William Skidelsky, 25 September 2003

Geoff Dyer announced recently that he wasn’t ‘very interested in character and not remotely interested in story or plot’. For someone who writes novels (I hesitate to use the word ‘novelist’), this is a striking admission. Dyer, who was born in 1958, has so far written three. His first, The Colour of Memory (1989), is set in Brixton during the 1980s, and records...

Annie Proulx

William Skidelsky, 6 March 2003

The Texas and Oklahoma panhandles are adjacent strips of high flat land sticking out across the base of the Great Plains. This overlooked territory is where Annie Proulx sets her fourth novel, a determinedly eccentric comedy about a dreamy 25-year-old called Bob Dollar. When he was eight, Bob’s parents moved to Alaska, leaving him on the doorstep of his Uncle Tam’s ‘Used but...

Nick McDonell

William Skidelsky, 5 September 2002

Nick McDonell’s first novel (written, in case you haven’t read a newspaper recently, when he was 17) is set on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and focuses on a group of teenagers from that neighbourhood. With a couple of exceptions, the characters in the novel are immensely privileged: they attend – or have attended – boarding schools; they live in luxurious...

From The Blog
20 July 2018

I went to last Sunday’s World Cup final with my father (we sat in a box; a Russian friend of his had offered him two tickets). It was 22 years since I’d last been in Moscow. There was no sign now of the scruffy riotousness I remembered. Everything about the city gleamed: a giant project of beautification had been undertaken in the run-up to the World Cup. Decades of grime had been scrubbed from the buildings, and a plethora of new roads, parks and pedestrian precincts built. The kerbside kiosks that had once sold vodka through the night were bulldozed two years ago, in an act of official vandalism unofficially known as the ‘Night of the Long Shovels’.

From The Blog
5 July 2014

I’ve been to Wimbledon twice this week. On Monday, I turned up at 8 a.m. and took my place in line for a ticket for the following day. Since each day’s order of play is only announced the previous evening, this was the one way I could be certain of seeing Roger Federer. There were 100 or so tents ahead of me, which meant I was definitely among the first 500, giving me a choice of any court. (When Andy Murray is playing, two nights’ camping is required.) I pitched my tent and spent most of the next 14 hours lounging around outside my tent or, when it was raining, inside it. I was occasionally tempted to sneak off, but a plummy-voiced steward told me that absences of more than an hour were likely to result in expulsion.

From The Blog
6 May 2014

This year's snooker World Championship final, which ended last night, was in its way a classic, despite there being no black-ball finish in the small hours. It was between the game’s most brilliant but volatile player, Ronnie O’Sullivan, and its most imperturbable strategist, Mark Selby, who put on a remarkable display of defensive ensnarement. Few people beforehand gave Selby much chance: when O’Sullivan’s head is together, as it has been recently, he is virtually unstoppable, particularly in a long match. (He had won all five of his previous world finals.) And at first, it seemed as if he would run away with this one, as Selby, looking jaded after a gruelling semi-final against Neil Robertson, struggled to find his game.

From The Blog
8 July 2013

As finals go, it wasn’t brilliant. But maybe that was for the best. As the commentators kept reminding us, yesterday’s match was all about ending ‘77 years of pain'. Had it been anything like as close as predicted, the pain involved in causing the pain to end might have been too much for Tim Henman, Sue Barker et al to bear. As it was, the only moment of overt tension came at the end of the third set, when Murray, serving for the match at 5-4, got to 40-0 before Djokovic pulled him back to deuce, and then had a chance to break. Had Murray lost that game, who knows what might have happened? But that particular avenue of heartbreak was avoided. To the conspicuous delight of David Cameron (front row of the Royal Box), Alex Salmond (second) and a pair of Hollywood actors who kept their jackets on throughout despite the heat, Murray won. How much does 'the country' really care?

From The Blog
3 July 2010

Having played quite brilliantly to crush the nation’s alternative outlet of sporting patriotism, Rafael Nadal's destiny in tomorrow's Wimbledon final seems clear: he will complete his comeback from last year's injury-induced loss of form to win his second consecutive Grand Slam and prove, once more, that he’s easily the best player in the world. But to do that he must beat Thomas Berdych, an opponent he can’t have contemplated facing at the start of the tournament. Berdych hasn’t exactly come from nowhere – he reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros and is seeded 12th at Wimbledon – but it’s still a major shock for him to have got this far, especially as he had to beat both Federer and Djokovic to do so. If he beats Nadal tomorrow, he would be Wimbledon’s most improbable winner since Richard Krajicek in 1996.

From The Blog
30 November 2009

Sport is very different when mediated by a television camera. On screen, you lose all sense of a ball's true speed, of the players' astonishing agility. Roger Federer's forehand on TV is still a thing of beauty, but it's something you can (almost) take for granted. Seeing it for real is a useful, if crushing, reminder of how far removed it is from anything you could come up with yourself. On two consecutive nights last week, thanks to some generous colleagues at the newspaper where I work, I went to the ATP World Tour tennis finals at the O2 arena (formerly the Millennium Dome) in Greenwich. The organisers went for maximum American-style razzmatazz. Before the players came out there was a long build-up involving flashing lights, a rousing voiceover, and clips of interviews displayed on giant screens suspended from the ceiling.

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