H.G. Wells resembled a prosperous small businessman who liked to remind people he had served a term as lord mayor. He talked too much, a failing exacerbated by his reedy, high-pitched voice with lingering...

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Despite their diversity, it is possible to discern a figure in the carpet of Malcolm Bull’s books. They are all about what one might call lessness: the emancipatory power of weakness, failure, diminishment,...

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Peachy: LA Rhapsody

David Thomson, 27 January 2022

As if a book as good as this can really be expected to flourish. As if, even in LA, there is a crowd waiting for a meditation on Tuesday Weld, let alone Eleanor Perry, Carole Eastman, Warren Zevon or Renata...

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Just Look at Them: Ears and Fingers

Jonathan Beckman, 27 January 2022

Giovanni Morelli described his method as ‘experimental’, but it might more properly be thought of as comparative. He paid particular attention to ears and fingers, claiming that artists always drew...

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Make ’em bleed: ‘The War for Gloria’

Adam Mars-Jones, 27 January 2022

A degenerative illness like ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), brings with it something less welcome, an implacable rival narrative. Some such conditions, like multiple sclerosis, can go into remission....

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Story: ‘Four Talks’

Anne Carson, 6 January 2022

No one to talk to is a factor in interrogation. How would you do pitted against men who need no solace, saying things like, We are not lonely, you are lonely. Your new shoes are pathetic. Do not lounge...

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Strap on an ox-head: Christ comes to Stockholm

Patricia Lockwood, 6 January 2022

The literary stomach of the world is a goat’s, not a hummingbird’s, and Karl Ove Knausgaard knows it. He tosses us crumpled newspapers, cardboard cups, grocery lists – all the detritus that makes...

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Outsourced Emotions: Katie Kitamura

Nicole Flattery, 6 January 2022

Katie Kitamura is interested in the moment when a performance collapses, when the void underneath the expressionless mask is revealed. But sometimes it’s hard to resist being beguiled.

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Poem: ‘All of the People’

Leontia Flynn, 16 December 2021

Dense clouds of starlings ripple on our skylines.Wildebeest thunder collectively over the plain.Fireflies blink. Bamboo-forests blossom at once.Round the innocent cell, bacteria follow the...

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A Whack of Pies: Dear to Mew

Matthew Bevis, 16 December 2021

‘The moonlight​ drips on the parlour floor;/I shall go mad if no one wipes it up.’ So began E.V. Knox’s parody in the August 1921 issue of Punch.And the moon dripped upon the...

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Splashed with Stars: In Stoppardian Fashion

Susannah Clapp, 16 December 2021

Tom Stoppard has talked of putting on Englishness ‘like a coat’ when he arrived as an eight-year-old. A more sentimental biographer might have colluded in the suggestion that the coat could be shrugged...

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At the Movies: ‘Dune’

Michael Wood, 16 December 2021

‘Abeginning​ is a very delicate time,’ we are told in Frank Herbert’s novel Dune (1965), and again in David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation. None of that ‘a long time...

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Did he leap? ‘Harlem Shuffle’

Paul Mendez, 16 December 2021

Because in 1960s Harlem the odds were stacked so heavily against Black people, even if you weren’t a criminal yourself you risked being found guilty by association, or dragged down by those around you....

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Reading books like this, I feel like a Philip K. Dick character in the grip of wild-eyed madness. I want to run around telling the authors to snap out of it, to stop wasting their time and their Sontag...

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In a Tuft of Thistle: Borges is Coming

Robert Crawford, 16 December 2021

Anyone who has ever had to chaperone a demanding Man of Genius will recognise something of Jay Parini’s plight. Parini had to be Borges’s guide, driver, listener, eyes, protector, interlocutor, pal...

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In ‘Ignorance’ Rose Macaulay meditates on that ‘real delight in cruelty, such as Nero’s, or Caligula’s, or the Nazis’, which she ‘simply cannot begin to understand’. When war came, four...

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There is no world-transforming event that severs past from present; no survivors charged with finding a safe haven or with the daunting responsibility of rebuilding civilisation from the rubble; no prelapsarian...

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My father told me to return to my birthplace,the cave of Amnisos, and wait for a woman,that she would need me. I knew what that meant –he’d impregnated another mortal whore.I returned...

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