The Arts

Three Taboos 2


Our next taboo concerns ghettoised writing. As someone who prefers inclusivity at any cost, I now feel impatient with the ghettoisation of certain types of literature; women’s writing, gay writing and to a lesser extent black writing, only because I find it hard to read about any section of the population in isolation from any […]


As I’m now only a short distance from the Mayan complex of Chichen Itza in Mexico’s Yucatan it occasions me to forget the astonishing history of this lost civilisation and recall instead the truly hideous 1970 TV special ‘Raquel!’ which featured Ms Welch singing and posing her way through different world locations with Tom Jones […]

The Eleven Minute Rule


I’ve been looking for patterns in reader satisfaction. Working on the Forgotten Authors project for so long has given me a sense of what proves popular, and it seems to me that readers are both open to originality and experimentation, and a good, simple idea well executed. What I think readers don’t like is over-complexity […]

Saturday Song!


While I’m having sight problems I’m using pre-prepared blog items every few days to get me through; they’re all new, but I can’t write lengthy perambulatory pieces about London at the moment. This week’s song comes from the opening of the 1979 Palme D’Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival ‘All That Jazz’, about the […]

How The Compass Lost Its Way


I suspect that when it comes to fantasy (although tell me I’m wrong) that you’re either a Harry Potter fan or you prefer the Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell trilogy. A more divisive choice lies between ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’ and ‘His Dark Materials’. The choice is complicated by the issue of […]

Woman Wanted: Must Be Ornamental And Under Thirty


We’ve come a long way since James Bond slapped a girl on the bottom and told her to fetch him lunch. Watching old Hollywood films yesterday, it was shocking to note how many of them gave no dialogue lines to women but simply dumped them from the plot once they’d taken a shower and walked […]

Censorship Is A Funny Thing


There’s been a lot in the academic press lately about the ways in which public-driven censorship is destroying free debate. Although this is currently more of a US talking point, what starts there usually ends here. Currently there are over a dozen books featuring drugs, abortion, race and LGBT issues on the US college libraries’ […]

The Death Of Fleet Street


The Fleet Street play ‘Ink’ has transferred from Islington’s local Almeida Theatre to the Duke of York’s in St Martin’s Lane, where I just saw it, and is a good example of a play whose seemingly esoteric subject reminds us of a pivotal point in British social history. It concerns the beginning of the end, […]

Rhymes With Orange: My Love/Hate Relationship With Poetry


A recent query wondered why there were no blog posts on poetry. The first poem I was ever heard was ‘Naming of Parts’ by Henry Reed. It needed one simple line of explanation from our primary school teacher; soldiers are sitting outside a summer’s day and being taught how to load a rifle, but the […]

‘Dialogue Is Not Conversation’


This is a nugget of wisdom that I vaguely recall comes from the marvellous Kenneth Tynan (although I may be wrong – he delivered far too many bon mots). I was thinking about this because I’m writing a dialogue-heavy book at the moment, and also posted Maggie Armitage’s texts, which I trimmed for content but […]