The Arts

The Mad Miss Bacon

The idea that William Shakespeare did not write his own plays was not a new one by the time Delia Bacon seized upon it. The first doubt had been cast in 1771 when one Herbert Laurence issued a book accusing the Bard of plagiarism and deer-stealing. This was roughly a century and a half after […]

On Asking The Wrong Questions

I work in genre. I’m not terribly interested in multi-generational family sagas or angsty on-off romances in Paris and Prague. I quite like existential crises in novels but anything with children leaves me cold (although there are plenty of exceptions). I greatly respect Kate Atkinson but can see her readers nodding their heads in recognition […]

Alice, Sweet Alice

To the Victoria & Albert museum for their highly praised ‘Alice in Wonderland’ exhibition, I decide that if anyone can do it the V&A can. These days it is a money-making concern with more rapacious officers than the East India Company, but they put on a great show. A confession; it is not a favourite […]

Missed In Translation Part 2

‘The Passenger’ by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz (passim) from Pushkin Press in the UK, has been translated clearly and concisely to echo its original German by a US translator, and I had to keep stepping over what were for me jarring Americanisms – ‘gotten’, train station’, ‘she wrote me’, etc – minor inconveniences when set against […]

Missed In Translation Part 1

What do Korean gangsters have to do with Madame Bovary? Their stories change according to who translates them into English. Translator Lydia Davis points out that she doesn’t have to enjoy what she’s translating; she does not care for Madame Bovary as a book or a character, but concentrates on accurately reflecting the author’s prose […]

Uncultured 2: What’s On My Cult Radar

  ‘The Passenger’ by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz There’s a big world of stories out there, and I’m drawn to expansive world imprints like Pushkin Press. I discovered the collected novels of Stefan Zweig at Pushkin, along with unfamiliar story collections from Gogol and Chekhov. Bringing together my twin obsessions, they also publish ‘Walter Presents’ novels […]

Uncultured 1: What’s On My Cult Radar

  HHhH by Laurent Binet ‘HHhH’ is enlightening and occasionally infuriating, but retelling an oft-told story is never easy. Binet’s Prix Goncourt winner concerns the legend of the London-trained parachutists who attempted the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, 1942, the events leading to the confrontation, the ambush itself, which played out like an action […]

Everybody Was Talking: The Making Of ‘Midnight Cowboy’

In 1947 Anaïs Nin arrived at Black Mountain College, Eden Lake, North Carolina – this was years before her notorious diaries – and met the handsome 20 year-old writer James Leo Herlihy. The college was experimental (and sounds rather wonderful). Herlihy would go on to write ‘Midnight Cowboy’. He and Nin were instantly fascinated by […]

Deutschland, Deutschland…

The most enjoyable lockdown box-set binge I enjoyed this year was Deutschland ’83, ’86 and ’89, the three season trilogy of the era-defining German drama that started in the UK on All4’s ‘Walter Presents’ and has now moved to Sky. It’s been pointed out that the Deutschland series has surface similarities to another show, The Americans. […]

Writing About People Like Us: Part 1

The world I grew up in is not the world that’s out there now. Every year there’s a competition among young BAME actors in America to perform the best monologues by August Wilson, whose ten-play ’20th century’ cycle is the gold standard by which black actors are judged. Although not well-known in the UK, his […]