Lost In My Lifetime

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I spent far too much time in the building above, a sumptuous art deco palace which was the Odeon Woolwich. It used to face another similarly grand cinema with a square in the centre, and could have become the Leicester Square of South London. It was certainly the only reason for visiting Woolwich, and developers […]

The Books That Defined The ‘Lifestyle Choice’ Era

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In 1977, Cyra McFadden’s novel ‘The Serial’ satirized the self-obsessed new-age lifestyles of affluent residents in Marin County, just North of San Francisco, with their organic vegetable gardens, tantric sex sessions and bicycle races to work. ‘I thought I was discovering myself,’ says one character, ‘but it turns out I was having a nervous breakdown.’ […]

A Bridge Too Far

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Many of the present road bridges over the River Thames are on the sites of earlier fords, ferries and wooden structures. The earliest known major crossings were built by the Romans; London Bridge and Staines Bridge. Folly Bridge in Oxford has the remains of an original Saxon crossing, and mediæval stone structures like Newbridge are still […]

Creating A Shared World

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If a novel is a window through which we might view an entire world, it is hardly surprising that writers wish to show their readers more of that world. It’s human nature to want to draw connections and make a cohesive whole, and yet, paradoxically, the best books and films are often those which leave […]

My Agent

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Her name was Serafina Clarke, and I met her through Santa Claus. She died a few days ago, in the village of Gaucin in Andalusia, which she had belatedly made her home – quite a jump from Shepherd’s Bush; but nothing about her was ever entirely expected. I still know very little about her – […]

Holmes Sweet Holmes

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Sherlock Holmes is far, far more than a brand now; he’s an international industry. He’s the reason why many Chinese visitors come to London. He has branches of his fan club in Argentina and Madrid. Like it or not, he represents a certain type of England. Soon after 1891, when ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ […]

The Rise Of Comfort Entertainment

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Noel Coward once said; ‘Television is not for watching. It is for appearing on.’ He may have been right, because that’s what a lot of British teenagers seem obsessed with trying to do. Yet TV viewing is up – so what’s the explanation? A media friend recently spent a day getting data results from a […]

By The Backwaters Of Amazon

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When I’ve read myself out and still need to spark ideas, sometimes I watch the weirdest footage I can find on YouTube (thereby red-flagging myself to some FBI outpost, no doubt), but lately Amazon has also become something of a curio corner for collectors of the obscure. Try their collections of cartoons for kids, and […]

Like Dickens? You May Also Like…

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I hate those Amazon pop-ups that recommend other books, because the algorithms completely misunderstand my reading habits – which are lateral-swinging, to say the least. Here are some rivals to Dickens that you might consider instead. George W M Reynolds Charles Dickens, whom he outsold, despised him. The literary establishment wrote him out of literary […]

Mexico’s Macabre Music

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File this under; Things I didn’t know yesterday. The Mexican film ‘Macho’ caused a sensation recently – but not for its outrageous subject matter, which involves a flamboyantly camp fashion designer hiding his heterosexuality to ensure that his sales remain high (it’s a comedy that turns surprisingly violent). Rather, it shocked because Renato López, the co-star, […]