Diary: Young Hong Kongers

Simon Cartledge, 29 July 2021

Looking back at the Hong Kong protests now – especially at the hundreds of hours of video footage on YouTube and elsewhere – I find it hard not to marvel at what happened. I’m also shocked...

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Barbara Pym’s comedies are disenchanted romances. Her spinsters often marry but do so with their eyes open. Men, they realise, are best treated as children – helpless and often peevish. Eligible...

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True Bromance: Ravi Shankar’s Ragas

Philip Clark, 15 July 2021

The rules stated which notes needed to be emphasised; the stress on certain notes locked others out of the design, thus creating the melodic shapes that gave each raga its personality. In performance,...

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The Terrifying Vrooom: Empsonising

Colin Burrow, 15 July 2021

Reading an Empson essay is like being taken for a drive by an eccentric uncle in a terrifyingly powerful old banger. There are disturbing stains on the upholstery and an alarming whiff of whisky in the...

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Diary: Class 1H

Ian Jack, 15 July 2021

As names were called, children stood up from the benches and gathered at the front, until an entire class had been assembled. A, B, C, D, E and F were called, and I was still there, waiting with around...

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Diary: A Branching Story

Joe Dunthorne, 1 July 2021

I had the constant sense that the next small edit would balance the whole thing out and I was always wrong. A branching story is like a creature with ten thousand limbs – if you tweak one toe, the...

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I am struck by her loneliness. She wanted to merge with the masses, to be anonymous and unobtrusive – a worker, a farmhand, a trade unionist, a soldier – one among many, working and fighting...

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The trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg began on 6 March 1951 and lasted sixteen days. The syndicated columnist Inez Robb offered a warning that went out in more than a hundred newspapers: Ethel might...

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The illusion of science, for a writer in the embryonic American marketplace, sold better than the real thing. But Poe had grand scientific ambitions, with which he persisted in the teeth of indifference...

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Diary: Oxford by Train

Patrick McGuinness, 17 June 2021

The canals and rivers of Oxford aren’t working waterways anymore, but livelihoods used to depend on them. Oxford’s crest – an ox ‘fording’ three wavy lines of water –...

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Female husbands expressed their masculinity through their choice of clothing, names, behaviours and, above all, their labour and their marriage status. As tavern keepers, soldiers, sailors, mountebanks,...

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A Parlour in Purley: Life as a Wife

Tessa Hadley, 17 June 2021

George Meredith couldn’t leave Mary Ellen’s story alone – in novel after novel he returned to portraits of women dissatisfied with their lumbering males, who are always one step behind...

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The pathetic fallacy is always narcissistic, but Eve Babitz’s type of narcissism is extravagantly grievous. Besides, she was once giddy at her own gorgeousness too: ‘I was always scaring the...

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I grew a beard: Biden on Crack

Christian Lorentzen, 3 June 2021

The lingo of meritocracy and comic book heroes is always at the ready when Hunter is scoring or cooking drugs. Proximity to a crack haunt sets off his ‘spidey sense’; becoming an expert addict...

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Angelic Porcupine: Adams’s Education

Jonathan Parry, 3 June 2021

The Education of Henry Adams is less about an aristocratic intellectual’s unsuitability for a democratic world than about an apprenticeship in an absorbingly difficult but vital modern skill. Adams...

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Diary: Fan Power

Mimi Jiang, 20 May 2021

Compared to xiangsheng, which is almost two hundred years old, stand-up comedy (mistranslated in Chinese as ‘talk show’) is still a baby. When Chinese overseas students moved back home in waves...

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Exemplary craftsman, incorrigible satyr, subversive joker, avid grievance collector, liberal humanist, good son, bad husband, bountiful benefactor, Philip Roth in his prickly contrarieties aroused an ambivalence...

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Daisy Chains: Sappho 1900

Emma Hogan, 20 May 2021

Sylvia Beach said that Americans came to the Left Bank for two things they couldn’t get at home, alcohol and Ulysses, but they also came for the cafés, the galleries, the nightlife. Butch...

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