Spectator

Survivor syndrome

10 February 2010

The Suicide Run William Styron

In late middle age, William Styron was struck by a disabling illness, when everything seemed colourless, futile and empty to him. In fact, as he recalled in Darkness Visisble (1990),… Read more

Paris of the gutter

27 January 2010

Alphabet of the Night Jean-Euphele Milce, translated by Christopher Moncrieff

Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, lies on a marshy bay encircled by mountains. It was founded in 1749 by the colonial French and named after a vessel, Le Prince, which anchored… Read more

Reader, beware

11 November 2009

Telling Tales: A History of Literary Hoaxes Melissa Katsoulis

In this diverting, well-written history of deceitful and counterfeit literature through the ages, Telling Tales, Melissa Katsoulis chronicles a variety of fraudsters and fibsters, and their motives for hoodwinking the…Read more

Surviving the Middle Passage

18 February 2009

The Book of Negroes Lawrence Hill

The Book of Negroes, an historical romance, creates an unforgettably vivid picture of the Atlantic slave trade and the philanthropists who sought to oppose it. The novel opens in Africa… Read more

On the run in the Rockies

14 January 2009

The Outlander Gil Adamson

The Outlander, by Gil Adamson The Outlander, a strikingly good first novel by the Canadian poet Gil Adamson, is a drama of extremity and isolation set in the Rocky Mountains… Read more

Not under the volcano

13 February 2008

The Voyage that Never Ends edited by Michael Hoffmann

Ian Thomson reviews a collection of Malcolm Lowry’s poems, letters and fictions  Malcolm Lowry was a ferocious malcontent, who free-wheeled towards an early grave with the help of cooking sherry … Read more

Cargoes of despair

7 November 2007

The Slave Ship: A Human History Marcus Rediker

Not long ago, I was invited to lunch at a plantation home in Jamaica. The sound of cocktail-making (a clinking of crushed ice against glass) greeted me at Worthy Park… Read more

Dark heart of the deep south

1 August 2007

End Games Michael Dibdin

Last March, after an unexpected illness, Michael Dibdin died at his home in Seattle. His death came as a shock to fans everywhere of crime fiction. Dibdin had just turned… Read more

Meandering through the boondocks

28 March 2007

South of the River Blake Morrison

South of the River is a stadium-sized novel of over 500 pages. It has the scope and ambition of an American McNovel — Don DeLillo’s Underworld, say, or The Corrections… Read more

Out of joint

1 March 2007

T.S. Eliot Craig Raine

At a Clapham dinner party recently I was offered marijuana. Nothing unusual in that, only the joint took me to a far continent of anxiety; I had been inhaling skunk,… Read more

A cure for optimism

8 February 2007

With Vine-Leaves in His Hair Paul Binding

Henrik Ibsen’s fictional world of marital breakdown and sexual hypocrisy in the fjords and farmsteads of Norway spread an unfamiliar polar chill at the end of the 19th century. His… Read more

Hell and its afterlife

6 December 2006

Dante’s Inferno: A Verse Translation Sean O’Brien

In 1882, while on a lecture tour of America, Oscar Wilde was surprised to find a copy of The Divine Comedy in a Nebraskan penitentiary. ‘Oh dear, who would have… Read more

Going back to the books

Ian Thomson 2 November 2006

A Study in Greene Bernard Bergonzi

OUP, pp.208, 16.99

With almost 30 novels to his name, Graham Greene was a prolific chronicler of human faith and wretchedness. A writer of his stature requires a very good biographer and, at… Read more

Cocking a snook at Manhattan

3 December 2005

Summer Crossing Truman Capote

Born in New Orleans in 1924, Truman Capote wrote his first fiction at the age of eight. Or so he claimed. Rarely has a writer so elaborated his own legend;… Read more

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