The Spectator



Carlos Acosta, the great dancer, should be a full-time novelist

Ian Thomson 2 November 2013

Pig’s Foot Carlos Acosta, translated by Frank Wynne

Bloomsbury, pp.333, £12.99, ISBN: 9781408833704

Carlos Acosta, the greatest dancer of his generation, grew up in Havana as the youngest of 11 black children. Money was tight, but Carlos won a place at ballet school,… Read more


Italo Calvino’s essays, Collection of Sand, is a brainy delight

Ian Thomson 26 October 2013

Collection of Sand: Essays Italo Calvino translated by Martin McLaughlin

Penguin Modern Classics, pp.240, £9.99, ISBN: 9780141193748

The Japanese are sometimes said to suffer from ‘outsider person shock’ (gaijin shokku) when travelling abroad. Recently in London we had a lodger from Hiroshima who wanted to practise his… Read more


Stephen King isn’t as scary as he used to be, but ‘Doctor Sleep’ is still a cracker

Ian Thomson 5 October 2013

Doctor Sleep Stephen King

Hodder, pp.485, £19.99, ISBN: 9781476727653

Though alcohol withdrawal is potentially fatal, booze has none of the media-confected glitz of heroin (imagine Will Self boasting of a Baileys Bristol Cream addiction). The 17th-century word for the…Read more


Mr Loverman, by Bernardine Evaristo – review

Ian Thomson 14 September 2013

Mr Loverman Bernadine Evaristo

Hamish Hamilton, pp.307, £8.99, ISBN: 9780241145784

In 1998, the Jamaican singer Bounty Killer released a single, ‘Can’t Believe Mi Eyes’, which expressed incredulity that men should wear tight trousers, because tight trousers are an effeminate display…Read more


An Armenian Sketchbook, by Vasily Grossman – review

Ian Thomson 17 August 2013

An Armenian Sketchbook Vasily Grossman, translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler

MacLehose Press, pp.221, £12, ISBN: 9780857052353

Vasily Grossman, a Ukranian-born Jew, was a war correspondent for the Soviet army newspaper Red Star. His dispatches from the front between 1941 and 1945 combined emotional engagement with independent-minded… Read more


A Trip to Echo Spring, by Olivia Laing – review

Ian Thomson 10 August 2013

The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink Olivia Laing

Canongate, pp.340, £20, ISBN: 9781847677945

The boozer’s life is one of low self-esteem and squalid self-denial. It was memorably evoked by Charles Jackson in his 1944 novel The Lost Weekend; having hocked his typewriter for… Read more


Inferno, by Dan Brown – review

Ian Thomson 25 May 2013

Inferno Dan Brown

Bantam, pp.462, £20, ISBN: 9780593072493

The other day, while shopping in Tesco, I was surprised to find copies of the Inferno for sale by the checkout. ‘Oh dear’, I declared, ‘who would have thought of… Read more


‘The Making of a Minister’, by Roy Kerridge

Ian Thomson 20 April 2013

The Making of a Minister Roy Kerridge

Custom Books, pp.59, £11.99, ISBN: 9780956918413

Back in the 1960s, England was a bad disappointment to many West Indians. In the grey city streets with their scruffy, bay-fronted houses they looked for somewhere to live. Many… Read more


‘Well Done God!: Selected Prose and Drama of B.S. Johnson’, edited by Jonathan Coe – review

Ian Thomson 6 April 2013

Well Done God!: Selected Prose and Drama of B.S. Johnson Jonathan Coe (ed)

Picador, pp.471, £25, ISBN: 9781447227106

B.S. Johnson railed intemperately at life, but in his fiction at least he found a lugubrious comedy in human failings. In 1973, aged 40, he killed himself by slashing his… Read more


‘Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England’, by Neil McKenna – review

Ian Thomson 9 March 2013

Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England Neil McKenna

Faber, pp.396, £16.99, ISBN: 9780571231904

Mick Jagger, the Danny La Rue of rock, impersonates a woman on the cover of the 1978 Stones album Some Girls. Vaudeville performers in the Jagger mould love to put… Read more


A model of micro-history

Ian Thomson 26 January 2013

World War Two: A Short History Norman Stone

Allen Lane, pp.238, £16.99, ISBN: 9781846141393

Adolf Hitler considered jazz a ‘racially inferior’ form of American black music, and banned it from the airwaves. Germany’s gilded youth flouted the prohibition by playing Duke Ellington in secret… Read more


Erratic historian of alternative pop

Ian Thomson 8 December 2012

Copendium: An Expedition into theRock’n’Roll Underworld Julian Cope

Faber, pp.736, £30, ISBN: 9780571270330

Julian Cope, the well-read jester of English pop, was the founder member of the 1980s art-rock combo The Teardrop Explodes. With his antic appearance (Rommel overcoat, wild tawny hair), he… Read more