Spin doctoring

And so the election campaign begins.


Pic via @JohnFugelsang

Posted in Film, UK politics | Tagged ,

Remembering Saul Bellow

Is it true that “many people under the age of 50″ have barely heard of him? Lee Siegel, a devout admirer, certainly hopes a new biography will open doors to a new audience. His essay is over-long and maddeningly self-indulgent at times, but it has its moments. This one, for instance. You’d have thought Bellow and one of his most famous British admirers would have a lot in common. Seems not:

Several months after his death in April 2005, at the age of 89, I attended his memorial service, which was held at the 92nd Street Y. [Bellow’s agent Andrew] Wylie had organized it himself. He clearly wanted to use the occasion to rehabilitate Bellow and bring him back to the centre of the American literary pantheon — not to mention selling off that backlist. But there was a coldness and emptiness to the occasion. None of Bellow’s sons spoke. Bellow’s oldest friends, some of whom were still alive, did not appear onstage. No Stanley Crouch, whose friendship Bellow had cherished. Some of the prominent authors Wylie had invited to speak had either never met Bellow or barely knew him.

That afternoon, I found myself sitting next to a predictably drunk Christopher Hitchens, who whispered to me, “I should be up there,” despite the fact that when Martin Amis had introduced him to Bellow, Hitchens immediately drew Bellow into a nasty debate about Israel. Bellow loathed him. By the logic of the memorial’s sad axial lines, though, I guess Hitchens was right. He should have been up there.

Posted in Literature | Tagged , , , ,

Album of the week

“Her finest yet.” I review Bella Hardy’s “With the Dawn” in today’s Sunday Times [£].  Sounds like a masterpiece to me. Here’s the first single.


Posted in Music | Tagged ,

Quote of the day

Courtesy of .

Then they came for Katie Hopkins, and I did not speak out – I merely showed them where she was hiding.

Bad taste, yes, but I know how he feels…

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In Oxford today for the James Gillray exhibition. (Cartoonist Martin Rowson offers his take on the show in the Guardian.)

Posted in Art, Comedy, History, Politics | Tagged , , ,

Future format?

Mickey Kaus, one of the pioneers of political blogging, is trying out a new Twitterized set-up. Not because he’s wildly enthusiastic about the T-word, but because it offers hope of getting back to the spirit of the good old days:

kaus files new format


Posted in Social Media | Tagged , , ,

Retro Russian

soviet nostalgia bar bulgaria time

A Soviet nostalgia-themed restaurant and bar in Sofia. From Yana Paskova’s images of life in the new Bulgaria.

Posted in Photography | Tagged , ,

What millennials think about news

They’re quite keen on keeping abreast of current affairs, but handing over money can be  a problem for some of them:

“I don’t think you should pay for news,” Eric, a 22-year-old Chicagoan, said. “That’s something everybody should be informed in. Like, you’re going to charge me for information that’s going on around the world?” And then there’s 19-year-old Sam from San Francisco: “I really wouldn’t pay for any type of news because as a citizen it’s my right to know the news.”

Posted in Journalism | Tagged , ,

In town tonight: the queen of fado

Mariza is at the Barbican in a few hours. I just hope she sings this, definitive proof that not all fado songs are melancholy.


Posted in Music | Tagged ,


Though Britain was still struggling out of austerity, the meals at Christ Church high table were more luxurious than anything I’d come across before. It was there that I first tasted oysters — and thought wonderingly of my mother’s taste fondness for them. The dons I saw most were the small band who lived in college, among them the economist Sir Roy Harrod, who pointedly refrained from ever addressing a single remark to me in my three terms’ residence. One night I was sitting opposite him  at dinner when he had a guest, for whose benefit he was identifying the various notables seated around the table. I heard his guest ask who I was, and Harrod replied, quite audibly, “Oh, that’s nobody.” The guest gave me a pitying glance and looked away.

John Carey, “The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books”.

Posted in Literature, Notebook | Tagged , ,