Deep mining

The Dominant Animal, Kathryn Scanlan, Daunt Books, 2020, 118 pages, £9.99 Iowa-born Kathryn Scanlan emerged onto the literary scene in 2019 with Aug 9 – Fog, which took the found, real diary of an octogenarian stranger and turned it into an oddly poetical meditation on ‘ordinary’ life and mortality. The Dominant Animal is made up… Continue reading

Traditionalism redux

War for Eternity – Inside Bannon’s Far-Right Circle of Global Power Brokers Benjamin R. Teitelbaum, New York: Dey Street Books, 2020, pb, 315 pages Many critics have made attacks on President Trump and his intellectual influences, but Benjamin Teitelbaum is cleverer and fairer-minded than most. War for Eternity strives to show that many modern national… Continue reading

The very human history of Holy Writ

The History of The Bible John Barton, Allen Lane, 2020, 622 pages, £9.99 Western civilization is inconceivable without The Bible. Its assumptions, language and metaphors resound through our activities and imaginations, even if we think we have rejected religion as superstition. But how did the Bible develop from folkloric Near Eastern origins to today’s omnipresence?… Continue reading

Call of the wild

Losing Eden – Why Our Minds Need the Wild Lucy Jones, Allen Lane, 2020, 272 pages, £14 Since the start of civilization, jaded townspeople have dreamed of escaping from the city and reconnecting with nature. In this highly personal but also well-informed study, Lucy Jones demonstrates that this is not just a sentimental yearning, but… Continue reading

Corona Humours VII – Paracelsus – from alchemy to chymistry

I am not intrinsically interested in health. It is part selfish complacency, but I have always felt that a society morbidly interested in healthcare is one lacking an essential confidence – one that is half-hypochondrical, self-pitying, querulously conscious of growing old while sorely missing old religious consolations. So to me the ongoing Corona saga is… Continue reading

Flows of history

Rivers of Power – How a Natural Force Raised Kingdoms, Destroyed Civilisations, and Shapes Our World Laurence C Smith, Allen Lane, 356 pages, £20 Geography can be history, and history geography – and sometimes the most obvious things are overlooked. Rivers of Power seeks to make us see beneath the surfaces of arterial waters, and… Continue reading

Corona Humours, Part VI

Reflections on mirrors, reflections in mirrors ‘A look of glass stops you And you walk on shaken: was I the perceived?’ John Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror Lockdown limps into months, and the mirrors in our home-prisons reflect much more than outside’s taunting sunlight, or the last few days’ huge moon. Every time we… Continue reading

Corona Humours – Part V

20th April, 2020 One of the hardest working words of the moment is ‘unprecedented’. The economic toll levied by Corona can certainly be seen as unprecedented. But the disease itself has had all too many predecessors. Over tragic millennia, waves of anthrax, bubonic plague, diphtheria, dysentery, malaria, measles, scarlet fever, smallpox, typhoid, typhus, whooping cough,… Continue reading