Deptford dreaming

Aircraft always overhead, trains pulling in and out, traffic backed up along the New Cross Road, pulsating rap from open windows, plastic bottles in the gutter, pigeons with fungus-eaten toes, gang tags on gritty walls, smells of exhaust, fast food, sweat and the shower-gel of the highly made-up, high-heeled woman who just clicked by oblivious,… Continue reading

Book learning

The Madman’s Library The Strangest Books, Manuscripts and Other Literary Curiosities from History Edward Brooke-Hitching, Simon & Schuster, 2020, 255 pages, £25 Books are, Edward Brooke-Hitching notes, ‘the emblem of civilization.’  The earliest books were used to establish and uphold authority – administrative, legal and taxation powers, dynastic legitimacy, moral, political and religious order. Great… Continue reading

The enigmas of islands

Phantom Islands – In Search of Mythical Lands Dirk Liesemer, trans. by Peter Lewis, London: Haus Publishing, 2019, £14.99 Dirk Liesemer is a writing Wandervögel, an epistolary inheritor of the romantically- imagined movement that flourished in Germany between the late nineteenth century and 1933. The ‘wandering birds’ took their inspiration from medieval myths, and made… Continue reading

Dr. Johnson in Scotland – An Englishman in his Near Abroad

DR. JOHNSON IN SCOTLAND –  AN ENGLISHMAN IN HIS NEAR ABROAD Samuel Johnson was nearly sixty-four when he made an unexpected journey. One day in 1773, the internationally-renowned lexicographer, essayist, poet, and novelist, who somehow combined being one of the great thinkers of Europe with being a personification of bluff Englishness, suddenly switched his great… Continue reading

Star Wars, star wares

Star Wars, star wares How Star Wars Conquered the Universe Chris Taylor, London: Head of Zeus, 2015 In 1977, like millions of other prepubescents, I trooped excitedly along to a cinema to see the first instalment of Star Wars. I was twelve, anxious about acne, fond of sci-fi comics, and sick with ruthless fantasies about remaking… Continue reading

John Aubrey – remembrancer, Romantic and forward-thinker

JOHN AUBREY – REMEMBRANCER, ROMANTIC AND FORWARD-THINKER John Aubrey, My Own Life Ruth Scurr, London: Chatto & Windus, 2015, hb., 518pp, £25 Just as English painting is renowned for portraiture, so English letters have been illuminated by some of the greatest biographers ever to burnish world literature. After Boswell, the best-known is John Aubrey (1626-1697),… Continue reading