Patrick Skene Catling

Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Manhattan

Woody Allen: a life of jazz, laughter, depression —and a few misdemeanours

Woody Allen (born Allan Stewart Konigsberg), the prolific, Oscar-winning auteur, New Orleans-style jazz clarinettist, doyen of New York delicatessen society,…

Dennis Potter, 1978 (Photo: Getty)

Dennis Potter: one of the last great masters of vituperation

‘Genuine invective is an almost lost art in our wild satirical age,’ Dennis Potter complained in New Society in 1966.…

There may be an unknown somebody even more wonderful

The smartphone is like having a singles bar in one’s pocket 24/7

An American stand-up comedian Aziz Ansari, who usually performs in Los Angeles and New York, has found time to conduct…

Disturbed patients in a London lunatic asylum, 1838. From 'Sketches in London' by James Grant. Photo: Getty Images

Back to Bedlam: Patrick Skene Catling on the book that makes madness visible

Madness is an ancient, evidently inscrutable mystery, often regarded with superstitious fear, yet can provide a refuge from reality. Sometimes,…

Sidney Bechet in 1939

Blue Note's 75 years of hot jazz

This is a big book, a monumental text with 800 illustrations, 400 of them in colour, to be contemplated more…

River Kenmare

A Troubles novel with plenty of violence and, thank heaven, some sex too

‘The Anglo-Irish, their tribe, are dying. . . . They will go without a struggle, unlamented,’ Christopher Bland, 76, declares…

The William A Clark Mansion on Fifth Avenue and recluse, Huguette Clark Photo: Getty / PA Images

The robber baron who 'bought judges as other men buy food’

The robber barons of the gilded age, at the turn of the 20th century, were the most ruthless accumulators of…

O.Z. Whitehead, Dorris Bowdon, John Carradine and Henry Fonda in the 1940 film, The Grapes of Wrath

The two people who brought us The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck (1902–1968), an ardent propagandist for the exploited underdogs of the Great Depression, had barely enough money for subsistence…


How to get old without getting boring

When one notices the first symptoms of senile dementia (forgetting names, trying to remember the purpose of moving from one…

The Spoken Word, Irish Poets and Writers - audio book

Here is further evidence that it is disillusioning, more often than not, to encounter close up any artist long admired…


A hero of folk

‘This Machine Kills Fascists’ was the ambitious slogan that Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) painted on his guitars. By fascists he meant…

Pig in the middle

With nice ecumenical parity, Peter Somerville-Large derides equally both Ireland’s principal Christian churches as they compete for the soul, or…

Arnold Schwarzenegger on the set of Batman and Robin, directed by Joel Schumacher, 1997

Bionic bore

After wading through 646 pages of narcissistic gush and breathtaking vulgarity in the accents of Dr Kissinger and Dr Strangelove,…

Thrills and spills

The singer of the ‘Lumberjack Song’, vendor of the Dead Parrot and leader of the Spanish Inquisition has written another…


Swinging into action

Whereas it is generally agreed that music has charms to soothe a savage breast, Congreve might have added that music…


Bookends: Prep-school passions

In his introductory eulogy, Peter Parker calls In the Making: The Story of a Childhood  (Penguin, £8.99) G. F. Green’s…


Travel Special – Grenada: Fit for a prince

Patrick Skene Catling finds his favourite Caribbean island in Jubilee mood

Time to sit and stare

Hermitic, oneiric withdrawal from responsibilities and threats is the most effective way of alleviating the pangs of middle age, suggests…

A serenely contented writer

Beaming Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE, D.Litt. (Oxon), Mark Twain medallist and co-founder of the Hollywood Cricket Club (1881-1975), personified…

A literary curio

Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac, better known as Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), the son of French-Canadians spiced with the blood of Mohawk…


Bookends: The Jazz Baroness

She was born Kathleen Annie Pannonica Rothschild.

A well-told lie

Michael Ondaatje takes a journey into childhood


About 80 per cent of books sold in this country are said to be bought by women, none more eagerly than Joanna Trollope’s anatomies of English middle-class family life. Her 16th novel, Daughters-in-Law (Cape, £18.99), is sociologically and psychologically as observant as ever, showing how not to be a suffocatingly possessive mother-in-law.


Beatrix Potter meets the Marquis de Sade

Anthropomorphism and a weird, astringent sense of humour combined to make The Queue, the late Jonathan Barrow’s only novel, a work of genius in the opinion of his brother Andrew.


On the charm offensive

Derek Hill (1916–2000), writes Bruce Arnold, was an English representational landscape and portrait painter of ‘haunting and evocative creative spirituality that is perhaps indefinable’.