Nixon with Kissinger and Donald Rumsfeld in 1969

Niall Ferguson's biography of Henry Kissinger is a masterpiece

I have met Dr Kissinger, properly, only three times. First, in Cairo, in 1980, when, as a junior diplomat escorting…

American marines coming ashore at Guadalcanal, 1942 (Photo: Getty)

Hirohito, MacArthur and other villains

The history of ‘great events’, Voltaire wrote, is ‘hardly more than the history of crimes’. Physically, the war in Asia…


Lost Kerouac that should have stayed lost

In 1944, when he was 22, Jack Kerouac lost a manuscript — in a taxi, as he thought, but probably…

American beat poet Allen Ginsberg Photo: Getty

American Smoke, by Iain Sinclair - review

If you have read Iain Sinclair’s books you will know that he is a stylist with a love of language.…

Signifying Rappers, by David Foster Wallace - review

Since his suicide, David Foster Wallace has made the transition from major writer to major industry. Hence this UK issue…

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer - review

Thick, sentimental and with a narrative bestriding four decades, Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings feels above all like a Victorian novel,…


To Move the World, by Jeffrey Sachs - review

Jeffrey Sachs is the world’s best-connected development economist. An academic with highly developed communication skills, he has always managed to…


Fall from grace

Barack Obama is not up to the job. That is Ron Suskind’s oft-repeated contention. The President, he states, compromised with,…


The original special relationship

Of all the cities in all the world, Paris dominates the American imagination more than any other. Although Americans may…

After America: Get Ready For Armageddon by Mark Steyn

There are people sent to depress us, and prominent among them is Mark Steyn, whose speciality is apocalyptic predictions. Following…

Music, moonlight and dahlias

The words that echoed constantly in the back of my mind as I read this book were from Paul Simon’s song ‘Train in the Distance’: ‘the thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains’.


Day of reckoning

Many saw disaster coming, including Philip Hensher, but no one did anything

Lucky miss

In Dreams From My Father, his exploration of race and roots, Barack Obama recalled the tales heard in childhood about the man who gave him his name.

The call of the wild

Annie Proulx (pronounced ‘Pru’) began her writing career — quite late, in her fifties — as E.A. Proulx, to baffle misogynist editors; then she was E. Annie Proulx, until she dropped the E and became simply Annie the Proulx.

Bad enemy, worse lover

Five years after his death, Saul Bellow’s literary reputation has yet to suffer the usual post-mortem slump, and publication of these lively letters should help sustain his standing.

So far from God . . .

Ciudad Juárez, Mexico’s second largest border city, is clogged with rubbish, fouled with car exhaust and, increasingly, flooded with narcotics.


Way out west

This year America celebrates the cent-enary of Mark Twain’s death.


Girls from the golden West

Who was the first American to marry an English duke? Most students of the peerage would say it was Consuelo Yzagna who married the eldest son of the Duke of Manchester in 1876.


A smooth passage

Jonathan Raban left Britain and moved to Seattle in 1990, when he was 47.

King and his killer

In the late days of the Bush administration, it was fashionable among liberals to call George W. Bush the ‘worst’ president since the founding of the republic and to suggest that under his leadership America experienced its own version of the Dark Ages.


Schlock teaser

The somewhat straightlaced theatre-going audiences of 1880s America, eager for performances by European artistes like Jenny Lind and solid, home-grown, classical actors such as Otis Skinner, were hardly prepared for the on-stage vulgarity that the (usually) Russian and Polish immigrant impressarios, with their particular nous for show-biz, were to unleash into the saloons and fleapits across the young nation.


High priest of bop

In the Rainbow Grill in New York one evening in 1971, according to Robin D. G. Kelley, Professor of History and American Studies at the University of Southern California, Duke Ellington  halted his band in mid-flow and announced: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the baddest left hand in the history of jazz just walked into the room, Mr Thelonious Monk.'


Whither America?

At the beginning of The Ask, Horace sits with Burke and proclaims that America is a ‘run down and demented pimp’.


Insufficiently honoured here

‘Next time it’s full buggery!’ said Christopher Hitchens as I helped him onto a train at Taunton station after a full luncheon of Black Label, Romanée-Conti, eel risotto and suckling pig.


A girl’s best friend

If you wanted to write about Marilyn Monroe, how would you go about it? The pile of biographies, memoirs and novels about poor, sad Marilyn is already teetering.