Life in Rio’s most infamous favela — where you have to pay the cops to arrest criminals

When Stefan Zweig first arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 1936, he was overwhelmed not only by the city’s magnificent…

Out of focus lights

When flower power turned sour

Aldous Huxley reported his first psychedelic experience in The Doors of Perception (1954), a bewitching little volume that soon became…

Portrait of Jeanne Duval by Edouard Manet

The breasts that launched Les Fleurs du Mal

This novel is based on the life of Charles Baudelaire and the relationship he enjoyed — or endured — with…

Sting, William Burroughs and Andy Summers Photo: Getty

William S. Burroughs was a writer – not a painter, prophet, philosopher

William S. Burroughs lived his life in the grand transgressive tradition of Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde and, like all…

Nowhere to go but down

I am just old enough to remember the terrific fuss that was made about the first Scots literary renaissance when…


Blow-out in Berlin

D. B. C. Pierre’s Vernon God Little was an unusual Man Booker winner (2003).


Why, oh why?

In my many years as a judge for the J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography, I have been constantly surprised by the high proportion of books that deal with the subject of adoption.


Same old perversions

Memory Lane always looked so unthreatening to me.

Tracks through the wasteland

Sex, and plenty of it. That’s certainly what Bunny Munro — the titular protagonist of Nick Cave’s second novel —…