Hughes in 1986: Bate simply fails to make the case his book stands on – that the poet was a sadist

An unauthorised, and unconvincing, biography of Ted Hughes

Craig Raine says that Jonathan Bate’s unauthorised biography of Ted Hughes gets it wrong on every level

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,…

Stirring the imagination into overdrive: ‘The Sinner’ by John Collier (1904)

Sex, secrets, and self-mortification: the dark side of the confessional

I have a confession to make. I really enjoyed this book. It’s been a while since I admitted something of…

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…

Arming for conquest (Picture: John Bostock)

A creepy father, a lustful music teacher, four virgins — and one genuine love affair

London, 1794. It’s a different world from that portrayed by the Mrs Radcliffes and Anons of the time: rich young…


Thinly veiled threats

A new kind of unrest is making itself felt throughout the Arab world. Women are beginning to assert themselves and voice their frustrations, says Caroline Moorehead

Of vice and verse

‘All human life is binary’, explains a Vestal Virgin to the time-travelling heroine of Ranjit Bolt’s verse novel, Losing It.…


Bookends: A life of gay abandon

Sometimes, only the purest smut will do. Scotty Bowers’s memoir, Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex…


More sinned against than sinning

When I saw the title of this book, then read that it only covered the period 1600-1800 I hoped this…


Acting strange

Reviewing Lindsay Clarke’s Whitbread-winning The Chymical Wedding a small matter of 20 years ago, and noting its free and easy cast and wistful nods in the direction of the Age of Aquarius, I eventually pronounced that it was a ‘hippy novel’.


The French connection

If ever there was a novel to which that old adage about not judging a book by its cover could be applied, it’s this one.


Same old perversions

Memory Lane always looked so unthreatening to me.

Physical and spiritual decay

The most striking thing about Piers Paul Read’s early novels was their characters’ susceptibility to physical decay.


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.


A rather orthodox doxy

‘His cursed concubine.’ That was the imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys’ judgment on Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn.


Cherchez la femme

The 22nd Earl of Erroll, Military Secretary in Kenya in the early part of the second world war, was described by two of his fellow peers of the realm as ‘a stoat — one of the great pouncers of all time’ and ‘a dreadful shit who really needed killing’.


The ultimate price

Lesley Downer is one of the most unusual authors writing in English.


Fine artist, but a dirty old man

I have always been sceptical of those passages in the ‘Ancestry’ chapters of biographies that run something like this: Through his veins coursed the rebellious blood of the Vavasours, blended with a more temperate strain from the Mudge family of Basingstoke.

A narrow escape

For once, I felt sorry for Bill Clinton.


Throw it in a stream

I know a British couple with a Chinese daugh- ter, pretty and fluent in English.


From gloom to dispair

In little more than a decade, the cosy world of Anglo-American crime fiction has been transformed by wave after wave of Scandinavian invaders.


Not ‘a boy-crazed trollop’

For someone who barely left the house, Emily Dickinson didn’t half cause a lot of trouble.


An institution to love and cherish

Books about marriage, like the battered old institution itself, come in and out of fashion with writers, readers and politicians, but never quite die away.


It happened one summer

For those unfamiliar with Martin Amis’s short story, ‘What Happened to Me on My Holiday’, written for The New Yorker in 1997, it was a purist exercise in autobiographical fiction; not even the names were changed.


What a difference a gay makes

Edmund White is among the most admired of living authors, his oeuvre consisting of 20-odd books of various forms — novels, stories, essays and biographies — though each one is imbued with his preferred subject, homosexuality.