At a time when publishers seem chary of commissioning literary biographies, the conditions for writing them have never been better.
For much of the second half of his life Arthur Miller was a man whose future lay behind him.
Cancer is usually associated with death.
‘Taylor, I dreamt of your lecture last night,’ the polar explorer Captain Scott was once heard to exclaim, after sitting through a paper on icebergs by the expedition physiographer, Griffith Taylor, that had reduced even its author to the edge of catalepsy: ‘How could I live so long in the world and not know something of so fascinating a subject!’ The True Story of Titanic Thompson is not going to be everyone’s book, but for those who can get beyond the child-brides and casual killings, Kevin Cook’s biography of a great American hustler might well provoke the same sense of wonderment.
Writing an autobiographical account of middle age is a brave undertaking, necessitating a great deal of self-scrutiny at a time of life when most of us would sooner look the other way and hope for the best.
All modern biographies, one could say, are books of secrets; certainly all biographers during the past four decades have felt entitled to ferret around in their subject’s private as well as public lives.
This is an odd book: the exhaustive biography of a complete nobody. Vivian Mackerrell was the primary inspiration for the cult that is Withnail. In that, at least, he doesn’t disappoint.
Just as it will sometimes happen that a critic feels obliged to preface a review with a declaration of interest, so I should now declare a lack of interest.
The best book so far about Bob Dylan, the only one worthy of his oeuvre, is his own astonishing Chronicles, Volume One (2004), but while we wait for the next fix, Bob Dylan in America will keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay.
Paul Johnson reviews Roy Hattersley’s life of David Lloyd George
In equal measure, this book is fascinating and irritating.
Apart from his enormous wealth, the only interesting thing about Paul Raymond was his dishonesty, which was relentless and comprehensive, and always gave the game away.
Because Deborah Devonshire’s journalism has nearly always made me laugh, and because she seems like one of the jollier aunts in P. G. Wodehouse — an Aunt Dahlia, not an Aunt Agatha — I had expected her memoirs to provide chuckles on every page.
Tom Frayn, says his son Michael in this admirable memoir, trod lightly upon the earth.
Some of us are still startled that Wallace Stevens was 44 when he published Harmonium.
‘Facebook’, says the excitable author of this hero-gram, ‘may be the fastest-growing company of any type in history.’
At nursery school, along with her warm milk, little Lena Gorokhova imbibed the essence of survival in the post-war Soviet Union.
‘Stuart Kelly’ the author’s note declares, ‘was born and brought up in the Scottish Borders.’ Not so, as he tells us; he was born in Falkirk, which is in central Scotland, and came to the Borders as a child.
About 100 years ago two brothers settled in the same small English town and raised 12 children.
We are not going to agree about Bruce Chatwin.
This year America celebrates the cent-enary of Mark Twain’s death.
Next to his photographs of 40 women who have spent time in Low Newton prison, Adrian Clarke has juxtaposed short accounts from each of how she got there.
If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am.
‘I Scribble, therefore I am’: this Cartesian quip is typical of Simon Schama, as is the comprehensive subtitle: ‘Writings on Ice Cream, Obama, Churchill and My Mother,’ among other topics, of course.
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.