Clare Clark has a well-deserved reputation for creating atmosphere. Her first novel, The Great Stink, was an evocative mélange of madness and mire, set in the London sewers in the 1860s. My favourite, The Nature of Monsters, encompassed more madness, as well as contemporary science and myth. These books
Amazon is a puzzling beast. It is ever-present in our lives, the almost ubiquitous ‘turn-to’ when we want a book. But apparently, it does not exist in Britain. Or in most American states. It can’t do, for it doesn’t pay sales tax in those states, and barely deigns to do
(published in the Telegraph 27 Mar 2012) The rise and rise of Soho, London’s darkly alluring twilight zone In her fiction, Virginia Woolf transformed Soho into a menacing urban space filled with “fierce” light and “raw” voices, even as she privately commended herself for driving a good bargain on some
In Dickens’s bicentenary year, it is pleasant to remind ourselves that the 19th century did, in fact, produce authors other than “The Inimitable”, as Dickens (only partly joking) called himself. Ackroyd was an earlier worshipper at the Dickens shrine, his 1990 biography including dramatised imaginings of Ackroyd meeting his subject.
The actor-biographer Simon Callow has played Dickens, and has created Dickensian characters, in monologues and in a solo bravura rendition of A Christmas Carol. Now he suggests that the theatricality of Dickens’s own life is a subject worthy of exploration in book form. So it is, and if Callow had
It can scarcely have escaped anyone’s attention that 2013 is the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birth – anyone who has not been in a medically induced coma for the past months, that is. If you missed the last two biographies (one, by Michael Slater, jumping the gun in 2009, another,
(publishing in the Wall Street Journal) The mystery of the source of the Nile is almost as old as recorded history—”It would be easier to find the source of the Nile,” Romans said of a futile task. The puzzle was not simply “where” but “how.” How could such a vast
As The Old Curiosity Shop appeared in instalments, Charles Dickens was inundated with letters from readers, all begging him not to kill off Little Nell. Queen Victoria found Oliver Twist so “excessively interesting” that she pressed it on the prime minister, Lord Melbourne. It was this response, from high to