Michael Bywater

Michael Bywater is a writer and broadcaster, and formerly a columnist for the Independent on Sunday

Until Further Notice I Am Alive, By Tom Lubbock

This extraordinary, vast little book enacts Larkin's almost-instinct, almost true: what has remained of him is love. Tom Lubbock was art critic of this paper for many years until a brain cancer removed, inch by inch, his language and then he died, stupidly young.

Our forgotten freedom fighter: Why the unsung Hurricane is the true

It took a lot of muscle to haul her round the sky. Burnt to cinders – like a match. It would do what you wanted it to do. Pure joy. Like flying a brick. Just incredible. It had the wonderful ability to absorb battle damage. It became a good friend right from the start, and I loved it more and more. Very reliable. I never had to worry about that Merlin engine ... you're flying very low, a couple of trees high off the ground, and you do want it to keep going. Cross-wind landings are particularly easy. At 2,000 feet and 200mph, petrol consumption is 30 gallons per hour. The cockpit is weather-proof. Against a fighter, the Hurricane was hopeless."

Rocky times in Greece: Even on the idyllic islands there are signs of

My next door neighbour on this small Greek island has had it up to here with the goats. They are, of course, his Albanian neighbours' goats. "They won't control them," he says. "Everything I plant, the goats rip up." I wait for talk of gunfire, but no. "Still," he says, "as the saying goes, better a bad year than a bad neighbour." The saying, of course, cuts two ways. Are they bad neighbours? Or does he not want to be a bad neighbour? There's a problem, true. It must be solved: also true. But there are also – to a degree which would astonish most northern Europeans – questions of neighbourliness to consider.

Tormented Hope, By Brian Dillon

In the second part of his Essay on Man, Alexander Pope, after asserting that "The proper study of mankind is Man", describes dithering humanity which "hangs between, in doubt to act or rest;/ In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast;/ In doubt his mind or body to prefer". Brian Dillon's illuminating, humane and beautiful book considers hypochondria: precisely that toppling overfall where mind and body contend for preference. His nine case studies of "hypochondriac lives" provoke wonder without ignorance, laughter without mockery and grief without sentimentality; his territory, the still-inexplicable relationship between ourselves and our selves.

It's PC gone mad! How did taking offence become a national obsession?

I'm sorry. I'm very sorry, but I don't accept those bankers' apologies. I found them offensive. A preening pack of middle-aged white men in suits, parroting the instructions of their PR advisers. Utterly insincere. An apology was not enough. A heart attack would have been better. One each. Or a stroke, just like the new NHS advertisements: face droops, arms fall limply by the side, meaningless drivel issues from the mouth, and their head catches fire.

What women don't get about men

The answer, for men, would seem to be castration. Better than drink: it takes away both performance and desire. Plato, in The Republic, has Sophocles say that the end of sexual yearning is like escaping from a vicious tyrant, usually quoted as "being unchained from a lunatic". Visions of the madman vary; I always picture him naked, wild-haired and bearded, a bit like Terry Jones in Monty Python, capering and scampering into the distance across a rain-swept Clapham Common. The writer Guy Kennaway, in his memoir Sunbathing Naked, writes: "The chain broke, and I was the madman."

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