I wish I could give this sublime marrying of the art and the life 10 stars. This is very much a writer’s biography, and an absolutely gorgeous demonstration of how to frame a narrative begins, appropriately enough, with the framing by Gorra of the author, Henry James: “Many years later he would remember the way the book had begun. He was old then, and in England ....” It’s a description that mirrors beautifully the framing by James himself of the entrance of his great heroine, Isabel Archer, in The Portrait of a Lady, as “the girl in the doorway”.
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Sunday 29 April 2012
Two new versions of the Mowgli stories are in production – but will either match the animated version?
Friday 06 April 2012
Friday 23 March 2012
The best books are written with an ear to somebody. Treasure Island was written in 1883 for Robert Louis Stevenson's 15-year-old stepson, Lloyd Osbourne. It was intended to be a boy's book in the mould of RM Ballantyne's Coral Island, Captain Marryat's Masterman Ready, and Fennimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans, ripping yarns all. It succeeded beyond Stevenson's wildest dreams, becoming a cornerstone of childhood literary memory, indirectly inspiring masterpieces as different as Peter Pan, Swallows and Amazons and High Wind in Jamaica, and directly spawning a dozen forgotten prequels and sequels.
Friday 17 February 2012
Following their Bach Motets, choral octet Voces8 branch further afield with A Choral Tapestry, programming devotional material from across the spectrum.
Friday 20 January 2012
What is a poet's "real" work? Is it the best, canonical poems – the writing he or she is known for? Or is the poet "really" located somewhere else, among the false starts and revisions, both personal and writerly, that produced this canon?
Wednesday 28 December 2011
Winter solstice: the longest, darkest night of the year. How better to spend it than with a top soprano, a theatrical knight, and six viols, and where better than in the soft blue gloom of Kings Place? All came with promising baggage: the Fretwork ensemble had just released a remarkable viol-arrangement of Bach's 'Goldberg Variations'; Clare Wilkinson had dazzled us a few days previously with her a cappella exploits with I Fagiolini; and Sir Tom Courtenay – well, we knew where he was coming from. Fretwork would provide instrumental music, Courtenay would give us poems.
Saturday 29 October 2011
I hadn't been to Rules since the mid-1980s and all I remembered of the place was a heavy atmosphere of dark wood, hefty carpets, thick sauces and sturdy-bottomed English lunchers. Heaviness was my main impression; but then history, of a dense, richly-flavoured kind, hangs around Rules like mayoral chains. It's England's oldest restaurant, founded by Thomas Rule in 1798. It's been owned by only three families in 200 years. It's seen off nine English monarchs. It turns up in several novels: the adulterous couple in Graham Greene's The End of the Affair enjoyed their first lurve tryst here over a furtive dish of seductive onions.
Sunday 26 June 2011
Sunday 15 May 2011
Wednesday 30 March 2011
A love letter sent by the Romantic poet John Keats fetched a record £96,000 at auction in London yesterday.
Friday 28 January 2011
This splendid second volume in the Armonico Consort's Naked Byrd series continues the punning tradition of a cappella versions of choral pieces by composers who, in the words of the Consort's artistic director Christopher Monks, "wore their hearts on their sleeves".
Friday 03 December 2010
Possibly the reason that this topic has been left until No.245 in this series is to do with the question of how the hell you define it. Ferber's definition runs to 120 words. You'd highlight: "imagination"; "natural world"; "rebel"; "individual" and "emotional".
Friday 02 April 2010
Celebrated by talents as various as Keats and Eric Maschwitz ("'There were angels dining at the Ritz, And...' You know what's coming," adds McCarthy), the nightingale is one of the 50 bird species that fly from Africa to spend the summer in Britain.
Sunday 14 March 2010
Friday 05 March 2010
The title refers to Keats's own description of his "posthumous existence", the final 18 months when the medically trained poet recognised that he was not long for this world.
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Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
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