Some authors vanish in plain sight, recalled by their most successful work, which comes to define an entire career. A friend of mine has written mytho-logies, Victoriana, crime and magical realism, but publishers are unable to mention her without inserting the title of her greatest success into her name, in the way that pantomime stars are bracketed by their TV shows. Typecasting is a problem that afflicts most successful writers.
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Saturday 17 January 2009
My sister Penny does not mind you knowing that, shortly before Christmas, she went shopping in the discount supermarket Lidl. A fellow shopper was evidently less comfortable about the location: when the woman's mobile rang, Penny heard her tell the caller "I'm in Sainsbury's".
Tuesday 25 November 2008
Klaipeda, Lithuania: Michael Palin is the most amiable of travel guides, one who wears his erudition lightly and touches on serious matters with grace and chard.
Sunday 28 September 2008
Although they are the product of a $42bn industry, which means that their sales outstrip global cinema box office receipts, for example, videogames continue to exist on the periphery of the cultural mainstream. One of the reasons why is that there isn't any good writing about them. Try naming a single videogame critic. No one has yet found a really satisfactory way to describe the distinctive pleasures of gaming, perhaps partly because the primacy of the player in the development of a game's narrative means that you'd need to understand post-structuralism, and which student of French philosophy is going to admit to having completed Resident Evil 4 on the hardest setting?
Wednesday 03 September 2008
Sunday 24 August 2008
This compilation by Dan Rosenberg is a very neat job. Romania has the largest Gypsy population in Europe, and that ethnic strain has long pervaded its culture: as this CD confirms, it's spread into everything from hip-hop and jazz-rock to the local brands of pop. Taraf de Haidouks and Fanfare Ciocarlia kick things off (though with less familiar tracks than usual) and we get a taste of cimbalom master Toni Iordache before setting off into less charted waters. Good to find the peerless Gabi Lunca (who now sings only in Pentecostal churches), plus a string of newer names.
Friday 09 May 2008
England may boast one of the world's largest cities and can claim to have some of the most beautiful countryside on the planet, but that was not enough for it to escape a scathing appraisal in one of the world's top travel guides.
Sunday 27 April 2008
Friday 25 April 2008
But is it great? It's famous all right, one of the most familiar works of late Victorian art, probably better known than its artist. It's a big favourite, too, featured on countless posters, in countless homes and waiting rooms.
Sunday 20 April 2008
Tuesday 15 April 2008
Sunday 13 April 2008
The best track on this LP is a surprise: Fanfare Ciocarlia is quintessentially Romanian, the pretext for their inclusion being the Hungarian Gypsy singer Mitsou as guest soloist.
Sunday 06 April 2008
Can you write a winning travel article? If you think so, don't miss the chance to enter the Bradt/Independent on Sunday travel-writing competition. First prize is an exciting holiday for two to Kyrgyzstan, and the winning story will also be published in The Independent on Sunday's The Compact Traveller section, and the author will earn a commission from the newspaper.
Thursday 20 March 2008
When I told friends I was off to Guyana the response was, "Wow, how lovely for you... that's in Africa, right?" I have to confess that, although I graduated recently with a degree in geography, I couldn't place the country on a map either. Guyana is, in fact, in South America and one of the three smallest countries on the continent, along with Suriname and French Guyana. All three run along the northern coast of South America touching the Caribbean Sea.
Monday 20 August 2007
I come from a long line of luggage snobs. My mother, for example, would rather collapse beneath the weight of her cases than consider anything as aesthetically challenged as a suitcase on wheels. My father's not much more flexible, although he did once stoop to purchasing one such monstrosity - albeit black, understated, and with no more than a hint of branding - safe in the knowledge that he is obliged to do most of the carrying. Suffice to say that when the baggage reached home turf, it was heartily rejected. Practical it might have been, but, for that reason, it was perhaps best passed on to me. Yes, it was that bad.
Thursday 23 November 2006
It was Christine Gilbert's first report as chief inspector of schools, and the last Ofsted report to be published while Tony Blair is at No. 10. As such, its conclusions should be chastening. The legacy of this Prime Minister, who promised that his top three priorities would be "education, education, education", is a system in which more than half the country's secondary schools are failing to provide pupils with education of a good standard.
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