Feelings make the city?

In what may be her cheapest jubilee gesture, Queen Elizabeth II has elevated Doncaster, Port Stanley and Wrexham to the status of cities. Dunfermline, too, must forgo the modest honor of being a mere “toun” where, in “Sir Patrick Spences”, the King sat, “drinking the blude-red wine”. Milton Keynes, once reputedly Britain’s most boring town, … Read more

Eton mess

Towards the end of Chums, Simon Kuper draws a parallel between Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Dominic Cummings, Daniel Hannan, Jacob Rees-Mogg et al, and an earlier political Oxbridge clique: the Cambridge spies of the 1930s. Similarly trusted on account of their schooling, confidence and air of breeding, similarly unworthy of that trust and similarly bound … Read more

She was poor but she was honest

Nothing divided the late-Victorian literary world like Oscar Wilde’s conviction for “gross indecency”. Conservatives like WE Henley applauded the verdict; but others, perhaps fearing prosecution themselves, kept silent or fled the country. Women writers, too, reacted in a variety of ways. Ada Leverson, whom Wilde called “Sphinx”, famously came to his aid while he was … Read more

OneCoin, three scams

When Ruja Ignatova became aware of Bitcoin, in 2011, she was on the lookout for a quick way to get rich. A small-time entrepreneur who had moved from strategy consultancy into grooming and fashion, she’d stay up half the night reading books about how to make a fortune. Cryptocurrencies at first seemed just another silly … Read more

Dirty operator

InMy Year of Rest and Relaxation(TLS, August 17, 2018) – the standout of Ottessa Moshfegh’s four novels – a conceptual artist videos the affectless narrator’s sedative-induced hibernation. The narrator doesn’t really rate him as an artist. He just wanted to shock people. And he wanted people to love and despise him for it. His audience, … Read more

No sanctimony here

A key scene in Abel Quentin’s second novel takes place in the Café de Flore in St-Germain-des-Prés, when the sexagenarian narrator, Jean Roscoff, overhears a young couple arguing over an Instagram post in the fabled existentialist hangout. “Leave it”, grumbles the girl. “How can I pretend to be Simone de Beauvoir when I don’t know … Read more

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Reticence is often over-determined, so Ian Ground’s explanation of why Wittgenstein’s private notebooks were slow to see the light of day, “that his generation just thought it rather vulgar, intrusive and ugly to publish such personal remarks” (June 10), may not be entirely incorrect. Still, there is more to the story than that. I was … Read more

Baron spell

It is not every actor whose latest volume of memoirs is serialized in the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sundayas was Sheila Hancock’s Old Rage (Bloomsbury, £18.99) last month. This was quite the honor. Yet no doubt many were surprised to see that the Mail missed an open goal – that probably isn’t the … Read more

All the Ways to Be Strong and Brave, a guest post by Laurie Morrison

When I was in seventh grade, my class went on an outdoor education trip. We stayed in cabins and did lots of group bonding activities, and the centerpiece of the trip—the thing everyone else seemed most excited about—was a high ropes course. I was not excited about the high ropes course. It had wobbly bridges, … Read more