Books left ajar

Halfway through Vox (1992), Nicholson Baker’s great novel about phone sex, the male caller asks the female caller to tell him what she was thinking about the last time she had an orgasm. “Do you mean the image that made me come, or do you mean the image that I had in my head when … Read more

I went, but never left

Melvyn Bragg’s first novel, For Want of a Nail (1965), tells the story of a boy, born to a working-class family in Cumbria, who gains a scholarship to Oxford. There followed a trilogy – The Hired Man, A Place in England, Kingdom Come (1969-80) – that focused on three generations of a Cumbrian family remarkably … Read more

No left turn

Long-range commentary on Russian history often amounts to an endless rerun of the nineteenth-century debate between Slavophiles and Westernizers. Either Russia is defined by its Muscovite destiny as an autocratic empire nation with its own distinctively collectivist forms of social organization or it is on a long road to convergence with more or less liberal … Read more