Geordie Williamson

Geordie Williamson

Geordie Williamson is the author of The Burning Library: Our greatest novelists lost and found (2011).

Geordie Williamson reviews 'The Sinner and the Saint: Dostoevsky, a crime and its punishment' by Kevin Birmingham

March 2022, no. 440 20 February 2022
Geordie Williamson reviews 'The Sinner and the Saint: Dostoevsky, a crime and its punishment' by Kevin Birmingham
There really isn’t another biographer like Joseph Frank – nor a biography to place beside his 2,400-page, five-volume life (1976–2002) of Fyodor Dostoevsky, the wildest and most contradictory of the great nineteenth-century Russian novelists. Frank set out in the late 1970s – a time when historically grounded literary scholarship was losing favour in the academy – to fix Dostoevsky (1821 ... (read more)

Geordie Williamson reviews 'A Matter of Obscenity: The politics of censorship in modern England' by Christopher Hilliard

December 2021, no. 438 24 November 2021
Geordie Williamson reviews 'A Matter of Obscenity: The politics of censorship in modern England' by Christopher Hilliard
Censorship is to culture what war is to demography: it creates absence where presence should be. Christopher Hilliard’s fascinating and deeply informed monograph on the politics of censorship in Britain (and by extension its colonies) from the 1850s to the 1980s is concerned with the many books, magazines, and films that fell afoul of the authorities, from translations of Zola in the wake of the ... (read more)

Geordie Williamson reviews 'Burning Man: The ascent of D.H. Lawrence' by Frances Wilson

August 2021, no. 434 26 July 2021
Geordie Williamson reviews 'Burning Man: The ascent of D.H. Lawrence' by Frances Wilson
Why ‘burning man’? Because in this immense, obsessive, studiously unkempt work, the biographer brings accelerant to the raging bonfire that is D.H. Lawrence’s reputation and pours it with pyromaniacal glee. Frances Wilson’s new life of the writer stands athwart the accumulated crimes of which Lawrence stands accused – his obstreperousness, his intense and absurd hatreds, his dubious poli ... (read more)

Geordie Williamson reviews 'The Art of the Glimpse: 100 Irish short stories' edited by Sinéad Gleeson

July 2021, no. 433 22 June 2021
Geordie Williamson reviews 'The Art of the Glimpse: 100 Irish short stories' edited by Sinéad Gleeson
Back in my bookselling days during the early noughties, I spent a grey London autumn in the company of W.B. Yeats. My employers were Maggs Bros., an old Quaker firm and the queen’s booksellers, then based in Mayfair’s Berkeley Square: a venue that sounds glamorous but wasn’t, or at least not for me. The job involved much sitting in an underheated basement, beneath windows that offered a glim ... (read more)

Geordie Williamson reviews 'The Lost Dog' by Michelle de Kretser

November 2007, no. 296 01 December 2007
Geordie Williamson reviews 'The Lost Dog' by Michelle de Kretser
Michelle de Kretser’s third novel opens with a man and a dog in the Australian bush, an image whose hooks are sunk deep in our national psyche. Recall the Edenic first chapter of The Tree of Man (1955), with its portrait of Stan Parker settling on a patch of virgin wilderness with only his dog for company. In the Australian Garden, Eve is a subsidiary companion. But the hound who goes missing a ... (read more)

Geordie Williamson reviews 'Tom Stoppard: A life' by Hermione Lee

December 2020, no. 427 25 November 2020
Geordie Williamson reviews 'Tom Stoppard: A life' by Hermione Lee
A tantalising ‘what if?’ emerges from the opening chapters of Hermione Lee’s immense, intricately researched life of Tom Stoppard. On the day in 1939 when the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia, the future playwright’s assimilated Jewish parents were obliged to flee the Moravian town where they lived. They made it to Singapore, only to endure Japanese invasion soon afterward. Stoppard’s moth ... (read more)

Geordie Williamson reviews 'The Dickens Boy' by Tom Keneally

April 2020, no. 420 20 March 2020
Geordie Williamson reviews 'The Dickens Boy' by Tom Keneally
‘When a writer is born into a family, the family is finished.’ That gunshot of a quotation comes from the Polish poet Czesław Miłosz. I suspect he means writers are traitors to biology – they have higher allegiances than blood ties. Art is their true spouse; their works are the favoured first-born. Catherine Dickens had ten children by her husband, Charles. Each was named after a famous a ... (read more)

Geordie Williamson reviews 'Wanting' by Richard Flanagan

November 2008, no. 306 01 November 2008
Geordie Williamson reviews 'Wanting' by Richard Flanagan
For the inhabitants of mainland Australia, ‘history’ is often complicated by the sheer fact of geography. Instead of one central node, European colonisation expanded from multiple centres, each isolated in space and founded on differing socio-political premises over staggered periods of time, and each with populations too various in background to allow much in the way of agreement about some v ... (read more)

Geordie Williamson reviews 'The Art of the Engine Driver' by Stephen Carroll and 'Summerland: A novel' by Malcolm Knox

November 2001, no. 236 01 October 2001
Geordie Williamson reviews 'The Art of the Engine Driver' by Stephen Carroll and 'Summerland: A novel' by Malcolm Knox
If history is a graveyard of dead aristocracies, the novel is their eulogy. It is now, for instance, a critical commonplace to explain the young Proust’s entry into the closed world of France’s nobility as an occurrence made possible by its dissolution. Close to death, holding only vestigial power, the fag ends of the ancien régime lost the will or energy to keep their secrets. Proust’s soc ... (read more)

Geordie Williamson reviews 'Diary of a Bad Year' by J.M. Coetzee

September 2007, no. 294 01 September 2007
Geordie Williamson reviews 'Diary of a Bad Year' by J.M. Coetzee
In 1880, Turgenev visited Tolstoy at his country estate after a long period of estrangement, only to discover that the great novelist had, in the interim, renounced art in favour of ethical enquiry. Turgenev was appalled, and dashed off a letter complaining that I, for instance, am considered an artist. But what am I compared to him? In contemporary European literature he has no equal … But w ... (read more)
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