Little, Brown

Philip Johnson – lagging well behind the founding fathers – may not be the most profound architect of the twentieth century. Nor does he have the resonance of Louis Kahn or the form-changing genius of Frank Gehry, among his contemporaries. Yet the pattern of twentieth-century architecture cannot be fully understood without him ...

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It was David Marr who commented that the key character in Gore Vidal’s first memoir, Palimpsest (1995), was not Jimmie Trimble, the boy whom Vidal loved when they were at school and who died, aged eighteen, at the battle for Iwo Jima; nor Vidal’s blind and adored maternal grandfather, Senator Thomas Pryor Gore, whom young Gore would lead onto the floor of the Senate; nor his life partner of half a century, Howard Auster; not even the audacious and polymathic Gore himself. The star of the book was in fact Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, who was dying when Vidal began to write Palimpsest.

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The Gooneratnes’ mountain bungalow, overlooking rippling tea plantations, is called Pemberley, after Mr Darcy’s mansion. A wall plaque commemorates Elizabeth Bennet’s description of it. In the style of a modern Jane Austen, Yasmine Gooneratne takes up the enduring and universal question of who will marry whom, as Vikram Seth did in his mega-novel A Suitable Boy (1994), and at similarly entertaining length. The topic is Bollywood’s favourite too, but before writing The Sweet and Simple Kind, Professor Gooneratne, a specialist in eighteenth-century fiction and poetry, had not seen the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

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On the face of it, One Day In July might induce a state of groaning, as yet another ‘victim’ with attendant publisher prepares to cash in by virtue of a rank media with an appetite for ‘terror’. Remember Douglas Wood, hostage in Iraq, triumphant with that VB stubby in hand? Now our potential hero is Experiencing 7/7 across the front cover as Survivor of the Edgware Road Bomb. One wonders how many more dates, not to mention people, will be claimed and maimed in this manner. On the back: the injured figure of the author, as seen in newspapers and by television audiences worldwide, repeated.

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