Week 25: The unnatural beauty of Wuthering Heights

"It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors." So wrote an American critic in 1848 upon publication of Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë's first and only novel. He was not alone. Shock, disgust and bewilderment were the most common reactions, with one reviewer even suggesting the book should be burnt. Published under the pseudonym [...]

By | 2017-11-28T19:05:54+00:00 November 28th, 2017|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Week 24: Les Liaisons Dangereuses

When is the last time you wrote a letter? Or received one? I'm not talking about messaging someone on Facebook, having a chat on Whatsapp, or even exchanging emails - which, by the way, are going the way of the dodo. Teens have pretty much abandoned email in favour of texting while the rest of [...]

By | 2017-11-20T18:14:07+00:00 November 20th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Week 23: Fanny Hill exposed

Forget what you've been told. Disregard the scenes of degradation, despair and early death depicted by Hogarth. The fact is, there was no greater bliss than working the sex trade in 18th Century London. The women in charge of the brothels were kind and caring, the clients were gallant and rich, and the prostitutes themselves [...]

By | 2017-11-14T17:16:59+00:00 November 14th, 2017|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Week 22: Moll Flanders and the economics of vice

Having decided to spend the next few weeks revisiting some of my favourite "bad girls" I've started with the author who literally wrote the book on virtue succumbing to vanity and vice: Daniel Defoe and his eponymous heroine, Moll Flanders. (Spoiler alert: while virtue wins out in the end, it doesn't so much triumph over [...]

By | 2017-11-07T16:09:43+00:00 November 7th, 2017|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Week 20: Quartet in Autumn

"There was something to be said for tea and a comfortable chat about cremation." It's lines like this that cause Barbara Pym to be referred to as the Jane Austen of the 20th Century. I mean, how perfect is that? Doesn't it just conjure up a certain type of middle-aged woman at a certain time [...]

By | 2017-10-24T15:20:00+00:00 October 24th, 2017|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Week 17: Reading Harper Lee in the time of Trump

I first read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was in my early twenties. It had been out for ten years or so, and Harper Lee's description of superstition, ignorance and institutional prejudice seemed remote - almost quaint. In the wake of the white supremacist rallies in Viriginia and videos of police officers singling out [...]

By | 2017-10-03T13:18:02+00:00 October 3rd, 2017|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Week 16: An abyss of godforsaken folly

"Only the dead have seen the end to war." George Santayana wrote this in 1922. He was responding to the idea, popular at the time, that the First World War was the war to end all wars. It was the Great War for Civilization. The war that would be over by Christmas. It wasn't any [...]

By | 2017-09-26T07:37:57+00:00 September 26th, 2017|Uncategorized|4 Comments