• I've always understood that one of the key revolutions of the internet is to allow small but disparate voices to join together to make a louder noise than would otherwise be possible. I like public libraries. This is a quiet like, but it is one shared by hundreds of thousands of people across the country. We will probably not be marching on Milbank anytime soon, but I'd like my quiet voice to be heard, and perhaps to join with other quiet voices elsewhere. I spent Friday in the British Library at St Pancras, where I read some nineteenth century books about political arrangements in first-century Rome. Later, back at my computer, I received a circular email from the BL

    Nov 28,
  • From I'm No More of an Idiot than Anyone Else I was almost forty years old when I arrived in France. I knew three or four words - oui, non, Bonjour, Excusez-moi - and that's all. I never studied French at school. I chose to take four years of German instead. So I had to learn French quickly. I did this in the street, at the cinema, while popping out for the shopping. Everything I heard was new and novel, everything was a headache. Children used to mock me for my grammatical mistakes or my pronunciation. In restaurants, instead of saying 'I've finished' I used to say 'I have expired,' and so on. Eventually, after two years of this, Anais

    Nov 21,
  • This is a transcript of an interview with Marie Rennard’s website Melting Pot that will appear in French only. It will read excellently in French, because Marie is an excellent translator, but this is the interview in its original form. I love reading French, but don't want to write it. Vive la difference. Françoise Sagan disait qu'on naissait écrivain, ou romancier, mais qu'on ne pouvait le devenir. Etes-vous d'accord avec cette idée ? I hope not. The idea that anyone is born to anything, unchangeably, is both frightening and reminiscent of the beliefs of my old friend from Dry Bones, John Calvin.  Francoise Sagan and John Calvin.  Now there's an unexpected match. Quels sont vos écrivains (ou livres) préférés, et pourquoi

    Nov 18,
  • When Clint Eastwood's film Invictus opened in the UK earlier this year , I was asked to review the rugby angle for the Daily Telegraph. The results, in my opinion, were not pretty. I go on, at some length, to describe why the Invictus rugby action is about as believable as a Brian Moore apology. However, I was cleaning up my office this week and came across the press notes. A PR person handed me these (while offering me a beer) when I went to the screening at the Warner HQ in London. I stuffed the notes in my case and promptly forgot them. For anyone not familiar with these documents, I have 32 single-spaced A4 pages explaining that Mandela

    Nov 14,
  • Over on our site in development (wait for it, wait for it), we had an interesting discussion about Scrabble and this year's British National Champion, the fantastic Mikki Nicholson. In principle, I like all games until my children start winning. And until recently I was a big fan of Scrabble. So much so that on my shelves I have a copy of Word Freak, by Stefan Fatsis. I have this book partly because The Times claims that 'Stefan Fatsis is the Hunter S. Thompson of Competitive Scrabble', but also because the book was published by Yellow Jersey Press in the days (2001) when Yellow Jersey published brilliant sports books no-one else would touch. The story follows US sports-writer Fatsis as

    Nov 04,