Culture

  • I was asked to write an Opinion piece for the Observer about reaction to the publication of The Day that Went Missing, including my own reaction to having written a memoir. How does it feel once it's out there? What was the point? 'Now I’m faced with the question of what happens next. What is a memoir actually for? There seems to be a lot of memoir about, but I can only speak for myself and wordsearching the typescript I discover the book contains 434 instances of the word Nicholas or variants. I have filled the pages with Nicky, with Nick-Nack, Nickelpin, Pinwin, all my brother’s various rescued nicknames. His solo photograph in beach-tinted Kodacolor is bold on a hardback

    May 03,
  • '...  cakes and biscuits will be provided free of charge.' It's a deal. In fact it was a deal before the final incentive. I'll be spending February in Gladstone's library on the Welsh border not far from Liverpool. There is a fairytale quality to the idea of a residential library, a sense that anybody who chooses to stay the night is not only living with the books, but also somehow in the books. Who knows where a library dream will go at night? I'm about to find out, mostly thanks to the energy of William Ewart Gladstone himself. Into his eighties, past even his old man's prime as the Grand Old Man, he founded this library so that his books,

    Jan 29,
  • 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,
  • 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,
  • I know I keep promising to post up the first pages of J'suis pas plus con, or rather, I promised once and I always keep my promises. I have, however, been distracted by two issues. Computer malfunctions, which are boring. And stash. As an ambitious rugby player, I used to have the same hunger for stash as everyone else.  'Stash' was the stuff that came with selection to a team.  Stash is the extras, the perks, the over-and-aboves, and in those days, before the ease of printing onto synthetic materials, stash was expensive and therefore reserved most often for representative teams.  It was worth having. Typical items would be tracksuits, training tops, match shorts, maybe even a team-branded bag.

    Oct 17,