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One of the things I love in reading is the sudden expansion of consciousness that you get when an allusion comes alive in your mind. My most vivid reading memories from teenage years involve experiences of that kind.

In one, I was fourteen, in a Spartan holiday camp in the lovely Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa, reading C S Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. We children were in one chilly, bare-floored, stone-walled ‘rondavel’ hut, our parents in another. Suddenly I came on the statement that Merlin’s magic ultimately derived from … Numenor! I loved The Lord of the Rings and had already … Continue Reading

Value Judgements and Early Reading

I read Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend for the first time several months ago and found it utterly gripping. I’m sure I’ll read it again, perhaps several times, and I’m sure it will mean more to me every time. Of the novels I’ve read for the first time in the last couple of years, this is the one that I’m most convinced really is a major work of lasting power. It saddens me to feel that it can never affect me as deeply as a number … Continue Reading

Fritzl and Blair

Of course it added to the horror of what Josef Fritzl did to his daughter and the children he fathered on her that he frolicked with his friends on beach holidays abroad and was filmed laughing and playing to the camera while his victims languished underground waiting for their gaoler’s return. But I am put in mind of Raskolnikov’s article in Crime and Punishment that certain people – a Napoleon, say – can get away with mass murder while ordinary people can’t. Raskolnikov absurdly deduces that there … Continue Reading