Writer’s Luck: A Memoir 1976-1991 by David Lodge review – plodding and self-indulgent

Where is the accomplished comic novelist in this over-detailed, prickly account, which has only flashes of moving writing and entertaining gossip

Henry James famously contrasted life as “being all inclusion and confusion”, with art “being all discrimination and selection”. I wish that David Lodge, a James aficionado, had heeded the latter part of that dictum when he was planning Writer’s Luck, the second volume of a memoir that began with Quite a Good Time to Be Born (2015). This book presents a writer who simply has no clue as to what he should leave out, or how to compress a narrative for the sake of pace. In his acknowledgements he thanks his agent, editor and others for their help, though evidently none of them troubled to tell him his book needed serious pruning.

Related: The interview: David Lodge

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In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs review – musical madeleines

A collection, edited by Andrew Blauner and featuring Rick Moody, Jane Smiley and others, combines personal memories with Fab Four favesAnd still, the Beatles. Will we ever get over them? However many remasterings of the records there are, however many dramas, documentaries and memoirs of their life and times, it seems there will always be room for something more. The flood of material about the band will never slacken, because our appetite for it will never be sated. I fell ravenously on In Their Lives, even if I did balk at the subtitle “Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs”. While nearly all of the 28 essays here feature great Beatles songs (let’s draw the line at “Yellow Submarine” and “Octopus’s Garden”) it’s a bit presumptuous to claim greatness for the other half of the equation. Charmed as I am by David Duchovny (“Dear Prudence”) I’m not sure he’s ...

Wear and Tear by Tracy Tynan review – trapped in a parental horror film

Kenneth Tynan and Elaine Dundy’s daughter delivers an astonishing family tell-all of narcissism and neglect Here is one peep behind the curtain I wish I’d never taken. Tracy Tynan, daughter of Kenneth Tynan and the writer Elaine Dundy, describes an upbringing of privilege and privation that deals a death blow to the character of both parents. If the Joan Crawford takedown Mommie Dearest is the template for the awful-mother showbiz memoir, Wear and Tear goes one better, or worse: this is Mommie and Daddy Dearest. You may never again read a family tell-all of such narcissism, of such subtle cruelty, of such toadying to the famous. I didn’t doubt a word of it. Ms Tynan had already laid the groundwork in 2001 by publishing her father’s diaries, which quickly became notorious for their candid revelations about his spanking and his sadomasochistic affair with a woman named Nicole. But his ...

The Art of Rivalry review – when Bacon met Freud and other creative friendships

How Picasso became pals with Matisse and why Manet slashed a Degas … all in Sebastian Smee’s study of painter friendsIn the end, the true artist goes it alone, no matter what the promptings of advisers, critics, friends. Especially those friends who are artists themselves, for without even knowing it they may also be your rivals. It’s not that the competitive impulse hardwired into so much artistic enterprise is necessarily a harmful one. It might be the thing that drives you on, that piques what this new book describes as “the yearning to be unique, original, inimitable”. But it is just as well to assume the brace position when the ambition of the artist collides with the duty of friendship. The Art of Rivalry selects four pairs of artists who were also pals and investigates the streams of influence that flowed between each pair. Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, Degas ...

The Nix by Nathan Hill review – a novel of extravagant appetite

A literary professor investigates the life of his estranged mother in an entertaining if self-indulgent debut novelBehold, another American monster is upon us, this one a novel of extravagant appetite that chows down a mighty spread of political history, social mores, media blague, online addiction, childhood grief, military misadventure, academic entitlement, and manages to make, if not light work of it, then something compulsive and crazily entertaining. One might tap Nathan Hill’s shoulders with the double-edged sword of “Dickensian”, given that his debut novel is stuffed with good jokes, family secrets and incidental pathos; it’s also windy with circumlocution and occasionally too intricate for its own good. The story is kickstarted by a righteous convulsion of fury. While strolling in a Chicago park, Governor Sheldon Packer – authoritarian demagogue and presidential candidate – is abused and pelted with gravel by a middle-aged woman. The incident, caught on a ...

The Muse by Jessie Burton review – a solid follow-up to The Miniaturist

A double portrait of hidden creativity set in swinging 60s London and civil war Spain from a writer who cannot be faulted for ambition The imaginative boldness that distinguished Jessie Burton’s 2014 debut novel, The Miniaturist, earned her critical raves and an international bestseller: her fans will be eager to know if she can reprise the trick with her follow-up. Having recreated the stiff-necked puritan society of 17th-century Amsterdam in her first book, in The Muse Burton has once again done the hard yards of research to reimagine not one but two distinct eras of the 20th century, and fused them to an intricate story of imposture. This is not a writer who can be faulted for ambition. In the summer of 1967 a young woman named Odelle Bastien applies for a job at the Skelton Institute, a discreetly upmarket gallery in St James’s. Odelle, having arrived in London ...

The Bitter Taste of Victory by Lara Feigel review – writers and artists respond to the camps and Nuremberg

Lee Miller, Billy Wilder, Martha Gellhorn and Evelyn Waugh were among the cultural stars who travelled to a nation destroyed and disgraced at the end of the second world war. Many were part of a project of cultural re-education

When Germany surrendered to the allies in May 1945 a debate was already under way as to how the country should be coaxed back to civilisation. For some it had gone so far down the road to infamy that there seemed no prospect of its being rescued. Others took a more compassionate view, and urged that a huge re-education programme be undertaken to expose German minds to ideas of peace and tolerance. One means of effecting this transformation was culture. Artists and writers would put shoulders to the wheel to help rehabilitate the country and its people – to cleanse its poisoned soul.

That was the theory. Lara Feigel’s absorbing book relives the era ...