The Meyerowitz Stories is an excruciating watch if you aspire to make great art

Compare this portrait of an artist to Maudie. I know which I’d rather hang on my wall

‘If he isn’t a great artist, that means he was just a prick.” That contribution to the art versus morality conversation is delivered ungoofily by Adam Sandler, playing Danny Meyerowitz in Noam Baumbach’s Netflix film The Meyerowitz Stories. The great artist who is otherwise just a prick is Danny’s father, Harold, played by Dustin Hoffman with considerable insight into just what a prick an artist can be. A prick not only unto others, but unto himself: every appraisal of his work either the promise of recognition or an insult; every encounter an occasion for a tiny triumph or an unbearable repudiation; every mention of his work an impossible excitation or an injury to skin so thin, you could blow bruises on it.

The Meyerowitz Stories is an excruciating watch for anyone ...

Let no one tell you that Manchester is a long way from Sicily | Howard Jacobson

‘Come on our patch playing Greensleeves again and you’ll end up in a wafer,’ I was warned by an Italian ice-cream family in the 50s

I recently stumbled upon a statue in Manchester that I’d never seen before. From a distance, it looks like a fairytale rocking horse, and closer up, it still looks like a fairytale rocking horse, but it turns out to be a monument to Chopin, who played here in 1848, the year before he died. This speaks well both for the good relations Manchester enjoys with Poland and for its love of music. Say what you like about our taste in public sculpture, but let no one tell you we Mancunians are provincial.

I’m sorry there’s no comparable monument to Domenico Modugno. If you don’t know Modugno, I’ll give you a clue: “Penso che un sogno così non ritorni mai più.” No? OK, then, ...

The Crown has taught me how to behave if I ever sit next to the Queen for dinner

Don’t tweet or email when you think the Queen isn’t looking, and in particular don’t tweet or email her

On the off-chance that you are dining with the Queen on New Year’s Eve – and, by off-chance, I don’t mean to imply no chance – it’s worth familiarising yourself with a few of the finer points of royal etiquette. Don’t take selfies. Don’t touch Her Majesty’s knee under the table. Don’t tweet or email when you think she isn’t looking, and in particular don’t tweet or email her. If you are sitting on her left, it means that you aren’t the guest of honour and must not attempt to engage her in conversation until the second course. She will turn to you if you don’t know which the second course is.

This is a selection of the information I’ve picked up from listening to enthusiasts of The Crown discussing what they’ve seen. I haven’t ...

Howard Jacobson: ‘Larry David is a warped version of Don Quixote’

Where would comedy, or indeed philosophy, be without the easily hurt?

The Germans have an expression for that maddening song or melody that invades your brain and won’t leave it. They call it an Ohrwurm. We translate that as earworm, but the German more effectively suggests the impending insanity, the way a tune can twist like a drill bit into your inner ear and lodge for what you fear will be forever. In my experience, a single word can do the same. Take “incommensurate”.

Incommensurate snaked into my ear during a recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the theme tune of which is pretty Ohrwurmy itself. I am not the devoted watcher I once was. The pleasure Larry David takes in his own comic diabolism can wear a little thin. The devil isn’t always the irresistible companion in mischief he thinks he is. Sometimes, you’d prefer a quiet hour talking things over with ...

If you want me at your party, you’d better get your invitation in early

Jonas Kaufmann has asked me over the same evening Philip Roth wants a game of darts

December is the cruellest month. You wait all year to be invited somewhere interesting, then December comes along and you have more invitations than there’s room for on the mantelpiece. There are three parties at opposite ends of London I particularly want to go to this week, one carol service, one St Matthew Passion, one Chanukah dinner and two mince pie happenings in bookshops. The trouble is, they’re all on the same night.

I don’t know how this comes about, but there is always one evening that everyone fixes on to hold their event, and it is always the same evening that Jonas Kaufmann invites you over to his place for a Mahler lieder singalong and Philip Roth happens to be in town wanting a game of darts. This happens too often to be ...

The sign of a healthy society? Its queues | Howard Jacobson

An irritable queue would once have been the clue to a post office’s whereabouts, but queues are universal now

The gauge of a healthy society is how long you have to queue in a post office to buy a stamp. There will be societies in which people forced to wait more than five minutes machete their way through the queue and demand a second-class stamp at gunpoint. Such, we can agree, are unhealthy societies. At the other extreme are Australian post offices, which make a point of having more than one person serving, sell an attractive range of mail boxes, don’t double as social security advice centres and aren’t located in the back room of a convenience store. Somewhere in between, but closer to the bottom than the top, is this country – assuming you can find a post office to buy a stamp from.

An irritable queue would once ...

Milos Forman’s Taking Off hasn’t aged nearly as badly as I have

It’s natural to feel that a work of art you particularly love is yours, especially when enthusing about it to novices

Hearing me say how much I enjoyed Milos Forman’s film Taking Off when I saw it in 1972, someone who loves me ordered it from Amazon. I recommend it; I don’t just mean the film, I mean the whole experience of telling someone who loves you how much you enjoyed something years ago, then having it turn up unexpectedly from Amazon. It’s the adult equivalent of Santa coming good. Apart from anything else, it saves you having to remember your Amazon password.

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