Rupert Everett gears up for the next chapter: moving in with his mum

Speaking at Hay festival about his latest film The Happy Prince, the star also explained how being openly gay got him typecast

He has lived the wild life in Hollywood and New York, partied with Madonna, hung out with Andy Warhol, and sniffed poppers with Hardy Amies but Rupert Everett’s next chapter promises to be more sedate: he’s moving in with his mum.

“It’s done, I’m there,” the actor told Hay literary festival in Wales. “It’s very peculiar, I’m not sure if it’s a wonderful thing, or a tragic thing yet.

Continue reading...

The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara review – disco, drag and tragedy

A vibrant tribute to the stars of a cult queer documentary about New York’s ball scene in the 80s

This debut novel follows the lives of the major players in New York’s 1980s drag ball scene, made famous by Jennie Livingston’s 1990 film Paris Is Burning. With an admirable ear for the slang of the LGBT underground it depicts, the book imagines how they came to terms with their genders and sexualities, found their communities, negotiated the pressures of racism and queer-bashing and confronted the terrifying emergence of HIV/Aids – or, as it is referred to here, “the virus”.

This is a novel about family. It captures the ways in which the protagonists have been damaged by their own families and the pressures to conform to conventional ideals of masculinity, and shows how the all-Latino House of Xtravaganza, a group founded by Hector Valle in 1982 to compete in the ...

Jarvis Cocker: how Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool‑Aid Acid Test changed my life

At the dawn of the 1960s, Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters were dropping LSD and kickstarting a revolution – and Wolfe went along for the ride, capturing the birth of the counterculture

Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is a literary “gateway drug” – a hallucination of a book that introduced me to a whole new way of looking at the world, writing about the world, and gave me my first taste of the work of the American novelist Ken Kesey.

The nearest I ever got to Kesey was on Tuesday 11 August 1998. He and some of the other “Merry Pranksters” were involved in a signing session at the Tower Records store at Piccadilly Circus in London. For some reason they had been stationed under a staircase in the basement of the shop, and they looked a bit cramped and embarrassed down there. It didn’t seem very ...

Tom Wolfe obituary: a great dandy, in elaborate dress and neon-lit prose

Journalist and author who won a name as a brilliant satirist with the ‘novel of the 1980s’, The Bonfire of the Vanities

The writer Tom Wolfe, who has died aged 88, was a great dandy, both in his elaborate dress and his neon-lit prose. Although he was in his late 50s when he became a bestselling novelist, with The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987), some 30 years before that he was already famous as a journalist, was indeed that extremely rare thing, the journalist as international celebrity.

It was a part Wolfe played up to, wearing showy tailor-made white suits, summer and winter, as well as fancy headgear and shirts with detachable collars. The overall impression was of a fashionplate from a bygone age. The sartorial fireworks fitted in very well with the highly eccentric literary style Wolfe used and which made such a name for him when he ...

Electric dreams of Philip K Dickleburgh | Brief letters

Georgina Chapman | In the Night Garden | Smart Compose | Philip K Dick | Suguru

No criticism of Georgina Chapman (‘I was so humiliated and so broken’, 11 May), but of the Guardian. Again you show an unhealthy interest in fashonista celebrity and weight loss – “the British fashion designer describes how she lost 10lbs in five days”, with an accompanying “Photograph: Annie Liebovitz for Vogue”. British or American? I’m sure your readers are desperate to know; and will you do an article on trauma weight loss?
Tim Davies
Batheaston, Somerset

• Nicola Grove can rest assured that In the Night Garden is widely watched (Letters, 8 May). As a grandfather to three under-fours, it was already my regular viewing.
Don Chroston
Sunderland

Continue reading...

A Tokyo Romance by Ian Buruma review – shaped by Japan

An evocative account of 1970s cultural life in the Japanese capital

The writer, historian and recently appointed editor of the New York Review of Books, Ian Buruma, “grew up with two cultures”. His father was a lapsed Dutch Protestant and his mother British, from an Anglo-German Jewish family: “My destiny was to be half in, half out – of almost anything.” He dreamed of escaping from the safe and dull cocoon of his upper-middle-class childhood in The Hague, and the opportunity to study in Tokyo on a scholarship provided the perfect way out.

Buruma arrived in Tokyo in 1975, aged 23. For some time he wandered around in a daze, overwhelmed by its “theatrical, even hallucinatory” brashness that made even Los Angeles seem “staid”. Although he quickly tired of his film course, he immersed himself in the Japanese imagination and in this memoir of his years in Japan he writes ...

Olivia Laing: ‘There’s no book I love more than Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature’

Wild, honest, riotous, the film-maker’s diary showed me what it meant to be an artist, to be political – and how to plant a garden

There’s no book I love more than Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature. There’s nothing I’ve read as often, or that has shaped me so deeply. I first came to it a year or two after its publication in 1991, certainly before Jarman’s death in 1994. It was my sister Kitty who introduced me to his work. She was 10 or 11 then and I was 12, maybe 13.

Strange kids. My mother was gay, and we lived on an ugly new development in a village near Portsmouth, where all the culs-de-sac were named after the fields they had destroyed. We were happy together, but the world outside felt flimsy, inhospitable, permanently grey. I hated my girls’ school, with its prying teachers. This was the era of ...

Action Comics #1000: the 10 most important issues from 80 years of Superman

From Superman’s first flight to the issue where he lost his job (and that time he made Santa buff), a look back at eight decades of Action Comics

Eighty years ago today, the first issue of Action Comics was released, with the now iconic cover showing Superman lifting a car over his head as hoodlums flee. It was comic book readers’ first introduction to the character, starring in the lead story by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Now, Action Comics has become the first monthly comic book to hit its 1,000th issue. In the manner of major book and film releases, #1000 got a midnight release, with studio DC Comics encouraging comic book lovers to mark the historic issue, which includes stories from artists and writers including Brian Michael Bendis, Scott Snyder, Louise Simonson, Jock, and Marv Wolfman. But what are the most important issues in Action Comics’ 80-year history? ...

Through the looking glass: the Alice exhibition taking crowds down a rabbit hole

Designed by Anna Tregloan, the exhibition has creative and immersive rooms that house more than 300 objects

Matt and Wendy Crandall have been talking to me for 20 minutes before I notice it: almost everything they are wearing is Alice in Wonderland-themed.

Her dress is covered in tiny Alices. Pink flamingos preen and pose across his shirt. Her earrings read “eat me” and “drink me”, and her charm bracelet is adorned with Wonderland trinkets – a limited edition Stella McCartney range tied to Tim Burton’s 2010 adaptation.

Continue reading...

The perfect crimes: why thrillers are leaving other books for dead

While literary novels are sidelined, crime fiction is fast developing as the most versatile narrative of our times

For years, crime fiction titles have topped the bestseller lists and library lending tables. That sales of the genre have now overtaken general fiction, as revealed at the London Book Fair last week, comes as no surprise to its readers, practitioners, critics and industry professionals.

We’ve always recognised its reach, dynamism, integrity and, increasingly, diversity. Yet its rise, and indeed acceptance, is still a mystery to some, with any number of narratives seeking to understand the phenomenon. This is about as helpful as trying to define exactly what makes a bestseller a bestseller, and, perhaps more important, how to spot the next big thing. At best it’s a lucky amalgamation; so many factors come into play. Being in the right place at the right time, with the right idea, and talent, ...

From a fortune cookie to a Pulitzer: the story behind William Kennedy’s Ironweed

Ironweed’s hero navigates the Great Depression in a drunken haze, but his journey is lit by glowing writing about love, friendship and redemption

When the Paris Review interviewed William Kennedy in July 1984, he had just installed a new swimming pool outside his house. Six months earlier, he’d opened a fortune cookie that said he was going to have a lucky week. He’d assumed it was because “I was getting reviewed in about five different major places” – but that wasn’t the half of it. A man (called, pleasingly, Dr Hope) called Kennedy and told him he’d won a MacArthur Fellowship – then $264,000 (these days it is a hefty $625,000). That same year, Kennedy would win the Pulitzer prize for Ironweed, sold the film rights (as well as truck-loads of copies) and received almost universally glowing reviews around the world.

Things were suddenly going well for Kennedy, but ...

From Circe to Clinton: why powerful women are cast as witches

A misogynist insult in Washington and Westminster, a force for good in Hollywood … for centuries, witches have personified fear of assertive women. But why does the stereotype persist?

During the 2016 US presidential election, American social media was flooded with images of Hillary Clinton wearing a black hat and riding a broom, or else cackling with green skin. Her opponents named her The Wicked Witch of the Left, claimed they had sources testifying that she smelled of sulphur, and took particular delight in depictions of her being melted. Given that the last witch trial in the US was more than 100 hundred years ago, what are we to make of this?

In the late 19th century, the suffragette Matilda Joslyn Gage asserted something revolutionary. The persecution of witches, she said, had nothing to do with fighting evil or resisting the devil. It was simply entrenched social misogyny, the goal ...

Sean Penn’s debut novel – repellent and stupid on so many levels

The Oscar-winning actor’s first foray into fiction, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, has met with derision online. But how bad can it be?

Back in the heady days of 2015, it was thought that singer and eternal tester of patience Morrissey had taken the bad celebrity novel to the limit in List of the Lost, when his “bulbous salutation” simultaneously put everyone off both books and sex. But now Morrissey’s debut – a novel in which people didn’t just say things, they “topspin” them (“‘I have erotic curiosities,’ topspins Ezra”) – has a healthy challenger for the most mocked novel by a sleb. Sean Penn’s Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff is a book in which people don’t just have vim or vigour, they have “spizzerinctum to spare”.

Early and bad reviews of Penn’s debut novel ahead of its April release have prompted a lot of joy online. ...

Irvine Welsh: ‘When you get older, it’s harder to be a bastard’

The author talks about his obsessive-compulsive thing, which Trainspotting character he most resembles, and losing his temper

Irvine Welsh is doing just fine for money. He knows he never has to work another day in his life, but he can’t stop himself. “I don’t like it when people say I’ve got an addictive personality,” he says. “It’s people who never take drugs who say that. But I have an obsessive-compulsive thing going on.” Writing is an itch he’s got to scratch – particularly when it comes to Trainspotting.

The author is about to release Dead Men’s Trousers, the fifth novel in his Trainspotting series. Welsh says it will be the final instalment (though by the end of the afternoon he’s not quite so sure). Trainspotting, published in 1993, is a violent black comedy about working-class heroin addicts in Edinburgh. In a Waterstones poll of 25,000 people, it was ...

The Life and Death of Sherlock Holmes review – a history of Holmes appreciation

Benedict Cumberbatch’s sleuth is striking but every era has had their own version of the fictional detective as Mattias Boström’s lively study shows

This study by Swedish Sherlock Holmes expert Mattias Boström, translated by Michael Gallagher, shows that, perhaps more than any other fictional character, the consulting detective from 221B Baker Street has eclipsed his creator, and gained a life of his own. From his first appearance together with his sidekick Dr Watson in 1887, Holmes captured the hearts of readers around the world, from US presidents Franklin D Roosevelt and Harry Truman (both members of the Baker Street Irregulars, an association of American Sherlockians who have met since 1934) to the countless parodists and authors who have written themselves under the skin of this beguiling crime fighter. They include Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, who brilliantly reimagined Sherlock for the 21st century. As Boström says, “every era had its own Sherlock ...

Beatrix Potter would not have liked Peter Rabbit film – biographer

Sony adaptation in which James Corden is voice of bullying rabbit would have appalled author

When Walt Disney offered to adapt the Tale of Peter Rabbit for film in 1936, Beatrix Potter did not hesitate: the answer was no.

During her lifetime, the author exercised minute control over the reams of merchandise spun out of her work, which is why Sony Pictures’ new film adaptation would have been anathema to the Lake District author, according to her biographer.

Continue reading...

How Frances McDormand’s Oscar-grabbing ‘inclusion rider’ got its meaning

Word(s) of the week: the most thrilling phrase at this year’s Oscars has its roots in rock stars’ backstage demands and the politics of 1950s America

The biggest lexical thrill in the Oscars came when Frances McDormand dropped the phrase “inclusion rider”, something that would ensure better representation of minorities in a film’s cast and crew. But why does it mean that?

Most familiarly, a rider lists a rock band’s backstage demands – crates of booze, bowls of M&M’s with no brown ones, and so on. (Van Halen insisted on the latter to check the venue paid attention to detail.) It derives from the sense of “rider” as anything that goes atop something else: so a rider, from the 17th century, was an addition to a legislative bill or a contract.

Continue reading...

The highest form of flattery? In praise of plagiarism

Echoes of Amélie in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, traces of Nabokov in Kristen Roupenian’s Cat Person ... Where is the line between influence and plagiarism?

The age of the internet, where everything is connected, has made plagiarism both easier to commit and more difficult to hide, as many a student has discovered. It has also exposed writers to new levels of examination, such as the recent allegations that Emma Cline, author of the best-selling novel The Girls, took ideas for the book from her ex-boyfriend’s emails, and the various claims that Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar contender, The Shape of Water, is based on a 1969 play, Let Me Hear You Whisper, or has copied scenes from two French films, Amélie and Delicatessen – allegations which Del Toro, or his representatives, have denied.

Two short stories published in the past few months also raise contemporary, as well ...

Sex, jealousy and gender: Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca 80 years on

Du Maurier’s bestselling novel reveals much about the author’s fluid sexuality – her ‘Venetian tendencies’ – and about being a boy stuck in the wrong body, writes Olivia Laing

In 1937, a young army wife sat at her typewriter in a rented house in Alexandria, Egypt. She wasn’t happy. Despite coming from an ebullient theatrical family, she was reclusive and agonisingly shy. The social demands that came with being married to the commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards were far beyond her. It was too hot and she missed England bitterly, though not the small daughter and new baby she’d left behind.

At the age of 30, she had already published four novels and two biographies. Yet 15,000 words of her new book were torn up in the wastepaper basket, a “literary miscarriage”. She knew the title but not what would constitute the “crash! bang!” of its ...