Between tragedy and farce
November 23 2016 / New Statesman
Overconfident and under-imagined: an extravagant mess of a book
September 17 2016 / Financial Times
Clement Attlee’s progressive patriotism
September 3 2016 / Financial Times
The impossibility of love
August 19 2016 / Financial Times
The end of times
May 13 2016 / Financial Times
Jeremy Corbyn seems to be trapped in a perpetual adolescence
February 14 2016 / The Sunday Times
London: a city of secrets and spies
February 14 2016 / BBC Radio 4, A Good Read
A “nearly history” of the 1980s, Britain’s decade of boom, bust and Margaret Thatcher.
September 14 2015 / New Statesman
How Clive James found his defining subject, the gravest of all.
August 14 2015 / Financial Times
Juliette Binoche is alluring but impenetrable.
March 2015 / The New Statesman
Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel for a decade is, on one level, a complete surprise.
February 27 2015 / Financial Times
He has written a self-consciously provocative book, one that demands to be read.
May 23 2014 / Financial Times
Cuthbertson’s Wilfred Owen is a fan’s biography. It is ardent, dreamy and at times a touch swooning.
February 28 2014 / Financial Times
A writer who self-consciously craves fame and the world’s applause, Jonathan Franzen is also simultaneously repelled by it.
October 4 2013 / Financial Times
The Kenneth Branagh/Rob Ashford production of Macbeth for the Manchester International Festival presents an enthralling portrait of sickening, desire-fuelled ambition.
July 8 2013 / New Statesman
“There never was a good biography of a good novelist,” F Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his notebooks.
June 14 2013 / Financial Times
Essays on occupying the space in between cultures.
March 29 2013 / Financial Times
The last king of Scotland.
March 7 2013 / New Statesman
A biographer awestruck by his subject.
October 25 2012 / New Statesman
Though tortured by isolation and his fastidious intellect, David Foster Wallace produced work that will endure.
September 14 2012 / Financial Times
How football, the working man’s passion, united a father and son.
August 24 2012 / Financial Times
The intrigue of Canada, this novel of crime and punishment, is not what happens and when but how and why.
June 2 2012 / Financial Times
When Hank Haney declares that Tiger Woods is the “human being who’s fallen faster than anyone else in history”, you forgive the hyperbole because he speaks as a sportsman.
May 16 2012 / New Statesman
In his meditation on Graham Greene, the author reflects on his own journey.
May 5 2012 / Financial Times
In a series of review-essays, Colm Tóibín works away at and through his obsessions: family, homosexuality, homeland, the anxiety of influence.
February 17 2012 / Financial Times
Christopher Hitchens’ fierce certainties make for fine polemic but they have often obscured reality.
September 23 2011 / Financial Times
AS Byatt brings an apocalyptic Norse myth to England during the second world war.
September 2 2011 / Financial Times
Matthew Hollis pays tribute to Edward Thomas, the first world war poet who immortalised the beauty of England.
August 6 2011 / Financial Times
The setting of The Stranger’s Child feels immediately familiar, as do the ironies – elegant people partying on the edge of the abyss.
June 24 2011 / Financial Times
At its best, V S Naipaul’s Masque of Africa is marked by moments of startling clarity and insight.
September 6 2010 / New Statesman
Ian McEwan excels at climate science but his one-dimensional protagonist makes you shudder.
March 14 2010 / The Observer
Sex, death, loneliness, old age: yes, it’s another Roth novel. But this time, is the great American.
October 29 2009 / The Observer
Jay McInerney’s bright lights may have been dimmed but sex in the city remains a constant source of satire, writes Jason Cowley.
January 11 2009 / The Observer
In investigating what sets geniuses apart, is Malcolm Gladwell also asking what makes him so special, wonders Jason Cowley.
November 23 2008 / The Observer
Sex and death are once again the central preoccupations of Philip Roth’s latest novel, a poignant addition to his rich late period.
September 14 2008 / The Observer
Haruki Murakami runs miles every day to keep fit for writing. Here he combines his two loves.
August 10 2008 / The Observer
Lahiri is presently probably the most influential writer of fiction in America.
June 9 2008 / Financial Times
For writers of colonial fiction, Africa held a dark erotic attraction, even if the message underlying their work was that Europeans have no place there.
June 1 2008 / New Statesman
No matter which name Philip Roth chooses for his narrators or fictional alter egos, whether it is Nathan Zuckerman, David Kepesh or indeed even, slyly, Philip Roth, they invariably share many of the same urgent preoccupations.
October 20 2007 / Financial Times
Before our meeting, I had considered him to be something of a poseur and dilettante, a self-styled Great Man, in the classic Latin American model.
April 16 2007 / New Statesman
Peter Godwin’s desire to chronicle the breakdown of Zimbabwe in When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, suffers from his reluctance to spend time in the country he calls home, says Jason Cowley.
March 4 2007 / The Observer
David Remnick specialises in the long literary profile and, in his hands, it is a most capacious and flexible form - the ideal form, perhaps, for our age of globalised celebrity.
September 18 2006 / New Statesman
Elegiac and exquisite, the fictions of Yasunari Kawabata were among the most memorable of the 20th century. Jason Cowley on a writer who knew the value of silence.
August 21 2006 / New Statesman
Christina Lamb tells the true story of a white farmer and his black servant before and after Mugabe in her illuminating and flawed House of Stone, says Jason Cowley.
May 14 2006 / The Observer
Jason Cowley traces the career of the troubled, unique collective that changed the face of British dance music.
March 27 2006 / New Statesman
The first crossing of intelligent pop with strange samples still startles, writes Jason Cowley.
March 19 2006 / The Observer
If interest in Houellebecq’s life and work remains inexorable, this is because, in many ways, the life is inextricable from the work.
November 7 2005 / New Statesman
She’s still deep, if occasionally unfathomable. Jason Cowley delights in an alchemist’s return.
October 16 2005 / The Observer
Salman Rushdie vividly explores our post-9/11 world in Shalimar the Clown, says Jason Cowley.
September 11 2005 / The Observer
WG Sebald’s last book, Campo Santo, offers further proof of his rare gift for tackling Germany’s pain, says Jason Cowley.
May 27 2005 / The Observer
The leading character in Mailer’s thrilling account of the 1974 world heavyweight boxing championship in Kinshasa - the Rumble in the Jungle - is not Muhammad Ali, as you would expect, or even his ferocious rival George Foreman, then thought by many to be unbeatable. It is not Don King… No, the main character is Norman Mailer, naturally enough.
May 8 2005 / The Observer
AN Wilson is the latest author to succumb to the allure of Henry James in A Jealous Ghost. Why does he keep writing fiction, asks Jason Cowley.
April 10 2005 / The Observer
In portraying individual lives tethered to the forces of history, Philip Roth’s new novel revisits the themes of previous work. But it also reveals an unexpectedly benign and forgiving side, writes Jason Cowley.
October 11 2004 / New Statesman
I had once been scornful of Deedes, whom I imagined to be the personification of Conservative Man, but of late I had begun to read his journalism—columns, despatches from sub-Saharan Africa, countryside diaries—with intensifying respect and admiration.
July 26 2004 / New Statesman
Ideal for the MTV generation, Douglas Coupland’s fiction is becoming increasingly dark.
September 8 2003 / New Statesman
Michel Houellebecq’s Lanzarote portrays the author’s unheroic struggle against ennui.
July 28 2003 / New Statesman
Delmore Schwartz’s precociously brilliant account of an ill-fated courtship, In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, was the peak of his career.
May 4 2003 / The Observer
James Wood, Britain’s most brilliant literary critic, has published a novel. Can the merciless arbiter live up to his own critical standards?
April 2003 / Prospect, Issue 85
After more than a decade of silence, Donna Tartt is back with a new novel that draws on her childhood in the American South. Jason Cowley on the secret of her success.
October 28 2002 / New Statesman
Walden, in his desire for the curious story of the life and death of Beau Brummell to become more widely known, has gone ahead and translated Barbey himself. First, however, he offers his own thoughts on dandyism in an entertaining introductory essay.
October 21 2002 / New Statesman
John Lanchester’s powers of pastiche remain undiminished in his new novel, Fragrant Harbour.
June 30 2002 / The Observer
The critics are hailing Gerhard Richter as the saviour of painting in the age of conceptual populism. Jason Cowley finds out why.
May 6 2002 / New Statesman
Coetzee’s gloomy hero questions life’s meaning in his new novel Youth, but to little purpose.
April 21 2002 / The Observer
A memoir from Alexandra Fuller and a study from Martin Meredith give a timely and frightening reminder of Zimbabwe’s descent into anarchy.
February 24 2002 / The Observer
Julian Barnes’s love affair with France is based on a wilful fantasy. Jason Cowley detects a taint of vanity publishing in this collection of recycled journalism, Something to Declare.
January 6 2002 / The Observer
Modern travel writing is in crisis, too often no more than an indulgence of ego. But the books of Helena Drysdale have a rare difference.
November 19 2001 / New Statesman
Arriving in Trieste in 1909, the Viennese playwright Hermann Bahr felt as if he were “nowhere at all”, adrift in a city of ghosts. Anyone visiting Trieste for the first time today may experience a similar sense of dislocation.
October 13 2001 / The Daily Telegraph
Jason Cowley on why Bjork’s voice is like an icepick to the heart.
September 17 2001 / New Statesman
More and more novelists are appropriating real-life characters and the events of history for fictional ends. Why? Jason Cowley on the art of literary grave-robbing.
December 4 2000 / New Statesman
A misogynist and anti-Semite, the philosopher Otto Weininger was obsessed by decay. Jason Cowley on the brief life and work of a disturbed icon of Vienna.
August 21 2000 / New Statesman
75 years after The Great Gatsby, Jason Cowley remembers F. Scott Fitzgerald’s doomed youth.
April 8 2000 / The Guardian
Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen never forgave himself for not murdering Hitler when he had the chance. Jason Cowley reads the fascinating war diaries of an aristocrat and pessimist.
March 6 2000 / New Statesman
Peter Gay, the distinguished American cultural historian, has long been haunted by thoughts of a shadow life.
January 24 2000 / New Statesman
The Vienna through which Hitler wandered in his youth was a melting pot of decadent turmoil, the capital of an empire in decline - a “research laboratory for world destruction”.
April 26 1999 / New Statesman
To read the fiction and correspondence of Bruno Schulz, knowing that he was murdered by the Nazis, is a bit like watching footage of passengers board a plane that later crashed: you long to warn him of the dangers ahead.
February 12 1999 / New Statesman
Ian McEwan is a dualist: he divides the world into conflicting opposites and makes fiction from the sparks thrown up by their collision.