Muriel Spark’s The Girls Of Slender Means

By William Boyd I first became aware of the strange and beguiling world of Muriel Spark on the release, in 1968, of the film version of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.  Like most successful films, the adaptation took me back to the original, hungry for a richer aesthetic experience. I was not disappointed and since […]

The Castle In The Forest

By Norman Mailer Random House 477 pp $26.95 Reviewed by William Boyd The prospect of this novel was highly enticing and alluring: Norman Mailer on Adolf Hitler and his family. Mailer, who has tackled – fearlessly, full-throatedly — Marilyn Monroe, Jesus Christ, Lee Harvey Oswald, Picasso, Mohammed Ali and Gary Gilmore (amongst others) seemed to […]

Chekhov’s Genius

Like Vladimir Nabokov, I think the word ‘genius’ should be used incredibly sparingly and not be casually bandied about. In certain fields of human endeavour the appellation seems relatively easy to understand and identify – I’m thinking of science, philosophy,  mathematics and music, in particular.  We appear able to recognise genius in composers almost instinctively. […]

Lanark By Alasdair Gray

Readers develop unique histories with the books they read. It may not be immediately apparent at the time of reading but the person you were when you read the book, the place you were where you read the book, your state of mind while you read it, your personal situation (happy, frustrated, depressed, bored) and […]


Foreword by William Boyd “O homem nâo é um animalÉ uma carne inteligenteEmbora às vezes doente.” [Man is not an animalIs intelligent fleshAlthough sometimes ill.] Something of the baffling, beguiling, disturbing appeal of Fernando Pessoa is contained in these three lines of poetry taken from a short poem he wrote in 1935, the year of […]

The Secret Lives Of Somerset Maugham By Selina Hastings

John Murray, 614 pp, £25.00 Review by William Boyd I still possess my 1967 Penguin paperback of Somerset Maugham’s A Writer’s Notebook.  Ostensibly a distillation of his diary, kept over some 50 years, it was more interesting to the aspiring novelist for the gnomic advice Maugham offered on the craft of writing. ‘There’s no need for […]

The Writer, The City And The Park A Personal A – Z

By William Boyd A – Angus Wilson (1913-1991), novelist and short story writer, identified what he called an essential dichotomy in the English realistic novel dating back to Samuel Richardson in the 18th century, namely the concepts of ‘town’ and ‘country’ and the opposing values centred around them.  The division is an intriguing one, even today, […]