Alan Hollinghurst was born in 1954 in Gloucestershire, England, and attended Magdalen College, Oxford. He is the author of the novels The Swimming-Pool Library, The Folding Star (shortlisted for the Booker Prize), The Spell, The Line of Beauty, as well as of a translation of the play Bajazet by Racine. A former staff member at The Times Literary Supplement, Hollinghurst is a frequent contributor to that and other publications, including The Guardian. Hollinghurst’s fourth novel, The Line of Beauty, won the Man Booker Prize in 2004. His most recent novel is The Stranger’s Child and he has written the introduction to a new edition of ­Penelope Fitzgerald’s Offshore. He lives in London.

Serious, Silly, Charming, & Heartless

Lord Berners, Robert Heber-Percy with his daughter Victoria, and Jennifer Fry in the drawing room at Faringdon, Berkshire, September 1943; photograph by Cecil Beaton
It was an oddity of growing up in the small Berkshire town of Faringdon in the 1950s that Lord Berners’s name was often mentioned. He was, in a way, a part of the landscape. A tall slender tower on a hill at the edge of the town was the goal …

The Victory of Penelope Fitzgerald

Penelope Fitzgerald, 1986
Penelope Fitzgerald published her first book, a biography of the artist Edward Burne-Jones, when she was fifty-eight; her first novel appeared when she was sixty. She was, as she said, “an old writer who had never been a young one.”

Grief, Rage, Cognac, and a Computer

Peter Carey, New York City, 2011
Peter Carey is an astonishing capturer of likenesses—not only in the sense of the portrait (the “good likeness”), but of the teeming similitudes with which a sharp eye and a rich memory discern and describe the world. Simile and metaphor, which are at the heart of poetry, are a less certain presence in prose fiction, in some novelists barely deployed at all, but in Dickens, for instance (with whom Carey is repeatedly compared), they are vital and unresting elements of the novelist’s vision.

A World Cracked Open

Michael Cunningham, New York City, 1999
Michael Cunningham’s novels have tended to be airy, open structures, covering large spans of time and space. They are narrative experiments, multivoiced and wide-ranging, with a romantic sense of the adventure of the inner life and a brilliant eye for the details of the everyday world; it is not surprising …

Underground Men

What is “Netherland,” the strange-but-familiar compound that Joseph O’Neill has made the title of his captivating new novel? At its plainest, perhaps, it’s a singular bit of the Netherlands, the country from which the narrator, Hans van den Broek, arrived in the late 1990s, via London, as an equities analyst …

Passion and Henry James

The writer of a two-part life who calls his first volume Young So-and-So faces a problem of tact and aptness when it comes to the second. Sometimes the life itself provides an elegant answer: Young Melbourne grew into Lord M., Young Thomas Hardy was followed by Thomas Hardy’s Later Years, …

When in Rome

The acknowledgments pages in books are very proper as records of indebtedness, but they have other, less candid purposes. In part, of course, they are potted, slightly cryptic narratives of the writer’s heroic struggle. The mumble of humility masks the purr of self-satisfaction. Lists of names may be a covert …

Eminent Anti-Victorian

More than any others of his circle, Strachey survives as an image: tall, gaunt, bespectacled, and strikingly, one might say eminently, bearded. As a young man he wore a mustache that contributed to a general air of droopiness, but when he had mumps in 1911 he grew the reddish beard …

Child of the Century

It’s hard to state with any real confidence the facts about Sybille Bedford, beyond the unignorable fact of her being, at her best, a brilliant and original writer. Her subject has often been herself and her immediate world, but treated with much obliquity, reticence, and fictional license. These are all …

On ‘The Ivory Tower’

When he died in February 1916 Henry James left two unfinished novels—both, as it happens, about bequests. In The Sense of the Past a young American inherits an old London townhouse in which he finds himself taken back to the 1820s; it was a promising ghost-story donnée, and James worked …