Posts tagged biography

Paul Robeson: A Watched Man by Jordan Goodman

If you’ve ever wondered just how far government agencies will go to keep us safe from ideas that they find dangerous, this account of the US government’s sustained attack on the singer Paul Robeson will make fascinating reading. Robeson never participated in or advocated violence or crime, and yet he was placed under continuous surveillance for years, called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, had his passport confiscated and subjected to arbitrary restrictions that almost killed both his career and his health. The official State Department justification for depriving Robeson… Read More

Sea of Ink by Richard Weihe

The premise of this book is delightful: a novella in 51 short chapters, describing the life of famous 17th-century Chinese painter Bada Shanren, partly through his paintings themselves, which are reproduced in the book. The writing in places was quite beautiful, but as a novella it didn’t really work for me. I’ll attempt to explain why. Part of it, I think, is the difficulty of describing art in words. I had a similar problem with the descriptions of jazz in the Booker-shortlisted Half Blood Blues last year – I wrote then, “No… Read More

“T.S. Eliot” by Peter Ackroyd

I hardly ever read poetry, but for some reason T.S. Eliot’s poetry speaks to me. Perhaps it’s because, like Eliot, I used to work at a bank in the City of London, and the feeling of his poems is the exact feeling I had as a ‘Hollow Man’ looking at the masses of other Hollow Men crossing London Bridge to the Waste Land of the City. “I had not thought death had undone so many” – lines like that just express so much for me. So I was happy to… Read More