Here he comes, one of the planet’s most conspicuous young men, stepping out of the London drizzle and into a dusty suburban pub. If there was an old vinyl record player in the place it would scratch quiet. Instead, the two-dozen punters turn hushed and intent, as if a unicorn has just trotted in off the street, and nobody wants to scare it off. “That’s frickin’ Harry frickin’ Styles,” whispers a young man at the bar, “in this pub.” The pop star is asked what he wants to drink and in a voice already inclined to undertones, quietly orders a cup of tea. A former teen star who is now 25, a happier and rockier solo artist since his boyband One Direction split a few years ago, Styles has hidden himself inside a large, swamp-green parka. He’s tall, around the 6ft mark, and carries himself with a slight stoop. If Styles could only do something about his appearance from the neck up (elfin brow, wide Joker smile, a face that’s … [Read more...] about Harry Styles: ‘I’m not just sprinkling in sexual ambiguity to be interesting’
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“Do you remember the girl who did that thing with the stocking: she put it in her mouth and then pulled it out ... somewhere else?” asks former dancer Jo King. “And who was the girl with the snake? I remember she used to clear the pub. And Canadian Linda, who was the most graceful, fairy-like doll ... Then there was me, shouting at people if they didn’t put money in the jug!” It’s Saturday 30 July, and the White Horse strip pub in London’s Shoreditch is packed for its closing night. On the stage dancers sparkle, people cry, and three generations of landladies wave goodbye. “I’m going to miss it terribly,” says Sue Bristow, the pub’s outgoing boss. Behind the scenes, coins are counted from collection jars amid a clutter of flowers, cards and cake. It’s Legends Night, and dancers across the decades have come back to pay tribute. One woman’s parents are here; another has brought in old photos. At one point in … [Read more...] about ‘It’s a weird, sexy family’: priced-out London strip club bids a fond farewell
Robert Macfarlane’s most recent book, Underland, came out only months ago, took him several years to write, and must rank as one of the most personally taxing books of its kind (it’s filled with accounts of dangerous descents beneath the surface of the earth). So it’s no surprise that a new book should be as short, and comparatively unadventurous in terms of its destination, as Ness. Decorated with Stanley Donwood’s pen and ink illustrations, it also suggests a different kind of release for Macfarlane. While his previous books have laid their evocations of the natural world on a foundation of scholarship and reportage, Ness is a freewheeling prose-poem. As far as its poetry is concerned, it doesn’t offer much more than passages of irregular rhyming, broken-up lines, and the encouragement to read with an especially sharp eye for metaphorical rather than merely literal interest. But never mind: the book is a chance for Macfarlane both to take a breather, and … [Read more...] about Ness by Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood review – forces of nature
Reading Chekhov: A Critical Journey, Janet Malcolm, the combative author of The Journalist and the Murderer and Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (both also being reprinted by Granta), would appear to be steering clear of controversy in this lucid, intelligent and absorbing study. It is not necessarily what the anxious student would want; interleaved with her own comments and interpretations is an account of a modest pilgrimage to some of Chekhov's haunts, both fictional and real, in modern Russia. Indeed, the book begins with Malcolm looking down from the same bench as the lovers in "The Lady with the Dog", a trip "that can only fall short ... of expectations". One wonders what the point is of these excursions, or, rather, what they are doing in a work of literary criticism, beyond supplying a rationale for the subtitle. It turns out there is a good reason for them, perhaps unintended, which I'll get to in a minute. One of the many clever things about this work is that … [Read more...] about In pursuit of Chekhov’s villains
In the small hours of 25 February 1983, the playwright Tennessee Williams died in his suite at the Elysée, a small, pleasant hotel on the outskirts of the Theatre District in New York City. He was 71: unhappy, a little underweight, addicted to drugs and alcohol and paranoid sometimes to the point of delirium. According to the coroner's report, he'd choked on the bell-shaped plastic cap of a bottle of eyedrops, which he was in the habit of placing on or under his tongue while he administered to his vision. The next day, the New York Times ran an obituary claiming him as "the most important American playwright after Eugene O'Neill", though it had been two decades since his last successful play. It listed his three Pulitzer prizes, for A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Night of the Iguana, adding: "He wrote with deep sympathy and expansive humour about outcasts in our society. Though his images were often violent, he was a poet of the human heart." He was also a … [Read more...] about What drives writers to drink?