Header overlay

Popular categories

Explore our library

The Smoking Bishop

The Smoking Bishop

In one way, Dickens was not a Victorian. He was born in 1812 and his formative years were spent under the Regency, then the reigns of George IV and William IV. By the time of Victoria’s coronation, many of the themes and obsessions of his creative work were formed and he retained a Regency exuberance in his early work that was not always to the taste of his more educated readers. One thing they did not care for in his early novels was his treatment of drink and drinkers.
SF magazine subscribers only

Transports of Delight

I have a pocketful of change. Around me, there’s the sound of clothes hangers on rails. Beyond a bin of old toys there’s a clink of crockery. The flooring’s worn, the smell is musty. I can hardly restrain my fingers. What am I looking for? I don’t know. That’s just the point. I’m in one of my favourite places: a charity shop, in the book section. The atmosphere’s hushed. It’s that of a museum, or, perhaps, a library. But, wait. If I love books so much, why aren’t I in a library, or, indeed, a bookshop?
SF magazine subscribers only
Praisethurber

Praisethurber

Not too many years ago, it would have been unnecessary to explain who James Thurber was. His short story ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’, published in 1947 in the New Yorker (where most of his writing first appeared), soon found an international audience, and despite the best efforts of Danny Kaye to kill it off in a truly appalling film, it remains one of the most adept pieces of comic writing of its time, with most of the classic Thurber trademarks, including his delight in inventing words: among them the pseudomedical terms ‘obstreosis of the ductal tract’ and ‘streptothricosis’, and the information that ‘Coreopsis has set in’.
SF magazine subscribers only
Between Soft Covers

Between Soft Covers

About a year ago now a smiling vanman delivered twenty-six heavy brown-papered packages from a trolley and stacked them along the side of the hall. I scrabbled one parcel open and there they were: the first copies, straight from their Yorkshire printer, of my memoir, Learning Things. I felt triumphant. The chaotic, sometimes threatening, jumble that had been the ingredients of my family’s lives and mine were now tamed into some sort of order – not just a pile of typed pages but a real book. It is not very expensive to publish a book but why embark on the venture at all? Well, our histories and memories are the context of our children. To my children and grandchildren (three of them half- American) the there-and-then of my parents’ lives in India, at war, even my own experiences of boarding-school and as a terrified apprentice parachutist, seem almost unimaginably far away. My mother had died when I was 17 and my father, away for so long at war, had been a remote figure, so I too learned much about them as I explored the material I had.
SF magazine subscribers only
Large Busts and Slim Margins

Large Busts and Slim Margins

It remains one of the more surprising facts of life that the intrepid traveller Eric Newby, who by the time I knew him had the weatherbeaten cragginess of a man only happy when halfway up the Hindu Kush, should have carved out an earlier career astride the lower slopes of haute couture. Everyone has to start somewhere, however, and he put his first reluctant footprint on the fashion world as hapless gofer in the family firm of Lane & Newby, ‘Mantle Manufacturers and Wholesale Costumiers’, from which he rose, more by luck than by judgement, to the dizzy heights of Worth Paquin, later plateauing out into the sunny uplands of John Lewis in the incongruous position of buyer of Ladies’ Fashion.
SF magazine subscribers only
A Landscape Without Figures

A Landscape Without Figures

I first read Voss about forty years ago and didn’t pick it up again until very recently. A few years later I was somewhat disappointed by one or two of White’s other books and this must have tainted my recollection. I certainly remembered Voss as a powerful metaphor for the condition of modern man, but when I reread it I was surprised by its force and inevitability. The Marxist critic George Lukács once defined the novel as the epic of a world from which the gods have departed. Voss is first and foremost a gripping epic and the gods have indeed disappeared – or almost: there is still spirituality in the air and the characters seem to have developed special antennae for it.
SF magazine subscribers only

Illumination and Shadow

‘It is Europe that is dying, my friends.’ This gloomy observation is, his devoted fans will recognize, the very essence of Alan Furst. It is delivered, in this case, by an anti-fascist Italian exile to a group of his compatriots in Paris in 1938, in Furst’s most recent novel, The Foreign Correspondent. But the world he has brought to life in all nine of his books is old Europe – from Lisbon to the Black Sea, though usually centred in the French capital – as it is smashed and swept away by war and the unstoppable momentum of power politics.
SF magazine subscribers only

One Foot in Eden

Writing her diary one evening in January 1951, Edwin Muir’s wife Willa reflected that her husband’s poems would live on, but ‘of himself, only a legend’. Why? Contemporary poets united in marvelling at Muir’s gifts, not just as a fellow poet, but as a human being. T. S. Eliot recognized in him a more ‘complete integrity’ than he had known in any other writer; Kathleen Raine envied his stillness and stability in a hurtling world; George Barker was moved by his visionary insight. Edwin Muir, Barker wrote, was ‘like a silent clock that showed not the time but the condition, not the hour but the alternative’. Surely something more solid than ‘legend’ should survive of such genius?
SF magazine subscribers only

Gray’s Anomaly

For years, then, I skipped modern poetry – until I discovered Billy Collins. Cue thunder and lightning! Now I’d walk backwards across town in a blizzard to buy the latest book of Billy Collins’s poems. His gift is to visit the familiar and reveal the outlandish. My lazy imagination wonders what lies behind that door, down that road, beyond that picture. Collins goes there. He’s a permanent trespasser on parallel worlds, making short expeditions and reaching offbeat conclusions.
SF magazine subscribers only
Inside the Brotherhood

Inside the Brotherhood

I first read the book when I was 16; later, Gaunt became a recurring figure in my life, cropping up unexpectedly like one of the incidental characters in Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time. It was Mr Sweatman, my art master, who first gave it me to read and it had me utterly enthralled. Mr Sweatman was meant to be conducting the art class, but he was obsessed by a school  society called the Marionette Circle. He gave most of his attention to the few boys, members of the Circle, who arrived in class with tiny gibbeted figures dangling from their hands. He and they would disappear behind a lime-green screen, where the marionettes were made to perform their antics and danses macabres. Occasionally Mr Sweatman would emerge from behind the screen to bellow ‘Noisy!’ or ‘Guy Fawkes Night’ (a subject for us to paint). He was equally happy for the non-marionetteers to study art history; and with Gaunt’s book he found a perfect way of keeping me occupied.
SF magazine subscribers only
Going up in Smoke

Going up in Smoke

The dogmatic persecution of those whose unhealthy lifestyle falls below the high standards of the lawmakers is vividly and terrifyingly dramatized in Benoît Duteurtre’s novel The Little Girl and the Cigarette. The French writer sets his action in the near future – without saying exactly when – and in a familiarly Western democratic country – without saying exactly which. The story, or rather one of the two stories we follow through the book, opens with a distinctly modern dilemma.
SF magazine subscribers only

Sign up to our e-newsletter

Sign up for dispatches about new issues, books and podcast episodes, highlights from the archive, events, special offers and giveaways.

By signing up for our free email newsletter or our free printed catalogues, you will not automatically be subscribed to the quarterly magazine. To become a subscriber to Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader’s Quarterly Magazine, please visit our subscriptions page.

Slightly Foxed undertakes to keep your personal information confidential. You can read more about this in our Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from our list at any point by changing your preferences, or contacting us directly. Alternatively, if you have an account you can manage your preferences in your account settings.

What excellent company you are!

I have been devoted to your podcast for over a year; it could be improved only by being more frequent. Every book I have ordered from you has been a delight; nothing disappoints. I receive your emails with pleasure, and that’s saying a lot. Slightly Foxed is a source of content . . . ’
K. Nichols, Washington, USA

Sign up to our e-newsletter

Sign up for dispatches about new issues, books and podcast episodes, highlights from the archive, events, special offers and giveaways.