One of my heroes is dead. John Updike, one of the greatest writers the 20th century produced and the luminous chronicler of the lives and loves of small-town America, has died of lung cancer at the age of 76. Read more

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My neighbourhood Crossword has a clearance sale on, and I went the other day. I never, on principle, leave a bookstore without having bought something (anything). And if there are books to be had at bargain prices, I can never resist them. In the event, it turned out to be a pretty decent haul. Read more

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We read, as the 17th century English poet John Dryden told us, “for instruction and delight”. We read, as the Victorian novelist George Eliot said, because “art is the nearest thing to life”. What that means, the critic Louis Bayard explains, is that “to approach the mystery of our own condition, we have to grasp the mystery by which words make worlds”. Read more

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