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Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson

Celebrated novelist Howard Jacobson’s most recent book, Kalooki Nights, was published to wide acclaim in 2006. An acerbic cultural critic with a passion for literature and art, he is known for his ebullient wit as well as his unique take on the Jewish experience in Britain.

Howard Jacobson: No need to be surprised when a house of horrors turns up on a quiet provincial street

How could this happen here, they are asking in the unremarkable provincial Austrian town of Amstetten, home to Josef Fritzl, dungeon to his daughter and their incestuous offspring. And to think that such a thing could have been taking place under our very noses, and he such a charming man, and they – those that were visible – such lovely, quiet people.

Recently by Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson: I lay on my sun bed and enjoyed the most perfect reading experience you can imagine

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Discovered a new pleasure: lying on the beach reading writers describing lying on the beach. It's awkward reading on the beach if you're not sufficiently flexuous to get the right degree of shoulderly twist to read the words, or the right degree of cranial lift to turn the page, and if you don't have the bodily or astronomical savvy to work out how to get the sun on the book but not on you. But that's the joy of reading about someone who manages it no better.

Howard Jacobson: Which is more depraved: Nazi role-playing in sex games or the horrors of motor sport?

Saturday, 5 April 2008

I might need help with this one. "Yes, psychiatric help," I hear the unsympathetic saying, but that's not the help I'm talking about. I mean help in the explanation sense, as in explain to me why a man shouldn't indulge in a bit of retro-Nazi sado-masochistic role-play in the quiet of a house of ill-repute in leafy Chelsea when the fancy takes him, provided no one gets seriously hurt in the process – other than, one hopes for his sake, himself.

Howard Jacobson: If you say you want a revolution, it's obvious you're sitting uncomfortably in economy

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Half-caught a minute or two of that suave revolutionary Tariq Ali on Desert Island Discs last week. Revolution and Desert Island Discs – I mean no mischief by pointing out the conjunction. The wildest of us must accommodate to society's blandishments at last. We age, we mellow, we want to lie on deserted beaches listening to gramophone records.

Howard Jacobson: The heart has its allegiances, to places as well as people. And a country is both

Saturday, 22 March 2008

A man has put his life up for sale on eBay. House, car, motorbike, jet-skis, spa, friends, job, the lot. Not quite the lot. You don't get the wife. He doesn't either, which is why he's selling up. What are friends, jet-skis, motorbike and spa worth if you no longer have a wife who loves you to enjoy them with? But allowing that the life you'd be buying – wifeless or not – is in Perth, Western Australia, my advice would be to snap it up.

Howard Jacobson: So much more could have been done to liberate people from the confines of class

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Not often I say this, but I'm feeling sorry for the BBC. Specifically for BBC2 whose series White – Is White Working Class Britain Becoming Invisible has drawn criticism from people of all colours, classes and visibility.

Howard Jacobson: Many are the ways we might feel frightened, embarrassed – or just not at home

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Another week, another inanity. If it's not Balls it's Hodge. Not schools this time, the Proms. New Labour, New Culture. Only for New Culture, read No Culture. Alternatively, Hodgepodge.

Howard Jacobson: If you think that Prozac works, then it doesn't really matter what the experts say

Saturday, 1 March 2008

So somebody at the University of Hull reckons depression drugs don't work. How can this be if the people who take them say they do? Depression for most of us is a say-you-are, say-you-aren't condition. "I have of late lost all my mirth," says Hamlet. What are you going to do – tell him he's wrong?And if talking dirty to his mother restores his humour, what are you going to do then? Tell him he's still wrong.

Howard Jacobson: Why mock the expectation of beauty in art? It is laudable that we want to be impressed

Saturday, 23 February 2008

A Pissarro or a Pissoir is our theme for today. But first, by way of fortifying our intelligences, the example of Dr Johnson "rejoicing to concur with the common reader" in the matter of that much loved poem "Gray's Elegy" – "for by the common sense of readers, uncorrupted by literary prejudices, after all the refinements of subtility and the dogmatism of learning, must be finally decided all claim to poetical honours".

Howard Jacobson: Our woefully uncultured leaders no longer have any idea what schools should be doing

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Much taken by what Alexa Chung – a person I have never heard of – told Deborah Ross in an interview in The Independent Magazine last week. So deep was her love of English at school, she remembered, that she took an extra hour of it every lunch hour, "and when we did Sophocles I was like, wow, Sophocles is amazing".

Howard Jacobson: You won't find young people complaining about CCTV – they love being on camera

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Much talk of living in a surveillance society last week. The Government considering the admissibility of phone-tap evidence in court, police stopping and searching everyone out after 6pm, the security services bugging MPs, and the usual wringing of hands in the Sunday papers about the number of CCTV cameras in operation. Not something we entirely understand in this column, given our commitment to transparency. Have nothing to hide, we say, and vigilance has nothing to find.

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