In 2005 an 8in stone phallus was discovered in a cave in Germany. It was not the first archaeological artificial penis to be excavated, but computer scientist and author Kate Devlin believes that, at 28,000 years old, it is “one of the oldest”. What she finds more amusing is that the dildo might have been invented over 20,000 years before the wheel.
My teenage daughter’s class was recently asked by a guest speaker: “Hands up — who is a feminist?” A few tentative hands were raised. “Who thinks women and men should be treated equally?” Every hand shot up. “So you’re all feminists,” was the conclusion, proving that the very word “feminist” can still be misconstrued.
In one of those gentrified Cornish cafes last half-term, we sat next to a father and son who didn’t speak to each other for the entire 50 minutes we were there. The father was glued to his phone while the young child looked alternately sad and bored. It was difficult to witness this modern-day neglect.
Jeremy Seabrook, however, would have had no trouble naming it. In his latest book, he condemns our obsession with technology as “orphaning without parallel”.
Do you squeal watching Love Island, relish saying the “c” word loudly, and regularly wish it were 3am in London’s Groucho club in 1994 once more? Then you’ll probably want to put this on your sun-lounger wish list.
Caitlin Moran, the Times columnist who taught us How to Be a Woman in 2011 and How to Build a Girl in 2014, is back with the second novel in a proposed trilogy, educating us now in How to Be Famous.
There are a million tales of love and many more of addiction, claims the press release for You Left Early, a grief memoir by the award-winning novelist Louisa Young. “This one is truly transcendent,” it promises. The book follows almost four decades in the on/off love life of a posh London girl who falls for a raffish musical prodigy from Wigan and tries, unsuccessfully, to prise him from his one true obsession, alcohol.
When Damian Le Bas was a boy his great-grandmother, Nan, used to tell him stories about the places where his Roma ancestors would stop on their travels. One of these was Messenger’s Meadow in Hampshire, where in 1939 a girl in a long petticoat ran to tell them that war had been declared. Nan remembered it as a land of perpetual buttercups edged with a clear stream, a place for playing the spoons and tap-dancing on old boards.
Christina Patterson was furious. A journalist who had survived lupus and cancer, and who at the age of 49 had found neither lasting love nor children, she was being fired from the one thing that had sustained her — her newspaper job. She did not go quietly. Voices were raised. Threats to call security were made. Within 10 minutes she was out on the street and for the next 24 hours Patterson literally shook with anger and shock…
Tommy is paralysed from the neck down following a traffic accident. He is nine years old. Once football mad, he is tethered to his hospital bed with a tracheostomy, a colostomy bag and a urinary catheter. Frequently, he simply sobs. Christie Watson washes him, feeds him, reads Harry Potter to him and provides much of his mental care. “Because it is his mind that needs nursing most of all,” she writes in The Language of Kindness, a medical memoir drawn from her 20 years as an NHS nurse…
A snapshot of last Saturday in our household: the 13-year-old has lost £10 and, having tipped everything out of his cupboard, wails: “It’s been stolen!” The 17-year-old, who’d been arguing that studying hard for A-levels is a capitalist construct, wanders by and quips: “Money doesn’t make you happy.” The middle teen, trying to be good, gathers four dirty mugs from her room and dumps them in the sink — the dishwasher remains beyond her comprehension…
Laura Freeman still craves hot chocolate, drunk from a tiny blue-and-white cup and saucer, “the sort Renoir painted”. But she’s unlikely to let it past her lips any time soon. Freeman hasn’t touched chocolate since consuming a third of a Mars bar from an airport vending machine in her teens, wrapping it neatly “because lord knows I like things to be neat” and throwing it away in disgust.
When this single mother of two was diagnosed with early-onset dementia in 2014 at the age of 58, she didn’t wail “Why me?”, she thought: “There will be a way of getting back some control. There’s always a way.”
And so there was.
It has been four years since Mitchell noticed “a snowdrift” settling in her mind, but you only have to read the January 19 entry on her blog, Which Me Am I Today?, a droll review of this book by Billy, her daughter’s cat, to know she is still Wendy.
Here’s a book with a mighty big title to live up to. Written in a similarly breathless style, it charts the life of Belle Gibson, a young Australian fantasist who acquired 200,000 followers on Instagram by claiming she had cured her own brain cancer by consuming lemons and quinoa tortillas.
A kookaburra swoops down from a branch, spears a lizard and gobbles it down live. Gulp. Gone. As a curious young child in her Queensland garden, author Cory Taylor remembers this sunlit scene as her “moment of coming into consciousness”.
“Things live until they die,” she writes in this slim, intellectual memoir that serves as a reminder, amid the omni-shambles of today’s world, that life is transient and death final. Her message is clear: Count. Your. Blessings.
There is a line, 17 pages into Helen Fielding’s latest Bridget Jones offering, that hijacks a quote from DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. She is describing Mark Darcy’s reaction to finding an inebriated Bridget during their engagement party in Claridge’s, as she reveals her “giant mummy pants” to her lascivious boss, Daniel Cleaver.
Just 15 pages in, the first sex scene in Jilly Cooper’s Mount! features the mare Wages of Cindy on a shagpile of shredded black rubber, receiving 10 thrusts of a “mighty Tower of Pisa” from the stallion Love Rat. And with that, the queen of the rustic bonkbuster is off.
The communal garden was in early summer bloom — trees to climb up, chrysanthemums to smell, bushes to hide in. “Do you get many children playing here?” I asked my friend, who’d lived there for 25 years. “Not these days. They’re all doing Kumon maths!” she laughed.
Late one evening, soon after return-ing to his childhood home of Paris, Missouri (population 1,246 and falling), George Hodgman looks in on his sleeping mother, Betty. He sees she has kicked off her covers, so he puts an old, soft towel in the dryer to warm up and then spreads it around her feet, which she com-plains get cold at night.