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Watching them die

Robert Fisk is a great war reporter and partisan chronicler of western abuses in the middle east. But do not expect political insight
Ian Black  

The enigma of simplicity

Alan Bennett's deceptively conservative Englishness has made him a national treasure. The more complex he becomes, the more people love his plainness
David Herman  

The horrors of Houellebecq

Michel Houellebecq's new novel is a further dig at French literature, human aspiration and himself. And a biography of the writer tries to explain his self-hatred
Tim King  

Seeking Shakespeare

Lack of facts about Shakespeare seems merely to encourage biographers. Peter Ackroyd wisely tackles him through a social history of Tudor and Stuart England
Erik Tarloff  

Getting a life

The new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has been denounced for its many mistakes and tendentious commentary. But it extends the idea of Britishness, includes an impressive variety of lives, and the online version enables hours of happy browsing by…
Margaret Drabble  

The Wittgenstein of law

A "tell-all" biography of the liberal reformer and legal theorist HLA Hart sheds light on the flowering of Oxford philosophy from the 1930s to the 1970s
Ben Rogers  

Dylan talks, Zappa shouts

The legend of Bob Dylan can survive and even thrive on a work of self-exposure, but the mystery of Frank Zappa is that anyone should bother to enquire
Erik Tarloff  

Bill grows up at last

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum was a sworn enemy of the Clinton presidency. But now that the man is out of power, and maturing fast, there may be reason to rethink
David Frum