Harry Potter and the Meaning of Life

Once upon a time, it was record shops that staged high-profile midnight openings to sell the latest hot release to queues of impatient fans; it was senior politicians who found themselves grilled on national TV by the BBC’s flagship interviewer Jeremy Paxman; and it was intellectuals and literary novelists who shaped great debates about moral […]

Reader, I disparaged him

What are women like? One minute they are voting for the predictable romantic hero Mr Darcy as their dream date, in a publicity poll for the women-only award, the Orange Prize for Fiction. The next, they are producing books about practical marriage management, arguing that the secret of a professional woman’s successful marriage is to […]

An anti-independence culture

Okay, I love my mum’s Sunday dinners. But that never seemed like a reason not to learn to cook my own. The nice thing about adulthood is that you no longer have to wait for your parents to dole out treats. Or maybe I’m just weird. Two headline-grabbing surveys reported on 21 March 2002 painted […]

Post-radical depression

We all know about ‘Chick Lit’ – the phenomenon of young female writers getting big advances for novels based on the singleton lives of themselves and their friends. What’s next, it seems, is ‘Guilt-trip Lit’, where the menopausal mothers of the women’s fiction world turn their attention to the fucked-up lives of their grown-up children’s […]

Good v Evil need not apply

  For the second week running, I found myself watching BBC1’s Sunday War Report. Chaired by John Humphrys, veteran of Radio 4’s Today programme, this seems like the BBC’s latest attempt at information-populism, combining breaking news with interviews with feature reports with Peter Snow (famous for his election-time swingometers) gabbling breathlessly through an electronic presentation of what troops/planes/bombs […]

Apologetic imperialism

If you want to understand the world as it really is not, it’s often a good idea to read some of the columnists in the UK press. This week, the Award for the Most Unreal Analysis goes to the Guardian’s Madeleine Bunting. Bunting used her slot on Monday 8 October to launch a bitter attack on […]

Growing up scared

As aeroplanes were crashing into New York’s World Trade Centre, I was halfway through an online quiz to find out if I am suffering from a ‘quarterlife crisis’. Sometimes, the news really puts things in perspective. The quarterlife crisis, apparently, is the twentysomething’s version of a midlife crisis. It refers to the condition of graduating […]

Gay is the new straight

Two gay couples came as close as they could to getting married in the UK this week, by signing the London Partnerships Register. The register is the latest initiative taken by London mayor Ken Livingstone, and while it does not have the same legal status as marriage, it effectively gives the state’s blessing to homosexual […]

Why do we love Big Brother?

Fifty-two years on from the publication of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, ‘Big Brother’ is best known as a cult TV programme in which a group of volunteers have their every move and word broadcast to the nation 24 hours a day. We do not live in a police state – far from it. People are not […]

Forever – or a day?

‘Love and marriage, love and marriage/Go together like a horse and carriage’…. Not any more they don’t. The numbers of people getting married keeps on falling. In 1999, there were 263,515 marriages, and over half as many divorces (144,241) (1). The UK Office for Statistics’ 2000 edition of Social Trends reveals that approximately 25 percent of unmarried […]

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