The Common Reader
Henry Oliver
Created 26 Oct 2020
A blog for what Samuel Johnson and Virginia Woolf called the common reader. Make the most of your reading time. "One of my favourite Substacks." Helen Lewis
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Latest Posts

A great deal of ruin in a talent
26 Jan 2023 8 8
What an interesting book this is, just reissued. Written by Sylvia Townsend Warner aged seventy (her first attempt at biography: late bloomer!) it was the first biography of White, written just after ...
Just gurus enough to make us hate one another
23 Jan 2023 9 6
Writing elsewhere I wrote about Why Growth Matters for The Critic. Satire is moral criticism of content; parody is mockery of form or style. When parody becomes a homage we call it pastiche. Satire ca...
Exit Orwell, pursued by a gigantic hound
19 Jan 2023 20 8
I hate Orwell’s writing rules. All that crap about preferring the active voice and never using a long word where a short one will do. Should Conan Doyle not have written “They were the footprints of a...
The high charms of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
16 Jan 2023 12 12
Writing elsewhere For the New Statesman I wrote about why Liz Truss should not set up a think tank. For The Critic I wrote about why Liz Truss will be a Barry Goldwater figure, why it is difficult to ...
In which ChatGPT writes a Dickensian scene where Mrs. Gamp meets Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller calls her not a lady.
09 Jan 2023 4 2
It’s a mystery to me why Dickens’ characters don’t recur, the way Evelyn Waugh’s and P.G. Wodehouse’s do. Don’t you wish he had written a story where Mr Pickwick met Mrs Gamp? I do, so I asked chatGPT...

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