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Wham Bang, Teatime

Ian Penman: Bowie, 5 January 2017

The Age of Bowie: How David Bowie Made a World of Difference 
by Paul Morley.
Simon & Schuster, 484 pp., £20, July 2016, 978 1 4711 4808 8
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On Bowie 
by Rob Sheffield.
Headline, 197 pp., £14.99, June 2016, 978 1 4722 4104 7
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On Bowie 
by Simon Critchley.
Serpent’s Tail, 207 pp., £6.99, April 2016, 978 1 78125 745 6
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Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy 
by Simon Reynolds.
Faber, 704 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 571 30171 3
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... In​ 1975 David Bowie was in Los Angeles pretending to star in a film that wasn’t being made, adapted from a memoir he would never complete, to be called ‘The Return of the Thin White Duke’. This dubious pseudonymous character was first aired in an interview with Rolling Stone’s bumptious but canny young reporter Cameron Crowe; it soon became notorious ...
How far can you go? 
by David Lodge.
Secker, 244 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 436 25661 4
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Life before Man 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 317 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 224 01782 9
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Desirable Residence 
by Lettice Cooper.
Gollancz, 191 pp., £5.50, April 1980, 0 575 02787 8
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A Month in the Country 
by J.L. Carr.
Harvester, 110 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 85527 328 3
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... A week or two ago I reviewed a novel about rock-climbers. A very absorbing tale it was too, but specialised; and one was bound to say that to a reader wholly without interest in the technicalities of the sport it might well fall flat. How far can you go? is a novel about Catholics. There are more Catholics than rock-climbers, but even so their concerns are special ones, and it would seem on the face of it that the same limitations must apply ...


David Craig: The Call of the Abyss, 11 September 2003

... Fluorescein dye put in at the top had resurfaced a fortnight later in a cliff spring that fed a rock pool on the Black Sea shore 20 kilometres away. (The world record is in Turkey, where dye reappeared 130 km away after 366 days.) A geologist called Kruber was the first to look for caves in the Arabika massif in the early 20th century. In the ...

Powerful Moments

David Craig, 26 October 1989

Touching the void 
by Joe Simpson.
Cape, 172 pp., £10.95, July 1988, 0 224 02545 7
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by M. John Harrison.
Gollancz, 221 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 9780575036321
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... it is as though the whole fall of dark space between the Moon and the Earth had hardened into pure rock starred and grained by ice and scored by the soaring white flutes of avalanche tracks. Simpson fell when his axes tore out of brittle ice. His knee shattered. Yates started to lower him, his hands stiffened into claws by frostbite. Simpson fell ...


Paul Rock, 17 September 1981

... possibility that some riots may be modelled on the carnival or Saturnalia, that they may be fun. David Matza claimed some years ago, in his book Delinquency and Drift, that criminologists have taken delinquency rather too seriously, casting it as the fateful pursuit of those intent on profit or a grim lawlessness. He claimed that since Frederick Thrasher ...

Play hard

Dave Haslam, 20 October 1994

The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music 1972-93 
by Nick Kent.
Penguin, 338 pp., £9.99, May 1994, 0 14 023046 7
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... Nick Kent is described on the cover of The Dark Stuff as ‘the living legend of rock journalism’. His status as legend is less to do with the quality of his writing than with his wilful mirroring of the self-destructive, drug-centred lives led by the rock stars he writes about ...


David Craig: In Florence, 26 November 1998

... a hundred feet above us. Through my binoculars I can make out a colossal devil sitting in a cleft rock. He is horned and muscular and rather human. His forehead is corrugated as though in distress at his own evildoing. From each of his ears a snake oozes with a naked person writhing in its jaws. Between the sleek worm of his moustache and the black ringlets ...

True Grit

David Craig, 8 February 1996

Wainwright: The Biography 
by Hunter Davies.
Joseph, 356 pp., £16.99, October 1995, 0 7181 3909 7
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... with one or two wee extras – a stark outcrop, a slatestone pillar like a totem, a lone barn, a rock-mouth funnelling down into the bowel of the limestone. If you read closely between the lines of Wainwright’s treatment of the Buttermere fell called Haystacks in his Western Fells of 1966 – the seventh book of his series on the Lakeland fells – a ...


David Craig: Moore in Prato, 9 December 1999

... tensed motionless a quarter of the way through the stone. ‘They are trimming off poor-quality rock,’ says Carlo while Ron translates. On the lip of the quarry’s giant bite out of the mountainside, a blockhouse perches with its empty eyes towards the gold of the Mediterranean in the middle distance. Here was a strongpoint on the Gothic Line, Carlo ...

All hail the microbe

Lavinia Greenlaw: Things Pile Up, 18 June 2020

Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils 
by David Farrier.
Fourth Estate, 307 pp., £16.99, March, 978 0 00 828634 7
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... In​ Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils, David Farrier reaches into the past in order to envisage the deep future. This can only ever be an extrapolation of the present – our knowledge, experience, language and ideas – but Farrier is relaxed about this. His focus is on the way life has been recorded in the substance of the world, the ways we can trace human impact and the ways we, in turn, might be traced in time to come ...

Another Tribe

Andy Beckett: PiL, Wire et al, 1 September 2005

Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-Punk 1978-84 
by Simon Reynolds.
Faber, 577 pp., £16.99, April 2005, 0 571 21569 6
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... inspired by Muriel Spark’s novel The Public Image, PiL was intended to be a step away from the rock tradition, which punk, for all its reforming impatience and vaguely revolutionary sentiments, had still belonged to. PiL were going to be not just a band, but a ‘communications company’: a film-maker and accountant were members, along with Rotten – now ...

Sam, Sam, Mythological Man

David Jones, 2 May 1985

Motel Chronicles and Hawk Moon 
by Sam Shepard.
Faber, 188 pp., £3.95, February 1985, 0 571 13458 0
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Paris, Texas 
by Wim Wenders and Sam Shepard.
Ecco, 509 pp., £12.95, January 1985, 0 88001 077 0
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... reluctant dramatist. ‘I don’t want to be a playwright,’ he said in 1971. ‘I want to be a rock and roll star ... I got into writing plays because I had nothing else to do. So I started writing to keep from going off the deep end.’ Clearly there’s an element of bravado in that statement, but it’s also true that Shepard has adopted a resolutely ...

The Wildest, Highest Places

David Craig, 17 July 1997

John Muir: His Life and Letters and Other Writings 
edited by Terry Gifford.
Baton Wicks, 912 pp., £20, November 1996, 1 898573 07 7
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... he struck ‘a fine, hearty gush of water’. By then he had dinted his way through eighty feet of rock, working alone from dawn till dark. When he was overcome with choke-damp at the start of work one day, he was hauled up unconscious – and resumed after a day or two once water had been thrown down the shaft ‘to absorb the gas’ and a bundle of brushwood ...

Virgin’s Tears

David Craig: On nature, 10 June 1999

Nature: Western Attitudes since Ancient Times 
by Peter Coates.
Polity, 246 pp., £45, September 1998, 0 7456 1655 0
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... needles. True, the turf which I shared with the young bird had been bitten close by sheep. But the rock and the hawks were nature untransformed by humanity. So were the two wild billy-goats that I saw one morning on Jura in the Inner Hebrides. On a beach of shingle ramped up by the Atlantic they charged each other, clashed foreheads with a bony thump, backed ...


Claude Rawson, 17 June 1982

St Kilda’s Parliament 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 87 pp., £3, September 1981, 0 571 11770 8
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Airborn/Hijos del Aire 
by Octavio Paz and Charles Tomlinson.
Anvil, 29 pp., £1.25, April 1981, 0 85646 072 9
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The Flood 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 55 pp., £3.95, June 1981, 0 19 211944 3
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Looking into the Deep End 
by David Sweetman.
Faber, 47 pp., £3, March 1981, 0 571 11730 9
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by Andrew Motion.
Salamander, 28 pp., £5, December 1981, 0 907540 05 8
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... the day’s work and any other issues that needed to be talked over’: On either side of a rock-paved lane, Two files of men are standing barefooted, Bearded, waistcoated, each with a tam-o’-shanter On his head, and most with a set half-smile That comes from their companionship with rock, With soft mists, with ...

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