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Yuh wanna play bad?

Christopher Tayler: Henry Roth, 23 March 2006

Redemption: The Life of Henry Roth 
by Steven Kellman.
Norton, 372 pp., $16.99, September 2005, 0 393 05779 8
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Call It Sleep 
by Henry Roth.
Picador US, 462 pp., $15, July 2005, 0 312 42412 4
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... the ensuing short circuit with Isaiah’s ‘angel-coal’. The narrative dissolves into a medley of voices: Yiddish-speaking card players, Irish workmen, a sailor dreaming of fish and chips, an agitator speaking of ‘the day when the red cock crows’. Jewish and Christian religious motifs and bursts of sexual imagery flicker over the scene as David ...

Those Brogues

Marina Warner, 6 October 2016

... here. More than two hundred years later, this sense had not yet faded; with a cheeky rhyme, Robert Burns attributed such devices to the devil: ‘Then you, ye auld, snic-drawing dog!/Ye came to Paradise incog/An’ play’d on man a cursed brogue.’ By the time Burns was writing, ‘brogue’ also commonly described ‘a rude kind of shoe generally ...

The Wrong Blond

Alan Bennett, 23 May 1985

Auden in Love 
by Dorothy Farnan.
Faber, 264 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 571 13399 1
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... as Siegfried’s Funeral March gives way to the more comfortable strains of the village band, the medley of the two just about summing it up.Back in 1939, Auden is typically bold, not to say boastful about his affair. Even nowadays, with parents the stunned and submissive onlookers at their children’s lives, a middle-aged man would think twice about meeting ...

Placing Leavis

Geoffrey Hartman, 24 January 1985

The Leavises: Recollections and Impressions 
edited by Denys Thompson.
Cambridge, 207 pp., £15, October 1984, 0 521 25494 9
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The Social Mission of English Criticism: 1848-1932 
by Chris Baldick.
Oxford, 264 pp., £19.50, August 1983, 0 19 812821 5
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Radical Earnestness: English Social Theory 1880-1980 
by Fred Inglis.
Robertson, 253 pp., £16.50, November 1982, 0 85520 328 5
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The Critic as Anti-Philosopher: Essays and Papers by F.R. Leavis 
edited by G. Singh.
Chatto, 208 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 7011 2644 2
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... In Wordsworth, too, Leavis associates a ‘vital equivocalness’ with creativity. Being a medley of public lectures from the final eight years of Leavis’s life, to which some early pieces from Scrutiny are added (the attack on Joyce is of special interest), the essays contain few surprises. Dismissive judgments and complex evaluations mingle. Milton ...

Andante Capriccioso

Karl Miller, 20 February 1986

The Adventures of Don Quixote de la Mancha 
by Miguel de Cervantes, translated by Tobias Smollett.
Deutsch, 846 pp., £15, January 1986, 0 233 97840 2
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... Smollett can often have been rated an enemy in the new age. ‘I want Smollet’s works,’ wrote Robert Burns, ‘for the sake of his incomparable humor.’1 And he may also have wanted them for their romantic intervals. Smollett was, in fact, to imitate the inimitable Cervantes for the rest of his life. He translated him, then re-translated him in a ...

Faint Sounds of Shovelling

John Kerrigan: The History of Tragedy, 20 December 2018

Ladies’ Greek: Victorian Translations of Tragedy 
by Yopie Prins.
Princeton, 297 pp., £24, April 2017, 978 0 691 14189 3
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Greek Tragic Women on Shakespearean Stages 
by Tanya Pollard.
Oxford, 331 pp., £60, September 2017, 978 0 19 879311 3
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Eclipse of Action: Tragedy and Political Economy 
by Richard Halpern.
Chicago, 313 pp., £34, April 2017, 978 0 226 43365 3
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Samson Agonistes: A Redramatisation after Milton 
by John Kinsella.
Arc, 109 pp., £10.99, October 2018, 978 1 911469 55 1
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... had shrunk to the darkened upstairs room in 50 Wimpole Street from which she would elope with Robert Browning. Her letters to him allude to the ‘blind hopes’ for the future that Prometheus speaks of in Aeschylus. She hoped to escape her isolation, not just to marry, but to realise her creative potential. She did not want to be crushed by a falling ...

Wire him up to a toaster

Seamus Perry: Ordinary Carey, 7 January 2021

A Little History of Poetry 
by John Carey.
Yale, 303 pp., £14.99, March 2020, 978 0 300 23222 6
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... against something spurious and sophisticated. That dig at Spender, for instance, draws on a rich medley of antipathies that Carey inherited from Orwell – the literary, the affluent, the arty, the expensively educated, the feckless, the undeservedly rewarded – and which have always animated his most feisty writing. Poetry is on his side, it turns ...

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