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The Only Alphabet

August Kleinzahler: Ashbery’s Early Life, 21 September 2017

The Songs We Know Best: John Ashbery’s Early Life 
by Karin Roffman.
Farrar, Straus, 316 pp., £25.50, June 2017, 978 0 374 29384 0
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... bought him a copy of the New Yorker and a Fritzi Ritz comic book. ‘Oh! Boy what fun to have the wind outside,’ John wrote later that evening in his diary. ‘Momma and I went down to the lounge and I read my New Yorker. I feel quite distingué with it under my arm. We came back and I undressed and am now in bed. The train sways quite a lot and I keep ...

Communists have parents too

John Gittings, 5 August 1993

... the suite, less for the clean sheets than for the opportunity to sit at his desk, listen to the wind in the bamboos outside, study the ink spots on the worn leather, and think about the Chairman. I first came to China in 1971 when the air stewardesses still sang Mao-songs in the aisle, and people waved goodbye at railway stations with Little Red Books. Ten ...


Jeremy Harding: My ’68, 19 July 2018

... influential coterie of boys, a year or two older than me, who were already restless. When they got wind of events in Paris they were obscurely stirred. Lindsay Anderson’s if … . – in production that spring and released at the end of the year – caught their mood well: the thought that they might cause mayhem was never far away, but it was only a ...

Ne me touchez pas

Nicholas Spice: Debussy’s Mission, 24 October 2019

Debussy: A Painter in Sound 
by Stephen Walsh.
Faber, 368 pp., £15.99, March 2018, 978 0 571 33016 4
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Claude Debussy: A Critical Biography 
by François Lesure, translated by Marie Rolf.
Rochester, 478 pp., £40, June 2019, 978 1 58046 903 6
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... represent non-directional states, whether of energy – subtle drift (clouds, mist), great force (wind, waves), unified fields of intricate and random motion (reflections on water, fireworks) – or of feeling (sentiment and sensation). He rejected narrative and dialectical structures in favour of a music of apposition, placing one thing next to another ...

Enemies For Ever

James Wolcott: ‘Making It’, 18 May 2017

Making It 
by Norman Podhoretz.
NYRB, 368 pp., £13.98, May 2017, 978 1 68137 080 4
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... Podhoretz the bold young successor to Alfred Kazin, Edmund Wilson, Malcolm Cowley, Stanley Edgar Hyman and Mary McCarthy in the Quality Lit Crit Biz. He is needled as a symptomatic New York intellectual specimen by Benjamin DeMott in the New York Review and cuffed around roughly by Hudson Review’s Marvin Mudrick, who complains that, apart from the ...


Gavin Millar, 13 September 1990

Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles 
by Frank Brady.
Hodder, 655 pp., £18.95, January 1990, 0 340 51389 6
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If this was happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth 
by Barbara Leaming.
Weidenfeld, 312 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 297 79630 5
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Norma Shearer 
by Gavin Lambert.
Hodder, 381 pp., £17.95, August 1990, 0 340 52947 4
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Ava’s Men: The Private Life of Ava Gardner 
by Jane Ellen Wayne.
Robson, 268 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 86051 636 9
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Goldwyn: A Biography 
by Scott Berg.
Hamish Hamilton, 579 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 241 12832 3
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The Genius of the System: Hollywood Film-Making in the Studio Era 
by Thomas Schatz.
Simon and Schuster, 514 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 671 69708 0
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... house in her bare feet and was shocked to discover she had only ever read one book: Gone with the Wind. ‘I left before he had a chance to flunk me.’ Her three husbands had 20 wives. Sinatra seems to have been the serious one. Shooting Mogambo, John Ford gave a party for the British Governor of Uganda and his wife. A man’s man, as they say, Ford thought ...

The Coat in Question

Iain Sinclair: Margate, 20 March 2003

All the Devils Are Here 
by David Seabrook.
Granta, 192 pp., £7.99, March 2003, 9781862075597
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... commuter road, with the line of poplars as a windbreak, and Seabrook will treat you to the full Edgar Lustgarten re-enactment. He doesn’t report some earlier account of the event, he witnesses it. Anticipates every bloody stroke of the blade. Which might explain Seabrook’s advocacy of the novelist (conspiracy buff and former Kubrick associate) Anthony ...


Barbara Everett: Coleridge the Modernist, 7 August 2003

Coleridge’s Notebooks: A Selection 
edited by Seamus Perry.
Oxford, 264 pp., £17.99, June 2002, 0 19 871201 4
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works I: Poems (Reading Text) 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1608 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 00483 8
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works II: Poems (Variorum Text) 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1528 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 00484 6
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works III: Plays 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1620 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 09883 2
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... perhaps barely conscious echoes and inheritances: like that piercing moment in Moby-Dick when the wind brings (or seems to bring) to the fated men far out at sea the smell of harvesting in a distant land, surely recalling Coleridge’s salty memory of a ‘hidden brook/In the leafy month of June’. In a comic Indian Army yarn by Kipling, the nightmare ...

All change. This train is cancelled

Iain Sinclair: The Dome, 13 May 1999

... before your fascinated gaze. The mechanism in its complacent little box is as remorseless as Edgar Allan Poe’s tell-tale heart and as silent as Conan Doyle’s dog that didn’t bark. It’s the silence that drives you mad. A second site visit was arranged. A second site visit was cancelled. Indulging my native paranoia, I believed that they must have ...


Colm Tóibín: Bishop v. Lowell, 14 May 2009

Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell 
edited by Thomas Travisano and Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 875 pp., £40, November 2008, 978 0 571 24308 2
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... calling Snodgrass ‘one of your better imitators’ and saying: ‘You tell things – but never wind up with your own darling gestures, the way he does … I went straight through Life Studies again and there is not a trace of it, and that is really “masculine” writing – courageous and honest.’ In 1974, Lowell wrote to Bishop: ‘By the way is a ...

Time Unfolded

Perry Anderson: Powell v. the World, 2 August 2018

... English possesses a one-word equivalent of the kippers, cast on flames, that billow smoke into the wind as the ‘grey, undecided’ snowflakes drift down on them. In Proust the novel proceeds for the next forty pages to describe a scene from the narrator’s childhood, peopled by his family. Every reader was once a child. In Powell, it moves to scenes in a ...

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