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Diary

John Bayley: On Retiring, 25 July 1991

... one way of cheering oneself up with a new Derision Factor. ‘Where is Mrs Lear?’ once enquired George Steiner darkly. Did Shakespeare flinch from portraying what happened to old women? Or did Mrs Lear renew her youth in The Winter’s Tale and become a Paulina, a Queen ...

Outside the Academy

Robert Alter, 13 February 1992

Authors and Authority: English and American Criticism 1750-1990 
by Patrick Parrinder.
Macmillan, 392 pp., £40, August 1991, 0 333 43294 0
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A History of Modern Criticism 1750-1950. Vol. VII: German, Russian and Eastern European Criticism, 1900-1950 
by René Wellek.
Yale, 458 pp., £26, October 1991, 0 300 05039 9
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... a passion for literature and a commitment to making lucid sense. One must grant the contention of George Steiner in Real Presences that we as a culture need poetry and art as we will never need criticism, and it is surely a sign of what Parrinder calls ‘decadence’ to replace poetry with criticism. Nevertheless, self-consciousness and self-reflection ...

Is it always my fault?

Denis Donoghue: T.S. Eliot, 25 January 2007

T.S. Eliot 
by Craig Raine.
Oxford, 202 pp., £12.99, January 2007, 978 0 19 530993 5
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... it persuasive. Raine takes as his opponents in this chapter Anthony Julius, Christopher Ricks, George Steiner and Louis Menand, critics with very different positions on the issue, which he does his best to respect. In the end, he describes his own position as ‘reserved. We do not have all the evidence. There may be things in the correspondence.’ I ...

In Transit

Geoff Dyer: Garry Winogrand, 20 June 2013

... of this animate inventory that makes Winogrand so important. Taking his lead from Georg Lukács, George Steiner wrote of Balzac that when he ‘describes a hat, he does so because a man is wearing it.’ Granted, in photography hats are forever being verbed – worn, carried, tipped – but it’s helpful to see Winogrand as a visual novelist whose work ...

Exceptionally Wonderful Book

John Sutherland, 6 October 1994

Knowledge of Angels 
by Jill Paton Walsh.
Green Bay in association with Colt, 268 pp., £14.99, July 1994, 0 948845 05 8
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... No two panels, as they are annually reconstituted, will come up with the same titles. George Steiner will not coincide in judgment with John Bayley. There is the added complication of the unpredictable preferences of the lay members of the committee – what might be called the Mary Wilson factor. At the heart of the Booker process is the ...

Diary

Julian Barnes: On the Booker, 12 November 1987

... can shift. They can further reflect that whereas in 1972 the three judges were Cyril Connolly, George Steiner and Elizabeth Bowen, in 1987 a television newscaster, by virtue of having written a biography of Viv Richards, was at least more ‘literary’ than one of the other judges. And then the novelists had better conclude that the only sensible ...

On the Salieri Express

John Sutherland, 24 September 1992

Doctor Criminale 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 343 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 436 20115 1
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The Promise of Light 
by Paul Watkins.
Faber, 217 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 571 16715 2
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The Absolution Game 
by Paul Sayer.
Constable, 204 pp., £13.99, June 1992, 0 09 471460 6
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The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman 
by Louis de Bernières.
Secker, 388 pp., £14.99, August 1992, 0 436 20114 3
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Written on the Body 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Cape, 190 pp., £13.99, September 1992, 0 224 03587 8
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... winds up with a postscript set in Norwich. At a staid University Teachers of English get-together George Steiner, Frank Kermode and Seamus Heaney do their party pieces and a novelist – the author of Doctor Criminale, we must suppose – reads from his upcoming work, ‘whose ending he seems not to know’. The publisher’s blurb laconically informs us ...

Like a Meteorite

James Davidson, 31 July 1997

Homer in English 
edited by George Steiner.
Penguin, 355 pp., £9.99, April 1996, 0 14 044621 4
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Homer’s ‘Iliad’ 
translated by Stanley Lombardo.
Hackett, 584 pp., £6.95, May 1997, 0 87220 352 2
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Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ 
translated by Robert Fagles.
Viking, 541 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 670 82162 4
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... and there seems an insatiable market for new versions, especially in English. According to George Steiner, in his Introduction to Homer in English, this particular ‘translation act ... surpasses in frequency that of any other act of transfer into any other Western tongue and literature’, including versions of the Bible. But how do you begin to ...

Modernisms

Frank Kermode, 22 May 1986

Pound, Yeats, Eliot and the Modernist Movement 
by C.K. Stead.
Macmillan, 393 pp., £27.50, March 1986, 0 333 37457 6
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The Myth of Modernism and 20th-century Literature 
by Bernard Bergonzi.
Harvester, 216 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 7108 1002 4
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The Innocent Eye: On Modern Literature and the Arts 
by Roger Shattuck.
Faber, 362 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 571 12071 7
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... are variously described (‘classic’ as against ‘modern’, for instance, or, to name names, George Eliot as against Joyce). It is probably useless to protest against the almost universal scholarly passion for periodisation: to have cardinal dates and canonical works associated with those dates is convenient, a useful fiction of which we forget the ...

Donald Davie and the English

Christopher Ricks, 22 May 1980

Trying to Explain 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 213 pp., £6.95, April 1980, 0 85635 343 4
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... has his native wits about him, has he profited much from living abroad? In half-praise of George Steiner, Davie floats ‘a tradition of high-flying speculation about literature, which we costive islanders cannot afford not to profit by’. ‘Speculation’, ‘afford’ and ‘profit’ put a poet’s pressure on ‘costive’. Yet should Davie ...

Good Books

Marghanita Laski, 1 October 1981

The Promise of Happiness 
by Fred Inglis.
Cambridge, 333 pp., £17.50, March 1981, 0 521 23142 6
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The Child and the Book 
by Nicholas Tucker.
Cambridge, 259 pp., £15, March 1981, 0 521 23251 1
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The Impact of Victorian Children’s Fiction 
by J.S. Bratton.
Croom Helm, 230 pp., £11.95, July 1981, 0 07 099777 2
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Children’s Literature. Vol. IX 
edited by Francelia Butler, Samuel Pickering, Milla Riggio and Barbara Rosen.
Yale, 241 pp., £17.35, March 1981, 0 300 02623 4
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The ‘Signal’ Approach to Children’s Books 
edited by Nancy Chambers.
Kestrel, 352 pp., £12.50, September 1980, 0 7226 5641 6
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... than those which cannot. More subtly still, a novel that attains the standing of art may, as George Eliot hoped, act as ‘the aesthetic not the doctrinal teacher’ and thereby achieve ‘the raising of the nobler emotions, which make mankind desire the social right’. Crudely, then, to simplify what we can fairly take to be the intent of those who ...

I want to howl

John Lahr: Eugene O’Neill, 5 February 2015

Eugene O’Neill: A Life in Four Acts 
by Robert Dowling.
Yale, 569 pp., £20, October 2014, 978 0 300 17033 7
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... life took the shape of playwright. ‘I want to be an artist or nothing,’ he wrote in 1914 to George Pierce Baker, applying to Baker’s famous Harvard playwriting course (tuition was paid for by the Bank of Dad). James O’Neill (c. 1880). The grandiosity of O’Neill’s plan nonetheless broadcast his Oedipal rebellion. ‘My soul is a ...

Coruscating on Thin Ice

Terry Eagleton: The Divine Spark, 24 January 2008

Creation: Artists, Gods and Origins 
by Peter Conrad.
Thames and Hudson, 529 pp., £24.95, September 2007, 978 0 500 51356 9
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... populated, scatters references to Conrad (Joseph), Hesiod, Rilke, Shakespeare, Plato, Mann, George Eliot, Gide and St John. Quite how much Conrad may be coruscating on thin ice here and there is a question the book can’t help posing, as do the works of his fellow polymath and mandarin critic of modernity, ...

Great Male Narcissist

Christopher Tayler: Sigrid Nunez, 1 August 2019

Mitz: The Marmoset of Bloomsbury 
by Sigrid Nunez.
Soft Skull, 172 pp., £12.50, August 2019, 978 1 59376 582 8
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The Friend 
by Sigrid Nunez.
Virago, 213 pp., £8.99, February 2019, 978 0 349 01281 0
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... well as he’d hoped. It seems that he was British: he had a ‘BBC accent’ and liked to quote George Steiner, his former teacher, on eros’s role in the classroom. But for decades he lived in Brooklyn, turning into the kind of man who understands the attraction of the idea that ‘no truly good book would find more than three thousand readers.’ He ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Notes on 1997, 1 January 1998

... first British self-service launderette is opened on Queensway, London 1949.’4 January. George F. tells me that when Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Lord Lloyd Webber, as we must now say, bought his Canaletto at Christie’s he paid the £10 million bill by Access in order to earn the air miles – enough presumably to last him till the end of his ...

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