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The Moronic Inferno

Martin Amis, 1 April 1982

The Dean’s December 
by Saul Bellow.
Secker, 312 pp., £7.95, March 1982, 0 436 03952 4
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... to his reality-level, his responsiveness to the accidental humour and freakish poetry of life. Thomas Pynchon uses names like Oedipa Maas and Pig Bodine (where the effect is slangy, jivey, cartoonish); at the other end of the scale, John Braine offers us Tom Metfield, Jack Royston, Jane Framsby (can these people really exist, in our minds or anywhere ...

What ho, Giotto!

Julian Symons, 7 February 1991

Stanley Spencer 
by Kenneth Pople.
Collins, 576 pp., £25, January 1991, 0 00 215320 3
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... and would like something to counterbalance this. I would like to read about St Francis and St Thomas Aquinas,’ he wrote in his early twenties. He showed an early talent for art, and was sent to the Slade through the benevolence of a local Lady Bountiful. He emerged from it in 1912, an almost dwarfish figure a couple of inches over five feet and weighing ...

Hot Dogs

Malcolm Bull, 14 June 1990

Mine eyes have seen the glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America 
by Randall Balmer.
Oxford, 246 pp., $19.95, September 1989, 0 19 505117 3
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In God’s Country: Travels in the Bible Belt, USA 
by Douglas Kennedy.
Unwin Hyman, 240 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 0 04 440423 9
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The Divine Supermarket 
by Malise Ruthven.
Chatto, 336 pp., £14.95, August 1989, 0 7011 3151 9
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The Democratisation of American Christianity 
by Nathan Hatch.
Yale, 312 pp., £22.50, November 1989, 0 300 44470 2
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Religion and 20th-Century American Intellectual Life 
edited by Michael Lacey.
Cambridge/Woodrow Wilson Centre for Scholars, 214 pp., £27.50, November 1989, 0 521 37560 6
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New Religions and the Theological Imagination in America 
by Mary Farrell Bednarowski.
Indiana, 175 pp., $25, November 1989, 0 253 31137 3
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... of Roger Williams (the founder of Providence, Rhode Island), takes in memorials to Brigham Young, Martin Luther King and Thomas Merton, and ends at the grave of Thomas Jefferson – has a distinctly antiquarian flavour. Ruthven believes that myths ‘become plausible when canonised by ...
... in downtown Montgomery. Stand in the pulpit at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church where Dr Martin Luther King Jr preached.’ My wife and I did stand in the pulpit where Dr King preached, and sat in the church office where he and his colleagues planned the bus boycott, and, at the insistence of our guide, had our pictures taken behind the lectern from ...

Just a smack at Grigson

Denis Donoghue, 7 March 1985

Montaigne’s Tower, and Other Poems 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 72 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 436 18806 6
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Collected Poems: 1963-1980 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 557 3
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The Faber Book of Reflective Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Faber, 238 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 571 13299 5
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 279 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 558 1
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 9780850315592
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Before the Romantics: An Anthology of the Enlightenment 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Salamander, 349 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 907540 59 7
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... and rancour. There is evidence that he enjoys walking, curlews, turtledoves, bullfinches, owls, Thomas Moore’s ‘Thee, Thee, Only Thee’ and much that France still offers. There are writers he likes, most of them dead: Ronsard, John Clare, William Barnes (‘love of whose poems seems to me a litmus paper of the genuine’), Auden (‘the greatest of my ...

Dwarf-Basher

Michael Dobson, 8 June 1995

Edmond Malone, Shakespearean Scholar: A Literary Biography 
by Peter Martin.
Cambridge, 298 pp., £40, April 1995, 0 521 46030 1
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... glinting eyes, in Reynolds’s 1778 portrait, stare fixedly past us from the dust-jacket of Peter Martin’s biography. Indeed the book’s steady prose, for all its professions of admiration, does little to suggest that Martin (the first writer to undertake a life of Malone since 1860) has managed to muster much of the ...

Policing the Police

Fredrick Harris: The Black Panthers, 20 June 2013

Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party 
by Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin.
California, 539 pp., £24.95, January 2013, 978 0 520 27185 2
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... Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin trace the origins, rise and decline of a mostly misunderstood political movement. Angela Davis, who was an ally of the Panthers and a member of the Communist Party, complains that she is better remembered as a 1970s fashion icon, known for her large ...

AmeriKKKa

Thomas Sugrue: Civil Rights v. Black Power, 5 October 2006

Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice 
by Raymond Arsenault.
Oxford, 690 pp., £19.99, March 2006, 0 19 513674 8
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... Jim Crow laws by refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. Leading the protests was Martin Luther King. In the aftermath of the Montgomery bus boycott, King established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, using black churches as the base for organising protests. During the 1955-65 period, what historians call the ‘classic phase’ of ...

We look at it and see ourselves

Bruce Cumings: Fantasies of Korea, 15 December 2005

Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty 
by Bradley Martin.
Dunne, 868 pp., $29.95, October 2004, 0 312 32221 6
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Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea 
by Jasper Becker.
Oxford, 300 pp., £16.99, November 2004, 9780195170443
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... ideology is closer to their Neo-Confucian forebears. The defector Hwang Jang-yop told Bradley Martin that the two Kims ‘turned Stalinism and Marxism-Leninism on their heads by reverting to Confucian notions’. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, a picture emerged of Kim Il Sung in a Soviet uniform with a medal on his lapel. Like Ho Chi Minh, he ...
The Bayreuth Ring 
BBC2, October 1982Show More
Parsifal 
directed by Hans-Jürgen Syberberg.
Edinburgh Film Festival, September 1982
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Parsifal 
by Lucy Beckett.
Cambridge, 163 pp., £9.95, August 1981, 0 521 22825 5
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Wagner and Literature 
by Raymond Furness.
Manchester, 159 pp., £14.50, February 1982, 0 7190 0844 1
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Wagner to ‘The Waste Land’: A Study of the Relationship of Wagner to English Literature 
by Stoddart Martin.
Macmillan, 277 pp., £20, June 1982, 0 333 28998 6
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Wagner and Aeschylus: ‘The Ring’ and ‘The Oresteia’ 
by Michael Ewans.
Faber, 271 pp., £12.50, July 1982, 0 571 11808 9
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... operas, here traces the allegedly strong Aeschylean influence on Wagner, while Furness and Martin discuss Wagner’s influence on others: but all three are too little concerned with the peculiar nature and conditions of Wagner’s own musical-dramatic achievement. Why do so many musical terms, like ‘composed’, ‘resolve’ or ‘tonic’, also ...

Taking Flight

Thomas Jones: Blake Morrison, 7 September 2000

The Justification of Johann Gutenberg 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 259 pp., £14.99, August 2000, 0 7011 6965 6
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... to Albert Kapr’s biography, Johann Gutenberg: The Man and the Invention, translated by Douglas Martin, a source Morrison acknowledges.The novel is the story of a man who fails at life – passing up on love, friendship, wealth and happiness (salvation would have been a more authentic aspiration, but then this is a 21st-century novel) – while coming up ...

Rut after Rut after Rut

Thomas Jones: Denis Johnson’s Vietnam, 29 November 2007

Tree of Smoke 
by Denis Johnson.
Picador, 614 pp., £16.99, November 2007, 978 0 330 44920 5
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... and black, as the camera begins a slow pan to the right before the scene fades into a close-up of Martin Sheen’s upside-down face. In Coppola’s film, it takes precisely a minute for heaven to be turned into hell; in Tree of Smoke the process is a little slower. The novel begins on 23 November 1963: ‘Last night at 3 a.m. President Kennedy had been ...

Call me Ismail

Thomas Jones: Wu Ming, 18 July 2013

Altai 
by Wu Ming, translated by Shaun Whiteside.
Verso, 263 pp., £16.99, May 2013, 978 1 78168 076 6
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... looking back from 1555. A student at Wittenberg, he becomes a follower of the radical theologian Thomas Müntzer after witnessing a dispute between Müntzer and Martin Luther; Luther Blissett is very much not on his namesake’s side. The narrator’s story begins a few years later, in medias res, at Frankenhausen on 15 ...

Get over it!

Corey Robin: Antonin Scalia, 10 June 2010

American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia 
by Joan Biskupic.
Farrar, Straus, 434 pp., $28, November 2009, 978 0 374 20289 7
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... the most important impact over the years on how we think and talk about law.’ Next to Clarence Thomas, Scalia is the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court. Kagan is a Democrat and, we’re told, a liberal. Was she including herself in this claim? If so, how exactly has Scalia influenced her? If not, what does she think of his influence on ...

English Protestantism

J.B. Trapp, 4 September 1980

Studies in the Reformation: Luther to Hooker 
by W.D.J. Cargill Thompson.
Athlone, 259 pp., £18, July 1980, 9780485111873
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... Towards the end of 1533, Sir Thomas More turned to write the last of his harsh rejoinders to a pamphlet attack, printed abroad, on the Catholic doctrine of the eucharist. He did not know who the author was, though he guessed it to be his fierce old adversary William Tyndale, or perhaps George Joye, Tyndale’s former friend and collaborator, now his mortal enemy ...

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