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Tom Paulin: Ted Hughes and the Hare, 29 November 2007

Letters of Ted Hughes 
edited by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 756 pp., £30, November 2007, 978 0 571 22138 7
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... which are unable to address the original chaos he delights in. In the same way he tells Plath that Robert Graves has ‘a kind of disinfected enunciation, a crumb accent no less, states everything so far under that nothing at all is heard’.In these letters his love for Plath, for her ‘ponky warmth’, is absolute; in one letter he moves from describing a ...


Christopher Tayler: Beckett’s Letters, 19 March 2015

Letters of Samuel Beckett: 1957-65 
by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn and Lois More Overbeck.
Cambridge, 771 pp., £30, September 2014, 978 0 521 86795 5
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... her most interesting appearances are in the generous quotations from an unpublished journal by Robert Pinget, one of the few Beckett disciples to whom she took a liking. On 6 August 1960, he pays a visit to hand back to Sam the ms. [of Comment c’est] he’d given me three days before to read. I was dreading having to give my opinion. The text is so ...

Too Obviously Cleverer

Ferdinand Mount: Harold Macmillan, 8 September 2011

Supermac: The Life of Harold Macmillan 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Pimlico, 887 pp., £16.99, September 2011, 978 1 84413 541 7
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The Macmillan Diaries Vol. II: Prime Minister and After 1957-66 
edited by Peter Catterall.
Macmillan, 758 pp., £40, May 2011, 978 1 4050 4721 0
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... would back Britain in the use of force. He hammered home as forcefully as he could to Bob Murphy, his wartime comrade who had come to London on Eisenhower’s behalf, that the government had decided to drive Nasser out of Egypt and that Parliament and people were behind them. He told John Foster Dulles, the secretary of state, the same thing. ‘We ...

Four Funerals and a Wedding

Andrew O’Hagan: If something happens to me…, 5 May 2005

... against the rain, and Rome seemed a place not of eternities but of passing trade. Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor entered the restaurant in his civilian uniform of open-necked shirt and windcheater, smiling to the waiters and taking his usual table. I didn’t approach him, but took time to notice the high-spiritedness of his friends, happy to be in the ...

The Monster Plot

Thomas Powers: James Angleton, Spymaster, 10 May 2018

The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton 
by Jefferson Morley.
Scribe, 336 pp., £20, December 2017, 978 1 911344 73 5
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... stirred up a public outcry against continued government secrecy. The then director of the CIA, Robert Gates, promptly ordered the release of a large number of files to the National Archives. Later, Congress passed the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act requiring the CIA and FBI to release virtually all records even tangentially related to the ...

I need money

Christian Lorentzen: Biden Tries Again, 10 September 2020

Yesterday’s Man: The Case against Joe Biden 
by Branko Marcetic.
Verso, 288 pp., £12.99, March 2020, 978 1 83976 028 0
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... Motors could buy Delaware if DuPont were willing to sell it,’ Ralph Nader said. As Tim Murphy wrote last year in Mother Jones, ‘the state’s centre of gravity began to shift from the world of chemicals to the big business of other people’s business – banking, accounting, law and telemarketing.’ Delaware is suited for this: a chancery court ...

We did and we didn’t

Seamus Perry: Are yez civilised?, 6 May 2021

On Seamus Heaney 
by R.F. Foster.
Princeton, 228 pp., £14.99, September 2020, 978 0 691 17437 2
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... which the book’s Irish reviewers weren’t slow to point out. In an enlightened spirit, Richard Murphy thought the point was that Ireland might be encouraged to shake off such atavism, the book freed ‘us from the myth by portraying it in its true archaic shape and colour, not disguising its brutality’. Other reviewers took the opposite view, most ...


Edward Said, 7 May 1987

The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey 
by Salman Rushdie.
Picador, 171 pp., £2.95, January 1987, 0 330 29990 5
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Turning the Tide: US Intervention in Central America and the Struggle for Peace 
by Noam Chomsky.
Pluto, 298 pp., £5.95, September 1986, 0 7453 0184 3
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... in Lebanon. The argument given in defence of what was done has been, from the start, that sending Robert McFarlane to Teheran was an attempt to exploit a ‘geopolitical opening’. Both versions of the same series of events have been criticised as an affront to the stated US policy of not dealing with terrorists or terrorist states. According to the ...

The Olympics Scam

Iain Sinclair: The Razing of East London, 19 June 2008

... minutes to Olympic glory, a corkscrew clock tower (with broken clock), a steam engine called ‘Robert’ (home to dozens of incontinent pigeons). Beggars, junk-dealers and God-ranters have been expelled from more salubrious districts. Across the road is a labyrinthine mall-tunnel of Poundland bargains, sachets of Calf’s Pizzle at £1.99 a hit. And an ...

When Ireland Became Divided

Garret FitzGerald: The Free State’s Fight for Recognition, 21 January 1999

Documents on Irish Foreign Policy. Vol. I: 1919-22 
edited by Ronan Fanning.
Royal Irish Academy and Department of Foreign Affairs, 548 pp., £30, October 1998, 1 874045 63 1
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... Twenties, before serving as Minister in Washington and, during and after the war, in Italy; Sean Murphy, Minister to France from 1938 to 1950, the only diplomat accredited to Vichy who de Gaulle allowed to serve in Paris after the war, and Secretary of the Department of External Affairs in the mid-Fifties; and Smiddy, who became Minister to Washington until ...

Who had the most fun?

David Bromwich: The Marx Brothers, 10 May 2001

Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx 
by Stefan Kanfer.
Penguin, 480 pp., £7.99, April 2001, 0 14 029426 0
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The Essential Groucho 
by Groucho Marx, edited by Stefan Kanfer.
Penguin, 254 pp., £6.99, September 2000, 0 14 029425 2
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... and now began to write for publication – humorous essays and sketches at first, in the manner of Robert Benchley. ‘I dislike night life and clubs,’ he told a friend in a letter. He refused to push to the front of the line at fancy restaurants by telling the head waiter who he was. Ruth was put out by the show of intractability, which she rightly saw as ...

I’m an intelligence

Joanna Biggs: Sylvia Plath at 86, 20 December 2018

The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. I: 1940-56 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1388 pp., £35, September 2017, 978 0 571 32899 4
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The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. II: 1956-63 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1025 pp., £35, September 2018, 978 0 571 33920 4
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... Moore would say that she is ‘too unrelenting’ in The Colossus, her first book of poems; Robert Lowell would put the same thought another way by saying that in Ariel she was playing ‘Russian Roulette with six cartridges in the cylinder’. I also remember feeling that I was liking something that it was a cliché for me to like. I thought she was ...

The Tower

Andrew O’Hagan, 7 June 2018

... travelled from there into the common areas and the stairwell. In Flat 111 on the 14th floor, Denis Murphy, 56, dialled 999 and was told to stay inside his flat and that firefighters would soon reach him. He called his brother at 1.30 and left a message saying there was black smoke everywhere. People could have made for the stairs at that point, but they were ...

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