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David Bromwich: Hazlitt, 18 June 1998

The Day-Star of Liberty: William Hazlitt’s Radical Style 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 382 pp., £22.50, June 1998, 0 571 17421 3
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... advanced that they were now top dogs. Condescension usually has an anxious motive. Eliot, as Tom Paulin is on hand to say, was working from a subtext of his own: Hazlitt’s crimes against taste would have included his unapologetic admiration for Milton, and behind that offence lay a consistent choice of affinities. Eliot was a Dissenter who grew to hate ...

Pseud’s Corner

John Sutherland, 17 July 1980

by Dan Kavanagh.
Cape, 181 pp., £4.95, July 1980, 0 224 01822 1
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Moscow Gold 
by John Salisbury.
Futura, 320 pp., £1.10, March 1980, 0 7088 1702 5
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The Middle Ground 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 297 77808 0
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The Boy Who Followed Ripley 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 292 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 434 33520 7
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... the printer’s name. No such rigorous obligation attaches to statements of authorship. It is a licence that fiction, in particular, has richly exploited. Ever since its rise the novel has flirted with authorial anonymity and pseudonymity. Great unknowns, pen names and spoof attributions figure centrally in the genre’s history, from Scott, to George ...

Living with Monsters

Ferdinand Mount: PMs v. the Media, 22 April 2010

Where Power Lies: Prime Ministers v. the Media 
by Lance Price.
Simon & Schuster, 498 pp., £20, February 2010, 978 1 84737 253 6
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... attend cabinet, though he was briefed on its proceedings, unlike his predecessor under Callaghan, Tom McCaffrey, who was denied access even to the cabinet minutes. My point is that the more laconic prime ministers seem to have suffered no real damage by refusing to court the press and paying only spasmodic attention to the newspapers. Of course, there are ...

Greasers and Rah-Rahs

John Lahr: Bruce Springsteen’s Memoir, 2 February 2017

Born to Run 
by Bruce Springsteen.
Simon and Schuster, 510 pp., £20, September 2016, 978 1 4711 5779 0
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... have fist-bumped. To get this close, we journos had to bring specific photo ID (‘driver’s licence or passport’), be searched, undertake to make notes only with pen and notepad, refrain from filming, recording or photographing, and ‘for security reasons to keep details of this event confidential until after it has taken place’. In other ...

Serried Yuppiedromes

Owen Hatherley: What happened to London?, 21 August 2014

Guide to the Architecture of London 
by Edward Jones and Christopher Woodward.
Phoenix, 511 pp., £16.99, July 2013, 978 1 78022 493 0
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... and ferris wheels; ‘Dystopia 2: London as Surveillance City’ is a reminder to get a TV licence, and shows an abstract cityscape of towers and terraces seen from above as if in a video game, with the legend ‘London is in our database. Evaders will pay.’ Something has gone horribly wrong, and the solace the authors find in the architecture of ...

Naming of Parts

Patrick Parrinder, 6 June 1985

Quinx or The Ripper’s Tale 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 201 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 571 13444 0
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Helliconia Winter 
by Brian Aldiss.
Cape, 285 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 0 224 01847 7
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Black Robe 
by Brian Moore.
Cape, 256 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 224 02329 2
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... including a biologist, a geologist, an anthropologist, an astronomer, and preferably Professor Tom Shippey of Leeds University to advise on the philology. A novel written under such conditions needs as much planning as a mountaineering expedition; and Brian Aldiss has performed the Science Fictional equivalent of scaling the Matterhorn. The production of ...

Keeping up with the novelists

John Bayley, 20 June 1985

Unholy Pleasure: The Idea of Social Class 
by P.N. Furbank.
Oxford, 154 pp., £9.50, June 1985, 0 19 215955 0
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... feels it does in the case of Meredith and Thackeray. (There is even something self-limiting about Tom Jones as a novel – for the same kind of reason?) As Furbank points out, the novels of Thackeray, Meredith and Trollope frequently take their very form from a social absolute – who is and who isn’t – which must be fundamentally unreal. ‘Evan ...


Wendy Steiner, 1 June 1989

Real Presences 
by George Steiner.
Faber, 236 pp., £12.99, May 1989, 0 571 14071 8
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... possibility of miracle. ‘There is a straight ladder from the atom to the grain of sand,’ says Tom Stoppard’s physicist in Hapgood, ‘and the only real mystery in physics is the missing rung. Below it, particle physics; above it, classical physics; but in between, metaphysics.’ Contemporary thought charts the known in order to fathom the mystery of ...


Stephen Smith: In LA, 25 March 1993

... he’s already pulling clear, setting himself up to shoot some lights. However, I do catch his licence plate. I’m not about to report it; at least, not in the accepted sense. But I do jot it down for future reference: it’s NWA 199. The name of one of South Central’s most notorious black rap groups – they had an album called ‘Straight Outta ...

Make it more like a murder mystery

Eleanor Birne: The life and death of Stuart Shorter, 19 May 2005

Stuart: A Life Backwards 
by Alexander Masters.
Fourth Estate, 295 pp., £12.99, April 2005, 0 00 720036 6
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... a striped Tesco carrier bag. He calls it ‘bollocks boring’ and demands something ‘like what Tom Clancy writes’, something ‘what people will read’. He is scornful of the barrage of academic quotations, footnotes and background research. What is reproduced here of his criticism sounds right to me and in the one or two places where Masters leaves in ...


Chris Mullin: A report from Westminster, 25 June 2009

... undoubtedly a gap in the market.  The Telegraph reports that I claimed for a black and white TV licence, the subject of much amusement among my colleagues. Today’s tabloids are particularly vicious. Not for them magnanimity in victory. ‘Arise Lord Gorbals’, the front page of the Mail sneers over a story focusing on the size of the Speaker’s ...

Religion, grrrr

Rachel Aviv: Scientology, 26 January 2012

The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion 
by Hugh Urban.
Princeton, 268 pp., £19.95, September 2011, 978 0 691 14608 9
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... took the rejection badly. When his followers were arrested for practising medicine without a licence, he complained that the United States made it ‘illegal to heal or cure anything’. He began to reconsider the distinction he’d made between psychology and spiritual practice. In a 1953 newsletter he wrote that the process of uncovering repressed ...


Andrew Lowry: Pyongyang’s Missing Millions, 6 December 2018

... government car goes by they salute – they’re all the same model of Mercedes and have the same licence plate commemorating ‘Victory Day’ in the Korean War: 27 July 1953. As a foreigner, I got the odd salute too. If you speak to anyone in the tiny community of expats in Pyongyang – mostly diplomats and NGO people – you’ll hear talk of the regime ...

I just hate the big guy

Christopher Tayler: Reacher, 4 February 2016

Make Me 
by Lee Child.
Bantam, 425 pp., £20, September 2015, 978 0 593 07388 9
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Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of ‘Make Me’ 
by Andy Martin.
Bantam, 303 pp., £18.99, November 2015, 978 0 593 07663 7
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... of his character as a drifter, with no home, job, dependents, living relatives, car or driving licence. His only possessions are a folding toothbrush – plus, after 9/11, a passport and a bank card – and the clothes he stands up in; every few days he buys a new outfit and throws the old one in a bin. He’s been on the road since 1997, when he left the ...

The State with the Prettiest Name

Michael Hofmann: ‘Florida’, 24 May 2018

by Lauren Groff.
Heinemann, 275 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 78515 188 0
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... doesn’t want to use the word stories here, or not always) are sometimes more fictionary (to use Tom Paulin’s word), sometimes less so; the wilder, more strenuous ones are usually the weaker, and end up merely irking the unflapped, flapped-at reader. Read here, in situ, it seems, in patches, an adorably local book. A selfie stick of a book. Our Thomas ...

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