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A. Alvarez, 24 January 1980

... added: ‘in his seven years with Penguin, Tony Godwin brought new life to what was fast becoming a moribund list and in doing so doubled their turnover.’ You would never guess this from J.E. Morpurgo’s biography of Allen Lane. He allows Godwin less than twenty pages out of almost four hundred and several of those twenty are devoted to ...

Literary Guy

Ian Jack, 19 June 1986

A North Sea Journey 
by A. Alvarez.
Hodder, 191 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 340 37347 4
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... and Kendal mint cake. The Eagle believed in the future – Dan Dare was on the cover – but when, a decade or so later, its brilliant tradition of pictorial explanation was revived by newspapers such as the Sunday Times, neither technology nor the future looked quite so good. ‘How things work’ had become ‘why things ...

First Chapters

Ursula Creagh, 3 June 1982

Life after Marriage: Scenes from Divorce 
by A. Alvarez.
Macmillan, 268 pp., £8.95, June 1982, 0 333 24161 4
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... In the first chapter of this book, a chapter which concerns the time of our marriage, Alvarez has cast me in a variety of roles, from Jungle Jane to Giant Sloth. It may come as a surprise to him to find me among his critics ...

What’s this?

Ian Sansom: A. Alvarez, 24 August 2000

Where Did It All Go Right? 
by A. Alvarez.
Richard Cohen, 344 pp., £20, September 1999, 1 86066 173 4
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... he breaks, the more his own reputation is secured – and there is no lawful agency to determine, as he himself professes to determine in the case of other men, whether his motives are honest and his methods are fair. Al Alvarez was in the position of God until he started to question his methods and motives. In this ...

Was it hayfever?

Henry Gee, 3 July 1997

T. Rex and the Crater of Doom 
by Walter Alvarez.
Princeton, 236 pp., £18.95, May 1997, 0 691 01630 5
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... Period, 65 million years ago, they had all gone. Their disappearance has long been recognised as abrupt, at least by the leisurely standards of geological time. Nowadays, their extinction inspires and sells books and movies by the dozen. Yet for many years their disappearance was seen ...

Their Witness

Donald Davie, 27 February 1992

The Poetry of Survival: Post-War Poets of Central and Eastern Europe 
edited by Daniel Weissbort.
Anvil, 384 pp., £19.95, January 1992, 0 85646 187 3
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... in The Poetry of Survival is, translated by numerous hands, poems by 28 poets: identified as Germans (7), Czechs (2), Yugoslavs (2), Slovene and Austrian and Romanian (1 each), Israelis (surprisingly 3) and Poles (9). This is supplemented by 9 appendices, each an interview with one of the poets represented; and this ...

What lives and what dies?

Francis Gooding: The End-Cretaceous Event, 3 January 2019

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: The Untold Story of a Lost World 
by Steve Brusatte.
Macmillan, 404 pp., £20, May 2018, 978 1 5098 3006 0
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... It was​ a bad time to be alive,’ Steve Brusatte tells us. A comet or asteroid about six miles across had just collided with the Earth, in the area we know as the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. The speed of its arrival compressed the atmosphere ahead of it with such force that air temperatures became hotter than the surface of the sun; the energy released on impact was equivalent to a billion atomic bombs ...

Social Arrangements

John Bayley, 30 December 1982

The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry 
edited by Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 208 pp., £1.95, October 1982, 0 14 042283 8
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The Rattle Bag 
edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.
Faber, 498 pp., £10, October 1982, 0 571 11966 2
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... When Ezra Pound said ‘make it new’ he was willing the advent of Modernism, the birth of a consciousness transformed by the disintegrations and realities of the 20th century. But ‘new’ or ‘contemporary’ poetry refers more simply to changes in fashion, the growing up of new groups of designers and a new ...

What killed the Neanderthals?

Luke Mitchell, 8 May 2014

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History 
by Elizabeth Kolbert.
Bloomsbury, 336 pp., £12.99, February 2014, 978 1 4088 5122 7
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... Moyne was marching four hundred French and Indian troops down the Ohio River when he came across a sulphurous marsh where, as Elizabeth Kolbert puts it, ‘hundreds – perhaps thousands – of huge bones poked out of the muck, like spars of a ruined ship.’ The captain and his soldiers ...

In Tegucigalpa

John Perry: The Honduran Coup, 6 August 2009

... of Manuel Zelaya, the president of Honduras, was surrounded by tanks. His supporters, anticipating a coup, formed a human shield but were quickly dispersed with tear gas. In no time at all soldiers had entered the building and disarmed the security guard. Zelaya rang the US Embassy but ...

At the Ponds

Alice Spawls, 12 September 2019

... in popularity over the last ten years, and no one can deny that it feels wonderful: if not at the time, then certainly afterwards. For Londoners the locus of the activity is Hampstead Heath, with its three ponds: women’s, men’s and mixed. There are cold water lidos at Brockwell and Hillingdon and Tooting ...

On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move, 13 September 2018

Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... There were two​ anthologies of modern poetry in our house when I was a teenager and they both offered glimpses of the world outside that were more intense, more useful, than anything on television or on albums or in ordinary books. One was The Penguin Book of Contemporary Verse, edited by Kenneth Allott. It had been published first in 1950, with a second edition in 1962 ...

Talking with Alfred

Steven Shapin: Mr Loomis’s Obsession, 15 April 2004

Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science that Changed the Course of World War Two 
by Jennet Conant.
Simon and Schuster, 330 pp., £9.99, July 2003, 0 684 87288 9
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... Lee Loomis was well connected. Some of his most valuable connections flowed from the accident of a fortunate birth. On his father’s side, the family came to New England only a few ships after the Mayflower, and Loomis’s father was a wealthy Gilded Age New York physician who combined ...

A to Z

Ian Hamilton: Schmidt’s List, 4 March 1999

Lives of the Poets 
by Michael Schmidt.
Weidenfeld, 960 pp., £22, October 1998, 0 297 84014 2
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A Critical Difference: T.S. Eliot and John Middleton Murry in English Literary Criticism, 1919-28 
by David Goldie.
Oxford, 232 pp., £35, October 1998, 0 19 812379 5
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... now? Ten of the 52 poets represented in Samuel Johnson’s Lives of the Poets fail to make an appearance in the Oxford Companion to English Literature. On its own, of course, this doesn’t prove a thing. At the same time I would guess that these poets are known about today – if ...

Short Cuts

James Francken: The Booker Prize shortlist, 2 November 2000

... A flutter on the Booker Prize ought to be a tasty bet. Not this year; the favourites’ odds are short and the serious gambler will wonder if there is enough meat on the bone to justify a punt: Margaret Atwood’s novel The Blind Assassin and Kazuo Ishiguro’s When We Were Orphans (reviewed in the LRB, 5 October and 13 April) are quoted at 2-1 and 5-2 with William Hill ...

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