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Diary

Karl Miller: London to Canberra, 25 June 1987

... with the song of beautiful and vehement birds with names like Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo. When Barry Humphries squawked the other day that he had been pleased to find that Canberra had become a little ‘sleazy’, he was joking. Out of this garden city of good government, on 22 June 1983, flew a telex which read: ‘There appears to be no action which the ...

At the Royal Academy

James Davidson: ‘Bronze’, 11 October 2012

... outclassing the dismal and anonymous contributions from modern British sculptors – where’s Barry Flanagan when you need him? Jake and Dinos Chapman? Antony Gormley RA? But as I moved around Room 1, which contains perhaps the most far-flung group of human figures ever gathered in close proximity, quite different features of bronze became apparent: its ...

Seventy Years in a Colourful Trade

Andrew O’Hagan: The Soho Alphabet, 16 July 2020

Tales from the Colony Room: Soho’s Lost Bohemia 
by Darren Coffield.
Unbound, 364 pp., £25, April, 978 1 78352 816 5
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... in twenty years than Yaddo did in a hundred. And Bernie Katz, son of the South London gangster Brian ‘Little Legs’ Clifford, ran the Groucho as a pit stop for the perpetually wounded. (Bernie admitted that when he went into the bedroom where his father had been shot to death by two masked men, he didn’t hesitate: ‘I sashayed over to his ...

Paradise Lost

Stephen Bann, 17 March 1983

Deadeye Dick 
by Kurt Vonnegut.
Cape, 224 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 224 02945 2
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Bluebeard 
by Max Frisch, translated by Geoffrey Skelton.
Methuen, 142 pp., £5.95, February 1983, 0 413 51750 0
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The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction 
by Colin Greenland.
Routledge, 244 pp., £11.95, March 1983, 0 7100 9310 1
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More Tales of Pirx the Pilot 
by Stanislaw Lem, translated by Louis Iribarne, Magdalena Majcherczyk and Michael Kandel.
Secker, 220 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 9780436244117
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Yesterday’s Men 
by George Turner.
Faber, 234 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 571 11857 7
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Rebel in Time 
by Harry Harrison.
Granada, 272 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 246 11766 4
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Three Six Seven: Memoirs of a Very Important Man 
by Peter Vansittart.
Peter Owen, 236 pp., £8.95, February 1983, 0 7206 0602 0
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... takes place that will not finally be redeemed and retrieved. As the self-educated inventor Fred T. Barry assures our eponymous hero: ‘Human being [sic] always treat blizzards as though they were the end of the world.’ But the raging storms that have swept over the plains of the Middle West are due to vanish without trace, or without significant ...

He don’t mean any harm

John Bayley, 28 June 1990

A.A. Milne: His Life 
by Ann Thwaite.
Faber, 554 pp., £17.50, June 1990, 0 571 13888 8
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... upper-middle class, in fact. Ann Thwaite points out that the tyrannically aristocratic Sir Brian Botany, in Now we are six, is humiliated by his social inferiors, and comforted after his discomfiture by finding his right level as ‘plain Mr Botany, B’. The strange thing about the popularity of Milne’s children’s books is the obviously reassuring ...

Delivering the Leadership

Nick Cohen: Get Mandy, 4 March 1999

Mandy: The Authorised Biography of Peter Mandelson 
by Paul Routledge.
Simon and Schuster, 302 pp., £17.99, January 1999, 9780684851754
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... in 1993 fell well for them. (Among the lucky LWT managers, incidentally, were Melvyn Bragg, Barry Cox and Greg Dyke. They provided most of the £79,000 Tony Blair spent on his campaign to become Labour leader. Bragg was ennobled by New Labour, Cox is a senior executive in the ITV network and Dyke’s contributions to Labour funds are not likely to ...

Junk Mail

Jeremy Harding, 23 September 1993

The Letters of William Burroughs, 1949-1959 
edited by Oliver Harris.
Picador, 472 pp., £17.50, August 1993, 0 330 33074 8
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... say I am a genius too’) and Ambrose Silk from Put Out More Flags steps forward, in the form of Brian Howard, into the glare of the chemist’s counter to buy drugs (‘It was me introduced him to dollies’). Finally there is the mainstay ‘boy’, Kiki (‘My boy just left, and I can now write with the philosophic serenity of an empty scrotum’), later ...

Sinking Giggling into the Sea

Jonathan Coe: Giggling along with Boris, 18 July 2013

The Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson 
edited by Harry Mount.
Bloomsbury, 149 pp., £9.99, June 2013, 978 1 4081 8352 6
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... died out completely. There was never much social comment in Monty Python (until they made Life of Brian), but the (Oxbridge-educated) Not the Nine O’Clock News team at the beginning of the 1980s sometimes aimed for satire, and Armando Iannucci (University College, Oxford) has blazed such a trail through broadcast comedy in recent years that no one would ...

An Octopus at the Window

Terry Eagleton: Dermot Healy, 19 May 2011

Long Time, No See 
by Dermot Healy.
Faber, 438 pp., £12.99, April 2011, 978 0 571 21074 9
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... Great Famine became morbid nostalgia. One of the half-dozen best Irish plays of the 20th century, Brian Friel’s Translations, evoked a few well-bred sneers from the Dublin literati for being set in 19th-century Irish-speaking Donegal. The play also takes the odd swipe at the British, which in liberal middle-class Irish circles is equivalent to cavorting ...

Paisley’s Progress

Tom Paulin, 1 April 1982

... in preaching in the open air’. During the Second World War he was a student at the Barry School of Evangelism in South Wales and his tutor in open-air preaching was an ex-boxer. He had his prize gold belt always at the gospel meetings. He used to swing that great gold belt, which he won as the welterweight for the South of England, around his ...

Playboys of the GPO

Colm Tóibín, 18 April 1996

Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation 
by Declan Kiberd.
Cape, 719 pp., £20, November 1995, 0 224 04197 5
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... play his game with them. It is tempting to think that Shaw wrote John Bull’s Other Island and Brian Friel wrote Translations with Kiberd watching over them, egging them on. Both plays are full of the paradoxes proposed by England in Ireland and Ireland in England. The drama comes from the identity games which colonised and coloniser will play, the masks ...

Middle Positions

John Hedley Brooke, 21 July 1983

Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London 1850-1875 
by Adrian Desmond.
Blond and Briggs, 287 pp., £15.95, October 1982, 0 85634 121 5
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Evolution without Evidence: Charles Darwin and ‘The Origin Species’ 
by Barry Gale.
Harvester, 238 pp., £18.95, January 1983, 0 7108 0442 3
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The Secular Ark: Studies in the History of Biogeography 
by Janet Browne.
Yale, 273 pp., £21, May 1983, 0 300 02460 6
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The Descent of Darwin: A Handbook of Doubts about Darwinsm 
by Brain Leith.
Collins, 174 pp., £7.95, December 1982, 0 00 219548 8
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... fact is he didn’t. From Darwin’s scientific difficulties to those afflicting his theory today: Brian Leith’s handbook of doubts about Darwinism is a succinct and opportune review of the latest critiques of neo-Darwinian gradualism, written, as befits a BBC producer, to put the intelligent layman in the picture. His survey of the literature (ranging from ...

‘Someone you had to be a bit careful with’

David Sylvester: Gallery Rogues, 30 March 2000

Groovy Bob: The Life and Times of Robert Fraser 
by Harriet Vyner.
Faber, 317 pp., £20, October 1999, 0 571 19627 6
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... the same year as Fraser, concentrated on British artists, such as Phillip King, William Tucker, Barry Flanagan, Paul Huxley and later Bridget Riley, whereas Fraser covered British, American and European art. John Kasmin, who opened his gallery the following year, dealt in British and American art. He and Fraser were the rivals for supremacy. Kasmin came ...

Into the Underworld

Iain Sinclair: The Hackney Underworld, 22 January 2015

... who would now be seen a natural performer for the television age, Patrick Moore channelled by Brian Blessed, sinks a shaft in Sussex, going deeper than anyone has gone before, to prove that ‘the world upon which we live is itself a living organism, endowed … with a circulation, a respiration, and a nervous system of its own.’ Challenger’s dig ...

My Darlings

Colm Tóibín: Drinking with Samuel Beckett, 5 April 2007

... both stood smoking outside the portals of the library looking at the Daíl car park, remarked that Brian Lenihan, then a prominent politician, had hair that seemed to have been actually, by some ancient process, corrugated; or how strange it is, now that I think about it, that in 1978 when I came back from Spain, there was only one Mediterranean coffee-making ...

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