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Peter Conrad’s Flight from Precision

Richard Poirier, 17 July 1980

Imagining America 
by Peter Conrad.
Routledge, 319 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7100 0370 6
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... America’), Oscar Wilde and Rupert Brooke (‘Aesthetic America’), Kipling and R.L. Stevenson (‘Epic (and Chivalric) America’), H.G. Wells (‘Futuristic America’), D.H. Lawrence (‘Primitive America’), W.H. Auden (‘Theological America’), Aldous Huxley (Psychedelic America’), and ...

Passionate Purposes

Keith Kyle, 6 September 1984

Cyprus 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Quartet, 192 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 0 7043 2436 9
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The Cyprus Dispute and the Birth of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus 
by Necati Ertekun.
K. Rustem, Nicosia, PO Box 239, Lefkosa, via Mersin 10, Turkey, 507 pp., £12.50
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... great practitioner of the art in the last century and in this short, sparkling and committed essay Christopher Hitchens writes in somewhat the same tradition. He is a radical British journalist living in the United States who is married to a Greek Cypriot and has an understanding of and love for this unfortunately-placed island. For him, enjoyment of the great ...

Hatching, Splitting, Doubling

James Lasdun: Smooching the Swan, 21 August 2003

Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self 
by Marina Warner.
Oxford, 264 pp., £19.99, October 2002, 0 19 818726 2
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... to Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno stories, taking in works by Michelangelo, Col-eridge, Hogg, Stevenson, Kafka, Jean Rhys and numerous others. It is a short book, but dense. Warner’s highly complex line of argument, winding around so much material, and so tightly, produces a compacted, even crabbed architecture. You feel like you’ve stepped inside a ...

Dear God

Theo Tait: Patrick McGrath’s Gothic, 19 August 2004

Port Mungo 
by Patrick McGrath.
Bloomsbury, 241 pp., £16.99, May 2004, 0 7475 7019 1
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... she doesn’t sound like one. She sounds like a hammy male actor in late middle age – perhaps Christopher Lee in his prime, or Simon Callow. She is Gin Rathbone, and she introduces herself with these fine words: ‘I am a tall, thin, untidy Englishwoman, I drink too much and yes, I suppose I am rather – oh, detached – distant, aloof ...

Dialect does it

Blake Morrison, 5 December 1985

No Mate for the Magpie 
by Frances Molloy.
Virago, 170 pp., £7.95, April 1985, 0 86068 594 2
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The Mysteries 
by Tony Harrison.
Faber, 229 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 9780571137893
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Ukulele Music 
by Peter Reading.
Secker, 103 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 40986 0
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Hard Lines 2 
edited by Ian Dury, Pete Townshend, Alan Bleasdale and Fanny Dubes.
Faber, 95 pp., £2.50, June 1985, 0 571 13542 0
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No Holds Barred: The Raving Beauties choose new poems by women 
edited by Anna Carteret, Fanny Viner and Sue Jones-Davies.
Women’s Press, 130 pp., £2.95, June 1985, 0 7043 3963 3
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Katerina Brac 
by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 47 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 571 13614 1
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Skevington’s Daughter 
by Oliver Reynolds.
Faber, 88 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 571 13697 4
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Rhondda Tenpenn’orth 
by Oliver Reynolds.
10 pence
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Trio 4 
by Andrew Elliott, Leon McAuley and Ciaran O’Driscoll.
Blackstaff, 69 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 85640 333 4
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Mama Dot 
by Fred D’Aguiar.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, August 1985, 0 7011 2957 3
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The Dread Affair: Collected Poems 
by Benjamin Zephaniah.
Arena, 112 pp., £2.95, August 1985, 9780099392507
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Long Road to Nowhere 
by Amryl Johnson.
Virago, 64 pp., £2.95, July 1985, 0 86068 687 6
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Mangoes and Bullets 
by John Agard.
Pluto, 64 pp., £3.50, August 1985, 0 7453 0028 6
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Ragtime in Unfamiliar Bars 
by Ron Butlin.
Secker, 51 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 07810 4
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True Confessions and New Clichés 
by Liz Lochhead.
Polygon, 135 pp., £3.95, July 1985, 0 904919 90 0
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Works in the Inglis Tongue 
by Peter Davidson.
Three Tygers Press, 17 pp., £2.50, June 1985
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Wild Places: Poems in Three Leids 
by William Neill.
Luath, 200 pp., £5, September 1985, 0 946487 11 1
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... Alcmanics (or is it Alcaics?) – and one of the few to describe our current impoverishments. Christopher Reid’s interrogation of language expresses itself in an interest in translationese. Katerina Brac seems to have arisen from a long immersion in Oxford and Penguin books of verse in translation. Its language is a kind of anti-dialect ...

The Manners of a Hog

Christopher Tayler: Buchan’s Banter, 20 February 2020

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan 
by Ursula Buchan.
Bloomsbury, 479 pp., £25, April 2019, 978 1 4088 7081 5
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... Wood (1927) was his favourite – and his status as a Scottish monument, a descendant of Scott and Stevenson. There’s nothing fanciful about this – Janet Adam Smith reported that Clement Attlee pointed out to her a borrowing from Kidnapped in The Thirty-Nine Steps – and if he had had a slightly different temperament Buchan might have become a more ...

Good for nothing

Alasdair MacIntyre, 3 June 1982

Iris Murdoch: Work for the Spirit 
by Elizabeth Dipple.
Methuen, 356 pp., £12.50, January 1982, 9780416312904
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... modern analytic philosophers. For according to both Aristotle and such philosophers – Ayer and Stevenson are two distinguished examples – discerning the relevant facts is, as it were, a preliminary task which has to be completed before an evaluative judgment or choice is made. According to Weil and Murdoch, the central moral task often just is learning ...

Fine Chances

Michael Wood, 5 June 1986

Literary Criticism 
by Henry James, edited by Leon Edel.
Cambridge, 1500 pp., £30, July 1985, 0 521 30100 9
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Henry James: The Writer and his Work 
by Tony Tanner.
Massachusetts, 142 pp., £16.95, November 1985, 0 87023 492 7
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... however tough his assessments may be. Balzac, Browning, Hawthorne, Emerson, Flaubert, Maupassant, Stevenson all come in for this treatment, are covered, to use a recurring image of James’s, by the critic’s generous wings, sheltered in the imagination’s irony. The irony may help us in a current critical dilemma, since it mediates delicately between ...

‘You’d better get out while you can’

Charles Wheeler, 19 September 1996

... the other to Panorama. Ours was in America, with Woodrow Wyatt, who was covering the Eisenhower-Stevenson election campaign. So, on the off-chance that our visas might come through, I booked four seats and cargo space for our cumbersome camera gear on a flight to Warsaw, via Vienna, for Monday 29 October. Meanwhile, Khrushchev had flown home, only to find ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... of the poets Motion and Morrison published in Contemporary British Poetry: Douglas Dunn, Anne Stevenson, Craig Raine, James Fenton, Andrew Motion, Derek Mahon, Fleur Adcock, Carol Rumens, Medbh McGuckian, Penelope Shuttle and others. Geoffrey Hill, Dannie Abse, Denise Levertov, Peter Red-grove, U.A. Fanthorpe, Gillian Clarke, Eiléan Ní ...

The Excursions

Andrew O’Hagan, 16 June 2011

... hills. This is where you find Tibbie Shiel’s Inn, where the Blackwood’s boys James Hogg and Christopher North used to come to liquefy their rhetoric. We entered from a smirr of rain, snoking for supper. It turned out supper was something that happened in the glen before 6.30 p.m. A lady in a white lab coat emerged to remind us of the fact. The phrase ...

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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... feigning’ of art. Again it depends who is doing it, and how good they are. Craig Raine and Christopher Reid are very good indeed, word processors as sensitive as Heaney. Far from being gimmicky, as its detractors imply, this poetry is always extremely clear and direct, and capable at its best of a wide variety of effect. One of the most impressive ...

For ever Walsall

Angus Calder, 21 March 1985

Rural Life in England in the First World War 
by Pamela Horn.
Gill and Macmillan, 300 pp., £25, November 1984, 0 312 69604 3
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Britain in Our Century: Images and Controversies 
by Arthur Marwick.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 9780500250914
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Labour and Society in Britain: 1918-1979 
by James Cronin.
Batsford, 248 pp., £8.95, August 1984, 0 7134 4395 2
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Women in England 1870-1950: Sexual Divisions and Social Change 
by Jane Lewis.
Wheatsheaf, 240 pp., £16.95, November 1984, 0 7108 0186 6
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... obsessed with its own version of English continuity. As Cairns Craig has argued in Cencrastus, Christopher Hill and E.P. Thompson see class struggle as fundamental to English history, but conceive that history to be ‘shaped as an autonomous inner trajectory defined by the conflicts and the accommodations between classes which do not need to be understood ...

My Old, Sweet, Darling Mob

Iain Sinclair: Michael Moorcock, 30 November 2000

King of the City 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 421 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 684 86140 2
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Mother London 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 496 pp., £6.99, May 2000, 0 684 86141 0
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... William Morris wallpaper, Arts and Crafts furniture; a library of Victorian and Edwardian fiction, Stevenson, Meredith, Wells, Conrad, W. Pett Ridge. Moorcock, with his sacred cats in a basket, brings up a map of London on his screen, shifting and rearranging co-ordinates until the city conforms to his reading of it. No longer able to potter out into Notting ...

A Cousin of Colonel Heneage

Robert Crawford: Was Eliot a Swell?, 18 April 2019

The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume VIII: 1936-38 
edited by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden.
Faber, 1100 pp., £50, January 2019, 978 0 571 31638 0
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... these prodigious gatherings, the poetry looks svelte. Yet the 2015 Faber edition of the Poems by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue itself runs to nearly two thousand densely annotated pages. This, too, is a breathtaking achievement. Very few people will read through all these thousands of pages, and their publication risks making Eliot seem more daunting than ...

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