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Barbara Pym’s Hymn

Karl Miller, 6 March 1980

... when readers were alerted to her fiction by the commendations of two admirers, Philip Larkin and David Cecil. Having been out, she became ‘the in-thing to read’, and reviewers rushed to praise the late novel Quartet in Autumn – now in paperback – as if it were a match for her early work.* Meanwhile her early work has been reissued, including Jane and ...

Unhappy Man

P.N. Furbank, 22 July 1993

The Lives of Michel Foucault 
by David Macey.
Hutchinson, 599 pp., £20, June 1993, 0 09 175344 9
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The Passion of Michel Foucault 
by James Miller.
HarperCollins, 491 pp., £18, June 1993, 0 00 255267 1
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... that it reinstated a godlike Cartesian cogito. ‘From the theoretical point of view,’ James Miller quotes him as saying, ‘Sartre avoids the idea of the self as something which is given to us; but through the moral notion of authenticity, he turns back to the idea that we have to be ourselves – to be truly our self.’ One feels inclined to stand up ...

We’ve done awfully well

Karl Miller: The Late 1950s, 18 July 2013

Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, June 2013, 978 0 7475 8893 1
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... present instalment, Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, covers the narrow gap from 1957 to 1959. David Kynaston tells the story in his own measured words, and he also tells it in the often loud and uninhibited words of others – authors, newspapers, diarists, eminent politicians, Mass Observation respondents. Man, it seems, is an indignant animal. Kynaston ...

Inside the Barrel

Brent Hayes Edwards: The French Slave Trade, 10 September 2009

Memoires des esclavages: la fondation d’un centre national pour la memoire des esclavages et de leurs abolitions 
by Edouard Glissant.
Gallimard, 192 pp., €14.90, May 2007, 978 2 07 078554 4
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The French Atlantic Triangle: Literature and Culture of the Slave Trade 
by Christopher Miller.
Duke, 571 pp., £20.99, March 2008, 978 0 8223 4151 2
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... imagine Toni Morrison or Caryl Phillips being asked to take charge of such matters. As Christopher Miller points out in The French Atlantic Triangle, in France ‘literature was one of the most important battlegrounds for the debate on slavery.’ But in spite of the wealth of scholarship on the Atlantic slave trade, surprisingly little work has been done on ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Have you seen their sandals?, 3 July 2014

... They’re just Instagramming and getting the word out to an audience of none.’ At the Matthew Miller show, the man from Chinese Vogue sitting next to me was worried that he wouldn’t be able to get an interview with any of the guys from GQ. David Gandy, the male supermodel, wearing a shark-tooth suit and a Burberry ...

Sound Advice for Scotch Reviewers

Karl Miller, 24 January 1980

... acquaintances, some of them prominent, such as the jurist George Joseph Bell and the scientist Sir David Brewster, and some of them obscure. Close friends used to forgather with him at the house of Woodhall in the lea of the Pentland Hills, where the letter was written. The house was that of the philanthropic Miss Hills, and its frequenters made up a circle of ...

Pouting

Karl Miller: Smiley and Bingham, 9 May 2013

A Delicate Truth 
by John le Carré.
Viking, 310 pp., £18.99, April 2013, 978 0 670 92279 6
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The Man Who Was George Smiley: The Life of John Bingham 
by Michael Jago.
Biteback, 308 pp., £20, February 2013, 978 1 84954 513 6
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... Smiley, modelled largely on Bingham, that le Carré owed his success.’ (To Bingham, moreover, David Cornwell owed his pen-name, via the French for ‘the square’.) The novelist Bingham liked plots, as might a man who was both a novelist and a runner of agents. He didn’t like the ‘fluffy stuff’ of character-creation. Jago admires him and his ...

This Charming Man

Frank Kermode, 24 February 1994

The Collected and Recollected Marc 
Fourth Estate, 51 pp., £25, November 1993, 1 85702 164 9Show More
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... the Sunday Times Colour Supplement, as well as supplying pocket cartoons for several dailies. Karl Miller, who knew him well both at Cambridge and in London, describes Boxer in his autobiography as ‘both Figaro and the Count’, which may suggest not a blend of patrician wilfulness and backstairs cunning but internal strife between the two. Presumably you ...

Uncle Max

Patricia Craig, 20 December 1984

The man who was M: The Life of Maxwell Knight 
by Anthony Masters.
Blackwell, 205 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 631 13392 5
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Unreliable Witness: Espionage Myths of the Second World War 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 166 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 297 78481 1
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The Great Betrayal: The Untold Story of Kim Philby’s Biggest Coup 
by Nicholas Bethell.
Hodder, 214 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 340 35701 0
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... checking and double-checking haven’t always been carried out. The chapter entitled ‘War: Joan Miller and Tyler Kent’ illustrates the point. Joan Miller was a redoubtable young woman who found her way into the transport section of MI5 in September 1939, and attracted Knight’s attention almost at once. It wasn’t ...

The Magic Lever

Donald MacKenzie: How the Banks Do It, 9 May 2013

... Fund, estimates the US subsidy at $83 billion a year. Senators Sherrod Brown (Democrat, Ohio) and David Vitter (Republican, Louisiana) have asked Congress’s investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, to come up with a more authoritative figure. No one to my knowledge has done the equivalent calculation for the countries of continental ...

How Utterly Depraved!

Deborah Friedell: What did Ethel know?, 1 July 2021

Ethel Rosenberg: A Cold War Tragedy 
by Anne Sebba.
Weidenfeld, 288 pp., £20, June, 978 0 297 87100 2
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... sounded good to her. She was envious of her clever only daughter and favoured her youngest child, David. One of Ethel’s childhood friends remembered that Tessie was ‘more bigoted than religious … If God had meant for Ethel to have music lessons, he would have provided them. As he hadn’t there was something sinful about music lessons.’ Much of the ...

Diary

Karl Miller: What is rugby for?, 5 December 1991

... be the thing on such occasions was given its head, and national sentiment ruled. The New Zealander David Kirk was first-rate: but the Scotsman too often talked through his kilt, and the Englishman proclaimed that he was absolutely sure that England would beat Australia in the final. At times it was like one of those ethnic jokes that people like to tell. There ...

Fighting Men

D.A.N. Jones, 2 February 1984

Ring of Truth 
by Vernon Scannell.
Robson, 342 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 86051 244 4
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The Tiger and the Rose: An Autobiography 
by Vernon Scannell.
Robson, 197 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 86051 221 5
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Man of War 
by John Masters.
Joseph, 314 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 7181 2360 3
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The Notebook of Gismondo Cavalletti 
by R.M. Lamming.
Cape, 248 pp., £7.95, November 1983, 0 224 02141 9
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The Rape of Shavi 
by Buchi Emecheta.
Ogwugwu Afor, 178 pp., £7.95, November 1983, 0 9508177 1 6
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Thomas Lyster: A Cambridge Novel 
by David Wurtzel.
Brilliance, 215 pp., £7.95, November 1983, 0 946189 30 7
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Don’t Swing a Cat 
by Eva Bolgar.
Bachman and Turner, 143 pp., £7.50, November 1983, 0 85974 098 6
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... thinking: ‘I too could have been a contender!’ There are other challenges in Ring of Truth. David Ruddock’s wife, a pious Roman Catholic, feels challenged by the Pope’s visit to Britain and wonders if she ought to become a Bride of Christ. Dave’s young brother, a professional soldier, is called to fight in the Falklands, meeting the reluctant ...

A good God is hard to find

James Francken: Jenny Diski, 4 January 2001

Only Human: A Divine Comedy 
by Jenny Diski.
Virago, 215 pp., £15.99, October 2000, 1 86049 839 6
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... that draw on the Bible. Joseph Heller’s God Knows sets itself up as the memoir of the ageing David – ‘warrior king, the sweet psalmist of Israel’ – and plays off its contemporary idiom against an ancient story for cheap laughs. David reminisces without ever losing a sense of his audience; with a wink to the ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Looking Ahead, 18 May 2000

... psychology stable (ideologically aligned with Wilson) this year is The Mating Mind by Geoffrey Miller. It’s subtitled ‘How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature’, and the basic idea is that ‘the richness and subtlety of modern human psychology reflects a legacy of minds that evolved, like the peacock’s tail and the elk’s ...

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