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Do It and Die

Richard Horton, 20 April 1995

by Abraham Verghese.
Phoenix, 347 pp., £18.99, May 1994, 1 897580 26 6
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... enraged if a single word is uttered to acknowledge the act. The mad scramble to pull socks onto Gordon, who was otherwise dressed to the nines – in his funeral casket. And the sewer rat that crept out of the commode to chew off the testicles of some day-dreaming old man. Any lingering Falwellian prejudice evaporates in the living rooms of the families who ...

The Non-Scenic Route to the Place We’re Going Anyway

John Lanchester: The Belgian Solution, 8 September 2011

... no cuts and no ‘austerity’ packages. In the absence of anyone with a mandate to slash and burn, Belgian public sector spending is puttering along much as it always was; hence the continuing growth of their economy. It turns out that from the economic point of view, in the current crisis, no government is better than any government – any existing ...

Man-Bat and Raven

Mike Jay: Poe on the Moon, 1 July 2021

The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science 
by John Tresch.
Farrar, Straus, 431 pp., £20, June, 978 0 374 24785 0
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... want something larger and longer.’ His response was the book-length Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, the purported manuscript of a shipwreck survivor carried on ocean currents to the South Pole, where he fetches up on an unknown island with a temperate climate and an ancient civilisation. Poe was inspired by the real-life adventurer John ...

Prize Poems

Donald Davie, 1 July 1982

Arvon Foundation Poetry Competion: 1980 Anthology 
by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.
Kilnhurst Publishing Company, 173 pp., £3, April 1982, 9780950807805
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Burn this 
by Tom Disch.
Hutchinson, 63 pp., £7.50, April 1982, 0 09 146960 0
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... Ellery Akers, Peter Abbs, John Hodgen, Andrew Motion, Edwin Drummond, Gregory Harrison, Gordon Mason and Robert Ballard, Isabel Nathaniel and Peter Didsbury, Anthony Edkins and Brian Cosgrove. Several get prizes, and in particular Andrew Motion gets the big one, £5,000, for a poem that either is, or successfully if pointlessly pretends to ...

Lady Thatcher’s Bastards

Iain Sinclair, 27 February 1992

Class War: A Decade of Disorder 
edited by Ian Bone, Alan Pullen and Tim Scargill.
Verso, 113 pp., £7.95, November 1991, 0 86091 558 1
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... of the last bare-chested poll tax samurai? Fire-watchers. Flame freaks. Black air groupies. ‘Burn, baby, burn.’ The dialectic is of secondary interest to the class warrior, who is, before anything else, an arsonist, a connoisseur of incendiary icons. These pages are so much kindling. They stink of siphoned ...

England and Other Women

Edna Longley, 5 May 1988

Under Storm’s Wing 
by Helen Thomas and Myfanwy Thomas.
Carcanet, 318 pp., £14.95, February 1988, 0 85635 733 2
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... ever swept away’. Under Storm’s Wing should be read alongside Thomas’s insecure Letters to Gordon Bottomley – just as his poetry requires its full literary-historical context. Last year the Thomas marriage suffered trial by LRB letter-page. John Pikoulis accused Jonathan Barker of editorially fudging his contentions that ‘the breach between ...

Body Maps

Janette Turner Hospital, 7 April 1994

The Rest of Life 
by Mary Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 257 pp., £15.99, January 1994, 0 7475 1675 8
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... for existence requires an attention we wouldn’t agree to if we understood its scope.’ For Gordon’s compulsively equivocating narrators, ‘ordinary life’ is a baffling country for which they must keep drafting provisional maps even though the topography forever shifts, resisting categorisation and dissolving its own signposts. The narrators keep ...
A Slight and Delicate Creature: The Memoirs of Margaret Cook 
Weidenfeld, 307 pp., £20, January 1999, 0 297 84293 5Show More
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... for insight into the politics and the personalities with whom Robin Cook was involved. She met Gordon Brown just after her marriage, but has ‘little remaining impression of Gordon, whom I have met only once or twice since then, and he seems, like many famous people who start their careers almost as child prodigies, to ...


A. Craig Copetas: Yaaaggghhhh, 25 June 1992

... the UEA coffee bar, when the tea melted through his cheap plastic cup and spilled a second-degree burn on his thigh. I’d literally just walked into the place off the plane from Ohio University to spend a year studying political history at UEA. By noon we had met up with two girls Ian knew and, by evening, the four of us had consumed a clean lid of ...

Memories of New Zealand

Peter Campbell, 1 December 2011

... other, with its copper sink, filled and emptied by hand, but cherished by my mother as a place to burn bundles of rubbish. Sheets were boiled in it, turned with a stout stick that soap and hot water slowly disintegrated. The last time I saw the place new owners had substantially rationalised it. It was, I now realise, a physical environment that would have ...

Cracker Culture

Ian Jackman, 7 September 2000

Irish America 
by Reginald Byron.
Oxford, 317 pp., £40, November 1999, 0 19 823355 8
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Remembering Ahanagran: Storytelling in a Family’s Past 
by Richard White.
Cork, 282 pp., IR£14.99, October 1999, 1 85918 232 1
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From the Sin-é Café to the Black Hills: Notes on the New Irish 
by Eamon Wall.
Wisconsin, 139 pp., $16.95, February 2000, 0 299 16724 0
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The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America 
edited by Michael Glazier.
Notre Dame, 988 pp., £58.50, August 1999, 0 268 02755 2
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... in Manhattan commemorates the stand Bishop Hughes took against a mob threatening to burn down his church in 1844. The defensive amalgamation of Irish, Catholic and Democrat extended into other eastern cities and towns (though not all, and not all the time). Byron concentrates on Americans whose descendants arrived generations ago. But immigrants ...

Shopping in Lucerne

E.S. Turner, 9 June 1994

Addicted to Romance: The Life and Adventures of Elinor Glyn 
by Joan Hardwick.
Deutsch, 306 pp., £20, June 1994, 0 233 98866 1
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Mother of Oscar: The Life of Jane Francesca Wilde 
by Joy Melville.
Murray, 308 pp., £19.99, June 1994, 0 7195 5102 1
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... a child might do who sets light to a whole box of matches in play. What a naughty, naughty toy to burn so quickly.’ And so to a rose-bowered climax in Venice, the physical action undescribed but sufficiently indicated by Nature’s benign responses. ‘Such was their wedding night,’ says Glyn, who did not lack nerve. ‘Oh glorious youth! And still more ...

Bereft and Beruffed

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Last Plays, 6 June 2019

Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage: Myth, Music and Poetry in the Last Plays 
by Seth Lerer.
Chicago, 276 pp., £20.50, November 2018, 978 0 226 58254 2
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... this century’s crop already included Russ McDonald’s Shakespeare’s Late Style (2006), Gordon McMullan’s Shakespeare and the Idea of Late Writing (2007) and a Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s Last Plays edited by Catherine Alexander (2009). If there is something intriguingly late aesthetically about these plays, there is also something ...

No more alimony, tra la la

Miranda Carter: Somerset Maugham, 17 December 2009

The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham 
by Selina Hastings.
John Murray, 614 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 7195 6554 0
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... evidence of his private life, systematically destroying his personal papers, asking friends to burn his letters, and instructing his executors to discourage would-be biographers. In company, he was notorious – at least in late middle and old age – for being aloof and misanthropic: ‘An unpleasant man,’ P.G. Wodehouse told an interviewer in the ...

Paper this thing over

Colin Kidd: The Watergate Tapes, 5 November 2015

The Nixon Tapes: 1971-72 
by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 758 pp., $35, July 2014, 978 0 544 27415 0
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The Nixon Defence: What He Knew and When He Knew It 
by John W. Dean.
Penguin, 784 pp., £14.99, June 2015, 978 0 14 312738 3
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Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall 
by Elizabeth Drew.
Duckworth Overlook, 450 pp., £20, August 2014, 978 0 7156 4916 9
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Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair and the Origins of Watergate 
by Ken Hughes.
Virginia, 228 pp., $16.95, August 2015, 978 0 8139 3664 2
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The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan 
by Rick Perlstein.
Simon and Schuster, 860 pp., £25, August 2014, 978 1 4767 8241 6
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... activities at the White House. Evidence soon pointed to the other accomplice at the lookout, Gordon Liddy, legal counsel to CREEP. The situation was complicated, because in some respects the Nixon administration was investigating itself. The FBI was a division of the Justice Department, and therefore part of the executive branch of the US ...

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