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Giving chase

James Prior, 5 March 1987

... and honour. It was a nasty little clash which is the stuff of our democracy, warts and all. When Harold Macmillan elevated Tom Dugdale to the Peerage, he was telling the world that Parliament may have got the right answer, but that in doing justice they had blackened the name of a good man and that that had to be put right. The age of chivalry was not ...

Wilsonia

Paul Foot, 2 March 1989

The Wilson Plot: The Intelligence Services and the Discrediting of a Prime Minister 
by David Leigh.
Heinemann, 271 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 434 41340 2
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A Price too High 
by Peter Rawlinson.
Weidenfeld, 284 pp., £16, March 1989, 0 297 79431 0
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... with arguably the greatest political scoop of our time: he or she would finally reveal why Harold Wilson, to the astonishment of the entire political and journalistic world, suddenly took himself off to obscurity. Harold Wilson had dominated the political scene for 13 years before his resignation in March 1976. He ...

Motiveless Malignity

D.A.N. Jones, 11 October 1990

The Dwarfs 
by Harold Pinter.
Faber, 183 pp., £11.99, October 1990, 0 571 14446 2
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The Comfort of Strangers, and Other Screenplays 
by Harold Pinter.
Faber, 226 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 0 571 14419 5
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The Circus Animals 
by James Plunkett.
Hutchinson, 305 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 0 09 173530 0
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The South 
by Colm Tóibín.
Serpent’s Tail, 238 pp., £7.99, May 1990, 1 85242 170 3
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... Ever since 1958, when his play The Birthday Party opened in London, Harold Pinter has been admired by the judicious for the witty realism of his dialogue and the engrossing mystery of his omissions – particularly his omission of motive, his blank refusal to explain why: why his characters are behaving so weirdly, why they are saying such terrible things ...

Silly Buggers

James Fox, 7 March 1991

The Theatre of Embarrassment 
by Francis Wyndham.
Chatto, 205 pp., £15, February 1991, 0 7011 3726 6
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... newspaper itself was perhaps the best in the world, well financed, brimming with talent and zeal. Harold Evans had taken over as Editor the previous year. Francis Wyndham and I later became close friends but at first he seemed formidable, even a little intimidating. He was already a legend among his contemporaries for his intellectual prowess, which seemed ...

Transcendental Criticism

David Trotter, 3 March 1988

The Renewal of Literature: Emersonian Reflections 
by Richard Poirier.
Faber, 256 pp., £14.95, March 1988, 0 571 15013 6
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... of contemporary critics. Compounding with half will please nobody. From The Comic Sense of Henry James (1960) through A World Elsewhere (1966) and The Performing Self (1971) to Robert Frost: The Work of Knowing (1977), Poirier has pursued a consistent and inventive enquiry into literary language, and into the politics of literary language. ‘When a writer ...

Towards the Transhuman

James Atlas, 2 February 1984

The Oxford Companion to American Literature 
by James Hart.
Oxford, 896 pp., £27.50, November 1983, 0 19 503074 5
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The Modern American Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Oxford, 209 pp., £9.95, April 1983, 0 19 212591 5
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The Literature of the United States 
by Marshall Walker.
Macmillan, 236 pp., £14, November 1983, 0 333 32298 3
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American Fictions 1940-1980: A Comprehensive History and Critical Valuation 
by Frederick Karl.
Harper and Row, 637 pp., £31.50, February 1984, 0 06 014939 6
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Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 919 pp., £21, January 1984, 0 233 97610 8
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... is: who reads these books and what purpose do they serve? I can imagine looking up a name in James Hart’s fifth edition of The Oxford Companion to American Literature. Updated to include ‘authors not yet born when this book was first begun’, it offers abbreviated commentaries on such newly arrived figures on the scene as Diane Wakoski ...

At Tate Modern

Peter Campbell: Henri Rousseau, 5 January 2006

... accent. When naive artists show signs of wanting to improve themselves, you tend to agree with Harold Ross, who, finding James Thurber practising his drawing technique, told him to stop, because if he was any good he’d be terrible. Artists themselves may want to keep their innocence for all sorts of reasons: pleasure ...

Theory with a Wife

Michael Wood, 3 October 1985

Mr Palomar 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 118 pp., £8.50, September 1985, 0 436 08275 6
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Parrot’s Perch 
by Michel Rio, translated by Leigh Hafrey.
Dent, 88 pp., £7.95, September 1985, 0 460 04669 1
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Light Years 
by Maggie Gee.
Faber, 350 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 571 13604 4
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... haunts the books under review. A fact is what won’t go away, what we cannot not know, as Henry James remarked of the real. Yet when we bring one closer, stare at it, test our loyalty to it, it begins to shimmer with complication. Without becoming less factual, it floats off into myth. Italo Calvino’s Mr Palomar looks at the sky, his lawn, the ...

Christopher Hitchens states a prosecution case

Christopher Hitchens, 25 October 1990

Crossman: The Pursuit of Power 
by Anthony Howard.
Cape, 361 pp., £15.95, October 1990, 0 224 02592 9
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... On 22 February 1965, the fifth month of Harold Wilson’s first ministry, Richard Crossman recorded the following in his Diaries of a Cabinet Minister: Then Harold Wilson raised the issue of Anthony Howard. He has just been appointed by the Sunday Times to be the first Whitehall correspondent in history, looking into the secrets of the Civil Service rather than leaking the secrets of the politicians ...

Houses at the end of their tether

C.H. Sisson, 17 March 1983

Caves of Ice 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 276 pp., £12.95, February 1983, 0 7011 2657 4
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... one wants to know. The first is the date of the entries; the second is the age of the author. James Lees-Milne was 36, rising 37, when he started this record on 1 January 1946. He had, however, kept a diary before, during the years of the war, and abandoned it only three months earlier, so he starts here with a practised hand. The wartime diaries have ...

Diary

Jacob Beaver: Harold Beaver, 3 April 2003

... He flew to Europe and left a message on my answerphone. ‘Jake? Is that you? It’s Harold . . . Dad. I’m in London. Jake?’ He hated telephones. He avoided arrangements. He preferred to show up on your doorstep, trusting to luck. But now his energy was dwindling, and his luck. He’d found a hotel in King’s Cross, opposite the ...

Damaged Beasts

James Wood: Peter Carey’s ‘Theft’, 8 June 2006

Theft: A Love Story 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 269 pp., £16.99, June 2006, 0 571 23147 0
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... which he accepted, that Ern Malley’s poems were written by two anti-Modernist pranksters, Harold Stewart and James McAuley. ‘I believed in Ern Malley,’ he wrote: ‘I can still close my eyes and conjure up such a person in our streets.’) So what has Chubb bodied forth? The monster McCorkle recites some of the ...

Bernard Levin: Book Two

Clive James, 6 December 1979

Taking Sides 
by Bernard Levin.
Cape, 281 pp., £6.50, September 1979, 0 330 26203 3
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... year, will focus mainly on British politics, with particular attention to the achievements of Sir Harold Wilson. The present compilation deals with every subject but that. There is plenty to be going on with, although perhaps not quite as much as Levin thinks. ‘I am afraid,’ says Levin, ‘that I have a very great deal to say.’ Courageous, self-willed ...

Diary

James MacGibbon: Fashionable Radicals, 22 January 1987

... he believed the best writers were to be met. I never quite found my way there, but when I met Harold Nicolson he seemed the epitome of what Constant wanted for me. At the same time, Constant was a publisher whose policy was truly radical and whose achievements were never fully recognised by his contemporaries. He delighted in flouting convention – an ...

Cross Words

Neal Ascherson, 17 November 1983

The Story of the ‘Times’ 
by Oliver Woods and James Bishop.
Joseph, 392 pp., £14.95, October 1983, 0 7181 1462 0
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Good Times, Bad Times 
by Harold Evans.
Weidenfeld, 430 pp., £11.95, October 1983, 0 297 78295 9
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... had every reason to know what he was doing ... The costly changes introduced by the Editor [Harold Evans] had been accompanied by a substantial number of new senior editorial appointments. Not all of these were welcomed by the existing editorial staff, whose responsibilities sometimes seemed to be in conflict with those of the new appointments. The ...

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