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Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching

Terry Eagleton: Richard Dawkins, 19 October 2006

The God Delusion 
by Richard Dawkins.
Bantam, 406 pp., £20, October 2006, 0 593 05548 9
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... were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster. These days, theology is the queen of the sciences in a rather less august sense of the word than in its medieval heyday.Dawkins on ...

I Am Brian Moore

Colin Burrow, 24 September 2020

The Dear Departed 
by Brian Moore.
Turnpike Books, 112 pp., £10, April, 978 1 9162547 0 1
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... left hand he pulled on the index finger; then, using the clam shell like a saw, cut to the bone. He sawed through the bone and pulled the skin and gristle free. He held up the finger joint. The crowd roared and cheered.’But the tensions of Moore’s native Belfast run through all his novels, even those set in ...


Thomas McKeown, 6 August 1981

The Unmasking of Medicine 
by Ian Kennedy.
Allen and Unwin, 189 pp., £8.95, June 1981, 0 04 610016 4
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... the conventional reading of medical goals and achievements – and most of the points discussed by Ian Kennedy in the 1981 Reith Lectures have been raised before. Nevertheless, his legal approach is novel, and the lectures themselves were well-organised and delivered with remarkable force and clarity. Whatever their reservations about the conclusions, many ...

Hail, Muse!

Seamus Perry: Byron v. Shelley, 6 February 2003

The Making of the Poets: Byron and Shelley in Their Time 
by Ian Gilmour.
Chatto, 410 pp., £25, June 2002, 0 7011 7110 3
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Byron and Romanticism 
by Jerome McGann.
Cambridge, 321 pp., £47.50, August 2002, 0 521 80958 4
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... Ian Gilmour’s deft and learned book is concerned with the lives of Byron and Shelley up to the morning on which Byron woke up and found himself famous. The poets weren’t to meet for another four years, so Gilmour isn’t telling the history of their acquaintance but its prehistory; and not the least of his book’s many virtues is the way it makes you realise what an odd combination they made ...

Pissing on Pedestrians

Owen Bennett-Jones: A Great Unravelling, 1 April 2021

Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell 
by John Preston.
Viking, 322 pp., £18.99, February, 978 0 241 38867 9
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... suicide or an accident.There’s also the question of what he was called. Before settling on Ian Robert Maxwell he had repeatedly changed his name according to the political needs of the moment. Born Abraham Leib Hoch into a Yiddish-speaking community in the town of Solotvino, then in Czechoslovakia and today in Ukraine, he had used ten different names ...


Christopher Hitchens: On Peregrine Worsthorne, 4 November 1993

... comes ill from a man who sneered ruthlessly at his own country while giving aid and comfort to Ian Smith’s gang of traitors and mutineers. The vulgarity of the politics also compromises, I find, the impression of the gentleman. When Worsthorne writes of being taken up by Irving Kristol at Encounter in the mid-Fifties, his self-deprecation deserts him as ...

The Lie-World

James Wood: D.B.C. Pierre, 20 November 2003

Vernon God Little 
by D.B.C. Pierre.
Faber, 279 pp., £10.99, January 2003, 0 571 21642 0
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... is that novels without much plot tend to languish. Suddenly everything should be shorter, even Ian McEwan. More troubling was Professor Carey’s opinion that Nick Hornby’s How to Be Good is ‘a very impressive novel of ideas’, just the kind of thing the Booker should favour. Ah, that would explain the exclusion of Coetzee’s novel of ...

Hindsight Tickling

Christopher Tayler: Disappointing sequels, 21 October 2004

The Closed Circle 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 433 pp., £17.99, September 2004, 0 670 89254 8
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... cliché don’t really come off – he didn’t have the resources to reproduce Beckett’s ‘no bone to pick with graveyards’ stuff – but the book raises some laughs when the humour is less self-consciously lugubrious. A Touch of Love is harder to defend from a strictly avant-garde point of view. Using a broadly naturalistic idiom, it tells the story of ...

Earthworm on Zither

Paul Grimstad: Raymond Roussel, 26 April 2012

Impressions of Africa 
by Raymond Roussel, translated by Mark Polizzotti.
Dalkey, 280 pp., £10.99, June 2011, 978 1 56478 624 1
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New Impressions of Africa 
by Raymond Roussel, translated by Mark Ford.
Princeton, 264 pp., £16.95, April 2011, 978 0 691 14459 7
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... the phrase baleine à îlot (whale/small island) can be made to yield baleine à ilote (flexible bone/Spartan serf), which was combined with a comparable move from mou à raille (a spineless person/to tease or ridicule) to mou à rail (lungs of a slaughtered calf/railway lines). Constraints of some kind are of course at work in any composition – what is a ...

Toss the monkey wrench

August Kleinzahler: Lee Harwood’s risky poems, 19 May 2005

Collected Poems 
by Lee Harwood.
Shearsman, 522 pp., £17.95, May 2004, 9780907562405
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... Of British poets, apart from Bunting, Montgomery published four collections by Roy Fisher, one by Ian Hamilton Finlay, David Jones’s The Tribune’s Visitation, an early collection by Christopher Middleton, and three by Lee Harwood. The publishing provenance of an outsider poet like Harwood can tell you a lot about his work: Fulcrum, Oasis Books, Pig ...

Harmoniously Arranged Livers

Marina Warner, 8 June 1995

The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity 200-1336 
by Caroline Walker Bynum.
Columbia, 368 pp., £22.50, March 1995, 9780231081269
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... and would be reinfused into his real flesh at the resurrection. Ditto with the splinters of bone and skulls on display in charnel-houses. The bones of St Ursula, and the eleven thousand virgins who were martyred with her, are still displayed on the walls of the Golden Chamber in her church in Cologne, as if in a floral arrangement, commissioned by pious ...


John Bayley, 17 September 1987

Robert Lowell: Essays on the Poetry 
edited by Steven Gould Axelrod and Helen Deese.
Cambridge, 377 pp., £17.50, June 1987, 0 571 14979 0
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Collected Prose 
by Robert Lowell, edited and introduced by Robert Giroux.
Faber, 269 pp., £27.50, February 1987, 0 521 30872 0
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... had been his life.’ The sharpest point that Marjorie Perloff makes is to quote from Ian Hamilton’s biography of Lowell, recalling his treatment of one of his mistresses, the Lithuanian dancer Vija Vetra, for whom he declared ‘undying love’, and whom he set up in a Manhattan flat, rented in the name of Mr and Mrs Robert Lowell. A few weeks ...

Aloha, aloha

Ian Hacking, 7 September 1995

What ‘Natives’ Think: About Captain Cook, For Example 
by Marshall Sahlins.
Chicago, 316 pp., £19.95, July 1995, 0 226 73368 8
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... the surfaces of the bones and distributing them – each rank in the hierarchy has its allotted bone. There’s an immense amount of detail here, and whether or not it is fitted rightly, Sahlins does a masterly job of producing a coherent narrative, from within a conjectured Hawaiian structural space of ideas and practices. To which Obeyesekere protests ...

Vorsprung durch Techno

Ian Penman, 10 September 2020

Kraftwerk: Future Music from Germany 
by Uwe Schütte.
Penguin, 316 pp., £9.99, February, 978 0 14 198675 3
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... horizon of the Beatles: ‘Whether Kraftwerk or the Beatles were more influential has long been a bone of contention among journalists and fans.’ Not to mention that other lot of sulky layabouts: ‘Hütter/Schneider would one day be recognised as belonging in the same league as Lennon/McCartney or Jagger/Richards.’ Really? Up to and including ...

What’s left of Henrietta Lacks?

Anne Enright: HeLa, 13 April 2000

... me that she is one of the saints who multiplied in reliquaries after their death, to produce, as Ian Paisley’s website reminds us (in an essay called ‘The Errors of Rome’), the many prepuces of the infant Jesus, and the variously coloured hair of His madly trichogenous mother. Perhaps, in these days of cloning, or in future days of cloning, we will ...

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