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Frosty Poem

James Michie, 7 August 1980

... In New York City I wasn’t told That mid-May nights in Vermont can be cold. Outside, our brook, short of sun And wind, barely keeps up a run, Just jogs and limps so as not to freeze; Flexing her black tender knees, The mare between the moon and the gate Crops fiercely as if she couldn’t wait For the calories to turn to heating, And is blindly warming herself by eating; Overhead, chipmunks shiver in rows, Or heaps, or whatever racial pose Chipmunks adopt; if there were lights, The woods would be circus-crammed with sights – Hedgehogs on inchmeal expeditions, Toads in cool conjugal positions, Somewhere the bug that bit me lying Jubilant with my blood and dying, Jays, if you can imagine it, keeping Quiet, drops from bathers creeping Back to huddle inside the lake, And in the corridors where the snake Exerts his snakiness unmolested The hiss and wriggle being rested ...

You could catch it

Greil Marcus, 25 March 1993

Panegyric. Vol. I 
by Guy Debord, translated by James Brook.
Verso, 79 pp., £29.95, January 1993, 0 86091 347 3
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The Most Radical Gesture: The Situationist International in a Post-Modern Age 
by Sadie Plant.
Routledge, 226 pp., £40, May 1992, 0 415 06222 5
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... l’histoire, et l’histoire n’en regorge point’ – the rhythm may actually be stronger in James Brook’s unpretentious translation). Even if the allusion is clear – to Ecclesiastes 1.6-7, ‘All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full’ – one must be ready to entertain the notion that Debord’s version, at least for our place ...

Great Internationalists

Rupert Cornwell, 2 February 1989

Philby: The Life and Views of the KGB Masterspy 
by Phillip Knightley.
Deutsch, 291 pp., £14.95, October 1988, 0 233 98360 0
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Mask of Treachery: The First Documented Dossier on Blunt, MI5 and Soviet Subversion 
by John Costello.
Collins, 761 pp., £18, November 1988, 0 00 217536 3
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A Divided Life: A Biography of Donald Maclean 
by Robert Cecil.
Bodley Head, 212 pp., £15, October 1988, 0 370 31129 9
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The Storm Birds: Soviet Post-War Defectors 
by Gordon Brook-Shepherd.
Weidenfeld, 303 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 0 297 79464 7
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... Foreign Office colleague Donald Maclean. To round things out, we have The Storm Birds, Gordon Brook-Shepherd’s study of the Soviet agents who have spied for – or defected to – the West since 1945. Equally inevitably, the same themes, the same episodes criss-cross the four books. But for any armchair addict of the great game as practised since the ...

To Craig Raine: A Letter from Biarritz

Clive James, 1 October 1981

... oysters look. For you I’d stand that saying on its head: Your eyes have got no stomach. They can brook, Nay revel in, sights that would strike me dead And make me queasy even in a book. I’d like to call it sorcery or knavery But all too clearly it’s a kind of bravery. You’d need it, too, if you were here today, I think I might just mention at this ...

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 ...


Jason Harding: George Moore, 21 September 2000

George Moore, 1852-1933 
by Adrian Frazier.
Yale, 604 pp., £29.95, May 2000, 0 300 08245 2
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... last two decades of his life. It was here that he composed his ambitious historical romances, The Brook Kerith (1916), which is concerned with St Paul’s discomfiture on discovering that Jesus had not, after all, died on the cross and ascended to heaven but was tending sheep in the Jordan Valley, and Héloïse and Abelard (1921), an attempt to re-create the ...

Short Cuts

Jenny Diski: Melanie Phillips, 13 May 2010

... civilisation ruined thanks to Francis Bacon, Rousseau, Hume, Comte, Marx, Bergson, William James, Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Gramsci, Rowan Williams, Richard Dawkins, liberation theologians, Princess Diana, Professor Nutt, someone called Matthew Fox, Madonna, Cherie Blair – and Barack Obama. Nor is our gratitude due for her elucidation of why human ...

Et in Alhambra ego

D.A.N. Jones, 5 June 1986

Agate: A Biography 
by James Harding.
Methuen, 238 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 413 58090 3
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Subsequent Performances 
by Jonathan Miller.
Faber, 253 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 571 13133 6
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... The Hazlitt of our time’, said the Manchester Guardian, announcing the death of James Agate in 1947. An extravagant compliment, but the famous theatre reviewer did have one or two of Hazlitt’s characteristics. Though his journalism now seems too pompous-frivolous even for the theatre world, his reports of actors’ performances are often vivid and persuasive: he was quite learned in his subject and could communicate his own enthusiasm, making drama seem important – more important, perhaps, than it seems to us today ...

International Tale

John Banville, 30 March 1989

A Theft 
by Saul Bellow.
Penguin, 128 pp., £3.95, March 1989, 0 14 011969 8
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... America of the late 19th century. In short, the reigning spirit here might be that of Henry James. This is a surprise. It is a long time, forty years or so, since Saul Bellow abandoned the Flaubertian tradition and decided to break out, to let rip (‘I am an American ...’). The result was an extraordinary gain in vigour. What other novelist in our ...

Vibrating to the Chord of Queer

Elaine Showalter: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, 6 March 2003

Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity 
by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.
Duke, 216 pp., £14.95, March 2003, 0 8223 3015 6
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Regarding Sedgwick: Essays on Queer Culture and Critical Theory 
edited by Stephen Barber and David Clark.
Routledge, 285 pp., £55, September 2002, 0 415 92818 4
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... by Sedgwick, both called Floating Columns: In the Bardo, were exhibited at Suny Stony Brook and the Cuny Graduate Center. She uses the Tibetan Buddhist term bardo, or the ‘space between states of being’, to signify the ‘painful bardo of dying’, which occupies the ‘space between contracting a terminal illness and death itself’. I did ...

Memories of Lindsay Anderson

Alan Bennett, 20 July 2000

... winter of discontent. Still, it was a much better piece than was generally allowed (Clive James and Richard Ingrams making particular fools of themselves) but it wasn’t what viewers had come to expect from me and so was unfamiliar, or too unfamiliar anyway, a little unfamiliarity often an ingredient of success at any rate with critics, as it enables ...


Ian Hamilton: It's a size thing, 19 September 1985

... house’ is also ‘comfortable’ but it seems to be a shade down-market, ‘fronting Eel Brook Common’. Salman Rushdie’s residence also rates a ‘comfortable’, but he’s in Tufnell Park. David Storey’s pad, on the other hand, is fashionably situated but Honest John Haffenden would be lying if he didn’t tell you it was merely ...

Fog has no memory

Jonathan Meades: Postwar Colour(lessness), 19 July 2018

The Tiger in the Smoke: Art and Culture in Postwar Britain 
by Lynda Nead.
Yale, 416 pp., £35, October 2017, 978 0 300 21460 4
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... to Nead: ‘The fogs of the 1950s were different … from the fogs of Conan Doyle and Henry James. They drew on the accumulated meanings of the Victorian fogs, but they were also distinctively modern.’ This is, at best, questionable, quasi-anthropomorphic, ascribing to fogs memory and mimetic capacities. Nead goes on to grant meaning to other ...

‘I can’t go on like this’

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 19 January 1989

The Letters of Edith Wharton 
edited by R.W.B. Lewis and Nancy Lewis.
Simon and Schuster, 654 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 671 69965 2
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Women Artists, Women Exiles: ‘Miss Grief’ and Other Stories 
by Constance Fenimore Woolson, edited by Joan Myers Weimer.
Rutgers, 341 pp., $42, December 1988, 0 8135 1347 2
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... preceding the divorce (Teddy had embezzled and spent some $50,000 from her trust), Henry James couldn’t help regretting ‘that an intellectuelle – and an Angel – should require such a big pecuniary base.’ But require it she apparently did; and in the later decades of her career especially, she appears to have been capable of driving some ...

Full of Hell

Fatema Ahmed: James Salter, 5 February 2004

by James Salter.
Harvill, 208 pp., £10.99, August 2003, 1 86046 925 6
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Light Years 
by James Salter.
Vintage, 320 pp., £6.99, August 2003, 0 09 945022 4
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... In his memoir, Burning the Days (1997), James Salter tells a story about an encounter between William Faulkner and an officer from the local airbase in Greenville, Mississippi in the early 1950s. They talk of the excitement of flying, and Faulkner drunkenly reminisces about his days as a pilot in France during the First World War ...

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