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Grieve not, but try again

N.A.M. Rodger: Submarines, 22 September 2016

The Silent Deep: The Royal Navy Submarine Service since 1945 
by Peter Hennessy and James Jinks.
Allen Lane, 823 pp., £12.99, June 2016, 978 1 84614 580 3
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... in home waters under the ice. In The Silent Deep, Peter Hennessy and James Jinks recount the history of the Royal Navy Submarine Service since 1945. Naval history as such is a new departure for Hennessy, but in his extensive writings on politics and society, nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and intelligence and state ...

Theydunnit

Terry Eagleton, 28 April 1994

What a Carve Up! 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 512 pp., £15.50, April 1994, 0 670 85362 3
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... literary genres, as a potted social history of Thatcherism is tucked inside some meta-textual high jinks. An anatomy of the appalling Winshaw family, Thatcherite predators of one ilk or another, provides the lens for a scabrous critique of Tory Britain; but at the source of the family’s history lies a mysterious murder, so that the text simultaneously yields ...

Grousing

James Francken: Toby Litt, 7 August 2003

Finding Myself 
by Toby Litt.
Hamish Hamilton, 425 pp., £14.99, June 2003, 0 241 14155 9
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... see: how wrong or right was I? Do I know my friends as well as I think I do?’ The textual high jinks continue to the end. It is Victoria About, not Toby Litt, who is described on the jacket flap, in a fluffy biographical note: ‘Victoria . . . is the author of five fantastically entertaining bestselling novels . . . she lives in North London with ...

Abecedary

James Francken: Ian Sansom, 20 May 2004

Ring Road: There’s No Place like Home 
by Ian Sansom.
Fourth Estate, 388 pp., £12.99, April 2004, 0 00 715653 7
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... Road on page 27. Sansom acknowledges Eggers in his endnotes. But does it matter that the high jinks in Ring Road are old hat? Sansom thinks the question of small consequence. ‘Fashions come and go,’ he tells us, and if you keep his novel in a cupboard for long enough, ‘it’ll all be back in ...

Cures for Impotence

James Davidson, 19 October 1995

Foucault’s Virginity: Ancient Erotic Fiction and the History of Sexuality 
by Simon Goldhill.
Cambridge, 194 pp., £30, January 1995, 0 521 47372 1
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... that night remains obscure. Traditional opinion divides between jinx and high-jinks, between an oligarchic conspiracy to scupper the fortunes of the democracy and a drunken prank at a spectacularly ill-judged moment in Athenian imperial history. In 1985, however, Eva Keuls published a book which opened up a new line of inquiry. The ...

Silly Willy

Jonathan Bate, 25 April 1991

William Blake: His Life 
by James King.
Weidenfeld, 263 pp., £25, March 1991, 0 297 81160 6
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... of the world: he wanted fame – and yet he did not want to be tainted with success. This is James King, who despite having already written the life of another mad poet, William Cowper, is ploddingly rational. The only occasion on which the two poets met was about twenty years after Cowper died, when he came to Blake in a dream. According to some ...

Seeing and Being Seen

Penelope Fitzgerald: Humbert Wolfe, 19 March 1998

Harlequin in Whitehall: A Life of Humbert Wolfe 
by Philip Bagguley.
Nyala, 439 pp., £24.50, May 1997, 0 9529376 0 3
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... didn’t invite him to contribute to the anthologies, but not in the wider sense of, for instance, James Reeves’s Introduction to Georgian Poetry. He belongs to a vanished age of serious light verse. The 13 of his poems Harold Monro selected for his Chapbook for August 1922 (and which appeared in Humbert’s Kensinaton Gardens two years later) start with the ...

High Jinks at the Plaza

Perry Anderson, 22 October 1992

The British Constitution Now 
by Ferdinand Mount.
Heinemann, 289 pp., £18.50, April 1992, 0 434 47994 2
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Constitutional Reform 
by Robert Brazier.
Oxford, 172 pp., £22.50, September 1991, 0 19 876257 7
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Anatomy of Thatcherism 
by Shirley Letwin.
Fontana, 364 pp., £6.99, October 1992, 0 00 686243 8
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... a representative number of the magazine. Mount’s homage was accompanied by two tributes, from James Burnham and F.R. Buckley, to ‘our century’s most successful ruler’, Generalissimo Franco – ‘a giant who will be truly mourned by Spain’, giving ‘the lie to cant about “fascism” ’. At the start of the journal was an admiring interview ...

Wallflower

Anthony Quinn, 29 August 1991

Varying Degrees of Hopelessness 
by Lucy Ellmann.
Hamish Hamilton, 184 pp., £13.99, July 1991, 0 241 13153 7
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Slide 
by James Buchan.
Heinemann, 135 pp., £12.99, June 1991, 0 434 07499 3
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Alma Cogan 
by Gordon Burn.
Secker, 210 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 0 436 20009 0
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... Her slow decline and death occasion an awkward shift of tone, scattering the scholarly high jinks with a blast of righteous cosmic disgust: Every day the whole show starts rolling again, all totally without significance. There can be no true tragedy or true joy in a world that is so repetitive. We try to fill these credibility gaps with painting, bits ...

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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... proposition – ‘What about a baby then, old girl?’ – fitted in with the evening’s high jinks: ‘they had to round off their victory night celebrations somehow.’ But they don’t have a fairytale marriage – Ivy and Gerald argue about money, her drinking, his affairs – and Ivy tries to prolong an illusion of happiness through her daughter. So ...

Quashed Quotatoes

Michael Wood: Finnegans Wake, 16 December 2010

Finnegans Wake 
by James Joyce, edited by Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon.
Houyhnhnm, 493 pp., £250, March 2010, 978 0 9547710 1 0
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Joyce’s Disciples Disciplined 
edited by Tim Conley.
University College Dublin, 185 pp., £42.50, May 2010, 978 1 906359 46 1
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... Lewis Carroll seems an obvious precursor of James Joyce in the world of elaborate wordplay, and critics have long thought so. Harry Levin suggested in 1941 that Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty was ‘the official guide’ to the vocabulary of Finnegans Wake. Why wouldn’t he be? He was the inventor of the portmanteau word (‘You see it’s like a portmanteau – there are two meanings packed up into one word’), an inspired parodist of what Saussure later called the arbitrariness of the linguistic sign (that is, its being grounded in nothing but convention) and extremely proud of his ability to ‘explain all the poems that ever were invented – and a good many that haven’t been invented just yet ...

You see stars

Michael Wood, 19 June 1997

The House of Sleep 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 384 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 0 670 86458 7
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... stories, old chatty novels, stage farces – not everyone would connect Jean Cocteau with Sid James and Kenneth Connor. But it is above all a novel of the Thatcher years, satirically seen as the reign of a particular mentality, easily identified, but not so easily defined. Coe portrays it through six grotesques, members of a single family, which itself is ...

‘The Sun Says’

Paul Laity, 20 June 1996

... relation to no other subject has it dished out more abuse to moderate Tories. The paper’s high jinks over Brussels are shaped by a combination of anti-bureaucratic Poujadism and hysterical xenophobia. As they present it, the free British people have to fight off the interfering European superstate, and ‘the people’ is plastered across almost every ...

Love Stories

Edmund White, 4 November 1993

To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life: A Novel 
by Hervé Guibert, translated by Linda Coverdale.
Quartet, 246 pp., £12.95, November 1991, 9780704370005
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The Man in the Red Hat 
by Hervé Guibert, translated by James Kirkup.
Quartet, 111 pp., £12.95, May 1993, 0 7043 7046 8
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The Compassion Protocol 
by Hervé Guibert, translated by James Kirkup.
Quartet, 202 pp., £13.95, October 1993, 9780704370593
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... French writers, but now the novel strikes me as mannered, formless, misguided in its surreal high jinks. Two homosexual bums, glorying in their filth, wander all over the world performing disgusting, sadistic acts. Even here, however, Guibert’s constant inventiveness, his ease and pleasure in writing, his pétillant style are present, as they are in all his ...

Red makes wrong

Mark Ford: Harry Mathews, 20 March 2003

The Human Country: New and Collected Stories 
by Harry Mathews.
Dalkey Archive, 186 pp., £10.99, October 2002, 1 56478 321 9
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The Case of the Persevering Maltese: Collected Essays 
by Harry Mathews.
Dalkey Archive, 290 pp., £10.99, April 2003, 1 56478 288 3
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... edited by Mathews himself (who also funded it with a legacy from his grandfather), Ashbery, James Schuyler and Kenneth Koch. Like most avant-garde magazines, Locus Solus (named after Roussel’s second prose novel, published in 1914, and with an epigraph from his final long poem, from 1932, Nouvelles impressions d’Afrique), was founded primarily as a ...

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