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Bats on the Ceiling

James Lasdun: The Gospel of St Karen, 24 September 2020

Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife 
by Ariel Sabar.
Random House, 401 pp., $29.95, August, 978 0 385 54258 6
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... The​ Tenth International Congress of Coptic Studies was held in September 2012 at the headquarters of the Order of St Augustine in Rome. Among the speakers was Karen King, the first woman to hold the Hollis Professorship of Divinity, Harvard’s oldest endowed chair. King had made her name as an interpreter and champion of early Christian texts that asserted the spiritual authority of women but were excluded from the official canon ...

Bigger Crowds, More Roses

James Lasdun: Best Fascist Face, 3 June 2021

The Perfect Fascist: A Story of Love, Power and Morality in Mussolini’s Italy 
by Victoria de Grazia.
Harvard, 517 pp., £28.95, August 2020, 978 0 674 98639 8
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... The plot​ sounds like Joseph Roth at his most cynically extravagant: a demobbed soldier, down on his luck, has a chance meeting with a political agitator on the rise, and the two forge an alliance that propels the soldier onto the world stage. He marries a rich American opera singer, governs an African colony, conducts an epic legal battle with the Vatican, embroils himself in the darkest villainies of his exceptionally brutal era, is executed multiple times without realising it, and ends his days on an island in the Mediterranean ...

Internet-Enabled

Nick Richardson: Stalking James Lasdun, 25 April 2013

Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked 
by James Lasdun.
Cape, 224 pp., £14.99, February 2013, 978 0 224 09662 1
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... In September 2011, the LRB published a Diary by James Lasdun about learning to fire a gun. A few weeks later we received an email from his stalker. It read: ‘His writing is boring and doesn’t sell. Stop publishing that hairy-nosed Jewish wanna-be-Protestant bore of a boar. His wife’s cunt smells of dead rabbits ...

A Pair of Lobsters in a Murky Tank

Theo Tait: James Lasdun, 9 March 2006

Seven Lies 
by James Lasdun.
Cape, 199 pp., £14.99, February 2006, 0 224 07592 6
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... A woman threw her glass of wine at me,’ James Lasdun’s second novel begins. At a party held by a wealthy philanthropist in New York, a woman walks up to the narrator and asks: ‘Excuse me, are you Stefan Vogel?’ He says yes; she flings her wine in his face. In keeping with the novel’s mood of dreamlike self-absorption, the event is replayed many times ...

Who’s under the desk?

Siddhartha Deb: James Lasdun’s Novel, 7 March 2002

The Horned Man 
by James Lasdun.
Cape, 195 pp., £10.99, February 2002, 0 224 06217 4
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... At the beginning of James Lasdun’s novel, Lawrence Miller, a professor of gender studies at a college on the outskirts of New York, is interrupted while reading a book. When he returns to his office the next day, he finds his bookmark has been moved forward thirty pages. ‘Either I had moved the marker inadvertently myself, or else some night-visitor had been reading the book in my absence ...

I’ll have to kill you

J. Robert Lennon: ‘The Fall Guy’, 20 April 2017

The Fall Guy 
by James Lasdun.
Cape, 266 pp., £12.99, January 2017, 978 1 910702 83 3
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... It isn’t until​ the halfway point of The Fall Guy, James Lasdun’s thrillerish new novel, that we are treated to its first overtly criminal act: breaking and entering. This book is about boundaries – emotional, social and moral – and it is with characteristic obliqueness that Lasdun gives us this first, long anticipated transgression: though the act strikes the reader as insane in its audacity, its import barely registers on Matthew, the book’s protagonist and the perpetrator of the crime ...

The Death of Actaeon

Robin Robertson, 5 June 2003

... after Ovid for James Lasdun The midday sun finds a way down into a deep cleft in the mountain meshed with cypresses and pine, to flare on a distant speck of glass: the sacred pool where twenty Amnisian nymphs attend their queen, huntress and protectress of this place, these woods and hills. As she steps forward, they take her clothes and stand aside, while the deftest folds the locks of hair into a knot ...

Getting on

Humphrey Carpenter, 18 July 1985

In the Dark 
by R.M. Lamming.
Cape, 230 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 9780224022927
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A Glimpse of Sion’s Glory 
by Isabel Colegate.
Hamish Hamilton, 153 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 0 241 11532 9
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Midnight Mass 
by Peter Bowles.
Peter Owen, 190 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 0 7206 0647 0
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The Silver Age 
by James Lasdun.
Cape, 186 pp., £8.95, July 1985, 0 224 02316 0
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The House of Kanze 
by Nobuko Albery.
Century, 307 pp., £9.95, June 1985, 0 7126 0850 8
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... these people and his fluency with their folktale motifs into a Midnight’s Children of Tangier. James Lasdun’s first collection of short stories, The Silver Age, doesn’t make much attempt to go in search of the ‘other’, but takes on what is perhaps a more severe challenge, present-day English middle-class life. ...

Turtle upon Turtle

Christian Lorentzen: Nathan Englander, 22 March 2012

What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank 
by Nathan Englander.
Weidenfeld, 207 pp., £12.99, February 2012, 978 0 297 86769 2
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... has not run short of praise: it has been called ‘remarkable’ and ‘courageous’ by James Lasdun in the Guardian; Alison Kelly said in the TLS that it was ‘a wonderful collection: entertaining, profound and gently powerful’; Stacy Schiff in the New York Times Book Review said, ‘a kind of hard-won wisdom spills out on every ...

The State with the Prettiest Name

Michael Hofmann: ‘Florida’, 24 May 2018

Florida 
by Lauren Groff.
Heinemann, 275 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 78515 188 0
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... temperate and tropical, man-made and natural. ‘A complex of few interweavings’ is Henry James’s curtly paradoxical summary of the Florida scene. Heavy, stagnant air and violent hurricanes. Paradisiac contentment and accesses of sudden panic. The strange recumbent crescent moons. The deep shadows in the daytime. The snuffling or crisping animal ...

Vendlerising

John Kerrigan, 2 April 1987

The Faber Book of Contemporary American Poetry 
edited by Helen Vendler.
Faber, 440 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 571 13945 0
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Selected Poems 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 348 pp., £16.95, April 1986, 0 85635 666 2
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The Poetry Book Society Anthology 1986/87 
edited by Jonathan Barker.
Hutchinson, 94 pp., £4.95, November 1986, 0 09 165961 2
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Two Horse Wagon Going By 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 143 pp., £5.95, October 1986, 0 85635 661 1
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... anthology may not begin with ‘Sunday Morning’, but Jonathan Barker suggests that Ron Butlin, James Lasdun, Oliver Reynolds and other talents have been influenced, like Vendler’s Americans, by the world of Canon Aspirin. This seems doubtful. To read the PBS volume after the Faber Book is to be almost crushed by the pressure of social detail. It is ...

Sorrows of a Polygamist

Mark Ford: Ted Hughes in His Cage, 17 March 2016

Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life 
by Jonathan Bate.
William Collins, 662 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 00 811822 8
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... a wonderful translator when put together with the right originals, as Michael Hofmann and James Lasdun discovered when they commissioned from him versions of three episodes from the Metamorphoses for their compilation After Ovid, published in 1994. One might initially have thought that Ovid’s wit and sophistication would clash disastrously with ...

Strange, Angry Objects

Owen Hatherley: The Brutalist Decades, 17 November 2016

A3: Threads and Connections 
by Peter Ahrends.
Right Angle, 128 pp., £18, December 2015, 978 0 9532848 9 4
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Raw Concrete: The Beauty of Brutalism 
by Barnabas Calder.
Heinemann, 416 pp., £25, April 2016, 978 0 434 02244 1
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Space, Hope and Brutalism: English Architecture 1945-75 
by Elain Harwood.
Yale, 512 pp., £60, September 2015, 978 0 300 20446 9
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Concrete Concept: Brutalist Buildings around the World 
by Christopher Beanland.
Frances Lincoln, 192 pp., £18, February 2016, 978 0 7112 3764 3
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This Brutal World 
by Peter Chadwick.
Phaidon, 224 pp., £29.95, April 2016, 978 0 7148 7108 0
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Modern Forms: A Subjective Atlas of 20th-Century Architecture 
by Nicolas Grospierre.
Prestel, 224 pp., £29.99, February 2016, 978 3 7913 8229 6
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Modernist Estates: The Buildings and the People Who Live in Them 
by Stefi Orazi.
Frances Lincoln, 192 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 0 7112 3675 2
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Architecture an Inspiration 
by Ivor Smith.
Troubador, 224 pp., £24.95, November 2014, 978 1 78462 069 1
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... some relish on the built-in concrete bed). There are famous, listed masterpieces, such as Denys Lasdun’s work in Cambridge and on the National Theatre in London, and there is the ‘good ordinary Brutalism’ of the Glasgow School of Art’s demolished Newbery Tower. He makes a good deal of the Brutalists’ interest in historical architecture, ‘a ...

Serried Yuppiedromes

Owen Hatherley: What happened to London?, 21 August 2014

Guide to the Architecture of London 
by Edward Jones and Christopher Woodward.
Phoenix, 511 pp., £16.99, July 2013, 978 1 78022 493 0
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... of them worked on in the capital is in the book somewhere, but they don’t point them out. Lasdun’s Keeling House (1955) and Macmanus’s Waxham, Gospel Oak (1969) Edward Jones was a member of a clique at the Architectural Association in the late 1960s known as the Grunt Group, so called because of its passion for the hard, stark, monochrome ...

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