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David Runciman: Dylan on the radio, 19 July 2007

... He studied the best he could find, including Kenny Everett and Steve Wright in the UK, and Howard Stern, king of the shock-jocks, in the US. All three were wacky, eccentric rule-breakers, and in the case of Everett and Stern risqué by the standards of their contemporaries. But Moyles saw that this wasn’t what made them ...


James Wood, 8 December 1994

Shadow Dance 
by Angela Carter.
Virago, 182 pp., £9.99, September 1994, 1 85381 840 2
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Flesh and the Mirror: Essays on the Art of Angela Carter 
edited by Lorna Sage.
Virago, 358 pp., £8.99, September 1994, 1 85381 760 0
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... a range of possible roles and identifications’. The tone of her essay is free but also stern – oddly governmental. Carter’s work is ‘reponsive but not random fun’. Flesh and the Mirror is a patchy book, and most of the essays are so far from the spring of creativity that it does little more than sprinkle them with the occasional generous ...

Tod aus Luft

Steven Shapin: The Rise and Fall of Fritz Haber, 26 January 2006

Between Genius and Genocide: The Tragedy of Fritz Haber, Father of Chemical Warfare 
by Daniel Charles.
Cape, 313 pp., £20, September 2005, 0 224 06444 4
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... a non-commissioned vice-sergeant but the Kaiser now promoted him to captain, and, as the physicist James Franck said, he learned ‘to think like a general’. A scientific collaborator, the British chemist J.E. Coates, wrote that ‘the war years were for Haber the greatest period of his life . . . To be a great soldier, to obey and be obeyed – that, as ...

I can’t, I can’t

Anne Diebel: Edel v. the Rest, 21 November 2013

Monopolising the Master: Henry James and the Politics of Modern Literary Scholarship 
by Michael Anesko.
Stanford, 280 pp., £30.50, March 2012, 978 0 8047 6932 7
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... Morningside Heights there’s an enormous residential tower which in 1932 replaced the Henry James, an apartment house built at the turn of the 20th century and advertised to appeal to ‘refined persons’. When William Dean Howells first told James about the building, James replied ...

Things happen all the time

James Wood, 8 May 1997

Selected Stories 
by Alice Munro.
Chatto, 412 pp., £16.99, November 1996, 0 7011 6521 9
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... we realise how mistaken the matrons have been. Miss Marsalles’s soft-headedness is actually a stern charity. And the ‘great unemotional happiness’ which the music speaks is hers. The mothers go home, stilled by this incursion, by this ‘communiqué from the other country where she lives’. The prose of these stories is not lavish: it is ...

In 1348

James Meek, 2 April 2020

... to us of Langland’s great narrative poem, with its hopping between Middle English and Latin, its stern morality and its rebuke to greedy, sensual materialists who ignore the punitive divine message of the plague, is a jarring moment that’s hard to read as anything other than a sudden anger towards God: ‘For God is deaf nowadays and deigneth not us to ...

Evil Days

Ian Hamilton, 23 July 1992

The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligentsia 
by John Carey.
Faber, 246 pp., £14.99, July 1992, 0 571 16273 8
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... When Henry James’s play, Guy Domville, was booed off the London stage, the embarrassed author remarked that at least some of the audience was clapping. These approvers were powerless to out-clamour the ‘hoots and jeers and catcalls of the roughs’, whose roars were ‘like those of a cage of beasts at some infernal zoo’, but for James they represented ‘the forces of civilisation ...

Boxes of Tissues

Hilary Mantel, 6 March 1997

As If 
by Blake Morrison.
Granta, 245 pp., £14.99, February 1997, 1 86207 003 2
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... Blake Morrison begins his account of the murder of James Bulger with a delicate diversion into the story of the Children’s Crusade. The year 1212: at Saint-Denis, a boy of 12 begins to preach. He has received word from God that it is the mission of Christian children to free the Holy Land from the infidel. He draws crowds, draws followers: boys and girls swarm from street and field ...

Top Sergeant

D.A.N. Jones, 23 April 1992

An Autobiography 
by Fred Zinnemann.
Bloomsbury, 256 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 7475 1131 4
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... for invasion and insurrection than those surprised Americans at Pearl Harbor. The movie (and James Jones’s novel, on which it was based) presented that peace-time army as a community wherein a vicious and slothful officer might neglect his duties, turning over his responsibilities to the Top Sergeant, while the Other Ranks (or the Enlisted Men, as the ...


Kathleen Jamie: Whale Watching, 29 November 2001

... girl in the world . . .’ Wednesday. None of the crew is out of his twenties. Three Scots lads: James, Brennan and Hamish. Hamish leads us, a silent group of eight, down pontoons to the boat. It’s a glorious day. The sea sparkles, the sky is blue, the hills of Ardnamurchan and Sunart, across the water, seem slightly amazed by the light. As we nose out of ...

Pudding Time

Colin Kidd: Jacobites, 14 December 2006

1715: The Great Jacobite Rebellion 
by Daniel Szechi.
Yale, 351 pp., £25, June 2006, 0 300 11100 2
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... of 1688 and the extent of support for the cause (so called because ‘Jacobus’ was the Latin for James, and James II was the monarch overthrown at the revolution). If the Jacobite challenge had been serious and substantial, why had its impact on the course of British history been so limited? By the lights of the Whig ...

Sweet Sin

J.P. Stern, 5 August 1982

by Wolfgang Hildesheimer.
Suhrkamp, 326 pp., May 1981, 3 518 03205 4
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... a baronetcy as a reward for having pressganged a hundred men into service in the Irish War under James the First.   ‘Is that too myth?’ Goethe asked.   ‘No, Your Excellency, that is history.’   ‘Honourable history!’ said Goethe.   ‘Well, Your Excellency,’ the Englishman replied, ‘he put greater value on the title of nobility ...

The Mouth, the Meal and the Book

Christopher Ricks, 8 November 1979

Field Work 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 64 pp., £3, June 1979, 0 571 11433 4
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... variously and with high composure, that there is something more primary than enlightenment. Henry James said of Eugénie de Guérin and her piety, what could not be said of Heaney and his, that she ‘was certainly not enlightened’. Yet when James went on, ‘But she was better than this – she was light itself,’ the ...

I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters, 24 January 2013

Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... Randall Jarrell’s possible suicide, Bill’s own depression. And I talked to him about William James’s own breakdown and his resuscitation through faith. What in hell am I doing with all these theatre types? Alfred Kazin’s journals, 26 December 1986 Discount Kazin’s weary, load-bearing sigh in this characteristic entry from his journals, which ...

A Novel without a Hero

Christopher Ricks, 6 December 1979

The Mangan Inheritance 
by Brian Moore.
Cape, 336 pp., £5.50
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... off from New York to Ireland to find out whether or not he is the great-great-grandson of the poet James Clarence Mangan. Jamie’s father had once halfheartedly tried this, but he wasn’t prey to a sufficiently insatiable hunger for the quest. But then it is Jamie, not his father, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the man in an heirloom daguerrotype which ...

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