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Out of the Eater

Jeremy Noel-Tod: Thom Gunn, 6 July 2000

Boss Cupid 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 115 pp., £7.99, March 2000, 0 571 20298 5
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... mortal nation/From lords to villagers in their fading dyes’, going on to consider the pagan ‘Green Men’ lurking in old churches and cathedrals:          But carved on a high beam Far in the vault from the official version Gape gnarled unChristian heads out of                         whom stream    Long stems of ...

Little England

Patrick Wright: The view through a bus window, 7 September 2006

Great British Bus Journeys: Travels through Unfamous Places 
by David McKie.
Atlantic, 359 pp., £16.99, March 2006, 1 84354 132 7
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... doors, suggesting that they might do better to walk along the platform to the restaurant car. Jeffrey Archer may have dreamed of routes as straight as an executive jet’s runway, but McKie knows that a true bus journey is a wandering, much interrupted affair that takes for ever to arrive at anything resembling a destination. Characterised by ...

Going underground

Elaine Showalter, 12 May 1994

The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes 
by Janet Malcolm.
Knopf, 208 pp., $23, April 1994, 0 679 43158 6
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... in a notorious case about libel and invasion of privacy brought by the modest and reclusive Jeffrey Masson, the topical ironies of the book have attracted a great deal of attention in the United States. In the New York Times Book Review, Caryn James observed that ‘while the English fuss about poets’ graves, Americans gossip about litigation and ...

Peeping Tam

Karl Miller, 6 August 1981

... the truth. Eight years before Jane Austen expressed her suspicions of Burns’s sincerity, Francis Jeffrey passed judgment on his work in the Edinburgh Review (January 1809). For Jeffrey, a formidable arbiter of taste in the new Britain, Burns was an ‘enamoured peasant’, prone to the faults of a rustic vulgarity, and to ...

Blessed, Beastly Place

Douglas Dunn, 5 March 1981

Precipitous City 
by Trevor Royle.
Mainstream, 210 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 906391 09 1
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RLS: A Life Study 
by Jenni Calder.
Hamish Hamilton, 362 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 241 10374 6
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Gillespie 
by J. MacDougall Hay.
Canongate, 450 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 903937 79 4
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Scottish Satirical Verse 
edited by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 236 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 85635 183 0
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Collected Poems 
by Robert Garioch.
Carcanet, 208 pp., £3.95, July 1980, 0 85635 316 7
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... an Edinburgh figure: born there, schooled there, a city advocate, Kames’s protégé. Francis Jeffrey, a boy in 1790, once helped carry the intoxicated Boswell to bed. Next morning, on waking the hungover genius, Jeffrey’s head was patted. ‘If you go on as you’ve begun,’ said the bloated biographer, ‘you may ...

What Nanny Didn’t Tell Me

Bernard Porter: Simon Mann, 26 January 2012

Cry Havoc 
by Simon Mann.
John Blake, 351 pp., £19.99, November 2011, 978 1 84358 403 2
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... Adam Roberts’s excellent The Wonga Coup.* Roberts names more names than Mann does, including Jeffrey Archer’s (he may have donated money), and gives some broad hints as to the identity of Mann’s equivalent of Sir James Manson, here just called ‘the Boss’, who is supposed to have masterminded the whole affair. Apparently, Mann has ‘legal ...

Imps and Ogres

Marina Warner, 6 June 2019

Big and Small: A Cultural History of Extraordinary Bodies 
by Lynne Vallone.
Yale, 339 pp., £20, November 2017, 978 0 300 22886 1
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... of course. Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant distributes good dreams to children, and bilious green Shrek and his beloved Princess Fiona, pretty princess by day, ogre by night, inverted the usual expectations of ogreish brutality and scored a wildly popular success. Out of the ordinary bodies can be seductive, too, especially when confined to stories and ...

I was invisible

Christian Lorentzen: Viet Thanh Nguyen, 18 November 2021

The Committed 
by Viet Thanh Nguyen.
Corsair, 345 pp., £8.99, March, 978 1 4721 5253 4
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... scheme arranged by the Boss, which has distinct echoes of the scandal and rumours surrounding Jeffrey Epstein.In The Sympathiser, Nguyen drew liberally from American literature, transforming it for his own darkly funny and deadly serious purposes. The narrator has parallels with Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Philip Roth’s Alex Portnoy (both ...

Doing something

Ahdaf Soueif, 1 October 1987

Persian Nights 
by Diane Johnson.
Chatto, 352 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 7011 3234 5
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Smile, and Other Stories 
by Deborah Moggach.
Viking, 175 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 670 81658 2
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Fast Lanes 
by Jayne Anne Phillips.
Faber, 148 pp., £8.95, August 1987, 0 571 14924 3
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... a cartoonist. He painted a series of charming and instantly recognisable street scenes: stacked green-grocers’, lemonade vendors, decked-out taxicabs, dust-carts pulled by donkeys. The Under-Secretary flew into a rage: Who is this man? An Israeli? Why has he drawn everybody with kinky hair? Doesn’t he know selling lemonade on the street is ...

It’s life but not as we know it

Tim Radford, 3 July 1997

... and sent back their instrument readings. Nothing. No remains of a vanished civilisation, no little green men, no little green plants, nothing. Humans contemplated the consequence. They were alone around their own star. The nearest star to theirs was four light-years away. That is, if you could accelerate a spaceship to ...

It starts with an itch

Alan Bennett: ‘People’, 8 November 2012

... the video guide to the National Trust house at Hughenden, once lived in by Disraeli, is voiced by Jeffrey Archer, euphemistically described by the Trust as a ‘provocative figure’. And in the matter of pornography the Trust has recently sponsored an app to accompany a tour round London’s Soho, the highlights of which are not architectural. It is ...

Seventy Years in a Colourful Trade

Andrew O’Hagan: The Soho Alphabet, 16 July 2020

Tales from the Colony Room: Soho’s Lost Bohemia 
by Darren Coffield.
Unbound, 364 pp., £25, April, 978 1 78352 816 5
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... I started off many evenings in the Coach & Horses, where a living warning came in the form of Jeffrey Bernard, missing half a leg but still pluming and gasping in the Spectator about his bad character. Never did a man receive drinks with such a sense of entitlement: he hated himself, of course, which was a burden on everybody, despite the cartoons and all ...

You’ve got it or you haven’t

Iain Sinclair, 25 February 1993

Inside the Firm: The Untold Story of the Krays’ Reign of Terror 
by Tony Lambrianou and Carol Clerk.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.99, October 1992, 0 330 32284 2
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Gangland: London’s Underworld 
by James Morton.
Little, Brown, 349 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 356 20889 3
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Nipper: The Story of Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read 
by Leonard Read and James Morton.
Warner, 318 pp., £5.99, September 1992, 0 7515 0001 1
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Smash and Grab: Gangsters in the London Underworld 
by Robert Murphy.
Faber, 182 pp., £15.99, February 1993, 0 571 15442 5
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... An unforgettable occasion. A motor eased alongside Tony at the corner of Blythe Street, Bethnal Green. Ron and Reg were inside, keeping company with a known associate, Dickie Morgan. Reg was nicely cased in a blue three-piece by Woods of Kingsland Road. Dickie matched him. (The Twins were very influential that way. All the faces were expected to dress to a ...

If everybody had a Wadley

Terry Castle: ‘Joe’ Carstairs, the ‘fastest woman on water’, 5 March 1998

The Queen of Whale Cay: The Eccentric Story of ‘Joe’ Carstairs, Fastest Woman on Water 
by Kate Summerscale.
Fourth Estate, 248 pp., £12.99, August 1997, 1 85702 360 9
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... come in all shapes and sizes: from the obvious ghouls and werewolves (Rasputin, Hitler, Idi Amin, Jeffrey Dahmer) to various mid-rank demigods and unicorn-people (T.E. Lawrence, Wittgenstein, Che Guevara, Greta Garbo, Edith Sitwell, JFK, Maria Callas, Howard Hughes, Andy Warhol, Glenn Gould, the late Princess of Wales) down to minor bog-sprites such as Eartha ...

I only want the OM

Christopher Tayler: Somerset Maugham, 1 September 2005

Somerset Maugham: A Life 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Vintage, 411 pp., £12, April 2005, 1 4000 3052 8
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... rug and scooping up ‘a handful of faeces like a guilty child’. In his new biography, Jeffrey Meyers quotes one of the two alleged witnesses denying all knowledge of ‘this nonsensical story’. Although he thinks that Maugham’s career boils down to a ‘struggle between sexual repression and artistic expression’, Meyers – a fantastically ...

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