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A Toast at the Trocadero

Terry Eagleton: D.J. Taylor, 18 February 2016

The Prose Factory: Literary Life in England since 1918 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 501 pp., £25, January 2016, 978 0 7011 8613 5
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... irritated by talk of class conflict, and is not exactly in congratulatory mood when he calls John Carey the most class-conscious critic of the modern age. (The literary hackles raised by Carey’s recent memoir, The Unexpected Professor, which puts the petty-bourgeois boot into patrician dons, revealed just what ...

Big Head

John Sutherland, 23 April 1987

Thackeray’s Universe: Shifting Worlds of Imagination and Reality 
by Catherine Peters.
Faber, 292 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 0 571 14711 9
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... it’s the old story in nice new Faber covers. In essence, Peters aims to do for the life what John Carey did for the works with his applauded Thackeray, Prodigal Genius (1977): that is to say: re-tread familiar ground with brisk, commonsensical illumination. This she does well. Thackeray’s Universe is attractively written and profits the ...

Devil take the hindmost

John Sutherland, 14 December 1995

Shadows of the Future: H.G. Wells, Science Fiction and Prophecy 
by Patrick Parrinder.
Liverpool, 170 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 85323 439 6
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The History of Mr Wells 
by Michael Foot.
Doubleday, 318 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 385 40366 6
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A Modern Utopia 
by H.G. Wells, edited by Krishan Kumar.
Everyman, 271 pp., £5.99, November 1994, 0 460 87498 5
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... he opted for schemes that make us shudder today.’ At the same time as Coren’s assault, John Carey in The Intellectuals and the Masses branded Wells an inveterate despiser of the common man. All in all, 1992 was a bad year for the Wellsian cause. Coren’s book was dealt with in this paper by Patrick Parrinder (8 April 1993). Parenthetically ...

Something an academic might experience

Michael Neve, 26 September 1991

The Faber Book of Madness 
edited by Roy Porter.
Faber, 572 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 571 14387 3
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... A small news item with a large history behind it: John Sylvester, an inhabitant of Lancashire, was released last month from a life spent in mental hospitals and institutions, aged 81. He had been incarcerated when he was six years old, and his offence had been the stealing of an apple. His mother had died soon after this first confinement, and so when declared ‘mentally fit’ in 1929, he became the responsibility of his father, who was disabled and could not take up his case ...

Bandini to Hackmuth

Christopher Tayler: John Fante, 21 September 2000

Ask the Dust 
by John Fante.
Rebel Inc, 198 pp., £6.99, September 1999, 0 86241 987 5
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Full of Life: A Biography of John Fante 
by Stephen Cooper.
Rebel Inc, 406 pp., £16.99, May 2000, 9781841950228
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... Between 1938 and 1940, the Italian-American writer John Fante published three books. The first two – Wait until Spring, Bandini (1938) and Ask the Dust (1939) – were novels; the third, Dago Red (1940), was a collection of short stories. All three were well received. Ask the Dust disconcerted some of its reviewers, but Bandini was admired by James Farrell and Steinbeck praised Dago Red ...

Cold Feet

Frank Kermode, 22 July 1993

Essays on Renaissance Literature. Vol. I: Donne and the New Philosophy 
by William Empson, edited by John Haffenden.
Cambridge, 296 pp., £35, March 1993, 0 521 44043 2
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William Empson: The Critical Achievement 
edited by Chistopher Norris and Nigel Mapp.
Cambridge, 319 pp., £35, March 1993, 0 521 35386 6
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... of an eccentric view of Donne. To understand that view, here documented in full and supported by John Haffenden’s conscientious and adulatory commentary, one point at least is essential. Empson found it all but impossible to believe that any intelligent and honest person could be a Christian. A lot of his work is devoted to showing that even writers who ...

The Lie-World

James Wood: D.B.C. Pierre, 20 November 2003

Vernon God Little 
by D.B.C. Pierre.
Faber, 279 pp., £10.99, January 2003, 0 571 21642 0
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... Neither prize-winner, under the new regime, has been a crowd-displeaser, nor a crowd-puzzler. John Carey, a serious man except when he is writing literary journalism, chaired this year’s jury, and announced that he was in favour of ‘widening what might be looked on as the Booker’s scope’. He and his judges had, he thought, a preference for ...

Allergic to Depths

Terry Eagleton: Gothic, 18 March 1999

Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Fourth Estate, 438 pp., £20, December 1998, 1 85702 498 2
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... trouble in drumming up a fan club. Satanism is in this sense just the flipside of suburbia. As John Carey has observed, the grotesque freaks who populate the fringes of a Dickens novel represent the sadistic vengeance which the text wreaks on its own decorous middle-class story-line. Nobody would ask Oliver Twist to dinner if they could hook Fagin ...

Brave as hell

John Kerrigan, 21 June 1984

Enderby’s Dark Lady, or No End to Enderby 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 160 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 09 156050 0
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Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Modern Edition 
edited by A.L. Rowse.
Macmillan, 311 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 333 36386 8
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... eyed askance or turned askew. Like Dedalus in the Irish National Library, trying to impress A.E., John Eglinton and Mr Best with his theory of Hamlet, the narrator of Nothing Like the Sun throws in lots of local colour, freely kitsched with quasi-Elizabethan compounds and archaic turns of phrase. Moreover, following Dedalus’s example in Ulysses, Burgess ...

Yawning and Screaming

John Bayley, 5 February 1987

Jane Austen 
by Tony Tanner.
Macmillan, 291 pp., £20, November 1986, 0 333 32317 3
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... are in real sympathy, and can thus complement one another. In a celebrated inaugural lecture, John Carey suggested nonetheless that the process had gone too far, and that even giants like Empson and C.S. Lewis could be guilty in this way of serious distortions of a text: he instanced a bravura passage in The Allegory of Love on Spenser’s ‘Bower ...

Beastliness

John Mullan: Eric Griffiths, 23 May 2019

If Not Critical 
by Eric Griffiths, edited by Freya Johnston.
Oxford, 248 pp., £25, March 2018, 978 0 19 880529 8
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The Printed Voice of Victorian Poetry 
by Eric Griffiths.
Oxford, 351 pp., £55, July 2018, 978 0 19 882701 6
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... He usually picked on a big beast – big, that is, in the little world of Oxbridge English. John Carey, for instance, is lampooned for his ‘naivety’ in taking Shakespeare’s plays as ‘a good sample of how vivacious the English language was in the playwright’s day’. (This is really just an excuse for Griffiths to perform an imagined ...

Forged, Forger, Forget

Nicholas Spice: Peter Carey, 5 August 2010

Parrot and Olivier in America 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 451 pp., £18.99, February 2010, 978 0 571 25329 6
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... travels in America in 1831, the other a picaresque romance about an Englishman called John Larrit (known as Parrot for his talent as a mimic) who is suddenly and brutally torn from an idyllic childhood as the son of an itinerant printer in late 18th-century Devon and transported to Australia, where he grows up to become a topographical artist and ...

Bunnymooning

Philip French, 6 June 1996

The Fatal Englishman: Three Short Lives 
by Sebastian Faulks.
Hutchinson, 309 pp., £16.99, April 1996, 0 09 179211 8
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... This idea of Wolfenden as a wash-out and the squanderer of a prodigious talent persuaded John Carey, one of his Oxford contemporaries, to find him ‘the least interesting’ of Faulks’s subjects. Not only does Carey challenge Faulks’s claim that ‘in some minor way he represented a generation’: he ...

Recribrations

Colin Burrow: John Donne in Performance, 5 October 2006

Donne: The Reformed Soul 
by John Stubbs.
Viking, 565 pp., £25, August 2006, 0 670 91510 6
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... and finding one’s balance, and then wondering if one has really grasped the thing after all. JohnDonne’s poems in particular are extremely unstable. Critics have often got into a sweat about the way that they argue implausible cases, and very often, too, things happen in the course of them which make it quite clear that while the speaker is ...

Hard Labour

Frank Kermode: Marvell beneath the Notes, 23 October 2003

The Poems of Andrew Marvell 
edited by Nigel Smith.
Longman, 468 pp., £50, January 2003, 0 582 07770 2
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... has now disappeared to be replaced by another, this time by the succeeding general editors, John Barnard and Paul Hammond. They claim fidelity to Bateson except where he has come to seem fallible. For instance, he insisted on modernising spelling and punctuation; but why modernise Browning, and why meddle with Marvell’s punctuation, which is important ...

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