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Yearning for the ‘Utile’

Frank Kermode: Snobbery and John Carey, 23 June 2005

What Good Are the Arts? 
by John Carey.
Faber, 286 pp., £12.99, June 2005, 0 571 22602 7
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... John Carey, former Merton Professor of English Literature at Oxford, an authority on Milton and Donne and Dickens and others, the very model of a Merton Professor, has also been, for decades, the chief reviewer of the Sunday Times, a BBC sage, a sought-after chairman of panels, a man well known for his strong opinions on all matters to do with literature and the other arts ...

No Tricks

Frank Kermode: Raymond Carver, 19 October 2000

Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Prose 
by Raymond Carver.
Harvill, 300 pp., £15, July 2000, 1 86046 759 8
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... not only because he worked hard at them, but also because he listened to advice, especially from John Gardner but also, more remotely, from Hemingway, Chekhov and V.S. Pritchett. One of the things he learned was the need for arduous revision, draft after draft. Another lesson was that the writer needs to trust the tale. Lawrence notoriously advised the ...

Missing Elements

Rosalind Mitchison, 14 May 1992

Strategic Women: How do they manage in Scotland? 
by Elizabeth Gerver and Lesley Hart.
Aberdeen University Press, 216 pp., £9.95, June 1991, 0 08 037741 6
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A Guid Cause: The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Scotland 
by Leah Leneman.
Aberdeen University Press, 304 pp., £11.95, June 1991, 0 08 041201 7
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Marriage and Property: Women and Marital Customs in History 
edited by Elizabeth Craik.
Aberdeen University Press, 192 pp., £6.95, June 1991, 9780080412054
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A Woman’s Claim of Right in Scotland 
Polygon, 142 pp., £7.95, August 1991, 0 7486 6103 4Show More
Nationalism in the Nineties 
edited by Tom Gallagher.
Polygon, 192 pp., £7.95, August 1991, 0 7486 6098 4
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Cultural Weapons: Scotland and Survival in a New Europe 
by Christopher Harvie.
Polygon, 119 pp., £7.95, March 1992, 0 7486 6122 0
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Literature and Nationalism 
edited by Vincent Newey and Ann Thompson.
Liverpool, 286 pp., £27.50, June 1991, 0 85323 057 9
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The Invention of Scotland: The Stuart Myth of the Scottish Identity, 1638 to the present 
by Murray Pittock.
Routledge, 198 pp., £30, September 1991, 0 415 05586 5
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Scotland: A New History 
by Michael Lynch.
Century, 499 pp., £18.99, August 1991, 0 7126 3413 4
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... There are less unexpected points in the other essays and it is a pity that one of them claims John Knox as the father of Scottish Presbyterianism, and another contrasts ‘history’ with ‘herstory’. Points can be made without insulting the English language. From Glasgow Presbytery in 1960 comes a remark on women’s ordination: ‘every religion ...

Even If You Have to Starve

Ian Penman: Mod v. Trad, 29 August 2013

Mod: A Very British Style 
by Richard Weight.
Bodley Head, 478 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 224 07391 2
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... Weight puts it in the first subheading of his introduction: ‘Amphetamines, Jean-Paul Sartre and John Lee Hooker’. Which is a nice phrase, even if it’s half-inched from an interviewee in a previous book, Jonathon Green’s flawless oral history of 1960s counterculture, Days in the Life. (In fact Green also used it as a subheading. This feels a bit ...

Touching and Being Touched

John Kerrigan: Valentine Cunningham, 19 September 2002

Reading after Theory 
by Valentine Cunningham.
Blackwell, 194 pp., £45, December 2001, 0 631 22167 0
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... A few months before his early death from tuberculosis, John Keats scribbled these lines in his papers: This living hand, now warm and capable Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold And in the icy silence of the tomb, So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood So in my veins red life might stream again, And thou be conscience-calm’d – see, here it is I hold it towards you ...
... I’ve always squandered. KB: I read that you’ve written screenplays. RC: Yes, I did two. Tess Gallagher and I did them. One of them was published – it was on Dostoevsky. A part of it was published in the States. It’s very long. And we did another screenplay. I think every writer wants to do that at least once, to be involved with Hollywood, and all ...

Simply Doing It

Thomas Laqueur, 22 February 1996

The Facts of Life: The Creation of Sexual Knowledge in Britain 1650-1950 
by Roy Porter and Lesley Hall.
Yale, 414 pp., £19.95, January 1995, 0 300 06221 4
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... with a naturalistic account of sex and sexual pleasure that there was in France. The radical John Wilkes’s venture into sexual literature is so marginal that it doesn’t figure here at all; the conflation of liberty and libertinage in Don Giovanni’s famous aria would have fallen on uncomprehending ears. We do not quite know, as Porter and Hall point ...

Manchester’s Moment

Boyd Hilton, 20 August 1998

Free Trade and Liberal England, 1846-1946 
by Anthony Howe.
Oxford, 336 pp., £45, December 1997, 9780198201465
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The Origins of War Prevention: The British Peace Movement and International Relations, 1730-1854 
by Martin Ceadel.
Oxford, 587 pp., £55, December 1996, 0 19 822674 8
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... and competing political tendencies; between little Englanders (such as Richard Cobden and John Bright) on the one hand and chauvinist imperialists (such as Lord Palmerston and Joseph Chamberlain) on the other; between a maritime and peaceful trading nation and a military-imperial superpower; between a petit-bourgeois electorate, fired by the ...

He knew he was right

John Lloyd, 10 March 1994

Scargill: The Unauthorised Biography 
by Paul Routledge.
HarperCollins, 296 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 0 300 05365 7
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... coalfield in Scotland – all of it now closed – was represented by the Communist MP, Willie Gallagher. I remember walking with McGahey and the print union leader, Bill Keys, through the centre of Birmingham to one of the last big rallies as the strike was foundering. McGahey began to talk of the city’s radical, Chartist traditions. The elegiac note on ...

Extremes

Seamus Deane, 7 February 1985

Children of the Dead End: The Rat-Pit 
by Patrick MacGill.
Caliban, 305 pp., £10, September 1983, 0 904573 36 2
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The Red Horizon The Great Push: An Episode of the Great War 
by Patrick MacGill.
Caliban, 306 pp., £9, October 1984, 0 904573 90 7
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The Navy Poet: The Collected Poetry of Patrick MacGill 
Caliban, 407 pp., £12, October 1984, 0 904573 99 0Show More
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... strange forms which 20th-century Irish novels display from Joyce to Beckett to Flann O’Brien and John Banville. When the lack of freedom is viewed, on the other hand, as a structural defect, based on economic forces, then the novel tends to be much more dependent for its appeal upon the verisimilitude with which the social formation is registered. Even if ...

Pilgrim’s Progress

Michael Davie, 4 December 1980

The Letters of Evelyn Waugh 
edited by Mark Amory.
Weidenfeld, 664 pp., £14.95, September 1980, 0 297 77657 6
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... Mr Christopher Sykes has produced an ultimately unsatisfactory but absorbing biography, Mr Don Gallagher has edited an anthology of his journalism, full of biographical clues. For fanatics, a regular Waugh newsletter is published in the United States, dealing with the most obscure details of his life and works, and at the University of Texas a procession ...

Gaelic Gloom

Colm Tóibín: Brian Moore, 10 August 2000

Brian Moore: The Chameleon Novelist 
by Denis Sampson.
Marino, 344 pp., IR£20, October 1998, 1 86023 078 4
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... about middle-aged women suffering. They were Moore’s The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1955), John McGahern’s The Barracks (1961) and Aidan Higgins’s Langrishe, Go Down (1966). It is no coincidence, either, that the best novels about men in the period after independence dealt with figures in extreme and exquisite isolation, as in the novels of Beckett ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Notes on 1997, 1 January 1998

... on your dad.’ I remind him of this. ‘That’s correct and I reiterate it.’ 13 January. Liam Gallagher, the younger of the Oasis brothers, has the kind of eyes in which the pupils are half-hidden under the eyelids; as if the eyes had stopped between floors. Spike Lee has similar eyes, which I find attractive, maybe because they give a sense of inhabiting ...

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