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What security is there against arbitrary government?

John Gardner: Securitania, 9 March 2006

Rhetoric and the Rule of Law: A Theory of Legal Reasoning 
by Neil MacCormick.
Oxford, 287 pp., £40, July 2005, 0 19 826878 5
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... The government of Securitania deports some supposed enemies of the people and puts others under house arrest; public scrutiny of these measures in the ordinary courts is denied. Disruptive people against whom no crime can be proved are subjected to orders obtained from magistrates on hearsay evidence that make it a crime in future for them to do ordinary things (such as going shopping) that would not be a crime if done by anyone else ...

How to Be a Good Judge

John Gardner: The Rule of Law, 8 July 2010

The Rule of Law 
by Tom Bingham.
Allen Lane, 213 pp., £20, February 2010, 978 1 84614 090 7
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... During the break-up with Kimberly Quinn that precipitated his break-up with the Home Office, David Blunkett is reported to have warned her: ‘The law is on my side. I know because I made the law.’ It doesn’t quite have the melodramatic chill of Judge Dredd’s ‘I am the law,’ but it comes close. And it’s easy to imagine Blunkett saying it, for it nicely sums up the tragically self-important view he took of himself, and of the executive branch of government, during his time in office ...

Bloodbaths

John Sutherland, 21 April 1988

Misery 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 320 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 340 39070 0
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The Tommyknockers 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 563 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 340 39069 7
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Touch 
by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 245 pp., £10.95, February 1988, 9780670816545
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Sideswipe 
by Charles Willeford.
Gollancz, 293 pp., £10.95, March 1988, 0 575 04197 8
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Ratking 
by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 282 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 571 15147 7
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... like Joseph Heller and publish a novel every seven years or so, or a “brilliant” writer like John Gardner and write obscure books for bright academics who eat macrobiotic foods and drive old Saabs with faded but still legible GENE McCARTHY FOR PRESIDENT stickers on the rear bumpers.’ Instead of which he is the ‘King of Horror’ who had his face ...

Imbued … with Exigence

Christopher Tayler: Rachel Cusk, 22 September 2005

In the Fold 
by Rachel Cusk.
Faber, 224 pp., £10.99, September 2005, 0 571 22813 5
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... about – in the parlance of creative writing schools – what they “know”.’ She quotes John Gardner saying that ‘great writers tell the truth exactly – and get it right.’ But, she says, ‘for the modern British – more to the point, English – novelist, this notion of truth is a little obscured and inaccessible.’ Historical novels ...

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 ...

A Book of Evasions

Paul Muldoon, 20 March 1980

Visitors Book 
Poolbeg Press, 191 pp., £5.50, November 1979, 0 905169 22 0Show More
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... over the horizon, is set against their present predicament. Nor am I in the least convinced by John Arden’s ‘The Fork in the Head’, in which Fionnuala, an Irish Republican/Trotskyite activist, rushes off to a political meeting in Galway, leaving her disenchanted English husband, Jackson, to potter about the house and environs. He has a dream in which ...

Plots

Stephen Bann, 4 November 1982

The Prince buys the Manor 
by Elspeth Huxley.
Chatto, 216 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 7011 2651 5
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Faultline 
by Sheila Ortiz Taylor.
Women’s Press, 120 pp., £2.50, October 1982, 0 7043 3900 5
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Scenes from Metropolitan Life 
by William Cooper.
Macmillan, 214 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 333 34203 8
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Constance, or Solitary Practices 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 394 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 571 11757 0
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Mickelsson’s Ghosts 
by John Gardner.
Secker, 566 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 436 17251 8
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Beware of pity 
by Stefan Zweig, translated by Phyllis Blewitt and Trevor Blewitt.
Cape, 354 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 224 02057 9
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... we need to know about Julia’s social position. Unobtrusive effects like this help to explain John Braine’s statement, reproduced on the dust-jacket of this new recruit to the trilogy, that a ‘whole generation of writers is in William Cooper’s debt, just as the previous generation was in James Joyce’s debt’. But this comparison, justified though ...

Something Unsafe about Books

Seth Colter Walls: William Gass, 9 May 2013

Middle C 
by William Gass.
Knopf, 416 pp., £19, March 2013, 978 0 307 70163 3
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... what he’s set in motion. ‘As a fiction writer,’ he said in a 1978 debate with the novelist John Gardner, ‘you hope that the amount of meaning that you can pack into the book will always be more than you are capable of consciously understanding. Otherwise, the book is likely to be as thin as you are. You have to trick your medium into doing far ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The Killers', Criterion Collection, 23 September 2015

... and this is very well done by Anthony Veiller for the Siodmak movie, with uncredited help from John Huston and Richard Brooks. The Siegel film, written by Gene Coon, borrows the plot from the first but transposes scenes and careers: New Jersey, Philadelphia and boxing become Miami, California and car-racing. The stars change too: Burt Lancaster and Ava ...

I’m not an actress

Michael Newton: Ava Gardner, 7 September 2006

Ava Gardner 
by Lee Server.
Bloomsbury, 551 pp., £20, April 2006, 0 7475 6547 3
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... One day Ava Gardner dropped by the studio publicity department at MGM. She wanted to take a look at all those cheesecake photos they were always taking of her: throwing a beach-ball; licking an ice-cream cone. A drawer full of images was spread out before her. After a little while, according to Lee Server’s new biography, she ‘kind of shrugged, and she said: “Jeez ...

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 ...

Certainties

Donald Davie, 20 May 1982

In Defence of the Imagination 
by Helen Gardner.
Oxford, 197 pp., £12.50, February 1982, 0 19 812639 5
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... and in those getting good results in their A-level examinations, would continue.’ But for Helen Gardner, who served at that time on the Robbins Committee on Higher Education, those confident extrapolators of trends figure cosily enough as ‘our statisticians’; and she is not assailed by any suspicion that she, as representing the literary imagination on ...

Errata

Christopher Ricks, 2 December 1982

T.S. Eliot: The Critical Heritage 
edited by Michael Grant.
Routledge, 408 pp., £25, July 1982, 0 7100 9226 1
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... from Four Quartets have been checked against the first English edition (1944) as given by Helen Gardner; all other citations have been checked against CPP [The Complete Poems and Plays of T. S. Eliot, 1969].’ This is pointlessly inconsistent, since it means that some of the texts have been corrected to the text they first had in volume form (not their ...

Dummy and Biffy

Noël Annan, 17 October 1985

Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community 
by Christopher Andrew.
Heinemann, 616 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 02110 5
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The Secret Generation 
by John Gardner.
Heinemann, 453 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 434 28250 2
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Two Thyrds 
by Bertie Denham.
Ross Anderson Publications, 292 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 86360 006 9
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The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany 1933-1939 
by Wesley Wark.
Tauris, 304 pp., £19.50, October 1985, 1 85043 014 4
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... heroes outwit von Stumm and Hilda von Einem as they did in Greenmantle. Giles Railton, the hero of John Gardner’s novel, is a scion of the landed gentry and works in the mysterious upper reaches of the Foreign Office. There he recruits his offspring and nephews and nieces into the ranks of the secret service, just in time for the First World War. But ...

Donne’s Reputation

Sarah Wintle, 20 November 1980

English Renaissance Studies 
edited by John Carey.
Oxford, 320 pp., £15, March 1980, 0 19 812093 1
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... In his preface to this celebratory volume of essays presented to Dame Helen Gardner on her 70th birthday, John Carey apologises for the fact that the topics discussed are restricted to 16th and 17th-century English literature. Dame Helen’s latest book, after all, was The Composition of ‘The Four Quartets ...

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