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Red Flowers, at a Wedding?

Tessa Hadley: Claire Keegan, 24 January 2008

Walk the Blue Fields 
by Claire Keegan.
Faber, 163 pp., £10.99, May 2007, 978 0 571 23306 9
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... In the title story of Claire Keegan’s second collection, Walk the Blue Fields, a priest is officiating at a wedding in rural Ireland: the bride is late, the organist has to play the Bach toccata twice, ‘a thrill of doubt’ is ‘spreading through the pews’. She turns up eventually, and the ceremony goes off all right, but an intimation of trouble has been set reverberating in the reader from the very first sentence: ‘Earlier, the women came with flowers, each one a deeper shade of red ...

Dropping Their Eggs

Patrick Wright: The history of bombing, 23 August 2001

A History of Bombing 
by Sven Lindqvist, translated by Linda Haverty Rugg.
Granta, 233 pp., £14.99, May 2001, 1 86207 415 1
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The Bomber War: Arthur Harris and the Allied Bomber Offensive 1939-45 
by Robin Niellands.
Murray, 448 pp., £25, February 2001, 0 7195 5637 6
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Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War 
by Frances FitzGerald.
Touchstone, 592 pp., $17, March 2001, 0 7432 0023 3
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... religion’, in which America is a ‘shining city’ where the sacred fire of freedom is kept. John Keegan recently announced, in the course of a television debate in which I also took part, that to allow ‘cultural history’ onto the protected turf of war studies is to issue a chaotic licence to mavericks who will write about ‘anything at ...

Bard of Tropes

Jonathan Lamb: Thomas Chatterton, 20 September 2001

Thomas Chatterton and Romantic Culture 
by Nick Groom.
Palgrave, 300 pp., £55, September 1999, 0 333 72586 7
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... is a study in the waste of beauty and genius. The autodidact poets discussed by Bridget Keegan – Ann Yearsley, Mary Robinson, Henry Headley and later John Clare – were all of one mind about this. Chatterton, they thought, had died by his own hand in poverty and despair, neglected by the metropolitan ...

Lethal Pastoral

Paul Keegan: Housman’s Lethal Pastoral, 17 November 2016

Housman Country: Into the Heart of England 
by Peter Parker.
Little, Brown, 446 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 1 4087 0613 8
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... But even ‘figure’ seems too fixed a term for the melancholic, at times clownish narrator. John Berryman – one of Housman’s most creative readers, working him deeply into the fabric of The Dream Songs – catches something Housmanish in his prefatory disclaimer: ‘The poem then, whatever its wide cast of characters, is essentially about an ...

Mulishness

Paul Keegan: David Jones removes himself, 7 November 2019

David Jones: Engraver, Soldier, Painter, Poet 
by Thomas Dilworth.
Vintage, 448 pp., £14.99, January 2019, 978 0 7847 0800 2
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Epoch and Artist Selected Writings 
by David Jones, edited by Harman Grisewood.
Faber, 320 pp., £18.99, April 2017, 978 0 571 33950 1
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‘The Dying Gaul’ and Other Writings 
by David Jones, edited by Harman Grisewood.
Faber, 240 pp., £17.99, April 2017, 978 0 571 33953 2
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Dai Greatcoat A Self-Portrait of David Jones in His Letters 
edited by René Hague.
Faber, 280 pp., £17.99, April 2017, 978 0 571 33952 5
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... and he took to heart Eliot’s suggestion (in the 1930 preface to his translation of Saint-John Perse’s Anabase) that a poet is sometimes able to write poetry in what is called prose. In Parenthesis marries contemporary speech to the sovereignties of self-contained utterance, around which questions of genre arrange themselves as best they can. It ...

He shoots! He scores!

David Runciman: José Mourinho, 5 January 2006

Mourinho: Anatomy of a Winner 
by Patrick Barclay.
Orion, 210 pp., £14.99, September 2005, 0 7528 7333 4
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... is always traced back to the moment in 1996 when his goading of Newcastle’s manager Kevin Keegan produced a spectacular outburst from a wild-eyed Keegan live on Sky TV (‘I’d love it if we beat them, love it’ etc). This is generally recognised as the moment when Newcastle lost the title, after having led ...

Football Mad

Martin Amis, 3 December 1981

The Soccer Tribe 
by Desmond Morris.
Cape, 320 pp., £12.50, September 1981, 9780224019354
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... By the time you read me, anything might be happening. Brian Clough or Bob Stokoe or Elton John could be the new England manager, nursing bruised dreams for the World Cup in 1986. On the other hand, Sir Ron Greenwood might even now be contentedly inspecting the hotels in Bilbao, hoping to find a likely venue for the lads next summer. Thanks to a series ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: The World Cup, 30 July 1998

... devise a perfect forward line for France, or to imagine discussing such matters with, say, Kevin Keegan. You may not have allowed the bleached Romanians to get to you, but surely no one can deny that throughout this 1998 World Cup there was an altogether unsettling preoccupation with hairstyle. Maybe it was all to do with the world’s supposedly best ...

Ticket to Milford Haven

David Edgar: Shaw’s Surprises, 21 September 2006

Bernard Shaw: A Life 
by A.M. Gibbs.
Florida, 554 pp., £30.50, December 2005, 0 8130 2859 0
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... of characters throughout his career. But to claim that Shaw is both the central characters in John Bull’s Other Island, and three of the major figures in Heartbreak House, is to stretch the notion of the factual original beyond snapping point. Further, the autobiographical model obscures other particularities of the Shavian dramatis personae. There ...

Emily of Fire & Violence

Paul Keegan: Eliot’s Letters, 22 October 2020

... When​ T.S. Eliot asked John Hayward in February 1938 to act as his literary executor (‘in case some unexpected calamity cuts me down like a flower’), he told him to prevent publication of his literary remains – including ‘any letters at all of any intimacy to anybody’. ‘In fact,’ he added, ‘I have a mania for posthumous privacy ...

Sorrows of a Polygamist

Mark Ford: Ted Hughes in His Cage, 17 March 2016

Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life 
by Jonathan Bate.
William Collins, 662 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 00 811822 8
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... nearly a hundred thousand pages of manuscript material. The vast Collected Poems edited by Paul Keegan and published in 2003 presents a poet who insistently ‘o’erflows the measure’, to borrow a phrase from Antony and Cleopatra, veering, rather like Shakespeare’s Antony, between the sublime and the bathetic, the uncannily sure-footed and the ...

Call me Ahab

Jeremy Harding: Moby-Dick, 31 October 2002

Moby-Dick, or, The Whale 
by Herman Melville, edited by Harrison Hayford and Hershel Parker.
Northwestern, 573 pp., £14.95, September 2001, 0 8101 1911 0
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Mariners, Renegades and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live in 
by C.L.R. James.
New England, 245 pp., £17.95, July 2001, 9781584650942
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Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival 
by Clare Spark.
Kent State, 744 pp., £46.50, May 2001, 0 87338 674 4
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Lucchesi and the Whale 
by Frank Lentricchia.
Duke, 104 pp., £14.50, February 2001, 9780822326540
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... it – but they’ve fallen away from the natural world and been reassigned to human beings. Paul Keegan put this well in a remark about the changing temper of ‘nature writing’ in recent years. ‘The threatening in nature,’ he wrote, ‘has been exchanged for the idea of nature under threat’ (LRB, 20 July 1995). At the same time, ...

Courage, mon amie

Terry Castle: Disquiet on the Western Front, 4 April 2002

... example, author, with her husband, of My Boy Jack? The Search for Kipling’s Only Son (1998). (John Kipling died in his first half-hour in action – at the age of 18 – at Loos in 1915. Though his stricken father carried on a 20-year search for his grave, his remains were not found until 1992.) When not writing, the Holts run a sprightly operation known ...

Heroes

Pat Rogers, 6 November 1986

Hume and the Heroic Portrait: Studies in 18th-Century Imagery 
by Edgar Wind, edited by Jaynie Anderson.
Oxford, 139 pp., £29.50, May 1986, 0 19 817371 7
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Augustan Studies: Essays in honour of Irvin Ehrenpreis 
edited by Douglas Lane Patey and Timothy Keegan.
University of Delaware Press, 270 pp., £24.50, May 1986, 9780874132724
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The 18th Century: The Intellectual and Cultural Context of English Literature 1700-1789 
by James Sambrook.
Longman, 290 pp., £15.95, April 1986, 0 582 49306 4
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... could be misleading. This epitaph was written, in fact, by Anna Seward, to the love of her life John Saville, and she told a friend: ‘The last line is Dr Johnson’s. My imagination refused to supply me with one equally applicable, therefore it was adopted.’ Not quite the same as the ‘coincidence and indebtedness’ Miss Lascelles describes as ‘to ...

Diary

David Runciman: The Problem with English Football, 23 October 2008

... meant that others remained with the side long after they became the focus of attention. One was John Fashanu, an astonishingly crude player and an extremely articulate man, who went on to achieve further fame as a TV presenter and further notoriety when he was implicated in a match-fixing scandal from which he was eventually acquitted (he currently presents ...

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