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Writing Absurdity

Adam Shatz: Chester Himes, 26 April 2018

Chester B. Himes: A Biography 
by Lawrence P. Jackson.
Norton, 606 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 393 06389 9
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... a twenty-year sentence for armed robbery. Himes had already seen his share of troubles but, as Lawrence Jackson writes in his impressive biography, they ‘did not inspire him’ the way that ‘stumbling through the gore of two cell block tiers’ worth of burned-alive men’ did. After the fire, Himes began to write fiction on a typewriter he had ...

Made in Heaven

Frank Kermode, 10 November 1994

Frieda Lawrence 
by Rosie Jackson.
Pandora, 240 pp., £14.99, September 1994, 9780044409151
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The Married Man: A Life of D.H. Lawrence 
by Brenda Maddox.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 631 pp., £20, August 1994, 1 85619 243 1
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Kangaroo 
by D.H. Lawrence, edited by Bruce Steele.
Cambridge, 493 pp., £60, August 1994, 0 521 38455 9
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Twilight in Italy and Other Essays 
by D.H. Lawrence, edited by Paul Eggert.
Cambridge, 327 pp., £55, August 1994, 0 521 26888 5
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... and the ample lifework of Emile Delavenay. There are more beside them, and more to come: Rosie Jackson says there are ten in progress. Apart from the full-life biographies there are books covering short periods of Lawrence’s life: his wartime adventures and agonies, his years in Italy, in Australia, in New Mexico and ...

Black and White Life

Mark Greif: Ralph Ellison, 1 November 2007

Ralph Ellison: A Biography 
by Arnold Rampersad.
Knopf, 657 pp., $35, April 2007, 978 0 375 40827 4
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... biographies of Ellison which are useful in quite different ways. Five years ago, the young scholar Lawrence Jackson published Ralph Ellison: Emergence of Genius. It was in effect the first real biography, and not much noticed, though it was a compelling portrait. Jackson chose as his subject-matter only ...

Hello to All That

Martin Seymour-Smith, 9 October 1986

Robert Graves: The Assault Heroic 1895-1926 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Weidenfeld, 387 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 297 78943 0
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... man’. The difficulties begin here. This author, who has written accounts of the lives of T.E. Lawrence, Housman and the Powys brothers, closely resembles his father. But Robert Graves did not at all closely resemble his ‘typically good’ brother; nor does he resemble his ‘typically good’ son – who, although he has ‘known’ and ...

Who’s under the desk?

Siddhartha Deb: James Lasdun’s Novel, 7 March 2002

The Horned Man 
by James Lasdun.
Cape, 195 pp., £10.99, February 2002, 0 224 06217 4
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... At the beginning of James Lasdun’s novel, Lawrence Miller, a professor of gender studies at a college on the outskirts of New York, is interrupted while reading a book. When he returns to his office the next day, he finds his bookmark has been moved forward thirty pages. ‘Either I had moved the marker inadvertently myself, or else some night-visitor had been reading the book in my absence ...

Homer and Virgil and Broch

George Steiner, 12 July 1990

Oxford Readings in Vergil’s ‘Aeneid’ 
edited by S.J. Harrison.
Oxford, 488 pp., £45, April 1990, 0 19 814389 3
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... in this tome. But then he was not only a writer and thinker of genius but a foreigner. Professor Jackson Knight stood on home ground. Though he reprints West’s bracing W.F. Jackson Knight Memorial Lecture, Dr Harrison omits from his keynote opening both Cumaean Gates, one of the most stimulating if unorthodox (pas du ...

Seriously ugly

Gabriele Annan, 11 January 1990

Weep no more 
by Barbara Skelton.
Hamish Hamilton, 166 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 241 12200 7
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... French writer Bernard Frank. There is no photograph of her third husband, the millionaire Derek Jackson, but he did not seriously engross her. She bit him twice, really hard the second time, so he shuffled off into his sixth marriage, leaving her with a farmhouse near St Tropez and financial security for herself, her mother and her aunt. New readers might ...

Victors’ Justice

Alan Donagan, 16 February 1984

Justice at Nuremberg 
by Robert Conot.
Weidenfeld, 593 pp., £15, October 1983, 0 297 78360 2
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The Nuremberg Trial 
by Ann Tusa and John Tusa.
Macmillan, 519 pp., £12.95, October 1983, 0 333 27463 6
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... the prosecution’s documentary evidence, the unpublished papers of the US prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, and of the principal US judge, Francis Biddle, and numerous published memoirs. Both have consulted unpublished collections of papers in the US and Britain, although in some cases not the same ones; and both regale us with titbits from interviews with ...

Festschriftiness

Susan Pedersen, 6 October 2011

Structures and Transformations in Modern British History 
edited by David Feldman and Jon Lawrence.
Cambridge, 331 pp., £50, January 2011, 978 0 521 51882 6
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The Peculiarities of Liberal Modernity in Imperial Britain 
edited by Simon Gunn and James Vernon.
California, 271 pp., £20.95, May 2011, 978 0 9845909 5 7
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Classes, Cultures and Politics: Essays on British History for Ross McKibbin 
edited by Clare Griffiths, John Nott and William Whyte.
Oxford, 320 pp., £65, April 2011, 978 0 19 957988 4
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... turn’ in an essay published in Social History in 1992, a tempest ensued. Jon Lawrence and Miles Taylor, two of Stedman Jones’s recent PhD students, insisted that Mayfield and Thorne had entirely misunderstood their mentor’s work, which they felt should be judged not in terms of its theoretical affiliations but according to an ...

A.E. Housman and Biography

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 22 November 1979

A.E. Housman 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Routledge, 304 pp., £9.75
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... loss of his mother and his faith, the failure in Greats, the relationships with Moses and Adalbert Jackson. One could write a more interesting book by cutting biographical data to a minimum and concentrating on Housman’s work. One might then place his poetry in its historical context and assess it critically, taking account of the literary attitudes ...

One for Uncle

John Bayley, 5 April 1990

Robert Graves: The Years with Laura 1926-1940 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Weidenfeld, 380 pp., £25, March 1990, 0 297 79672 0
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... in modern dress, had not set about enchanting a new Odysseus, a brilliant American called Schuyler Jackson, Graves might have remained indefinitely in her thrall. She had, of course, a whole stable of obedient creatures who submitted to her powerful charms, but Jackson turned out to be a different sort of admirer ...

Just about Anything You Want

Ben Jackson: Guerrilla Open Access, 6 October 2016

The Boy Who Could Change the World: The Writings of Aaron Swartz 
by Aaron Swartz.
Verso, 368 pp., £15.99, February 2016, 978 1 78478 496 6
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... they were dealing with a teenager. His lack of deference helped to open doors. At 15, he emailed Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Stanford, with a list of suggestions for how to write the code for Creative Commons. ‘Good idea,’ Lessig responded. ‘Why don’t you do that for us?’ Swartz had been at the fringes of the internet’s free culture ...

Games-Playing

Patrick Parrinder, 7 August 1986

The Golden Gate 
by Vikram Seth.
Faber, 307 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13967 1
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The Haunted House 
by Rebecca Brown.
Picador, 139 pp., £8.95, June 1986, 0 330 29175 0
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Whole of a Morning Sky 
by Grace Nichols.
Virago, 156 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 86068 774 0
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The Piano Tuner 
by Peter Meinke.
Georgia, 156 pp., $13.95, June 1986, 0 8203 0844 7
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Tap City 
by Ron Abell.
Secker, 273 pp., £10.95, July 1986, 0 436 00025 3
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... writing a verse novel, it would seem, is to turn a blind eye to virtually all that Hardy, Joyce, Lawrence and their successors have done in prose. The result is a strange blend of racy, colloquial literary enterprise and static neo-Victorian values. Despite its neo-gothic title, The Haunted House betrays no hint of anachronism. Rebecca Brown explores ...

Oh God, what have we done?

Jackson Lears: The Strange Career of Robert Oppenheimer, 20 December 2012

Inside the Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer 
by Ray Monk.
Cape, 818 pp., £30, November 2012, 978 0 224 06262 6
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... American school of physics, worthy of the best in Europe. One of his partners in this was Ernest Lawrence, whose efforts to split the atom with his cyclotron were attracting a lot of publicity. But by the early 1930s, quantum physicists already knew that the atom could be split with less energy through ‘quantum tunnelling’ – the Russian physicist ...

Joseph Jobson

Patrick Wormald, 18 April 1985

Saladin in his Time 
by P.H. Newby.
Faber, 210 pp., £10.95, November 1983, 0 571 13044 5
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Soldiers of the Faith: Crusaders and Moslems at War 
by Ronald Finucane.
Dent, 247 pp., £12.50, November 1983, 0 460 12040 9
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... century, the Sick Man of Europe (the first of many), and could be rolled aside by the gallantry of Lawrence in the 20th. The events of the second half of the 20th century, especially those of the last decade, have been a salutary reminder that Western ascendancy was short as well as nasty and brutish. In particular, the West, with its own established religion ...

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