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A Mile or Two outside Worthing

Richard Jenkyns: Edward Trelawny, 26 November 1998

Lord Byron’s Jackal: A Life of Trelawny 
by David Crane.
HarperCollins, 398 pp., £19.99, July 1998, 0 00 255631 6
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... and talk sentiment with the ladies. Here he founded the friendships and enmities which were to mark the rest of his life. He was to become the keeper of Shelley’s flame. His devotion to Byron was to curdle into jealousy and hatred. He was to maintain a friendship with Mary Shelley until a bitter estrangement many years later. With Claire Clairmont, the ...

Op Art

Joshua Cohen: Joshua Sobol, 3 March 2011

Cut Throat Dog 
by Joshua Sobol, translated by Dalya Bilu.
Melville House, 270 pp., £10.99, November 2010, 978 1 935554 21 9
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... bomb is merely a metaphor symbolising his own fuming self. In the final scene, he jumps into the Hudson and drowns; the city is saved. Metaphysics, if it can be defined at all, is highbrow gimmickry, while genre literature was until recently the lowest of the low. For writers they represent two opposing drives: the desire to be taken seriously and the desire ...

But this is fateful!

Theo Tait: Jonathan Lethem, 16 March 2017

The Blot: A Novel 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Cape, 289 pp., £16.99, February 2017, 978 0 224 10148 6
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The Blot 
by Jonathan Lethem and Laurence Rickels.
Anti-Oedipus, 88 pp., £6.99, September 2016, 978 0 9905733 7 1
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... street person’, with a ‘warped grin and pigeon walk’ and ‘a posture like a question mark … dressed in layers of baggy, unwashed black polyester’, Keith Stolarsky is in fact extremely rich, as his very attractive ‘companion’, Tira, explains: he now owns a prime block on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, and is ‘viewed as kind of like Darth ...

Genius in Its Pure State

Mark Ford, 22 May 1997

... performance they’re witnessing. One thinks of Henry James’s remark in the Preface to Roderick Hudson about the artist’s need to draw a circle around relations that really stop nowhere: the young Roussel seems unaware of this need. Texts like La Seine or Claude et Luce might continue for ever, mes-merically in thrall to the world’s banality and ...

Inky Pilgrimage

Mark Ford, 24 May 2007

The Contemplated Spouse: The Letters of Wallace Stevens to Elsie 
edited by Donald Blount.
South Carolina, 430 pp., £30.95, January 2006, 1 57003 248 3
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... thought nothing of covering forty miles in a day, and his vigorous outings to New Jersey, up the Hudson, or out to Long Island are described with excitement and relish. His excursions with Elsie were less strenuous, but he is pleased to note that she is ‘an excellent walker’, for ‘a walk is better, almost, than sleep.’ ‘Take a little walk on ...

Brideshead Revered

David Cannadine, 17 March 1983

The Country House 
by James Lees-Milne.
Oxford, 110 pp., £4.50, November 1982, 0 19 214139 2
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English Country Houses and Landed Estates 
by Heather Clemenson.
Croom Helm, 244 pp., £15.95, July 1982, 0 85664 987 2
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The Last Country Houses 
by Clive Aslet.
Yale, 344 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 300 02904 7
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... This is not, of course, a universally valid dictum. Even the combined and mellifluous resources of Mark Girouard and Yale University Press have yet to unfurl the full panoply of best-selling nostalgia on behalf of such doomed and dodoed delights as education before the comprehensive (Life in the English Secondary Mod?), arithmetic before the pocket calculator ...

Full of Hell

Fatema Ahmed: James Salter, 5 February 2004

by James Salter.
Harvill, 208 pp., £10.99, August 2003, 1 86046 925 6
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Light Years 
by James Salter.
Vintage, 320 pp., £6.99, August 2003, 0 09 945022 4
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... on the whole, of his life, was that he wrote on the bedroom walls. That seems to me the true mark of a writer. It is like a pianist practising in the middle of the night when the whole household is asleep or trying to sleep.’ Salter says nothing of his own writing habits, or of his recent revisiting of past work. He revised The Hunters before agreeing ...

The Hell out of Dodge

Jeremy Harding: Woodstock 1969, 15 August 2019

Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music 
by Michael Lang.
Reel Art Press, 289 pp., £44.95, July 2019, 978 1 909526 62 4
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... who made Woodstock happen, has a habit of surfacing at Woodstock birthdays: one book to mark the tenth anniversary, another to mark the fortieth, a couple of namesake concerts and now a coffee-table volume of photos from the 1969 festival, plus brief explanatory notes. Earlier this year he announced the line-up ...

Did they even hang bears?

Tom Shippey: What made the Vikings tick?, 13 August 2020

The Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings 
by Neil Price.
Allen Lane, 599 pp., £30, August, 978 0 241 28398 1
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... system beyond ‘the fourth year of King Olaf’ and so on. Royal succession was the only way to mark time. The sequence of events we refer to as the Viking Age was put together from the accounts of their many victims, from Ireland to Byzantium.Price’s book, however, centres on ‘what made [the Vikings] tick, how they thought and felt’. How much money ...

His Own Prophet

Michael Hofmann: Read Robert Lowell!, 11 September 2003

Collected Poems 
by Robert Lowell, edited by Frank Bidart and David Gewanter.
Faber, 1186 pp., £40, July 2003, 0 571 16340 8
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... It is as though heat had been applied to the language (calefaction?), and made – in Mark Rudman’s phrase – ‘fused images’. Lines from Lowell’s Leopardi suggest themselves by way of confirmation: ‘I could forget/the fascinating studies in my bolted room,/where my life was burning out,/and the heat/of my writings made the letters ...

Franklin D, listen to me

J. Hoberman: Popular (Front) Songs, 17 September 1998

Songs for Political Action: Folk Music, Topical Songs and the American Left, 1926-53 
edited by Ronald Cohen and Dave Samuelson.
Bear Family Records, DM 390, June 1996
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... Composers’ Collective – a New York-based Communist cell which included among its associates Mark Blitzstein, Earl Robinson and Aaron Copland. The Collective took its cue from the militant anthems of Bertolt Brecht and Hans Eisler, composing American versions of 12-tone protest songs: ‘The Strange Funeral at Braddock’ gives the full Modernist ...

Too Many Alibis

James Wood: Geoffrey Hill, 1 July 1999

by Geoffrey Hill.
Penguin, 76 pp., £7.99, September 1996, 0 14 058786 1
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The Truth of Love: A Poem 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Penguin, 82 pp., £8.99, January 1997, 0 14 058910 4
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... power, not with poets, the Thames and the Neva rustling like banknotes, then, black on gold, the Hudson’s silhouettes? From frozen Neva to the Hudson pours, under the airport domes, the echoing stations, the tributary of emigrants whom exile has made as classless as the common cold, citizens of a language that is now ...

Say thank you

Clive James: Witty Words in Pretty Mouths, 23 May 2002

Fast-Talking Dames 
by Maria DiBattista.
Yale, 365 pp., £19.95, June 2001, 0 300 08815 9
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... scholar getting swept away when she talks about screen comedy, but nowadays, to make your mark as a media critic, you have to write at least as well as they do in the medium you criticise, and whoever wrote Wag the Dog knows that ‘credence’ does not mean ‘credibility’, whereas DiBattista thinks it does. Feminism, however, has a missing chapter ...

His Own Private Armenia

Anne Hollander: Arshile Gorky, 1 April 2004

Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work 
by Hayden Herrera.
Bloomsbury, 767 pp., £35, October 2003, 9780747566472
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Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective of Drawings 
edited by Janie Lee and Melvin Lader.
Abrams, 272 pp., £30, December 2003, 0 87427 135 5
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... all food, he starved to death in his turn. It was his beautiful young mother who left an indelible mark on Gorky. His best-known painting is a double portrait of himself and her, an image distilled from a photograph taken in 1912 and sent to Sedrak to remind him of his promise. Gorky worked intermittently on the painting between 1926 and 1942, never wholly ...

Bunny Hell

Christopher Tayler: David Gates, 27 August 2015

A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me 
by David Gates.
Serpent’s Tail, 314 pp., £12.99, August 2015, 978 1 78125 491 2
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by David Gates.
Serpent’s Tail, 339 pp., £8.99, August 2015, 978 1 78125 490 5
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... young man … There runs through all he says and does that vein of irony by which we may so often mark one of life’s self-acknowledged failures … a man of parts without character and with more wit than sense.’ The actor offers no comment, but by now he doesn’t need to. David Gates, the creator of these connoisseurs of disappointment and ...

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