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Chop, chop

Andrew Sugden: Can we manage without wild forest?, 23 June 2005

Deforesting the Earth: From Prehistory to Global Crisis 
by Michael Williams.
Chicago, 689 pp., £49, January 2003, 0 226 89926 8
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... times it was thought that forested land tended to offer the most fertile agricultural soil. As Michael Williams carefully describes, for diverse cultures in diverse periods in history, deforestation has been intimately bound up with agricultural aspirations. But because trees impart a unique physical structure to the environment – only ...

‘I love you, defiant witch!’

Michael Newton: Charles Williams, 8 September 2016

Charles WilliamsThe Third Inkling 
by Grevel Lindop.
Oxford, 493 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 0 19 928415 3
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... full of joy Unscheduled on the Giesen Plan, With, here, an addict of Tolkien, There, a Charles Williams fan.If Auden were on the circuit now, he’d still find plenty of Tolkien addicts, but he’d go a long way before stumbling on a Charles Williams fan. Charles Williams influenced a ...

A Life of Its Own

Jonathan Coe, 24 February 1994

The Kenneth Williams Diaries 
edited by Russell Davies.
HarperCollins, 827 pp., £20, June 1993, 0 00 255023 7
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... stands English comedy,’ David Frost is reported to have declaimed, as Frankie Howerd and Kenneth Williams stood side by side on his doorstep. Williams was unimpressed. ‘I thought to myself, “Then many people would be lacking in perception,” but shouted drunken goodbyes and reeled down the street into a taxi.’ What ...

Alphabetophile

Michael Hofmann: Eley Williams, 7 September 2017

Attrib. and Other Stories 
by Eley Williams.
Influx, 169 pp., £9.99, March 2017, 978 1 910312 16 2
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Frit 
by Eley Williams.
Sad, 35 pp., £6, April 2017
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... Before​ I embarked on Eley Williams, of whom I had read nothing and knew nothing, I flipped through Attrib., her first book of stories. Even on first flip, I got a sense of something I sometimes find in things I like and that seem good to me, something that subliminally distinguishes writing that is careful and alive: a kind of alphabetical justice, to give this sheepish and probably disreputable thing a name in public ...

On Michael O’Brien

August Kleinzahler: Michael O’Brien, 16 February 2017

... few​ significant American poets called as little attention to themselves in their lifetimes as Michael O’Brien, who died last November at the age of 77. Much as with Lorine Niedecker – whose ‘silences’, he wrote, ‘derive from an intellectual conviction that art, like science, demands total concentration on the object of attention’ – his ...

We’ve done awfully well

Karl Miller: The Late 1950s, 18 July 2013

Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, June 2013, 978 0 7475 8893 1
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... can be surmised for the romantic socialism of Aneurin Bevan, and for the romantic sociology of Michael Young and Raymond Williams, as the views of these three have been characterised. One of the best sayings culled for the new volume is drawn from Bevan, and is as good as the ‘poetry’ heard by someone in his ...

Imbalance

Michael Hofmann: The Charm of Hugo Williams, 22 May 2003

Collected Poems 
by Hugo Williams.
Faber, 288 pp., £20, September 2002, 0 571 21233 6
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... It is a curious thing that of the three judges offering superlatives on the jacket of Hugo Williams’s Collected Poems – Edna Longley, Douglas Dunn and Peter Porter – none is English. And yet Williams, born in Windsor during World War Two, the son of the English actor Hugh Williams, schooled by Life and Eton, a youthful toiler for Alan Ross’s London Magazine, an erstwhile globetrotter and a lifelong London resident, seems as English as they come ...

Vicarious Sages

Michael Mason, 3 November 1983

John Forster: A Literary Life 
by James Davies.
Leicester University Press, 318 pp., £25, June 1983, 0 7185 1164 6
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Mr George Eliot: A Biography of George Henry Lewes 
by David Williams.
Hodder, 288 pp., £12.95, June 1983, 0 340 25717 2
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Johnnie Cross 
by Terence de Vere White.
Gollancz, 153 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 575 03333 9
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... researched study) before the achievement of a controversial or intriguing statement about it. Mr Williams’s book is completely popular in its approach: with no index, no footnotes, no reading-list, masses of colloquialisms, and eye-catching, tendentious judgments at every turn. One reason for the difference is no doubt that, while it is technically true ...

Gentlemen Travellers

D.A.N. Jones, 15 September 1983

George Borrow: Eccentric 
by Michael Collie.
Cambridge, 275 pp., £19.50, November 1982, 0 521 24615 6
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A World of his Own: The Double Life of George Borrow 
by David Williams.
Oxford, 178 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 19 211762 9
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Eothen: Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East 
by Alexander Kinglake and Jan Morris.
Oxford, 279 pp., £2.95, November 1982, 0 19 281361 7
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Eothen 
by Alexander Kinglake and Jonathan Raban.
Century, 226 pp., £6.95, September 1982, 0 7126 0031 0
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... aged 78, Kinglake in 1891, aged 82) but play very different roles in the 20th-century imagination. Michael Collie, the more severe of Borrow’s new biographers, notes the instructions Borrow’s publisher gave him when he was writing The Bible in Spain: he was told to report his remarkable achievements, experiences and skills ‘in a natural manner, as if ...

St Jude’s Playwright

Michael Church, 5 September 1985

The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams 
by Donald Spoto.
Bodley Head, 409 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 370 30847 6
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Tennessee Williams on File 
by Catherine Arnott.
Methuen, 80 pp., £7.95, May 1985, 0 413 58550 6
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... the occasion for either morbidity or schmaltz. The slow but sure revival of interest in Tennessee Williams – this summer Harold Pinter directing Sweet Bird of Youth, and brilliantly – suggests a general awareness that there may currently be a hole where our theatre’s heart should be. That declaration of intent comes, not in one of ...

Beat the carpets later!

Michael Wood: Proust’s Noisy Neighbours, 8 May 2014

Lettres à sa voisine 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Estelle Gaudry and Jean-Yves Tadié.
Gallimard, 86 pp., £11.40, October 2013, 978 2 07 014224 8
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... the husband a dentist? The wife a delicate, suffering lady who plays the harp? Please. Marie Williams at the harp. Jean-Yves Tadié is enchanted by these artistic possibilities. In the letters, he says, Mme Marie Williams ‘appears to us as if she were a heroine in a novel by Maupassant, Notre coeur for ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Fresh Revelations, 20 October 1994

... with their knowledge of current affairs and hone their interview techniques. ‘I like that Michael Howard,’ says one. ‘And Kenneth Clarke’s a good bloke too.’ Neither boy, I suppose, has ever known anything but a Tory government nor by the sound of it ever wants to. At Birmingham I have a session with David Edgar’s playwrights’ class, then ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Senna’, 14 July 2011

Senna 
directed by Asif Kapadia.
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... the go-karts was the British driver Terry Fullerton. No mention of Nigel Mansell or Niki Lauda or Michael Schumacher. Still less of Alain Prost. All Senna ever wanted, in this perspective, was to drive cars fast. Politics and fame were for other people; or perhaps just a cross he had to bear. He was fond of calling on God to help him, and of thanking God for ...

German Jew

Michael Irwin, 17 April 1980

The Missing Years 
by Walter Laqueur.
Weidenfeld, 281 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 297 77707 6
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Jack be nimble 
by Nigel Williams.
Secker, 213 pp., £5.50, March 1980, 0 436 57155 2
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Identity Papers 
by Anthony Cronin.
Co-op Books, 194 pp., £4.50, February 1980, 0 905441 23 0
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Narrow Rooms 
by James Purdy.
Black Sheep Books, 185 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 906538 60 2
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Six Moral Tales 
by Eric Rohmer, translated by Sabine d’Estrée.
Lorrimer, 252 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 85647 075 9
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... detail agitates the imagination as Dr Lasson’s rather flat story-telling does not. Nigel Williams, who won the Somerset Maugham Award for Fiction in 1978, has produced a second novel, which shows plenty of talent but is rather a mess. Its hero, Jack Warliss, a writer of sorts, invents a series of aliases for himself as he struggles to find his true ...

Flowering and Fading

Michael Irwin, 6 March 1980

Wrinkles 
by Charles Simmons.
Alison Press/Secker, 182 pp., £4.95, January 1980, 9780436464904
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Devotion 
by Botho Strauss, translated by Sophie Wilkins.
Chatto, 120 pp., £5.50, January 1980, 0 7011 2421 0
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The Followed Man 
by Thomas Williams.
Sidgwick, 352 pp., £5.95, January 1980, 9780399900259
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Reverse Negative 
by André Jute.
Secker, 264 pp., £5.95, January 1980, 0 436 22980 3
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... up the dots, finds himself meagrely rewarded with an abstract design. In The Followed Man Thomas Williams does, as part of his enterprise, tell a complete, even a lavish story. Luke Carr, a writer, whose wife and children have recently died in an air crash, is summoned to New York to prepare a magazine article about a building disaster that has killed 20 ...

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