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Agh, Agh, Yah, Boo

David Wheatley: Ian Hamilton Finlay, 4 December 2014

Midway: Letters from Ian Hamilton Finlay to Stephen Bann, 1964-69 
edited by Stephen Bann.
Wilmington Square, 426 pp., £25, May 2014, 978 1 905524 34 1
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... Scottish Renaissance into the Beatnik era, establishing important transatlantic connections with Robert Creeley, Jonathan Williams, Lorine Niedecker and others. The break-up of his first marriage in 1964 terminated this period of relative stability, initiating the chapter of uncertainty that coincided with his first letters to Stephen Bann. At no stage in ...

Her Body or the Sea

Ian Patterson: Ann Quin, 21 June 2018

The Unmapped Country: Stories and Fragments 
by Ann Quin.
And Other Stories, 192 pp., £10, January 2018, 978 1 911508 14 4
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... writing. She had spent some years in the United States on scholarships, living for a while with Robert Creeley, later with the poet Robert Sward, associating with poets, attending the famous 1965 Berkeley Poetry Conference where she would have heard Charles Olson, Ed Dorn, ...

Under the Staircase

Robert Neild, 1 April 1983

War Plan UK: The Truth about Civil Defence in Britain 
by Duncan Campbell.
Burnett, 488 pp., £12.95, November 1982, 0 09 150670 0
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With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush and Nuclear War 
by Robert Scheer.
Secker, 279 pp., £8.95, February 1983, 0 436 44355 4
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... of Defence for Research and Engineering, Strategic and Theatre Nuclear Forces, that Robert Scheer heard the phrase from which he took the title of his book: ‘if there are enough shovels to go around, everybody’s going to make it.’ The shovels, Mr Jones explained, were for digging holes in the ground. These would be covered somehow or other ...

Speaking in Tongues

Robert Crawford, 8 February 1996

The Poetry of Scotland: Gaelic, Scots and English 1380-1980 
edited and introduced by Roderick Watson.
Edinburgh, 752 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 7486 0607 6
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... translation) are the great Latinist George Buchanan and the Gaelic poet Alexander Mac-Donald. Duncan Ban MacIntyre’s expansive 18th-century Gaelic poem on deer (echoes of which can be heard in Crichton Smith and Les Murray) is juxtaposed with John Davidson’s ‘A Runnable Stag’. This should have been the book which set the agenda for all future ...

A Bit Like Gulliver

Stephanie Burt: Seamus Heaney’s Seamus Heaney, 11 June 2009

Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney 
by Dennis O’Driscoll.
Faber, 524 pp., £22.50, November 2008, 978 0 571 24252 8
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The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney 
edited by Bernard O’Donoghue.
Cambridge, 239 pp., £45, December 2008, 978 0 521 54755 0
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... at the beginning.’ Daily life there ‘added up to one long steady protest’, with poets – Robert Duncan, Robert Bly, Gary Snyder – joining in: the engagé styles that repelled other American writers showed Heaney ‘what it meant to be American. There was a trust that things could be changed.’ America meant ...

Charging about in Brogues

Jenny Turner: Sarah Waters, 23 February 2006

The Night Watch 
by Sarah Waters.
Virago, 472 pp., £16.99, February 2006, 1 84408 246 6
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... his trousers to keep him happy all the same. Viv’s brother, the delicate, ‘fey-looking’ Duncan, has a weird job in a candle factory: his old friend Robert Fraser can’t believe it when he finds him there, working in what is essentially sheltered employment for people too damaged to do anything else. Plus, ...

Deep Down in the Trash

Robert Crawford, 21 August 1997

God’s Gift to Women 
by Don Paterson.
Faber, 64 pp., £6.99, May 1997, 9780571177622
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... Younger Scottish writers seem to be preoccupied by gender. It is a theme crucial equally to Duncan McLean’s novel Bunker Man and to Kathleen Jamie’s poetry collection The Queen of Sheba. It is insistent in W.N. Herbert’s poem ‘Featherhood’ and Janice Galloway’s Foreign Parts. It bridges writing as different as the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy, Kate Clanchy or David Kinloch, and the fiction of Christopher Whyte or A ...

The Most Eligible Bachelor on the Planet

Thomas Jones: ‘The President is Missing’, 5 July 2018

The President Is Missing 
by Bill Clinton and James Patterson.
Century, 513 pp., £20, June 2018, 978 1 78089 839 1
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... The president​ in question is Jonathan Lincoln Duncan. He’s a Gulf veteran and former prisoner of war, an Army Ranger who was tortured in Iraq but didn’t betray his comrades or his country. He’s also a former governor of North Carolina, the state he was born in and where he was brought up by his single mother ...

On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move, 13 September 2018

Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... with these two books; even the names of the poets – Charles Tomlinson, or David Gascoyne, or Robert Conquest, or John Holloway, or Christopher Middleton, or Geoffrey Hill – stood for a world that was fully England. Looking at the list of poets was like having one’s Irish nose pushed up against the polished glass of a posh window in some imaginary Big ...

Tea-Leafing

Duncan Campbell, 19 October 1995

The Autobiography of a Thief 
by Bruce Reynolds.
Bantam, 320 pp., £15.99, April 1995, 0 593 03779 0
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... to dissuade senior detectives from having a high profile. They were irritated with people like Robert ‘Fabian of the Yard’ Fabian claiming glory for what were essentially team efforts. The high-profile gumshoe was discouraged. Partly as a result of that, there have been few detective memoirs of any note since. While most crime fiction is written from ...

Kick over the Scenery

Stephanie Burt: Philip K. Dick, 3 July 2008

Four Novels of the 1960s: ‘The Man in the High Castle’, ‘The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch’, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’, ‘Ubik’ 
by Philip K. Dick.
Library of America, 830 pp., $35, May 2008, 978 1 59853 009 4
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Five Novels of the 1960s and 1970s: ‘Martian Time-Slip’, ‘Dr Bloodmoney’, ‘Now Wait for Last Year’, ‘Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said’, ‘A Scanner Darkly’ 
by Philip K. Dick.
Library of America, 1128 pp., $40, August 2008, 978 1 59853 025 4
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... into a flat with other young littérateurs, including the future avant-garde poets Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan. He also took a job in a record store, where he met his first wife (they split up after six months) and then his second, Kleo, who introduced him to Bay Area hard-left politics and became his first willing muse. Throughout the 1950s, Dick ...

Seductress Extraordinaire

Terry Castle: The vampiric Mercedes de Acosta, 24 June 2004

‘That Furious Lesbian’: The Story of Mercedes de Acosta 
by Robert Schanke.
Southern Illinois, 210 pp., £16.95, June 2004, 0 8093 2579 9
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Women in Turmoil: Six Plays 
by Mercedes de Acosta, edited by Robert Schanke.
Southern Illinois, 252 pp., £26.95, June 2003, 0 8093 2509 8
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... managed to bed just about everybody who was anybody in the sapphic world of her time: from Isadora Duncan, Alla Nazimova, Pola Negri, Tamara Karsavina, Katharine Cornell, Marie Laurencin, Michael Strange and Eva Le Gallienne in the 1920s and 1930s to Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Hope Williams, Libby Holman, Ona Munson (Belle Watling in Gone with the ...

Dysfunctional Troglodytes with Mail-Order Weaponry

Iain Sinclair: Edward Dorn, 11 April 2013

Collected Poems 
by Edward Dorn.
Carcanet, 995 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 1 84777 126 1
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... Roundhouse, the former engine-turning shed. Stuart Montgomery, the publisher of Gunslinger (and of Robert Duncan, Gary Snyder, Basil Bunting, David Jones and Roy Fisher), a wispy-moustached medical man with a significant hobby, decided to do something about the sluggishness and indolence of mainstream critics. He flew off to Las Vegas and took a cab to ...

Flickering Star

Robert Crawford: Iain Crichton Smith, 21 January 1999

The Leaf and the Marble 
by Iain Crichton Smith.
Carcanet, 80 pp., £6.95, October 1998, 1 85754 400 5
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... world.’ An admirer of Eliot, Lowell and the Classical tradition, as well as a translator from Duncan Ban Macintyre and the great heritage of Gaelic verse, Crichton Smith was a superb mediator between the various cultures native to his imagination, an imagination often haunted by loss. In review, however, his career seems crammed with undeniable ...

The Man in the Clearing

Iain Sinclair: Meeting Gary Snyder, 24 May 2012

... the west coast of North America to Europe or Asia. ‘But coming from Asia is easier.’ In 1889 Robert Louis Stevenson, in the final chapter of a wandering life, settled on a hillside above Apia, the Samoan capital. He bought three hundred acres of jungle, and built a two-storey timber house. He was 39 and accompanied by his American wife, Fanny, her two ...

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