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Caricature Time

Clair Wills: Ali Smith calls it a year, 8 October 2020

Summer 
by Ali Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 384 pp., £16.99, August, 978 0 241 20706 2
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... it likes and everything it likes’. But as with Elisabeth’s mother in Autumn, Art’s mother in Winter and Brit’s mother in Spring, Grace’s own world has been largely reduced to the language and images she’s fed by TV. The different generations are defined by their media habits: film for the very old and the arty; Twitter and Instagram for the under ...

When did you get hooked?

John Lanchester: Game of Thrones, 11 April 2013

A Song of Ice and Fire: Vols I-VII 
by George R.R. Martin.
Harper, 5232 pp., £55, July 2012, 978 0 00 747715 9
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Game of Thrones: The Complete First and Second Seasons 
Warner Home Video, £40, March 2013, 978 1 892122 20 9Show More
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... conceal their wish to take over the kingship. As for the king, at the start of the books that is Robert Baratheon, the huge bruiser who, with help from the Starks, deposed the previous king 17 years before the story begins. That monarch, mad King Aerys, was the last Targaryen on the throne; the Targaryen dynasty rode to power in Westeros hundreds of years ...

There Goes Valzer

László Krasznahorkai, translated by George Szirtes: A Story, 20 March 2014

... My name​ is Róbert Valzer and I like walking, not that I have anything to do with the famous Robert Walser, nor do I think it strange that walking should be my favourite hobby. I call it a hobby but I accept – or rather I am prepared to entertain the fact – that where I live in this Central European country I am considered to be too unstable to be regarded as a normal person and that my hobby is not to be compared with other people’s hobbies ...

Idiot Mambo

Robert Taubman, 16 April 1981

Cities of the Red Night 
by William Burroughs.
Calder, 332 pp., £9.95, March 1981, 0 7145 3784 5
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The Tokyo-Montana Express 
by Richard Brautigan.
Cape, 258 pp., £6.50, April 1981, 0 224 01907 4
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... in ‘the smallest snowstorm on record’ – ‘Have you ever tried to find two snowflakes on a winter landscape that’s been covered with snow for months?’ These two flakes aren’t in fact found and preserved in the freezer – ‘where they would be comfortable’ – but they’re preserved in Brautigan’s art. Perhaps this miniature art has ...

Rosy Revised

Robert Olby: Rosalind Franklin, 20 March 2003

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA 
by Brenda Maddox.
HarperCollins, 380 pp., £20, June 2002, 0 00 257149 8
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... It can speak, but not unambiguously. Hence the justification for Franklin’s mistaken view in the winter of 1952-53 that one form (A) of the two principal forms of DNA was non-helical. There were other resources on which she might have drawn, however. First, Fourier theory could be used to predict the kind of diffraction pattern a given molecular structure ...

Frank Auerbach’s London

T.J. Clark: Frank Auerbach, 10 September 2015

... on 9 October. Several of them bring on the feeling I had back in 1968. Take the painting called Winter Evening, Primrose Hill Study, done over the winter of 1974-75. What struck me as incomprehensible about it on first sight was the raggedness and spikiness of the lines on its surface, like the spokes of a wind-wrecked ...

At Tate Modern

Hal Foster: Robert Rauschenberg, 1 December 2016

... He has created​ more than any artist after Picasso,’ Jasper Johns said of Robert Rauschenberg, his one-time partner, and the Rauschenberg retrospective now at Tate Modern (until 2 April) fully attests to the sheer abundance of his six-decade career (he died in 2008). There are impressive inventions here, such as his extravagant combinations of painting, collage and sculpture, as well as mixed experiments, such as his rambunctious forays into new media technologies, but there is a lot of recycling and wheel-spinning too ...

Looting the looters

Orlando Figes, 26 September 1991

The Russian City between Tradition and Modernity, 1850-1900 
by Daniel Brower.
California, 253 pp., £18.95, July 1990, 0 520 06764 9
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St Petersburg between the Revolutions. Workers and Revolutionaries: June 1907-February 1917 
by Robert McKean.
Yale, 606 pp., £27.50, June 1990, 0 300 04791 6
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... When the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace on the night of 25 October 1917, they discovered one of the largest wine cellars ever known to the world. During the following days, crowds went on a drunken rampage through St Petersburg. Shops were looted, and well-to-do houses robbed. Sometimes their owners were tortured or killed for sport ...

Old Gravy

Mark Ford, 7 September 1995

Robert Graves: Life on the Edge 
by Miranda Seymour.
Doubleday, 524 pp., £20, July 1995, 0 385 40423 9
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Robert Graves and the White Goddess 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Weidenfeld, 618 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 297 81534 2
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Robert Graves: His Life and Work 
by Martin Seymour-Smith.
Bloomsbury, 600 pp., £25, June 1995, 0 7475 2205 7
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Robert Graves: Collected Writings on Poetry 
edited by Paul O’Prey.
Carcanet, 560 pp., £35, June 1995, 1 85754 172 3
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Robert Graves: The Centenary Selected Poems 
edited by Patrick Quinn.
Carcanet, 160 pp., £15.95, April 1995, 9781857541267
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... That will prove worth your telling he declares in one of his best-known poems, ‘To Juan at the Winter Solstice’. Although Graves only began formulating his Muse theories in the mid-Forties, the ‘one story’ of his vocation dominates his entire career. Graves’s ‘poetic principles’ involve a wholesale rejection of 20th-century civilisation and ...

The Beast on My Back

Gerald Weissmann, 6 June 1996

The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 
by Allan Young.
Princeton, 327 pp., £28, March 1996, 0 691 03352 8
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... Bête Noire’ is set in Piccadilly during the long winter between the Battle of Alamein and the Normandy invasion. At the time, the 24-year-old Douglas had pretty much recovered from wounds inflicted by German 88s in the Western Desert and by spring he was back in action. On 9 June, three days after landing in France, he was killed behind enemy lines ...

Lawful Charm

Donald Davie, 6 July 1995

Selected Poems 
by William Barnes, edited by Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 171 pp., £6.99, May 1994, 0 14 042379 6
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Selected Poems 
by William Barnes, read by Alan Chedzoy.
Canto, £6.99
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... elm I climb’d, with clasping legs.    To reach the crow’s high-nested eggs,      Come winter moss, creep on, creep on,      And warn me of the time that’s gone. Or where I found thy yellow bed Below the hill-borne fir-tree’s head, And heard the whistling east wind blow Above, while wood-screen’d down below I rambled in the ...

The Duckworth School of Writers

Frank Kermode, 20 November 1980

Human Voices 
by Penelope Fitzgerald.
Collins, 177 pp., £5.25, September 1980, 0 00 222280 9
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Winter Garden 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 157 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 7156 1495 9
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... with whom he is having (after many years of boring marital fidelity) an unsatisfactory affair. The Winter Garden is, primarily, a flowerless London backyard, but the title, like the cunningly-written opening chapter, requires to be taken rather carefully. Ashburner steals clumsily out of his wife’s bedroom at dawn, a hopeless innocent, incapable of decently ...

Something about her eyes

Patricia Beer, 24 June 1993

Daphne du Maurier 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 455 pp., £17.99, March 1993, 0 7011 3699 5
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... banal, and the style undistinguished at best and cack-handed at worst. The hero, Maxim de Winter, and his wives, relatives and servants are caricatures; they deliver the immediate punch that the narrative requires but are not allowed any depth or development. What the author, being completely taken up with her story, concentrates on least is the ...

Cut-Ups

Robert Crawford, 7 December 1989

Perduta Gente 
by Peter Reading.
Secker, £5, June 1989, 0 436 40999 2
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Letting in the rumour 
by Gillian Clarke.
Carcanet, 79 pp., £4.95, July 1989, 9780856357572
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Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Woman 
by Grace Nichols.
Virago, 58 pp., £4.99, July 1989, 1 85381 076 2
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Studying Grosz on the Bus 
by John Lucas.
Peterloo, 64 pp., £4.95, August 1989, 1 871471 02 8
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The Old Noise of Truth 
by Joan Downar.
Peterloo, 63 pp., £4.95, August 1989, 1 871471 03 6
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... wind-generator ‘At One Thousand Feet’, where Nobody comes but the postman and the farmer with winter fodder. A-road and motorway avoid me. The national grid has left me out. For power I catch wind. In my garden clear water rises. Grace Nichols calls her new book Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Woman. Or rather, she calls it Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Woman, and ...

Edward and Tilly and George

Robert Melville, 15 March 1984

Swans Reflecting Elephants: My Early Years 
by Edward James, edited by George Melly.
Weidenfeld, 178 pp., £8.95, July 1982, 0 297 77988 5
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... than his father and when Edward came down from Oxford in 1929 he went to New York to spend the winter with Arthur and his wife Harriet. They were childless and it was thought that Edward might inherit. Arthur was worth about four hundred million dollars, but when the Depression came he was down to a mere 98 million. Harriet had crying fits to think of all ...

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