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Don’t be a Kerensky!

David Runciman: Kissinger looks for his prince, 3 December 2020

The Inevitability of Tragedy: Henry Kissinger and His World 
by Barry Gewen.
Norton, 452 pp., £22.99, April, 978 1 324 00405 9
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Henry Kissinger and American Power: A Political Biography 
by Thomas Schwartz.
Hill and Wang, 548 pp., £27.99, September, 978 0 8090 9537 7
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... its author died, and is 97 now. Still the books keep coming. This latest pair, by Barry Gewen and Thomas Schwartz, have moved beyond outrage to something more like bafflement, tinged with affection. Each begins with an effective admission of authorial uncertainty: why, they ask, am I writing about Henry Kissinger, when so much has been written ...
The ego is always at the wheel 
by Delmore Schwartz.
Carcanet, 146 pp., £6.95, May 1987, 0 85635 702 2
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A Nest of Ninnies 
by John Ashbery and James Schuyler.
Carcanet, 191 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 85635 699 9
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... Like Tristram Shandy, Delmore Schwartz so hated his name that he sometimes used to attribute all of his misfortunes to it. It was an obsession he enjoyed feeding: he would invent ridiculous sources for it – a delicatessen, a Pullman railroad car, a Tammany Hall club – while in his stories and poems he would always inflict on his leading character, who was always himself, a name exotic or absurd, half old-time Jewish and half Hollywood – Shenandoah Fish, Hershey Green, Cornelius Schmidt ...

All the girls said so

August Kleinzahler: John Berryman, 2 July 2015

The Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 427 pp., £11.99, October 2014, 978 0 374 53455 4
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77 Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 84 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53452 3
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Berryman’s Sonnets 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 127 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53454 7
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The Heart Is Strange 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 179 pp., £17.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 22108 9
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Poets in their Youth 
by Eileen Simpson.
Farrar, Straus, 274 pp., £11.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 23559 8
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... known as ‘confessional’ poets or ‘mid-century’ poets: Lowell, Berryman, Jarrell, Delmore Schwartz, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop and Theodore Roethke. The last two were more peripheral, both less overtly confessional, especially Bishop, and not so much on the scene, New York or Ivy League (though Bishop turned up briefly, and ...

Think like a neutron

Steven Shapin: Fermi’s Paradoxes, 24 May 2018

The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age 
by David N. Schwartz.
Basic, 448 pp., £26.99, December 2017, 978 0 465 07292 7
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... books); the German polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz; the early 19th-century English physicist Thomas Young; and the 19th-century American palaeontologist Joseph Leidy. Then there are ‘men who knew too much’ (Robert Hooke, Alan Turing, G.K. Chesterton and, predictably, Alfred Hitchcock) and those whose knowledge ‘changed ...

Knives, Wounds, Bows

John Bayley, 2 April 1987

Randall Jarrell’s Letters 
edited by Mary Jarrell.
Faber, 540 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 571 13829 2
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The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore 
edited by Patricia Willis.
Faber, 723 pp., £30, January 1987, 0 571 14788 7
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... academe over the years, were Jacques Barzun, R.P. Blackmur, Alfred Kazin, Lionel Trilling, Delmore Schwartz, Allen Tate, Kenneth Burke, Robert Fitzgerald, Leslie Fiedler and John Crowe Ransom – this last its founder as a school of literary criticism ‘to teach those who teach it’. Marianne Moore, in Brooklyn, had a quieter time, but was just as much in ...

Towards the Transhuman

James Atlas, 2 February 1984

The Oxford Companion to American Literature 
by James Hart.
Oxford, 896 pp., £27.50, November 1983, 0 19 503074 5
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The Modern American Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Oxford, 209 pp., £9.95, April 1983, 0 19 212591 5
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The Literature of the United States 
by Marshall Walker.
Macmillan, 236 pp., £14, November 1983, 0 333 32298 3
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American Fictions 1940-1980: A Comprehensive History and Critical Valuation 
by Frederick Karl.
Harper and Row, 637 pp., £31.50, February 1984, 0 06 014939 6
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Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 919 pp., £21, January 1984, 0 233 97610 8
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... demands it. The Modern American Novel is an ‘Opus Book’ (General Editors – Keith Thomas, Alan Ryan, Peter Medawar) intended for students. The Literature of the United States is a volume in the Macmillan History of Literature. But no Oxford undergraduate could get by with generalities like this aperçu of Professor Walker’s: ‘Jewish ...

The Style It Takes

Mark Ford: John Cale, 16 September 1999

What’s Welsh for Zen? The Autobiography of John Cale 
by Victor Bockris.
Bloomsbury, 272 pp., £20, January 1999, 0 7475 3668 6
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... repertoire, to compose orchestral pieces, to write scores for ballets or settings for Dylan Thomas poems, however, is well beyond the competence of other stars in the firmament, even Paul McCartney. There have been various, normally embarrassing attempts by rock groups, or ex-members of rock groups going solo, to explore musical ‘concepts’ and ...

I gotta use words

Mark Ford: Eliot speaks in tongues, 11 August 2016

The Poems of T.S. Eliot: Volume I: Collected & Uncollected Poems 
edited by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue.
Faber, 1311 pp., £40, November 2015, 978 0 571 23870 5
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The Poems of T.S. Eliot: Volume II: Practical Cats & Further Verses 
edited by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue.
Faber, 667 pp., £40, November 2015, 978 0 571 23371 7
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... between ‘When the evening is spread out against the sky’ (line 2 of ‘Prufrock’) and Thomas Hardy’s ‘forms there flung/Against the sky’ (‘The Abbey Mason’); between ‘certain half-deserted streets’ (line 4 of ‘Prufrock’) and ‘he sought out a certain street and number’ in Chapter 20 of Little Dorrit; or, moving beyond ...

The Politics of Translation

Marina Warner: Translate this!, 11 October 2018

This Little Art 
by Kate Briggs.
Fitzcarraldo, 365 pp., £12.99, September 2017, 978 1 910695 45 6
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Translation as Transhumance 
by Mireille Gansel, translated by Ros Schwartz.
Les Fugitives, 150 pp., £10, November 2017, 978 0 9930093 3 4
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Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto 
by Mark Polizzotti.
MIT, 168 pp., £17.99, May 2018, 978 0 262 03799 0
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The 100 Best Novels in Translation 
by Boyd Tonkin.
Galileo, 304 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 903385 67 8
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The Work of Literary Translation 
by Clive Scott.
Cambridge, 285 pp., £75, June 2018, 978 1 108 42682 4
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... labour, a way of life’. Her artless title is taken from a letter Helen Lowe-Porter wrote to Thomas Mann after she became his English translator. She was, she said later, an ‘unknown instrument … which … must … serve him to change the garment of his art into a better one which might clothe her for the marketplace until times changed’. ‘Like a ...

Making sense

Denis Donoghue, 4 October 1984

A Wave 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 89 pp., £4.95, August 1984, 9780856355479
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Secret Narratives 
by Andrew Motion.
Salamander, 46 pp., £6, March 1983, 0 907540 29 5
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Liberty Tree 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 78 pp., £4, June 1983, 0 05 711302 5
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111 Poems 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 185 pp., £5.95, April 1983, 0 85635 457 0
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New and Selected Poems 
by James Michie.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2723 6
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By the Fisheries 
by Jeremy Reed.
Cape, 79 pp., £4, March 1984, 0 224 02154 0
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Voyages 
by George Mackay Brown.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2736 8
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... to be a term of pleasure. Responsibilities may begin in dreams, as Yeats and Delmore Schwartz mused: but such a beginning can be eluded, Ashbery takes pleasure in assuming. There is time yet. ‘Not until it starts to stink does the inevitable happen.’ If Ashbery’s poems are monologues or ‘dialogues of one’, much depends upon his ability ...

The Retreat from Monetarism

J.R. Shackleton, 6 February 1986

... his monumental Monetary Trends in the United States and the United Kingdom, co-authored with Anna Schwartz and published in 1982. This body of work suggested that the velocity of circulation, although varying over the business cycle, is in the long run fairly stable. In particular, it is more stable than the value of the Keynesian multiplier. This implies ...

Magical Orange Grove

Anne Diebel: Lowell falls in love again, 11 August 2016

Robert Lowell in Love 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Massachusetts, 288 pp., £36.50, December 2015, 978 1 62534 186 0
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... than anyone in the book. Not enough, I know.’ Bishop compared Lowell’s violation to something Thomas Hardy had described in a letter, some ‘abuse’ in which ‘details of a lately deceased man’s life’ were published ‘under the guise of a novel’. She acknowledged that ‘Lizzie is not dead etc’ but worried about the ‘infinite mischief’ of ...

Lowellship

John Bayley, 17 September 1987

Robert Lowell: Essays on the Poetry 
edited by Steven Gould Axelrod and Helen Deese.
Cambridge, 377 pp., £17.50, June 1987, 0 571 14979 0
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Collected Prose 
by Robert Lowell, edited and introduced by Robert Giroux.
Faber, 269 pp., £27.50, February 1987, 0 521 30872 0
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... and unexpected by the poet, which reveals itself in the most characteristic poems of Edward Thomas, is wholly absent from the world of his poetry. So is the sense of easing himself, in the expression of grief or pleasure, which is natural to Hardy. No word could be less suitable for these Lowell effects than ‘confessional’, which suggests ...

Why stop at two?

Greg Grandin: Latin America Pulls Away, 22 October 2009

Leftovers: Tales of the Latin American Left 
edited by Jorge Castañeda and Marco Morales.
Routledge, 267 pp., £17.99, February 2008, 978 0 415 95671 0
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... region had plenty of liberals, but a category that includes both Miranda – who corresponded with Thomas Paine, participated in the American and French Revolutions and led Venezuela’s break from Spain – and Porfirio Díaz, Mexico’s strongman for around 30 years at the turn of the 20th century, is as volatile as the politics that the term ...

Through the Trapdoor

Jeremy Harding: Walter Benjamin’s Last Day, 19 July 2007

The Narrow Foothold 
by Carina Birman.
Hearing Eye, 29 pp., £7, August 2006, 9781905082100
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... Fry had a friendly US vice-consul who granted hundreds of visas breaching State Department norms. Thomas Cook, Fittko remembers, were issuing bogus transatlantic tickets to help people on their way – at 200 francs a shot – and the Chinese were selling entry permits at 100 francs. Birman and her friends had visas for Mexico. What nobody who needed to get ...

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