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Life at the Pastry Board

Stefan Collini: V.S. Pritchett, 4 November 2004

V.S. PritchettA Working Life 
by Jeremy Treglown.
Chatto, 308 pp., £25, October 2004, 9780701173227
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... whose outcomes we find satisfying. For the greater part of his very long adult life, Victor Sawdon Pritchett seems to have been a happy man. Pritchett’s son, Oliver, later recalled that he and his sister grew up ‘in a word factory’. ‘The handwritten pages, covered in revisions, crossings out, second and third ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

Peter Campbell: On being photographed, 15 April 2004

... and so on. Some of these postcards could be used, in a similar way, to illustrate stories by V.S. Pritchett. In the section ‘Workers: The Office’ there is a card in which the foreground is dominated by an open ledger, inkwells, a paste pot, a desk calendar and piles of papers. Beyond, young men turn from their places at long tables to look at the ...


Frank Kermode: The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 by Martin Amis., 10 May 2001

The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 506 pp., £20, April 2001, 0 224 05059 1
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... capable of writing ‘the admirable Admiral Croft’ and ‘a revolting revolutionary act’. V.S. Pritchett, for whom Amis has a well-considered and affectionate admiration (expressed with less qualification in an earlier essay), doesn’t understand the elements of punctuation, his being ‘tangled, hectic and Victorian’. Moreover he commits sentences here ...

Out of the jiffybag

Frank Kermode, 12 November 1987

For Love and Money: Writing, Reading, Travelling 1969-1987 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins Harvill, 350 pp., £11.50, November 1987, 0 00 272279 8
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Original Copy: Selected Reviews and Journalism 1969-1986 
by John Carey.
Faber, 278 pp., £9.95, August 1987, 0 571 14879 4
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... a fair account of the book, yet is a well-composed piece in its own right. Raban’s model is V.S. Pritchett, certainly the master of the 1500-word review. As Raban noticed in the New Statesman office, ‘there was no mistaking a manuscript by Pritchett – it was overlaid with small embellishments in longhand, many of them ...

Sunday Mornings

Frank Kermode, 19 July 1984

Desmond MacCarthy: The Man and his Writings 
by David Cecil.
Constable, 313 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 9780094656109
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... freshness or the capacity to surprise one by new perceptions that characterise the work of V.S. Pritchett in the generation that came after his. His success was due in part to his power to charm away the criticism even of a Virginia Woolf, but more positively because he was reassuringly literate and not too egotistical. He was therefore acceptable to a ...


Ian Hamilton: It's a size thing, 19 September 1985

... when she’s writing, chooses to make do with a ‘compact top-floor pied-à-terre’. V.S. Pritchett is encountered in ‘a handsome terrace to the north of Regent’s Park’, and Emma Tennant in ‘a comfortably and attractively bruised Victorian house off Ladbroke Grove’. Russell Hoban’s ‘terraced house’ is also ‘comfortable’ but it ...
The Trick of It 
by Michael Frayn.
Viking, 172 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 670 82985 4
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The Long Lost Journey 
by Jennifer Potter.
Bloomsbury, 179 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 7475 0463 6
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by Colin Thubron.
Heinemann, 152 pp., £10.95, September 1989, 0 434 77978 4
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Coming to Light 
by Elspeth Davie.
Hamish Hamilton, 191 pp., £12.95, August 1989, 0 241 12861 7
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A Careless Widow 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 176 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 7011 3438 0
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... a dozen short stories by the contemporary doyen of the genre. The economy and serenity of V.S. Pritchett’s technique is as great as ever, as is the hospitality shown in his choice of subjects. A hairdresser on holiday runs into a tiresome London neighbour, a widower and retired carpet salesman looks up his old secretary with matrimony in view, an elderly ...

How’s the Empress?

James Wood: Graham Swift, 17 April 2003

The Light of Day 
by Graham Swift.
Hamish Hamilton, 244 pp., £16.99, February 2003, 0 241 14204 0
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... up, through the trees . . . I’d learned to cook. Discovered, in fact, a bit of a flair.’ V.S. Pritchett, whose music can be heard in Swift’s novel (Pritchett, like Swift, was very fond of that shy petty-bourgeois English apology, ‘a bit of a’), never kept up this kind of voice for longer than a novella. And even ...

Patriotic Gore

Michael Wood, 19 May 1983

by Gore Vidal.
Heinemann, 203 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 434 83076 3
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Pink Triangle and Yellow Star and Other Essays 1976-1982 
by Gore Vidal.
Heinemann, 278 pp., £10, July 1982, 0 434 83075 5
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... parliamentary system. On the way, the essays discuss Edmund Wilson, the Oz books, V.S. Pritchett, Hollywood, Theodore Roosevelt and various other topics and people. Perhaps the best way to get a sense of what Vidal is up to is to look at the title essay. This is a piece in heroic bad taste, full of swash and buckle, and offering a serious argument ...
... The Speakers attracted the admiration of Harold Pinter, William Burroughs, Anthony Burgess, V.S. Pritchett and more, he has gradually achieved the status of super-wizard in a community of nomads, pilgrims and seekers after truth. For two years he successfully ran the Ruff, Tuff, Cream Puff Estate Agency (founded by Wat Tyler in 1381) which advised the ...

Poets and Pretenders

John Sutherland, 2 April 1987

The Great Pretender 
by James Atlas.
Viking, 239 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 9780670814619
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The Position of the Body 
by Richard Stern.
Northwestern, 207 pp., $21.95, November 1986, 0 8101 0730 9
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The Setting Sun and the Rolling World 
by Charles Mungoshi.
Heinemann, 202 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 434 48166 1
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Conversations with Lord Byron on Perversion, 162 Years after his Lordship’s Death 
by Amanda Prantera.
Cape, 174 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 9780224024235
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... only short stories are possible.’ Essentially, this seems an inversion of the argument V.S. Pritchett once made about Russian fiction and the length of the Russian day – that Tolstoyan-scale novels require a bloatedly pampered and settled way of life. Africa doesn’t have time for anything more than literary snapshots and fragments. Charles ...

Dangerous Liaisons

Frank Kermode, 28 June 1990

Ford Madox Ford 
by Alan Judd.
Collins, 471 pp., £16.95, June 1990, 0 00 215242 8
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... reasons for admiring it. In this country Ford has enjoyed the advocacy of Graham Greene and V.S. Pritchett, but the busiest and also the most effective of Ford’s admirers have been American. Though Carcanet have done well over here, and items like the latest issue of Agenda testify to continuing English interest,* the republication of Ford’s books has ...

How much?

Ian Hamilton: Literary pay and literary prizes, 18 June 1998

Guide to Literary Prizes, 1998 
edited by Huw Molseed.
Book Trust, 38 pp., £3.99, May 1998, 0 85353 475 6
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The Cost of Letters: A Survey of Literary Living Standards 
edited by Andrew Holgate and Honor Wilson-Fletcher.
W Magazine, 208 pp., £2, May 1998, 0 9527405 9 1
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... Read and Julian Maclaren-Ross each testified that he could manage on £1000 a year net. V.S. Pritchett needed a bit more. Elizabeth Bowen raised a few eyebrows at the time by confessing that ‘I would like to have £3500 a year net’ and Cyril Connolly, who organised Horizon’s survey, opted for ‘five pounds a day’ – £100 a day today: ‘If he ...

I ain’t a child

Roy Porter, 5 September 1996

Growing Up Poor: Home, School and Street 1870-1914 
by Anna Davin.
Rivers Oram, 289 pp., £19.95, January 1996, 9781854890627
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... butcher’s barrow, doing the occasional moonlight flit (regularly experienced by the young V.S. Pritchett) and, to escape the workhouse, relying on the kindness of relatives and neighbours – traditions of give-and-take which still survived in the postwar Bethnal Green anthropologised by Michael Young and Peter Willmott in Family and Kinship in East London ...

Fashionable Gore

Katherine Rundell: H. Rider Haggard, 3 April 2014

King Solomon’s Mines 
by H. Rider Haggard.
Vintage, 337 pp., £7.99, May 2013, 978 0 09 958282 3
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by H. Rider Haggard.
Vintage, 317 pp., £8.99, May 2013, 978 0 09 958283 0
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... cracking sound’ and the man is turned into ‘a few handfuls of smoking white powder’. V.S. Pritchett wrote: ‘Mr E.M. Forster once spoke of the novelist sending down a bucket into the subconscious; the author of She installed a suction pump.’The trouble with She is that it’s structured around a blank face. We are told that Ayesha had ...

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