John Sutherland

John Sutherland’s Life of Stephen Spender was published in May 2004. Formerly of University College London, he teaches at Caltech in Pasadena.

Diary: Do books have a future?

John Sutherland, 25 May 2006

South Lake Avenue in Pasadena, a few hundred yards from where I’m sitting, is named for the now dried up stream that once ran from the San Gabriel mountains to the Los Angeles basin. It was always a handsome thoroughfare, and the city invested tens of millions in the late 1970s to make it into Pasadena’s own Rodeo Drive. The investment didn’t entirely pay off: South Lake...

Tom Maschler’s memoir, Publisher, appeared in bookshops on 18 March. It might as well not have done. The book was dead on arrival, having been subjected to a barrage of premature review and ridicule. Private Eye’s Bookworm feasted on the still warm corpse. The Guardian’s Editor page ‘digested’ it satirically: ‘I was 27 when Hemingway shot himself. His death...

‘Xtopher,’ Stephen Spender wrote in April 1931, ‘is a cactus.’ Prickly, solitary, self-sufficient, hard to handle and difficult to love. How to get to grips with ‘Isherwood’ (as he has chosen to address him) was a problem for Peter Parker: something that perhaps explains the 12 years this usually brisk biographer has spent on his task. A main difficulty is...

Publishers keep good records because those that don’t go out of business. Backlists and post-mortem copyright dispose them to be historically minded about their dealings. It was only relatively recently, however, that libraries and other storehouses of scholarship first became aware of the cultural, literary, historical and scientific value of the intact publisher’s archive,...

Diary: The crisis in academic publishing

John Sutherland, 22 January 2004

Last May Stephen Greenblatt, who was then president of the Modern Languages Association, the literary academic’s equivalent of the Teamsters, circulated a letter among its twenty thousand or so members. ‘Over the last few decades,’ he wrote, ‘most departments of language and literature have come to demand that junior faculty members produce, as a condition for being...

Like it or not, ‘Orwell’ is a brand: ordinariness, common decency, speaking plain truths to power, a haggard, prophetic gaze.

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Kids Gone Rotten: ‘Treasure Island’

Matthew Bevis, 25 October 2012

John Singer Sargent’s ‘Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife’ (1885). The first return to Treasure Island was made by Robert Louis Stevenson himself. Fourteen years after the...

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Stephen Spender was a visitor to the city of Hamburg both before the war and after, when he played a part in the work of occupation and recovery. He was well on his way to being the noted...

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When Stephen Spender’s son Matthew was ten years old, he caught his hand in a car door. ‘The event,’ John Sutherland writes, ‘recalled other tragedies in the boy’s...

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Look here, Mr Goodwood

John Bayley, 19 September 1996

A learned, indeed an erudite little book; but also one that is so absorbing, so readable, so quietly and deftly humorous, that it shows up all the dull pretentiousness of nine-tenths of the stuff...

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Burying Scott

Marilyn Butler, 7 September 1995

John Sutherland’s pithy, cynical Life of Scott is very much a biography of our time: irreverent, streetwise, set foursquare in a ‘real world’ in which careers achieve money and...

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The Great Mary

Dinah Birch, 13 September 1990

‘No Arnold can write a novel; if they could, I should have done it.’ That was Matthew Arnold’s reaction to his niece’s first significant attempt at fiction, Miss...

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An Infinity of Novels

Philip Horne, 14 September 1989

Anthony Trollope once proposed to write ‘a history of English prose fiction’, but ‘broke down in the task, because I could not endure the labour in addition to the other labours...

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