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Orwellspeak

Julian Symons, 9 November 1989

The Politics of Literary Reputation: The Making and Claiming of ‘St George’ Orwell 
by John Rodden.
Oxford, 478 pp., £22.50, October 1989, 0 19 503954 8
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... disconcerted by such friends as Paul Johnson, who believes he would now be a strong Thatcherite, John Wain, who invokes Orwell as an opponent of Arthur Scargill, or in America Norman Podhoretz, who feels sure he would be taking his stand with the ‘neo-conservatives against the Left’. The New York Tribune, Rodden notes, went further and called Orwell ...

Just like Rupert Brooke

Tessa Hadley: 1960s Oxford, 5 April 2012

The Horseman’s Word: A Memoir 
by Roger Garfitt.
Cape, 378 pp., £18.99, April 2011, 978 0 224 08986 9
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... Studying poetry spilled over naturally into writing it: Garfitt went to informal workshops with John Wain and Peter Levi, heard Ted Hughes read at the Poetry Society. Coghill read his poems, but wasn’t very enthusiastic; Peter Jay took a photo of him in a green silk smoking jacket looking ‘just like Rupert Brooke!’; he talked about jazz with ...

A.E. Housman and Biography

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 22 November 1979

A.E. Housman 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Routledge, 304 pp., £9.75
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... extensive knowledge. When he wants to tell us what a good scholar Housman was, he quotes the late John Carter’s comment on the testimonials supplied by various scholars when Housman was candidate for the Chair of Latin at University College, London. ‘Perhaps only those conversant with the trades-union of Academe,’ wrote Carter, ‘can appreciate to the ...

Full of Glory

John Mullan: The Inklings, 19 November 2015

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings 
by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski.
Farrar, Straus, 644 pp., £11.20, June 2015, 978 0 374 15409 7
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... God, not another fucking elf!’ the English lecturer and long-time Inkling Hugo Dyson cried. John Wain, an attendee at meetings in the late 1940s, described his heart sinking as Tolkien appeared at Lewis’s door with a bulging jacket pocket, yet again. Tolkien looked down on Lewis’s Narnia, which he thought had been created with insufficient ...

Don’t worry about the pronouns

Michael Wood: Iris Murdoch’s First Novel, 3 January 2019

Under the Net 
by Iris Murdoch.
Vintage, 432 pp., £9.99, July 2019, 978 1 78487 518 3
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... such books as Lucky Jim, Hurry on Down and even Room at the Top’ – novels by Kingsley Amis, John Wain and John Braine, which appeared in 1954, 1953 and 1957 respectively. But Bradbury also tells us – he is writing in 1962 – that he finds this positioning ‘rather curious’, chiefly because of ‘the curious ...

Flying the flag

Patrick Parrinder, 18 November 1993

The Modern British Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 512 pp., £20, October 1993, 0 436 20132 1
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After the War: The Novel and English Society since 1945 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 310 pp., £17.99, September 1993, 9780701137694
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... Cheered on by the Tory faithful, John Major recently dismissed as ‘claptrap’ a letter signed by 500 university teachers of English attacking the proposed revisions to the National Curriculum. The academics were accused – falsely, I believe – of wanting to undermine the teaching of Shakespeare. A few months earlier, the Education Secretary John Patten sent back an official report on English in schools with the comment that 15-year-olds perhaps ought to be made to study the ‘great tradition of the novel ...

Tropical Storms

Blake Morrison, 6 September 1984

Poems of Science 
edited by John Heath-Stubbs and Phillips Salman.
Penguin, 328 pp., £4.95, June 1984, 0 14 042317 6
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The Kingfisher 
by Amy Clampitt.
Faber, 92 pp., £4, April 1984, 0 571 13269 3
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The Ice Factory 
by Philip Gross.
Faber, 62 pp., £3.95, June 1984, 0 571 13217 0
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Venus and the Rain 
by Medbh McGuckian.
Oxford, 57 pp., £4.50, June 1984, 0 19 211962 1
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Saying hello at the station 
by Selima Hill.
Chatto, 48 pp., £2.95, June 1984, 0 7011 2788 0
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Dreaming Frankenstein and Collected Poems 
by Liz Lochhead.
Polygon, 159 pp., £2.95, May 1984, 0 904919 80 3
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News for Babylon: The Chatto Book of West Indian-British Poetry 
edited by James Berry.
Chatto, 212 pp., £4.95, June 1984, 9780701127978
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Human Rites: Selected Poems 1970-1982 
by E.A. Markham.
Anvil, 127 pp., £7.95, May 1984, 0 85646 112 1
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Midsummer 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 79 pp., £3.95, July 1984, 0 571 13180 8
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... verse (from Anon on the structure of the cosmos – ‘as appel the eorthe is round’ – to John Updike on cosmic gall), is therefore fighting a lost battle. The editors make out a brave case for the similarity of poet and scientist (‘the starting-point for both of their activities is the imagination’), dispute old distinctions between ...

What’s this?

Ian Sansom: A. Alvarez, 24 August 2000

Where Did It All Go Right? 
by A. Alvarez.
Richard Cohen, 344 pp., £20, September 1999, 1 86066 173 4
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... victim, tethered, and ready for slaughter. In Where Did It All Go Right? Alvarez’s former friend John Wain receives the same treatment – punished for being feeble of mind and feeble of body – and there are numerous other little tussles and boasts. Alvarez is a writer who is certainly not oblivious of the extent of his own charms and perhaps he ...

Bunnymooning

Philip French, 6 June 1996

The Fatal Englishman: Three Short Lives 
by Sebastian Faulks.
Hutchinson, 309 pp., £16.99, April 1996, 0 09 179211 8
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... This idea of Wolfenden as a wash-out and the squanderer of a prodigious talent persuaded John Carey, one of his Oxford contemporaries, to find him ‘the least interesting’ of Faulks’s subjects. Not only does Carey challenge Faulks’s claim that ‘in some minor way he represented a generation’: he suggests he was ‘bizarrely ...

The Education of Philip French

Marilyn Butler, 16 October 1980

Three Honest Men: Edmund Wilson, F.R. Leavis, Lionel Trilling 
edited by Philip French.
Carcanet, 120 pp., £6.95, July 1980, 0 85635 299 3
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F.R. Leavis 
by William Walsh.
Chatto, 189 pp., £8.95, September 1980, 0 7011 2503 9
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... typewriters. When he died, Wilson was learning Hungarian, part of a new investigative project. John Wain tells how he went to see him and asked him casually what had happened to the Indians round his up-state New York home. Wilson was ashamed that he could not answer the question, investigated it, and produced his book Apologies to the Iroquois. For ...

Do you think he didn’t know?

Stefan Collini: Kingsley Amis, 14 December 2006

The Life of Kingsley Amis 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 996 pp., £25, November 2006, 0 224 06227 1
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... briefly (as he did in recording, for Larkin’s delight, his response to an unimpressive poem by John Wain): ‘Could of told you that, shitface.’ Amis was not born into the literary purple, as many of the Bloomsburyish or Bloomsbury-affiliated writers of the previous generation had been, and this humbler background was thought to be somehow ...

At the V&A

Rosemary Hill: Constable , 22 October 2014

... a largely domestic taste. There was a time when almost every home had a reproduction of The Hay Wain. Tours of ‘Constable country’ on the Essex-Suffolk border were popular by 1893 and are still going strong. It all contributes to the image of a local artist painting agreeable scenes. Those who have looked more closely at his work have seen more in ...

Dear Miss Boothby

Margaret Anne Doody, 5 November 1992

The Letters of Samuel Johnson: Vol. I: 1731-1772, Vol. II: 1773-1776, Vol. III: 1777-1781 
edited by Bruce Redford.
Oxford, 431 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 19 811287 4
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... was intertwined with his. It would be helpful to have explanations of Lucy Porter, Hill Boothby, John Taylor and the Thrales, as major figures in Johnson’s life and letter-writing. The notes are self-referential in a cryptic way, with a delicately archaic use of ante and post; these are not as helpful as the editor thinks, for the reader who is reading ...

No reason for not asking

Adam Phillips: Empson’s War on God, 3 August 2006

Selected Letters of William Empson 
edited by John Haffenden.
Oxford, 729 pp., £40, March 2006, 0 19 928684 1
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... Indeed, the thing Empson seems to have been most at odds with himself about was conflict. So when John Wain praises Empson’s poetry in his book Professing Poetry, Empson replies: ‘I feel it is very discerning praise, so it is at least sympathetic; and the best I can do by way of thanks is to say where I think it is wrong.’ Empson believed that ...

Diary

Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows, 7 October 1993

... him in his new survey of post-war fiction. In the late Fifties and after, Kingsley Amis, Johns Wain and Braine, Alan Sillitoe and Co struck a new, demotic note. The ‘traditional’ English novel of good and bad manners was radicalised and updated. Karl Miller helped to institute a new criticism which seemed to owe more to a modest, clean, unadorned ...

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