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The Man without Predicates

Michael Wood: Goethe, 20 July 2000

Goethe: The Poet and the Age. Volume II: Revolution and Reunciation, 1790-1803 
by Nicholas Boyle.
Oxford, 964 pp., £30, February 2000, 0 19 815869 6
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Faust: The First Part of the Tragedy 
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, translated by John Williams.
Wordsworth, 226 pp., £2.99, November 1999, 1 84022 115 1
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... of the dedicatory poem called ‘Zueignung’, which opens Faust: Part One, are translated by John Williams as What I possess now vanishes before me, And what was lost alone has substance for me. Was ich besitze, seh’ich wie im Weiten, Und was verschwand, wird mir zu                 Wirklichkeiten. The English lines are graceful ...

Dictionaries

Randolph Quirk, 25 October 1979

Collins Dictionary of the English Language 
by P. Hanks, T.H. Long and L. Urdang.
Collins, 1690 pp., £7.95
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... and Lawrence Urdang move from one dictionary house to another. Oxford (with R.W. Burchfield and John Sykes) is comparatively stable. When work began on the new Collins, Paul Procter and Della Summers were young conductors under impresario Urdang, and they later moved on to make dictionaries for Longman. Patrick Hanks was recruited to complete the Collins ...

Zigzags

John Bossy, 4 April 1996

The New Oxford History of England. Vol. II: The Later Tudors 
by Penry Williams.
Oxford, 628 pp., £25, September 1995, 0 19 822820 1
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... and Myres, and Stenton) and Taylor’s. I doubt if the new one will fare any better. John Roberts, the general editor, does not show his hand in detail, and we must keep our fingers crossed about the whole being greater than the parts by giving ‘an account of the development of our country in time’ – ‘our country’ meaning something ...

Heavy Lifting

John Palattella: John Ashbery, 7 June 2001

Other Traditions 
by John Ashbery.
Harvard, 168 pp., £15.50, October 2000, 0 674 00315 2
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John Ashbery and American Poetry 
by David Herd.
Manchester, 245 pp., £45, September 2000, 0 7190 5597 0
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... A little over thirty years ago, John Ashbery delivered a lecture at the Yale Art School called ‘The Invisible Avant-Garde’, in which he asked whether the distinction between the avant-garde and the mainstream has become obsolete. ‘Looking back only as far as the beginning of this century,’ he remarked, ‘we see that the period of neglect for an avant-garde artist has shrunk for each generation ...

The Quest for Solidarity

John Dunn, 24 January 1980

Politics and Letters: Interviews with ‘New Left Review’ 
by Raymond Williams.
New Left Books, 446 pp., £12.75, September 1980, 0 86091 000 8
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... intrinsically oppressive) and the latter positively (as intrinsically ‘liberating’). Raymond Williams has made a more persistent attempt to grasp the nature of this relation than any living British writer and has certainly avoided sentimentalising imagination, even if his conception of power has proved rather more equivocal. In the present volume he is ...

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 ...

Dan Dare at the Cosmos Ballroom

John Hartley Williams, 8 July 2004

... amor vincit omnia Venus lies ahead – ball of mists and disenchanted fruitfulness, too hot for charity, too steamy for reproach, my mission crystalline as snow: to conquer what has always conquered us. Airlock doors slide open. They reveal the Mekon, president of Love Unexpurgated, a peagreen Humpty Dumpty on a flying plate, vestigial legs suggesting toxic misadventures at the antenatal stage, the sonic scalpel of his voice sharp inside my brain: Welcome to the planet humans dream of on their cold blue ball ...

Cromwell’s Coven

John Sutherland, 4 June 1987

Witchcraft 
by Nigel Williams.
Faber, 390 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 571 14823 9
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Without Falling 
by Leslie Dick.
Serpent’s Tail, 153 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 1 85242 005 7
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Outlaws 
by George V. Higgins.
Deutsch, 360 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 233 98110 1
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... in a more seedily charming and futile way than in The British Museum is falling down. Nigel Williams’s Witchcraft opens with a scene in the British Library (as it now is) which neatly defines what the great British institution stands for in the late 1980s: namely, the enemy, a redoubt for Thatcher’s bureaucrat henchmen. Jamie Matheson, youngish TV ...

Respectful Perversion

John Pemble: Gilbert and Sullivan, 16 June 2011

Gilbert and Sullivan: Gender, Genre, Parody 
by Carolyn Williams.
Columbia, 454 pp., £24, January 2011, 978 0 231 14804 7
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... since in traditional comic theatre the Dame was a transvestite role. And now Carolyn Williams, a feminist critic, has published a searching analysis of the thinking behind Gilbert’s libretti, and delivered a verdict of ‘not guilty’ on the charge of misogyny. Her book is, in its way, as unexpected and remarkable as Strachey’s compliment of ...
... I sometimes​ argue with my friend Heathcote Williams about his use of pornography as a means of attacking his political enemies. It seems to me an irrelevant weapon in any context, and in the hands of a man with Heathcote’s anarchistic, optimistic, nearly utopian convictions it becomes puzzlingly inconsistent ...

Hard Man

Ian Hamilton, 16 October 1980

Walk Don’t Walk The Camp From Scenes Like These 
by Gordon Williams.
Allison and Busby, 264 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 85031 309 0
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... Gordon Williams, formerly Gordon M. Williams: born 1934, educated at the John Neilson Institution in Paisley. Worked in Scotland as a farm labourer and newspaper reporter before undergoing National Service in Germany with the RAF. Has worked as a novelist for 16 years, based mainly in Soho but with a spell of rural isolation on the edge of Dartmoor ...

One Great Good True Thing

Thomas Powers: Tennessee Williams, 20 November 2014

Tennessee WilliamsMad Pilgrimage of the Flesh 
by John Lahr.
Bloomsbury, 765 pp., £30, September 2014, 978 1 4088 4365 9
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... To spend time​ with Tennessee Williams – for months on end in the case of Elia Kazan, the director who put his plays on the stage in the 1940s and 1950s; 12 years in the case of his latest and best biographer, John Lahr; or even as little as six weeks by me while reading Lahr’s absorbing Life, along with the work, and a big chunk of all the stuff Williams wrote and said about the work – is to learn and relearn how soberly Williams was speaking when he told Kazan: ‘I don’t know what it is to take anything calmly ...

John McEnroe plus Anyone

Edward Said: Tennis, 1 July 1999

The Right Set: The Faber Book of Tennis 
edited by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 327 pp., £12.99, June 1999, 0 571 19540 7
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... your twenties, facing Sampras or Philippoussis or Ivanisevic, or even Navratilova, Hingis or Venus Williams: can’t be done, no way at all even of being on the same court, much less hitting their balls back. Two decades ago, wooden rackets were replaced by high-tech instruments engineered to the utmost in hitting efficiency, and daily restrung, for ever more ...

Vicarious Sages

Michael Mason, 3 November 1983

John Forster: A Literary Life 
by James Davies.
Leicester University Press, 318 pp., £25, June 1983, 0 7185 1164 6
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Mr George Eliot: A Biography of George Henry Lewes 
by David Williams.
Hodder, 288 pp., £12.95, June 1983, 0 340 25717 2
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Johnnie Cross 
by Terence de Vere White.
Gollancz, 153 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 575 03333 9
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... man. The coincidence is made more striking by the similarities between George Henry Lewes and John Forster. They were two of the stars of Victorian literary journalism: much in demand as editors, and absolutely reliable in their capacity to produce essays and reviews of first-rate quality on a huge range of topics at an intimidating speed. They both ...

Literature and the Left

Marilyn Butler, 18 August 1983

English Literature in History: 1730-80: An Equal, Wide Survey 
edited by Raymond Williams, by John Barrell.
Hutchinson, 228 pp., £13.50, March 1983, 0 09 149820 1
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English Literature in History: 1350-1400: Medieval Readers and Writers 
edited by Raymond Williams, by Janet Coleman.
Hutchinson, 337 pp., £12, July 1981, 0 09 144100 5
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English Literature in History: 1780-1830: Pastoral and Politics 
edited by Raymond Williams, by Roger Sales.
Hutchinson, 247 pp., £13.50, March 1983, 0 09 149830 9
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The Cambridge Guide to English Literature 
by Michael Stapleton.
Cambridge/Newnes Books, 992 pp., £15, April 1983, 9780521256476
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... It is a surprise to find Raymond Williams, in the year of his retirement as Professor of Drama at Cambridge, editing a series called ‘Literature in History’. In a writing career that almost spans the post-war period, he has established himself as this country’s leading critic within academic English of the very concept of ‘Literature ...

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