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Under the Staircase

Karl Whitney: Hans Jonathan, Runaway Slave, 19 October 2017

The Man Who Stole Himself: The Slave Odyssey of Hans Jonathan 
by Gisli Palsson, translated by Anna Yates.
Chicago, 288 pp., £19, October 2016, 978 0 226 31328 3
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... In the spring​ of 1801 a young man called Hans Jonathan left the mansion in Copenhagen where he worked as a slave. Going for a walk was allowed: despite his status, he had a degree of autonomy within the walls of the city, then a thriving port with around one hundred thousand inhabitants. But this time he didn’t return ...

Looking for Augustine

James Francken: Jonathan Safran Froer, 25 July 2002

Everything Is Illuminated 
by Jonathan Safran Foer.
Hamish Hamilton, 276 pp., £14.99, June 2002, 0 241 14166 4
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... every day from nine until noon so that curious fans can ‘watch her creative juices flow’. At Jonathan Safran Foer’s website – – the interactive pages are more high-minded. The site makes brief mention of Everything Is Illuminated – the American writer’s first novel, written at the age of 20 – but the description is ...

The Straight and the Bent

Elaine Showalter, 23 April 1992

Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault 
by Jonathan Dollimore.
Oxford, 388 pp., £35, August 1991, 0 19 811225 4
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Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories 
by Diana Fuss.
Routledge, 432 pp., £40, March 1992, 0 415 90236 3
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... never ‘write “I” any more,’ for ‘in art, don’t you see, there is no first person.’ Jonathan Dollimore sees in the conflict between Gide’s courageous ‘essentialist ethic’ and Wilde’s uncompromising ‘transgressive aesthetic’ a paradigm of the internal contradictions of homosexual theory and a preamble to ‘the modern history of ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bo yakasha., 4 January 2001

... are used by street gangs in Los Angeles.] Also due in March is a memoir called Self Abuse by Jonathan Self. Whether or not he may have any famous relatives is hinted at in the John Murray catalogue, which tells us that Self’s father, ‘Professor Self’, from whose lips ‘the word love never escaped,’ was ‘“fond” of his wife, “fond” of ...

Fog has no memory

Jonathan Meades: Postwar Colour(lessness), 19 July 2018

The Tiger in the Smoke: Art and Culture in Postwar Britain 
by Lynda Nead.
Yale, 416 pp., £35, October 2017, 978 0 300 21460 4
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... colour’ she assigns to the period – 1945-60 – is a foggy sort of greyish brown. Dickens’s monumental fog in Bleak House is perhaps correctly reckoned by Nead to be metaphorical. She doesn’t state what it’s a metaphor for. Presumably the torpid, sclerotic chaos of Chancery. But the impasto fog and smog (a coinage not made till ...

Winklepickers, Tinned Salmon, Hair Cream

Bee Wilson: Jonathan Meades, 14 July 2016

An Encyclopedia of Myself 
by Jonathan Meades.
Fourth Estate, 341 pp., £9.99, February 2015, 978 1 85702 905 5
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... and are the one in charge, even if you end up getting apples instead because the pears look bad. Jonathan Meades is a writer who understands the power of lists. In An Encyclopedia of Myself, he has written not so much an autobiography as a series of detailed inventories of English provincial life in the 1950s – a world of sadistic army majors and ...

This Charming Man

Frank Kermode, 24 February 1994

The Collected and Recollected Marc 
Fourth Estate, 51 pp., £25, November 1993, 1 85702 164 9Show More
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... Hill has an Arab headdress, or why Lord Home stands bat in hand before a broken wicket. Craig Brown says that in his caricatures Boxer mixed ‘the base and the suave’, but there is not a lot of baseness here, not much of the Rowlandson; and such fluent drawing can hardly help flattering the sitter. What Brown calls ...

Ink-Dot Eyes

Wyatt Mason: Jonathan Franzen, 2 August 2007

The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History 
by Jonathan Franzen.
Harper Perennial, 195 pp., £8.99, July 2007, 978 0 00 723425 7
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... an obscene self-congratulation for the virtue required to see your mistake and own up to it?’ Jonathan Franzen’s memoir, The Discomfort Zone, is an object lesson in the management of such obscenity. The book begins with a loss. After lengthy treatment for colon cancer, his widowed mother, Irene, has died. The youngest of three brothers who’ve fled the ...

What else is new?

Jonathan Coe, 11 March 1993

The Long Night of White Chickens 
by Francisco Goldman.
Faber, 450 pp., £14.99, January 1993, 0 571 16098 0
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... or at the very least erratic at keeping his sentences under control: ‘A footloose brown girl-woman with a funny voice, an ex-servant, unmarried, inexplicably hanging around in Guatemala now, who’d so far gotten to live an eccentrically and remotely fortunate life thanks to her extremely coincidental connection to Mirabel Arrau de Graetz’s ...

Granny in the Doorway

Jonathan Raban: Sheringham, 1945, 17 August 2017

... a can) on toast, presented as a delicacy but which made me gag; sandwiches of pre-sliced brown bread, with the faintest smear of margarine, and Shippam’s paste; then raspberries picked from the bushes in Granny’s back garden. When the meal was over, I was given permission to get down from the table and play with Charles, my favourite of the two ...

The Life of Henri Grippes

Jonathan Coe, 18 September 1997

Selected Stories 
by Mavis Gallant.
Bloomsbury, 887 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 7475 3251 6
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... how streets were lighted’. A few lines later in the same passage, she describes ‘the reddish brown of the stone houses, the curve and slope of the streets, the constantly changing sky’ not as ‘beautiful’ or ‘splendid’ or ‘heartbreaking’ but as ‘satisfactory’; and not just satisfactory, but ‘satisfactory in a way that I now realise ...

Can’t hear, speak up!

Joanna Biggs: 'I'm a narcissist and so is Ben Lerner', 5 December 2019

The Topeka School 
by Ben Lerner.
Granta, 304 pp., £16.99, November 2019, 978 1 78378 572 8
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... and The Topeka School, Lerner the writer – born in Topeka, school debating champion, graduate of Brown, Fulbright fellow in Madrid, now poet and novelist, resident in Brooklyn and married with two girls – has received a Guggenheim fellowship and a MacArthur ‘genius’ grant; when early copies of The Topeka School arrived in London and New York, I heard ...

Through Plate-Glass

Ian Sansom: Jonathan Coe, 10 May 2001

The Rotters’ Club 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 405 pp., £14.99, April 2001, 0 670 89252 1
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... those who are content simply to bang it together with panel pins and a tube or two of Gripfill. Jonathan Coe is undoubtedly the craftsman – a counter-sinking, dove-tailing, professional-finishing kind of writer. But he does get away with the occasional bodge. The framing device for his new novel, The Rotters’ Club, for example, seems to be held together ...

Alan Bennett remembers Peter Cook

Alan Bennett, 25 May 1995

... first set eyes on Peter, at lunch in a restaurant, I think on Goodge Street, with Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller, the meeting arranged by John Bassett, whose idea it was that we should all work together writing the review that turned into Beyond the Fringe. Having already written while still an undergraduate a large slice of the two West End shows Pieces of ...


W.G. Runciman: You had better look out, 10 December 1998

... oughtn’t they to be prepared to take it either way? I know that’s easy to say, and I remember Jonathan Miller once telling me, and convincingly so, that nobody to whom it hasn’t happened can know how peculiarly disagreeable it is to be lampooned in print. But as Goethe said, and I quoted to the famous Jonathan on ...

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