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The cars of the elect will be driverless

Frank Kermode, 31 October 1996

Omens of the Millennium 
by Harold Bloom.
Fourth Estate, 256 pp., £15.99, October 1996, 1 85702 555 5
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... element. Bloom’s personal religion is also Gnostic but not at all unconscious. He calls Joseph Smith of the Mormons a religious genius, and hopes there will be more like him – for a mad moment one suspects he may have himself in mind for the part – but doesn’t want his own beliefs to be mistaken for any others that may be on offer. He is the ...

Under threat

Frank Kermode, 21 June 1984

Tributes: Interpreters of our Cultural Tradition 
by E.H. Gombrich.
Phaidon, 270 pp., £17.50, April 1984, 0 7148 2338 4
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... of Port Sunlight are here augmented by Japanese prints, Haydon’s portrait of Wordsworth and Joseph Wright’s Sir Brooke Boothby in a Landscape, with a Volume of Rousseau, none of them at Port Sunlight, in an ingenious effort to enliven a Memorial Lecture at Liverpool. Allusions to Hazlitt, Goethe, Crabbe, the Grand Canyon, and the present defects of ...

Women of Quality

E.S. Turner, 9 October 1986

The Pebbled Shore 
by Elizabeth Longford.
Weidenfeld, 351 pp., £14.95, August 1986, 0 297 78863 9
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Leaves of the Tulip Tree 
by Juliette Huxley.
Murray, 248 pp., £7.95, June 1986, 9780719542886
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Enid Bagnold 
by Anne Sebba.
Weidenfeld, 317 pp., £15, September 1986, 0 297 78991 0
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... Nathaniel Harman, and Katherine Chamberlain, first cousin of Neville and niece of the great Joseph. In later life Elizabeth was told that her father, a serious citizen, never made love the night before a cataract operation. His courtship had been all but shattered by a religious tug-of-war, which led to a nervous breakdown: he clung to the mysteries of ...

He could not cable

Amanda Claybaugh: Realism v. Naturalism, 20 July 2006

Frank Norris: A Life 
by Joseph McElrath and Jesse Crisler.
Illinois, 492 pp., £24.95, January 2006, 0 252 03016 8
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... When Frank Norris died of appendicitis in 1902, at the age of 32, he had written six novels, as well as scores of essays and reviews. At least two of the novels, McTeague (1899) and The Octopus (1901), are recognised masterpieces, and a number of the essays, particularly those about the Spanish-American War, retain their power today ...

The Antagoniser’s Agoniser

Peter Clarke: Keith Joseph, 19 July 2001

Keith Joseph 
by Andrew Denham and Mark Garnett.
Acumen, 488 pp., £28, March 2001, 9781902683034
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... heroic status of the Thatcherite era. They were giants in those days. And who more so than Keith Joseph? ‘England’s greatest man’ was how Thatcher herself chose to describe him – or, more informally, when the Prime Minister happened to see her Secretary of State for Education scurrying through the streets, ‘a darling man’. It was an affection ...

The Duckworth School of Writers

Frank Kermode, 20 November 1980

Human Voices 
by Penelope Fitzgerald.
Collins, 177 pp., £5.25, September 1980, 0 00 222280 9
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Winter Garden 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 157 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 7156 1495 9
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... up for at least half a century The best-known, or anyway the only one that ever gets mentioned, is Joseph Vance, the first of them, which was published in 1906; the best, or at any rate the most interesting, is Alice-for-Short, which followed, in spite of its great length, only a year later. De Morgan lived to be 88 and wrote seven novels, as well as two more ...


August Kleinzahler: Too Bad about Mrs Ferri, 20 September 2001

... getting a shave at the Park Sheraton Hotel on Seventh Avenue. The Gallo brothers made the hit: Joseph ‘Crazy Joe’, Larry, and Albert ‘Kid Blast’. They were accompanied by an ugly little torpedo named Joseph ‘Joe Jelly’ Giorelli, who finished the job with a bullet to the back of Anastasia’s head. These four ...

Motiveless Malignity

D.A.N. Jones, 11 October 1990

The Dwarfs 
by Harold Pinter.
Faber, 183 pp., £11.99, October 1990, 0 571 14446 2
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The Comfort of Strangers, and Other Screenplays 
by Harold Pinter.
Faber, 226 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 0 571 14419 5
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The Circus Animals 
by James Plunkett.
Hutchinson, 305 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 0 09 173530 0
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The South 
by Colm Tóibín.
Serpent’s Tail, 238 pp., £7.99, May 1990, 1 85242 170 3
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... Strangers, and Other Screenplays. Perhaps the most interesting of these scripts is his version of Joseph Conrad’s Victory. It comes out like Pinter’s play The Birthday Party – where Goldberg, a jaunty Jew, and McCann, a morose Irishman, descended upon the reclusive Stanley in a seaside town, to demolish him with interrogations. GOLDBERG: Don’t ...

Bringing it home to Uncle Willie

Frank Kermode, 6 May 1982

Joseph Conrad: A Biography 
by Roger Tennant.
Sheldon Press, 276 pp., £12.50, January 1982, 0 85969 358 9
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Edward Garnett: A Life in Literature 
by George Jefferson.
Cape, 350 pp., £12.50, April 1982, 0 224 01488 9
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The Edwardian Novelists 
by John Batchelor.
Duckworth, 251 pp., £18, February 1982, 0 7156 1109 7
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The Uses of Obscurity: The Fiction of Early Modernism 
by Allon White.
Routledge, 190 pp., £12, August 1981, 0 7100 0751 5
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... have its uses. Not everybody has the time or the desire to tackle the thousand pages of Karl’s Joseph Conrad, or the shelf of books – Jocelyn Baines, Norman Sherry, Zdzislaw Najder, Eloise Knapp Hay – that would provide a richer and more chaotic account of this mostly painful career; and not everybody will be put off by Mr Tennant’s not saying ...


J.D.F. Jones: Novels on South Africa, 11 November 1999

by Giles Foden.
Faber, 366 pp., £9.99, September 1999, 0 571 19733 7
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Manly Pursuits 
by Ann Harries.
Bloomsbury, 340 pp., £15.99, March 1999, 0 7475 4293 7
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... I assume, fictional, but he is joined at Groote Schuur by Dr Jameson, Alfred Milner, the Kiplings, Frank Harris, Olive Schreiner, the hunter-explorer Selous, the ‘Russian Princess’ who famously tried to ensnare Rhodes, all of them ‘real’, like the friends he has left in England (Dodgson, Ruskin, Wilde etc). Of course, the birds will not sing because it ...


Frank Kermode: In Salt Lake City, 21 July 1983

... Even the dietary restrictions, for instance on tea and coffee, have been economically beneficial. Joseph Smith Jr, a semi-literate and probably rather crooked preacher, came out of the apocalyptic milieu of upper New York State in the 1820s, and his chance of lasting success was in principle no better than that of other sects like the Shakers or the ...

Improving the Story

Frank Kermode: Philip Pullman’s Jesus, 27 May 2010

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ 
by Philip Pullman.
Canongate, 245 pp., £14.99, April 2010, 978 1 84767 825 6
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... that desire to do so is perennial the author can involve us in other crises, like the dilemma of Joseph when he discovers that his virgin wife is pregnant, or the reaction of Zacharias to the discovery that his entirely unexpected child falls under Herod’s order for the massacre of two-year-old boys. (In this new version Zacharias himself is killed by ...

Balls in Aquaria

Thomas Crow: Joseph Rykwert, 23 October 2008

The Judicious Eye: Architecture against the Other Arts 
by Joseph Rykwert.
Reaktion, 496 pp., £29.95, June 2008, 978 1 86189 358 1
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... Joseph Rykwert is unhappy about the current condition of architecture, the principal subject of his long career as a historian. In the conclusion to The Judicious Eye, he complains that ‘new imaging techniques made possible by information technology have allowed architects to shape their buildings without reference to the unavoidable orthogonalities of building or the routine repetition of windows, columns, beams and suchlike ...

Kitchen Devil

John Bayley, 20 December 1990

Emily Brontë: A Chainless Soul 
by Katherine Frank.
Hamish Hamilton, 303 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 9780241121993
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... not so much among the moors and winds and harebells as in the kitchen and scullery with Nellie and Joseph. As a novel it contains no hint of interest in human individuality or psychology, which was no doubt why Ivy Compton-Burnett pronounced it powerful but hollow, a masterpiece both striking and meaningless. Emily, then, was much less wholeheartedly in her ...

Valet of the Dolls

Andrew O’Hagan: Sinatra, 24 July 2003

Mr S.: The Last Word on Frank Sinatra 
by George Jacobs and William Stadiem.
Sidgwick, 261 pp., £16.99, June 2003, 0 283 07370 5
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... moralist’ are unlikely to appear again in this essay, seeing as we’re dealing with Frank Sinatra, a man who managed, without much effort, to make the majority of his rowdy compatriots look like barefoot regulars in Bernadette’s grotto at Lourdes. It’s not that we could really have expected a straightforward portrait of ...

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