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Rites of Passage

Anthony Quinn, 27 June 1991

The Elephant 
by Richard Rayner.
Cape, 276 pp., £13.99, May 1991, 0 224 03005 1
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The Misfortunes of Nigel 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Peter Owen, 176 pp., £12.95, June 1991, 0 7206 0830 9
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Famous for the creatures 
by Andrew Motion.
Viking, 248 pp., £14.99, June 1991, 0 670 82286 8
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Double Lives 
by Stephen Wall.
Bloomsbury, 154 pp., £13.99, June 1991, 0 7475 0910 7
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... a reception evidently forgotten by Viking, who call it ‘acclaimed’ on the dust-wrapper. Andrew Motion was perhaps compromised in that novel by the uncommon difficulties of hooking our attention while leaving us unsatisfied: he had to whet our appetite for the long haul. This second book should have given him an opportunity to write at a more ...

Short Cuts

James Meek: Anglospheroids, 21 March 2013

... language because they’re bound to learn yours. The Conservative prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, and the man who on present showing is likely to be prime minister of Australia after September, Tony Abbott, have spoken up for the Anglosphere. In Britain, the Anglosphere is held up as an alternative way to exercise influence in the world by ...

All hail, sage lady

Andrew O’Hagan: ‘The Crown’, 15 December 2016

... of a dozen to do wrong what he does right – and a slew of British directing talent led by Stephen Daldry has brought it to the small screen. The British settings are spectacular, the whole thing like an implosion of David Kynaston, but the main achievement is Morgan’s, in finding ways to show the human side of monarchy. The British royals are a ...

Chattering Stony Names

Nicholas Penny: Painting in Marble, 20 May 2021

Painting in Stone: Architecture and the Poetics of Marble from Antiquity to the Enlightenment 
by Fabio Barry.
Yale, 438 pp., £50, October 2020, 978 0 300 24816 6
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... of stone that play a major part in Painting in Stone. The marble floor of the Chapel of St Andrew in Westminster Cathedral.  University of Oxford, Museum of Natural History First, there are the alabasters, which are relatively soft. These are now divided into gypsum alabaster and calcite or onyx alabaster. Calcite alabaster from Egypt, commonly a ...

Mandela: Death of a Politician

Stephen W. Smith: Mandela, the Politician, 9 January 2014

... as a Kumbaya invitation to join hands for a moral-historical promenade. In reality, as Stephen Ellis was able to show in 2011, Mandela joined the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party in 1960 to help impose the SACP’s strategic choice of armed struggle on a reluctant ANC leadership. Mandela was the first leader of the ANC’s ...

Flat-Nose, Stocky and Beautugly

James Davidson: Greek Names, 23 September 2010

A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Vol. V.A Coastal Asia Minor: Pontos to Ionia 
edited by T. Corsten.
Oxford, 496 pp., £125, March 2010, 978 0 19 956743 0
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... peaked in the 1880s and 1890s. Orthography became important: Geoffrey or Jeffrey, Ann or Anne, Stephen or Steven. Girls’ names were especially given to whim and proliferation. In the 1930s, my mother was christened Doreen because a Russian acquaintance of my grandfather said that was the name of the nicest girl he had ever known. This nice Doreen seems ...

Diary

Inigo Thomas: Michael Wolff’s Book Party, 8 February 2018

... As he would later explain, his work was made easier because he was often left alone, waiting for Stephen Bannon, in whose office he sat: Actually, I would make these appointments, and I would come in and these appointments weren’t kept. So, I would sit on the couch. What I haven’t said is what a humiliating experience it is. Because everybody would look ...

Ever so comfy

James Wood, 24 March 1994

Collected Poems 1953-1993 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 387 pp., £20, October 1993, 0 241 00167 6
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Dante’s Drum-Kit 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 145 pp., £6.99, November 1993, 0 571 17055 2
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Old Men and Comets 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 64 pp., £6.99, November 1994, 0 19 283176 3
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Plato’s Ladder 
by Stephen Romer.
Oxford, 79 pp., £6.99, November 1992, 0 19 282986 6
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The Country at My Shoulder 
by Moniza Alvi.
Oxford, 56 pp., £6.99, September 1993, 0 19 283125 9
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British Subjects 
by Fred D’Aguiar.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, July 1993, 1 85224 248 5
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Night Photograph 
by Lavinia Greenlaw.
Faber, 54 pp., £5.99, October 1993, 0 571 16894 9
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Nil Nil 
by Don Paterson.
Faber, 53 pp., £5.99, April 1993, 0 571 16808 6
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Out of Danger 
by James Fenton.
Penguin, 103 pp., £7.50, December 1993, 0 14 058719 5
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... In general, the closer he is to epigram the funnier and neater. But Enright is always likeable. Stephen Romer’s self-presentation is not. Certainly, one comes away from Plato’s Ladder with a powerful sense of the Platonic Form of The Poet. The Poet dedicates poems to friends, has other artist friends, like a painter called Caroline (‘You are my ...

Suppose the Archduke had ducked

Andrew Berry: Game theory and human evolution, 7 September 2000

Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny 
by Robert Wright.
Little, Brown, 435 pp., £22.50, March 2000, 0 316 64485 4
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... multifarious products, and not in any general sense ‘better’ than even the lowliest bacterium. Stephen Jay Gould, in particular, has insisted that the anthropocentric Victorian perspective was fuelled more by theology than by sound biology. Like his pet theme, Spencer’s reputation, too, has been eclipsed. In the 1890s, he was well enough known to receive ...

Successive Applications of Sticking-Plaster

Andrew Saint: The urban history of Britain, 1 November 2001

The Cambridge Urban History of Britain. Vol. III: 1840-1950 
edited by Martin Daunton.
Cambridge, 944 pp., £90, January 2001, 0 521 41707 4
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... It is often a corrective as well as a relief to read about local experience and activity. Thus Stephen Royle’s chapter on small towns, heavily based on Leicestershire, seems at first to paint a picture of stagnation (Hinckley’s ‘stinking state’ in 1840 etc) and cultural decline. Then abruptly he tells us that Edwardian Market Harborough, a town ...

Not Making it

Stephen Fender, 24 October 1991

The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and how it changed America 
by Nicholas Lemann.
Macmillan, 410 pp., £20, August 1991, 0 333 56584 3
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... from the American South-East and marched them to new lands across the Mississippi, President Andrew Jackson said: ‘Doubtless it will be painful’ for the Indians ‘to leave the graves of their fathers; but what do they more than our ancestors did, or than our children are now doing? ... Does humanity weep at these painful separations from ...

Deadheaded Sentences

Andrew O’Hagan: A Disservice to Dolly, 4 August 2022

Run Rose Run 
by Dolly Parton and James Patterson.
Century, 439 pp., £20, March, 978 1 5291 3567 1
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The Stories of My Life 
by James Patterson.
Century, 358 pp., £20, June, 978 1 5291 3687 6
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... and nuances of life itself; his galaxy is a constant flow of words that drift towards nullity. ‘Stephen King once called me a terrible writer,’ he says in his memoir, which is quite unjust. He’s not merely a terrible writer, he’s the terrible writer’s terrible writer, a distinction he should enjoy.Or possibly not. He mentions the Nobel Prize for ...

That’s America

Stephen Greenblatt, 29 September 1988

‘Ronald Reagan’, the Movie, and Other Episodes in Political Demonology 
by Michael Rogin.
California, 366 pp., £19.95, April 1987, 0 520 05937 9
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... as in his remarkable psycho-historical studies of Jackson and Melville, Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian (1975) and Subversive Genealogy: The Politics and Art of Herman Melville (1985), is to bring together the public domain of American politics – the traditional concern of political scientists like himself ...

Canterbury Tale

Charles Nicholl, 8 December 1988

Christopher Marlowe and Canterbury 
by William Urry, edited by Andrew Butcher.
Faber, 184 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 571 14566 3
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John Weever 
by E.A.J. Honigmann.
Manchester, 134 pp., £27.50, April 1987, 0 7190 2217 7
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Rare Sir William Davenant 
by Mary Edmond.
Manchester, 264 pp., £27.50, July 1987, 9780719022869
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... Here at last it is, seven years after Urry’s death, edited from drafts by his former colleague Andrew Butcher. The text runs to less than a hundred pages, but there are ample appendices and source-notes, and anyway these hundred pages of dense documentary detail are worth a thousand of theorising. Our historical knowledge of Elizabethan writers like ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... nothing happen, then the poetry anthology has no such self-effacing qualms. Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion knew this, as did the predecessor they were tussling with, A. Alvarez’s The New Poetry (which was tussling with its predecessor, Robert Conquest’s New Lines). ‘This anthology,’ they wrote in their preface to the Penguin Book of Contemporary ...

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