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Iain Sinclair: The Peruvian Corporation of London, 10 October 2019

... to the prompt for my own back-country tourism. I was in pursuit of my Scottish great-grandfather Arthur Sinclair, from Turriff in Aberdeenshire. In a chapbook, The Story of His Life and Times as Told by Himself, published in Colombo in 1900, Sinclair briskly sketches a career that had some parallels with John Clare (an elective Scot when the humour took ...

Bad Dads

Zachary Leader, 6 April 1995

In Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of a Lost War 
by Tobias Wolff.
Bloomsbury, 210 pp., £12.99, November 1994, 0 7475 1919 6
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Tallien: A Brief Romance 
by Frederic Tuten.
Marion Boyars, 152 pp., £9.95, November 1994, 0 7145 2990 7
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Roommates: My Grandfather’s Story 
by Max Apple.
Little, Brown, 241 pp., £12.99, November 1994, 0 316 91241 7
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... the age of 49, he has produced a second. Who can blame him? His father was a conman and impostor: Arthur Samuels Wolff, aka Arthur Saunders Wolff III, aka Saunders Answell-Wolff III, the ‘Duke’ of Tobias’s brother Geoffrey’s memoir, The Duke of Deception (1979). As the memoirs of both Wolff brothers show, the father ...

Putting on the Plum

Christopher Tayler: Richard Flanagan, 31 October 2002

Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish 
by Richard Flanagan.
Atlantic, 404 pp., £16.99, June 2002, 1 84354 021 5
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... a lie’: The lie that the blackfellas had died out. That the ex-convicts had left the island for gold rushes in other countries. That only pure free white settler stock remained. Like all great lies there was some truth in these assertions . . . But at the end of the day most blackfellas and convicts remained on the island, sick with syphilis and sadness and ...


Dinah Birch, 21 December 1989

The Temple of my Familiar 
by Alice Walker.
Women’s Press, 405 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 7043 5041 6
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The Fog Line 
by Carol Birch.
Bloomsbury, 248 pp., £13.95, September 1989, 0 7475 0453 9
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Home Life Four 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 169 pp., £9.95, November 1989, 0 7156 2297 8
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TheFly in the Ointment 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 132 pp., £10.95, October 1989, 9780715622964
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Words of Love 
by Philip Norman.
Hamish Hamilton, 218 pp., £11.95, October 1989, 0 241 12586 3
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... of Love avoids both sourness and self-pity. ‘Spring Sonata’ records the life of Arthur Hallett, a 96-year-old violinist living alone on the coast of Suffolk. In this story Philip Norman enlarges upon the idea of music as a redemptive force in a soiled world. Hallett is non-political, unworldly, curiously disengaged from life. His wife ...

When Demigods Walked the Earth

T.P. Wiseman: Roman Myth, Roman History, 18 October 2007

Caesar’s Calendar: Ancient Time and the Beginnings of History 
by Denis Feeney.
California, 372 pp., £18.95, June 2007, 978 0 520 25119 9
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... Troy and the composition of the Homeric epics, or between the supposed post-Roman context of King Arthur and Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain. In each of these three cases, serious scholars still try to make the legend fit the archaeology and turn it into history. See, for instance, Joachim Latacz’s Troia und Homer ...

How do we know her?

Hilary Mantel: The Secrets of Margaret Pole, 2 February 2017

Margaret Pole: The Countess in the Tower 
by Susan Higginbotham.
Amberley, 214 pp., £16.99, August 2016, 978 1 4456 3594 1
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... Margaret came to court under the new regime, and in September 1486 she attended the christening of Arthur, the first Tudor prince. There are only glimpses of her in these years: ‘my lady Margaret of Clarence’. When she reached her teens, a marriage was arranged with Richard Pole, a modest landowner with solid Tudor connections, who had been rewarded for ...
Biting the Dust: The Joys of Housework 
by Margaret Horsfield.
Fourth Estate, 292 pp., £14.99, April 1997, 1 85702 422 2
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... as cold, unsexy, eminently avoidable and even fit to be slaughtered. One of these, I, Gloria Gold (Judith Summers), opens with Gloria shampooing the hall carpet at midnight but ends with her a much-relaxed woman in a dirtier house, thanks in part to a luscious love affair. In Death of a Perfect Wife (M.C. Beaton) the clean freak Trixie is slain, not ...

Browning and Modernism

Donald Davie, 10 October 1991

ThePoems of Browning. Vol. I: 1826-1840 
edited by John Woolford and Daniel Karlin.
Longman, 797 pp., £60, April 1991, 0 582 48100 7
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ThePoems of Browning. Vol. II: 1841-1846 
edited by John Woolford and Daniel Karlin .
Longman, 581 pp., £50, April 1991, 9780582063990
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... prolific: These things are there. The garden and the tree The serpent at its root, the fruit of gold The woman in the shadow of the boughs The running water and the grassy space. They are and were there. At the old world’s rim, In the Hesperidean grove, the fruit Glowed golden on eternal boughs, and there The dragon Ladon crisped his jewelled crest ...

Builder of Ruins

Mary Beard: Arthur Evans, 30 November 2000

Minotaur: Sir Arthur Evans and the Archaeology of the Minoan Myth 
by J.A. MacGillivray.
Cape, 313 pp., £20, August 2000, 0 224 04352 8
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... disappointment, not so much at the excavation site itself (‘where,’ he writes archly, ‘Sir Arthur Evans … is rebuilding the palace’) but at its collection of prize paintings and sculpture, which had been removed to the museum in Heraklion. In the sculpture, he ‘saw nothing to suggest any genuine aesthetic feeling at all’. The frescoes were much ...

Can you spot the source?

Wendy Doniger, 17 February 2000

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 
by J.K. Rowling.
Bloomsbury, 317 pp., £10.99, July 1999, 0 7475 4215 5
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... is poor in the Muggle world (his glasses are mended with tape), though he has secret deposits of gold in the magic world, is taunted by the rich, snobbish, cowardly, cruel Malfoy, who is backed by his powerful, manipulative father and talks a lot of proto-Nazi drivel about pure blood. But the true epoch of Hogwarts is medieval: it teaches things like ...

Whatever Made Him

Sheila Fitzpatrick: The Bauman Dichotomy, 10 September 2020

Bauman: A Biography 
by Izabela Wagner.
Polity, 510 pp., £25, June, 978 1 5095 2686 4
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... up in a provincial town in the Volga region, where Bauman finished high school with a gold medal, praised for his ‘outstanding intellectual skills’ and as a ‘social activist’ and ‘good comrade’. The Baumans’ experience in Shakhunya was not as idyllic as in Mołodeczno, but it wasn’t terrible. ‘Not all inhuman conditions ...

Fashion Flashes

Zoë Heller, 26 January 1995

Kenneth Tynan: Letters 
edited by Kathleen Tynan.
Weidenfeld, 669 pp., £22, November 1994, 0 297 81076 6
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... this month, offers the full span of Tynan’s correspondence, from his first precocious fanmail to Arthur Askey to a final letter of humorous verse to his son Matthew. But it is Tynan’s school and university days that represent the golden age of his letter-writing career. The letters written during this period, particularly those to his friend Julian ...

Maastricht or no Maastricht

Peter Clarke, 19 November 1992

... to save the pound sterling – was in fact the first casualty, when Britain was forced off the Gold Standard in September 1931, the political coherence of the National Government dominated British politics, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, for the rest of the decade. In fact, it took another crisis, even more desperate, to upset this ...


Michael Dobson: The Russell-Cotes, 23 February 2012

... of folksy clothes: you knew where you were with pictures. ‘Captive Andromeda’ by Arthur Hill (1876). Confusingly, though, the one public building in Bournemouth you might visit in order to see what definitely seemed to be pictures purported to be a repository of the other stuff. This was a building called the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and ...

At the British Library

Katherine Rundell: Harry Potter, 14 December 2017

... An ignoble plot-engine, you could say, though one that has been deployed by narratives from King Arthur to Star Wars. Freud called it the ‘family romance’. Stylistically, the books sprawl; Rowling’s prose is laden with adverbs and adjectives, and on any one page characters might speak ‘sharply’, ‘curiously’, ‘impatiently’ and ...

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