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Karl Miller, 2 April 1987

The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories 
by Michael Cox and R.A. Gilbert.
Oxford, 504 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 19 214163 5
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The Ghost Stories of M.R. James 
by Michael Cox.
Oxford, 224 pp., £12.45, November 1986, 9780192122551
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Supernatural Tales 
by Vernon Lee.
Peter Owen, 222 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 7206 0680 2
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The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural 
edited by Jack Sullivan.
Viking, 482 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 670 80902 0
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Ghostly Populations 
by Jack Matthews.
Johns Hopkins, 171 pp., £11.75, March 1987, 0 8018 3391 4
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... that in that state you are especially likely to see what you expect to see.’ The story is by Barry Pain. Despite the impression which the Oxford Book imparts, ghost stories go back a long way before the 19th century. And so does their authorial explanation. Ghosts are creatures of habit, and of Hamlet: Shakespeare’s play is a ghost story which has ...


Kathleen Jamie: In the West Highlands, 14 July 2011

... he said to me … “If you’re not too proud to live in a cottage, we’ve got an empty one, miles from anywhere.”’ We were at Glenelg; Maxwell’s house had been at Sandaig, a few miles further down the Sound of Sleat. In the book he’d disguised it as Camusfeàrna – the Bay of the Alders – by which name it ...

Feeling Right

Will Woodward: The Iowa Straw Poll, 16 September 1999

... the wind was blowing.’ Bauer tells how as a child in 1964 he watched a Reagan speech endorsing Barry Goldwater, and told his father that one day Reagan would be in the White House and he would be working for him. The story serves several purposes: it’s a nod to the last Republican President to win two terms, a reminder of the day when headbanging ...

Jigsaw Mummies

Tom Shippey: Pagan Britain, 6 November 2014

Pagan Britain 
by Ronald Hutton.
Yale, 480 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 300 19771 6
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The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria 
by Max Adams.
Head of Zeus, 450 pp., £25, August 2013, 978 1 78185 418 1
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... what Hutton calls the ‘new model of ancient Celticity’, introduced in 2010 by John Koch and Barry Cunliffe in Celtic from the West, sees the spread of Celtic languages as a consequence of the existence of an Atlantic trade route rather than ‘waves of invasion’. Trade doesn’t necessarily bring peace. Slave shackles have been found at Llyn Cerrig ...


James Meek: Bobos for Boris?, 26 April 2012

... technocrats, Johnson went with the utopian socialists too. It was in the spirit of William Morris, Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin that those family gaggles of Routemaster fans came out to bid the old version of the bus farewell, in the belief that efficiency and the bottom line aren’t enough, that the artefacts a city holds in common must be made with care ...

A Particular Way of Looking

J. Hoberman: NeoRealismo, 21 November 2019

NeoRealismo: The New Image in Italy 1932-60 
edited by Enrica Viganò.
Prestel, 349 pp., £49.99, September 2018, 978 3 7913 5769 0
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... in early 1943. (Visconti was filming Ossessione on the banks of the Po at the time, just a few miles away.) ‘Nobody had talked about humble, poor people in documentaries. Fascism totally prohibited it,’ Antonioni recalled. Rather than glorify work, as Fascist documentaries required, he emphasised privation, shooting ‘straw huts that flooded with ...


Alan Bennett: Allelujah!, 3 January 2019

... dialogues with Peter Cook left very little to the imagination, so it’s not unlikely.23 March. Barry Cryer brings a good deal of old-fashioned joy into my life, as I’m sure he does for many others. His phone calls always begin, ‘It’s your stalker,’ after which without introduction he tells his latest joke. This morning’s was told originally by ...

The Deaths Map

Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border, 20 October 2011

... they turn manageable disorder into a disaster. The border with Mexico stretches for nearly 2000 miles. Much of that is underwritten by the Rio Grande, but as natural barriers go, the river is less formidable than the wilderness either side of the frontier. The harsh Sonoran Desert in the south-western borderlands runs deep into Arizona, and into the ...

Joining up

Angus Calder, 3 April 1986

Soldier, Soldier 
by Tony Parker.
Heinemann, 244 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 434 57770 7
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Echoes of the Great War: The Diary of the Reverend Andrew Clark 1914-1919 
edited by James Munson.
Oxford, 304 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 19 212984 8
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The Unknown Army: Mutinies in the British Army in World War One 
by Gloden Dallas and Douglas Gill.
Verso, 178 pp., £18.50, July 1985, 0 86091 106 3
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Soldiers: A History of Men in Battle 
by John Keegan and Richard Holmes.
Hamish Hamilton, 288 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 241 11583 3
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... far in a total of 16 different homes or houses.’ Parker and his tape-recorder travelled 28,000 miles with the Anglians. To Germany, where Army wives are put under pressure by the Families Officer to be as neat and tidy as their German neighbours. To defend our ex-colony Belize against Guatemala: wives don’t go, the child prostitutes are unappealing, the ...

Vermin Correspondence

Iain Sinclair, 20 October 1994

Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play 
by Ben Watson.
Quartet, 597 pp., £25, May 1994, 0 7043 7066 2
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Her Weasels Wild Returning 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 12 pp., £2, May 1994
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... got a couple of quarts of blackberries in his arms, picked with the morning dew, five hundred miles away.’ Edward Dorn.) Even Ben Watson, whose poodle parlour is wall to wall with off-piste names, admits (in conversation) that he has never been introduced to Woolf’s work: ‘My book’s sub-plot is Philip K. Dick, sales-talk, Hollywood and ...


Nicholas Spice, 6 July 1995

Repeated Takes: A Short History of Recording and its Effects on Music 
by Michael Chanan.
Verso, 204 pp., £39.95, May 1995, 1 85984 012 4
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Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak Easy Listening and other Moodsong 
by Joseph Lanza.
Quartet, 280 pp., £10, January 1995, 0 7043 0226 8
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... movement of Schubert’s E Flat Piano Trio of the unpleasant emotional atmosphere of Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. And, of course, the bonding process works even more powerfully in reverse: music lends its expressiveness to the world. Once you know Britten’s setting of Hardy’s ‘At Day-Close in November’ you will never again be able to read the poem ...

Hopi Mean Time

Iain Sinclair: Jim Sallis, 18 March 1999

Eye of the Cricket 
by James Sallis.
No Exit, 190 pp., £6.99, April 1998, 1 874061 77 7
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... Michael Moorcock nominate the second Confederate governor of Texas’s mansion in Bastrop, thirty miles out of Austin, as a suitable estate for his tax exile? Only the cats know. Spooky, over-refined Egyptian beasts who are let out on a leash while the dew is on the grass, but otherwise confined to quarters. Survival on the new frontier depends on three ...

His Peach Stone

Christopher Tayler: J.G. Farrell, 2 December 2010

J.G. Farrell in His Own Words: Selected Letters and Diaries 
edited by Lavinia Greacen.
Cork, 464 pp., €19.95, September 2010, 978 1 85918 476 9
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... beneath. In the parade along 5th Avenue they carried banner portraits of Sean McDermott, Kevin Barry and, no doubt, other martyrs. I didn’t stay long because the wind was bitter, the pavement covered in slush and my bones frozen to the marrow. These parades make the Americans look like imbeciles. But, the first page: I wrote it twice, satisfactory ...

Driving through a Postcard

Christian Lorentzen: In New Hampshire, 3 March 2016

... from out of state. A majority of hands went up: these were evangelical Christians who had come for miles to see one of their movement’s political celebrities make a rare New England appearance. They had driven north from Nantucket and Providence, south from Bangor, and east from Albany, and they were opposed to abortion above all. Cruz is renowned as a ...

My Darlings

Colm Tóibín: Drinking with Samuel Beckett, 5 April 2007

... in 1970 or 1971, it was easy for me, aged 15 or 16, to get permission to hitchhike the twenty miles to see it. I don’t think I had ever seen a painting before, or a piece of sculpture. In 1971 there was work there in my school holidays. I held a light from the wings on a production of Murder in the Cathedral. I remember vividly shining it on the ...

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