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Under the Flight Path

August Kleinzahler: Christopher Middleton, 19 May 2016

... Christopher Middleton​ hated New York. Among the things he particularly disliked, I suspect, is New York’s position as a cultural bazaar, where reputations are bought, sold and traded, with the attendant buzz of speculation. He was incapable of schmoozing, and his career suffered accordingly. New York’s greatest draw, people action and brute energy, would have been lost on him ...

Nothing could have been odder or more prophetic

Gillian Darley: Ruins, 29 November 2001

In Ruins 
by Christopher Woodward.
Chatto, 280 pp., £12.99, September 2001, 9780701168964
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... I read Christopher Woodward’s book in August and then reread it in September: what a difference a month can make. Insistent images of newly ravaged places, like the ghostly fretwork silhouette which looms over Ground Zero, seem to sneer at us, laughing at our fragile optimism. The notion of the ruin as an expression of violence and blind hatred is not Woodward’s subject, however hard it may be to avoid the connection ...

News of the World’s End

Peter Jenkins, 15 May 1980

The Seventies 
by Christopher Booker.
Allen Lane, 349 pp., £7.50, February 1980, 0 7139 1329 0
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The Seventies 
by Norman Shrapnel.
Constable, 267 pp., £7.50, March 1980, 0 09 463280 4
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... styles varying from the aggressively “butch” to the coyly sexy.’ So there you have it. Christopher Booker, to whom I shall come in a moment, goes further, and means it more seriously: ‘Two unfailing barometers of cultural optimism in our century have been the height of buildings and the height of girls’ hemlines.’ This is not only rubbish but ...
Selected Literary Criticism of Louis MacNeice 
edited by Alan Heuser.
Oxford, 279 pp., £19.50, March 1987, 0 19 818573 1
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... is three books: Modern Poetry: A Personal Essay (1938), The Poetry of W.B. Yeats (1941), and the Clark Lectures at Cambridge in 1963, published as Varieties of Parable (1965). The new Selected Literary Criticism reprints material from 1931 to the year of his death, 1963: mostly reviews of Yeats, Eliot, Auden, Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost, a few cultural ...

Credibility Brown

Christopher Hitchens, 17 August 1989

Where there is greed: Margaret Thatcher and the Betrayal of Britain’s Future 
by Gordon Brown.
Mainstream, 182 pp., £4.95, May 1989, 1 85158 233 9
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CounterBlasts No 3: A Rational Advance for the Labour Party 
by John Lloyd.
Chatto, 57 pp., £2.99, June 1989, 0 7011 3519 0
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... impends in 1992. A rather candid reply to a Parliamentary question, given early last year by Alan Clark, summarises the whole position neatly. Mr Clark had been invited to say which OECD countries spent either more or less of their gross product on fixed investment than did the United Kingdom. He responded: Comparisons for ...

MacDiarmid and his Maker

Robert Crawford, 10 November 1988

by Alan Bold.
Murray, 482 pp., £17.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4585 4
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A Drunk Man looks at the Thistle 
by Hugh MacDiarmid, edited by Kenneth Buthlay.
Scottish Academic Press, 203 pp., £12.50, February 1988, 0 7073 0425 3
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The Hugh MacDiarmid-George Ogilvie Letters 
edited by Catherine Kerrigan.
Aberdeen University Press, 156 pp., £24.90, August 1988, 0 08 036409 8
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Hugh MacDiarmid and the Russian 
by Peter McCarey.
Scottish Academic Press, 225 pp., £12.50, March 1988, 0 7073 0526 8
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... Before 1922 Hugh MacDiarmid did not exist. And only Christopher Murray Grieve would have dared to invent him. Alan Bold’s valuable biography points out that when the 30-year-old Grieve began to write in the Scottish Chapbook under the pseudonym ‘M’Diarmid’, he was already editing the magazine under his own name, reviewing for it as ‘Martin Gillespie’, and employing himself as its Advertising Manager (and occasional contributor), ‘A ...

How’s the vampire?

Christopher Hitchens, 8 November 1990

King Edward VIII: The Official Biography 
by Philip Ziegler.
Collins, 654 pp., £20, September 1990, 0 00 215741 1
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... and his overmastering desire to avoid a repetition. Some years ago, I was interviewing Alan Clark MP about his book The Donkeys, a rugged study of British Great War generalship which became the script for Joan Littlewood’s Oh What A Lovely War. He suddenly said to me: ‘I daresay you’ve been told I’m a Fascist.’ I admitted that I had heard ...

English Individualism Revisited

Alan Ryan, 21 January 1988

The Culture of Capitalism 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Blackwell, 254 pp., £19.50, August 1987, 0 631 13626 6
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... belli in the war of Macfarlane versus Lawrence Stone, R.H. Tawney, Rodney Hilton, George Homans, Christopher Hill, C.H. Wilson, C.B. Macpherson (and long-dead greats such as Tocqueville, Marx, Weber, Durkheim and Tonnies) is his answer to the question of why fully-fledged industrial capitalism first took off in England. This has usually been thought to be ...

False Moderacy

T.J. Clark: Picasso and Modern British Art, 22 March 2012

Picasso and Modern British Art 
Tate Britain, 15 February 2012 to 15 July 2012Show More
Mondrian Nicholson: In Parallel 
Courtauld Gallery, 16 February 2012 to 20 May 2012Show More
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... waiting. Paris was near. Picasso was the most photographed artist in history. All Moore needed – Christopher Green, who organised this part of the show, lays out the evidence succinctly in cases – was a copy or two of Cahiers d’art and Documents. Moore, then, is the artist who, because he succeeds in negotiating with gentility, shows us most clearly what ...

The Knock at the Door

Philip Clark: The Complete Mozart, 8 February 2018

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The New Complete Edition 
Universal Classics, £275, October 2016Show More
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... Dutch conductor Frans Brüggen and the British conductors John Eliot Gardiner, Trevor Pinnock and Christopher Hogwood became pioneers of what became known as ‘historically informed practice’, the aim being to liberate the music from the sentimentalised baggage and mannerisms imposed by misreadings and lazy habits. Orchestras with beefy brass and vast ...

On Thatcher

Karl Miller, 25 April 2013

... was not to know, in 1989, that she has yet to become a wasm in 2013. In August of the same year, Christopher Hitchens argued that Brown had underrated her in his recent book about her. Credibility ‘operates to the benefit of the people who really mean what they say, which is why the facts of life have been Tory for so long.’ The electorate was presently ...

Ruling Imbecilities

Andrew Roberts, 7 November 1991

The Enemy’s Country: Words, Contexture and Other Circumstances of Language 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Oxford, 153 pp., £19.95, August 1991, 0 19 811216 5
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... the troubled career of the poet laureate, Dryden. In The Enemy’s Country, based on the 1986 Clark Lectures, Hill considers a number of 17th-century writers, including Dryden, Donne, Henry Wotton, Izaac Walton and Hobbes, together with Ezra Pound. The essays focus with characteristic acuity on nuances of style and tone, but Hill is concerned throughout ...

What a shocking bad hat!

Christopher Tayler: Ackroyd’s ‘London’, 22 February 2001

London: The Biography 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Chatto, 822 pp., £25, October 2000, 1 85619 716 6
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... multiple Newgate escapee and sometime folk hero – to more obscure figures like ‘Posture’ Clark, a Restoration contortionist who could ‘put out of joynt any Bone or Vertebra of his body’, or Dr Gaynam, a Brick Lane watchmaker with a ‘handsome though significantly rubicund face’, who dressed as a clergyman to perform bogus weddings and was ...

Who Runs Britain?

Christopher Hitchens, 8 December 1994

The Enemy Within: MI5, Maxwell and the Scargill Affair 
by Seumas Milne.
Verso, 352 pp., £18.95, November 1994, 0 86091 461 5
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... that formed the inspiration for Joan Littlewood’s Oh, What a Lovely War. Its author was Alan Clark. He at least did not pretend that Generals Haig and French, unlike Privates Scargill and Heathfield, were not responsible for a million dead.)To all this invocation of high and evasive metaphor, Milne opposes one hard and fast, earthy injunction. It is, in ...

Back to Life

Christopher Benfey: Rothko’s Moment, 21 May 2015

Mark Rothko: Towards the Light in the Chapel 
by Annie Cohen-Solal.
Yale, 296 pp., £18.99, February 2015, 978 0 300 18204 0
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... if there is existential angst lurking in these seemingly serene paintings, the impression, as T.J. Clark put it, is of ‘The Birth of Tragedy redone by Renoir.’ By​ the late 1950s, Rothko found himself a successful artist. Peggy Guggenheim had shown his work and he found a reliable dealer in Sidney Janis. In a division reminiscent of the Jewish ...

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