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What’s Happening in the Engine-Room

Penelope Fitzgerald: Poor John Lehmann, 7 January 1999

John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure 
by Adrian Wright.
Duckworth, 308 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 7156 2871 2
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... Cecil Day Lewis, Stephen Spender, William Plomer and Lehmann himself. Through Spender he met Christopher Isherwood. The friendship with Spender from the very first seemed edgy, uncertain and uneasy, but durable for all that. Isherwood he loved, but he was tolerated, rather than loved, in return. Spender and Isherwood were spending much of their time in ...

Social Arrangements

John Bayley, 30 December 1982

The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry 
edited by Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 208 pp., £1.95, October 1982, 0 14 042283 8
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The Rattle Bag 
edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.
Faber, 498 pp., £10, October 1982, 0 571 11966 2
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... race meetings [who] ... belong to the world of the RSPCA’) with the ‘urgent’ horses of Ted Hughes’s ‘A Dream of Horses’, a poem ‘unquestionably about something’. Linked in this way, the poems make each other look slightly ridiculous – their titles alone adequately inform us what they are ‘about’ – though each on its own is a ...

Kitty still pines for his dearest Dub

Andrew O’Hagan: Gossip, 6 February 2014

Becoming a Londoner: A Diary 
by David Plante.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 1 4088 3975 1
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The Animals: Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 
edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 481 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 0 7011 8678 4
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... gossip? A taste for silliness is a capital virtue when it comes to considering the Isherwoods. Christopher was ‘Dobbin’, ‘Old Drub’, ‘Dearest Only Horse’, ‘My Horse’, or sometimes ‘Dub’. He lived mostly at the Casa de los Animales in Santa Monica. Don, thirty-odd years younger, was mainly in London when these letters were written and he ...

Frock Consciousness

Rosemary Hill: Fashion and frocks, 20 January 2000

The Penguin Book of 20th-Century Fashion Writing 
edited by Judith Watt.
Viking, 360 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 670 88215 1
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Twentieth-Century Fashion 
by Valerie Mendes and Amy de la Haye.
Thames and Hudson, 288 pp., £8.95, November 1999, 0 500 20321 0
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A Century of Fashion 
by François Baudot.
Thames and Hudson, 400 pp., £19.95, November 1999, 0 500 28178 5
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The Hidden Consumer: Masculinities, Fashion and City Life 1860-1914 
by Christopher Breward.
Manchester, 278 pp., £45, September 1999, 0 7190 4799 4
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Black in Fashion 
by Valerie Mendes.
Victoria & Albert Museum, 144 pp., £35, October 1999, 1 85177 278 2
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... right about the decline of what Virginia Woolf called ‘frock consciousness’ in literature. Ted Hughes’s ‘A Pink Wool Knitted Dress’, from Birthday Letters, which Watt includes, is an account of his and Sylvia Plath’s wedding. She wore what the title suggests, but beyond repeating the phrase twice within the poem ...

Artovsky Millensky

Andrew O’Hagan: The Misfit, 1 January 2009

Arthur Miller, 1915-62 
by Christopher Bigsby.
Weidenfeld, 739 pp., £30, November 2008, 978 0 297 85441 8
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... for years to come, while his plays began to establish social conscience at the level of style. Christopher Bigbsy, the author of this new biography, has a perfect ear for the manners and motions of Miller’s art, and he tells a gripping story of Miller’s hunt for truth. There are mysteries to bear and ironies to become invested in – all good ...

Elegant Extracts

Leah Price: Anthologies, 3 February 2000

The Oxford Book of English Verse 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 690 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 19 214182 1
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The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume One 
edited by M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt.
Norton, 2974 pp., £22.50, December 1999, 0 393 97487 1
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The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume Two 
edited by M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt.
Norton, 2963 pp., £22.50, February 2000, 9780393974911
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The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume One 
edited by David Damrosch.
Longman, 2963 pp., $53, July 1999, 0 321 01173 2
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The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume Two 
edited by David Damrosch.
Longman, 2982 pp., $53, July 1999, 0 321 01174 0
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Night & Horses & The Desert: An Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature 
edited by Robert Irwin.
Allen Lane, 480 pp., £25, September 1999, 0 7139 9153 4
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News that Stays News: The 20th Century in Poems 
edited by Simon Rae.
Faber, 189 pp., £9.99, October 1999, 0 571 20060 5
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Time’s Tidings: Greeting the 21st Century 
by Carol Ann Duffy.
Anvil, 157 pp., £7.95, November 1999, 0 85646 313 2
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Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the 20th Century in Poetry 
edited by Peter Forbes.
Penguin, 640 pp., £12.99, February 1999, 9780140588996
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... the millennial gift books already piling up on remainder tables, 1999 marked the appearance of Christopher Ricks’s successor to Arthur Quiller-Couch’s Oxford Book of English Verse, published a hundred years ago, revised in 1939, and followed in 1972 by Helen Gardner’s New Oxford Book; of the Longman Anthology of British Literature, a brashly ...

The Excursions

Andrew O’Hagan, 16 June 2011

... hills. This is where you find Tibbie Shiel’s Inn, where the Blackwood’s boys James Hogg and Christopher North used to come to liquefy their rhetoric. We entered from a smirr of rain, snoking for supper. It turned out supper was something that happened in the glen before 6.30 p.m. A lady in a white lab coat emerged to remind us of the fact. The phrase ...

We shall not be moved

John Bayley, 2 February 1984

Come aboard and sail away 
by John Fuller.
Salamander, 48 pp., £6, October 1983, 0 907540 37 6
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Children in Exile 
by James Fenton.
Salamander, 24 pp., £5, October 1983, 0 907540 39 2
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‘The Memory of War’ and ‘Children in Exile’: Poems 1968-1983 
by James Fenton.
Penguin, 110 pp., £1.95, October 1983, 0 14 006812 0
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Some Contemporary Poets of Britain and Ireland: An Anthology 
edited by Michael Schmidt.
Carcanet, 184 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 85635 469 4
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Nights in the Iron Hotel 
by Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 48 pp., £4, November 1983, 0 571 13116 6
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The Irish Lights 
by Charles Johnston and Kyril Fitzlyon.
Bodley Head, 77 pp., £4.50, September 1983, 0 370 30557 4
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Fifteen to Infinity 
by Ruth Fainlight.
Hutchinson, 62 pp., £5.95, September 1983, 0 09 152471 7
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Donald Davie and the Responsibilities of Literature 
edited by George Dekker.
Carcanet, 153 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 9780856354663
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... and that is also written, in their various ways, by Fuller, by Michael Hofmann, Tom Paulin, Christopher Reid and others. Certainly the romantic rhetoric that is second nature to Larkin, as to Auden, Yeats and Eliot, has no place in their poetic repertoire. It once seemed so ‘natural’, but beside their literariness and air of non-communication it now ...

Doris and Me

Jenny Diski, 8 January 2015

... and his wife, the poet Ruth Fainlight, Arnold Wesker and his wife Dusty. Naomi Mitchison. Ted Hughes, Christopher Logue (whose recording of poetry and jazz, Red Bird, I’d bought with my pocket money at St Christopher’s), Lindsay Anderson, Fenella Fielding. A Portuguese ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... dollar bills into a shredder in order to disguise their provenance in the empire of – Howard Hughes? Marilyn Monroe fucked both Kennedy brothers before taking her own life, if she did indeed take it. Frank Sinatra raised money for the Reagans and acted as at least a confidante to the First Lady. Norman Podhoretz’s son-in-law Elliott Abrams, while ...

Sex’n’Love

Blake Morrison, 21 February 1991

The Chatto Book of Love Poetry 
edited by John Fuller.
Chatto, 374 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 7011 3453 4
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The Faber Book of Blue Verse 
edited by John Whitworth.
Faber, 305 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 571 14095 5
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Self-Portrait with a Slide 
by Hugo Williams.
Oxford, 62 pp., £5.95, June 1990, 0 19 282744 8
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The Virago Book of Love Poetry 
edited by Wendy Mulford.
Virago, 288 pp., £6.99, November 1990, 1 85381 030 4
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Erotica: An Anthology of Women’s Writing 
edited by Margaret Reynolds, foreword by Jeanette Winterson .
Pandora, 362 pp., £19.99, November 1990, 9780044406723
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Daddy, Daddy 
by Paul Durcan.
Blackstaff, 185 pp., £5.95, August 1990, 0 85640 446 2
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... to those who have one without the other. Those who have both will find that, among contemporaries, Christopher Reid and Michael Hofmann are classified as love poets but Craig Raine and Tony Harrison as blue versifiers. Only a few poets make both, including Seamus Heaney, who has two poems unworthy of him in the Whitworth (one about unfreezing a vaginal ...

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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... sights set lower and horizons diminished. There were, and still are, alternatives to Larkin. Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, Seamus Heaney and Tony Harrison are powerfully present in these books, as are a number of the poets Motion and Morrison published in Contemporary British Poetry: Douglas Dunn, Anne Stevenson, Craig Raine, James Fenton, Andrew ...

Retro-Selfies

Iain Sinclair: Ferlinghetti, 17 December 2015

I Greet You at the Beginning of a Great Career: The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, 1955–97 
edited by Bill Morgan.
City Lights, 284 pp., £11.83, July 2015, 978 0 87286 678 2
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Writing across the Landscape: Travel Journals 1960-2010 
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, edited by Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson.
Liveright, 464 pp., £22.99, October 2015, 978 1 63149 001 9
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... features none of the planetary collisions, the cheek-chewing grand guignol of the legend of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. There are no treaties with dark gods to be unpacked into conspiracy files and no shamanic visitations from crows and reeking foxes. Two ambitious young or youngish American men operating out of the same city, San Francisco, forge an ...

Mr Trendy Sicko

James Wolcott, 23 May 2019

White 
by Brett Easton Ellis.
Picador, 261 pp., £16.99, May 2019, 978 1 5290 1239 2
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... McCarthy, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald – almost any actor who appeared in a John Hughes teen film qualified). The Literary Brat Pack was a journalistic readymade, roping together a number of writers who may have scarcely known each other and treating them as a floating soirée. It was cartoonish and unfair to most of the individuals ...

On the Sixth Day

Charles Nicholl: Petrarch on the Move, 7 February 2019

Petrarch: Everywhere a Wanderer 
by Christopher Celenza.
Reaktion, 224 pp., £15.95, October 2017, 978 1 78023 838 8
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... Laura was a Provençal woman called Laure de Noves, born in about 1310. She married Hugo or Hughes de Sade, of a landed family from Le Thor, a few miles south-east of Avignon. The marriage contract is dated 6 January 1325. They had at least 11 children. Correlated with Petrarch’s datings this would make her a married woman in her later teens, possibly ...

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