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His Greatest Pretend

Dinah Birch: The man behind Pan, 1 September 2005

Hide-and-Seek with Angels: A Life of J.M. Barrie 
by Lisa Chaney.
Hutchinson, 402 pp., £20, June 2005, 0 09 179539 7
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... James was a puny child, distinguished by neither athletic nor academic prowess. His brother David was his mother’s favourite. Tall, handsome, destined for university and eventually the ministry, he was killed in a skating accident shortly before his 14th birthday. He was not the only child that Margaret had lost. But this time she was ...

Buchan’s Pathological Vitality

T.J. Binyon, 18 December 1980

The Best Short Stories of John Buchan 
edited by David Daniell.
Joseph, 224 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7181 1906 1
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... David Daniell is also the author of the only full-length critical study of Buchan’s work – The Interpreter’s House (1975). Both there and here, in the introduction to this collection of 12 of Buchan’s stories, he is concerned to defend the writer against the usual accusations of anti-semitism, racism and blatant imperialism; to protest against the way he is automatically ranked with Sapper, Dornford Yates and similar figures; and to assert that he is not only worth reading (which the general public has never forgotten), but also worth reading seriously ...

On the Lower Slopes

Stefan Collini: Greene’s Luck, 5 August 2010

Shades of Greene: One Generation of an English Family 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 580 pp., £25, August 2010, 978 0 224 07921 1
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... that he had had an experienced mentor to call on for advice – someone such as Robert Louis Stevenson, who ‘had always seemed to me “one of the family”’. Greene was distantly related to RLS through his mother’s cousin. ‘Names which appeared in his Collected Letters were photographs in our family album. In the nursery we played on the ...

Where are the space arks?

Tom Stevenson: Space Forces, 4 March 2021

War in Space 
by Bleddyn Bowen.
Edinburgh, 356 pp., £85, July 2020, 978 1 4744 5048 5
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Dark Skies: Space Expansionism, Planetary Geopolitics and the Ends of Humanity 
by Daniel Deudney.
Oxford, 443 pp., £22.99, June 2020, 978 0 19 090334 3
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... Boeing X-37 robotic spacecraft. When asked about this, the second in command of the space force, David Thompson, said: ‘We don’t need to tell the world everything we’re doing.’ The US hasn’t yet made what aerospace analysts call the transition from ‘space operators to space warfighters’. But the vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of ...

The Most Corrupt Idea of Modern Times

Tom Stevenson: Inspecting the Troops, 1 July 2021

The Changing of the Guard: The British Army since 9/11 
by Simon Akam.
Scribe, 704 pp., £25, March, 978 1 913348 48 9
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... by American generals who had directed major operations in Iraq. Both Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus considered themselves experts in counterinsurgency – the respectable term for trying to suppress domestic resistance to a military occupation. British soldiers were supposed to fall in line with American thinking and avoid making too many ...

Prize Poems

Donald Davie, 1 July 1982

Arvon Foundation Poetry Competion: 1980 Anthology 
by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.
Kilnhurst Publishing Company, 173 pp., £3, April 1982, 9780950807805
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Burn this 
by Tom Disch.
Hutchinson, 63 pp., £7.50, April 1982, 0 09 146960 0
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... similarly accomplished essay in the Dantesque); from Pauline Rainford, Monica Ditmas, Anne Stevenson (two) and John Whitworth; from Aidan Carl Mathews (another besides ‘Severances’); from Thomas Shapcott (who may be Australian – we aren’t told) and from Peter Bland (probably, by the same token, a New Zealander); and from U. A. Fanthorpe ...

Awful but Cheerful

Gillian White: The Tentativeness of Elizabeth Bishop, 25 May 2006

Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts and Fragments 
by Elizabeth Bishop, edited by Alice Quinn.
Farrar, Straus, 367 pp., £22.50, March 2006, 0 374 14645 4
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... involves the contrast between the work published in her lifetime – which seems so aware, as David Kalstone put it, ‘of the smallness and dignity of human observation and contrivance’ – and the pain and disorder of her often very messy life. Born in 1911, Bishop was effectively orphaned as a small child: her father died before she was one; in ...

Not Mackintosh

Chris Miele, 6 April 1995

‘Greek’ Thomson 
edited by Gavin Stamp and Sam McKinstry.
Edinburgh, 249 pp., £35, September 1994, 0 7486 0480 4
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... even his most talented contemporaries, such as John Burnet Sr, or the Gothically inclined J.J. Stevenson, is the degree to which he was ready to pare down forms to their simplest state. His work is blunt to the point of primitivism, and Gavin Stamp astutely draws out the underlying similarities between Thomson and the most advanced High Victorian Goths ...

Lying doggo

Christopher Reid, 14 June 1990

Becoming a poet 
by David Kalstone, edited by Robert Hemenway.
Hogarth, 299 pp., £20, May 1990, 0 7012 0900 3
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... and inspiration. Significantly, the poets got there first; and later it was a younger poet, Anne Stevenson, who wrote the first book about Bishop. One wonders if this helped or hindered the advancement of her reputation where such things are decided. To have been taken up by Jarrell, crying with such operatic hauteur in the wilderness and making no secret of ...

Comprehensible Disorders

David Craig, 3 September 1987

Before the oil ran out: Britain 1977-86 
by Ian Jack.
Secker, 271 pp., £9.95, June 1987, 0 436 22020 2
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In a Distant Isle: The Orkney Background of Edwin Muir 
by George Marshall.
Scottish Academic Press, 184 pp., £12.50, May 1987, 0 7073 0469 5
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... study of Edwin Muir’s native culture), although the individual choice is usually our own. As Stevenson wrote in The Silverado Squatters, ‘I do not know if I desire to live there, but let me hear in some far land a kindred voice sing out, “Oh why left I my hame?” and it seems at once as if no beauty under the kind heavens, and no society of the wise ...

He speaks too loud

David Blackbourn: Brecht, 3 July 2014

Bertolt Brecht: A Literary Life 
by Stephen Parker.
Bloomsbury, 704 pp., £30, February 2014, 978 1 4081 5562 2
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... brother Walter. He now immersed himself in British and American literature: Robert Louis Stevenson, Melville, above all Kipling. He became the leading figure in a bohemian gang who wrote and sang songs together, drank, chased girls and shocked respectable burghers. He narrowly avoided being expelled from school: a teacher argued in his defence that ...
... South between 1877 and 1950. For almost two decades the EJI and its executive director, Bryan Stevenson, have been fighting against the racial inequities of the American criminal justice system, and their legal trench warfare has met with considerable success in the Supreme Court. This legal work continues. But in 2012 the organisation decided to devote ...

The Wrong Stuff

Christopher Hitchens, 1 April 1983

The Purple Decades 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 396 pp., £8.95, March 1983, 0 224 02944 4
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... For another, the older and cleverer phrase – limousine liberal – had gone out with Adlai Stevenson and needed a retread. To take up Radical Chic now (excerpted in this volume) and to turn its pages is to undergo a disturbing experience compounded of déjà vu and disappointment. Was there really a time when Park Avenue bled for the American black ...

Just William

Doris Grumbach, 25 June 1987

Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice 
by Sharon O’Brien.
Oxford, 544 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 19 504132 1
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... traces the change from her initial Victorian view of art as masculine – she keenly admired Stevenson and Kipling – and her scorn of ‘lady writers’ who she believed ‘lacked discipline, shaping intelligence and craft’, to her later recognition that female artistry was feasible. She saw the possibility first in great singers and actresses ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: In Washington, 7 February 1991

... day when O’Brien and his Israeli counterpart, Gideon Raphael, watched their mutual friend Adlai Stevenson trudge through a mendacious speech about that same Bay of Pigs. He knew he was lying, they knew he was lying, he knew they knew that he knew. As a consequence, he would sometimes lift his eyes to where they sat, as if in mute appeal for them to realise ...

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