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The Life of Henri Grippes

Jonathan Coe, 18 September 1997

Selected Stories 
by Mavis Gallant.
Bloomsbury, 887 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 7475 3251 6
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... Gallant has been offered a regular platform under the benign aegis of William Maxwell and, later, David Menaker. Although they span almost half a century – the earliest was published in 1953, the latest in 1995, Gallant’s 73rd year – they are nonetheless eerily consistent in voice and preoccupation. Gallant writes about exiled people: characters in ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2000, 25 January 2001

... I came in the latter category. I went round to see him after Home and he said how much he liked David Storey. ‘He’s the ideal author … never says a word!’ In Chariots of Fire he shared a scene with Lindsay Anderson, both of them playing Cambridge dons. Lindsay was uncharacteristically nervous but having directed John G. in Home felt able to ask ...

A Peacock Called Mirabell

August Kleinzahler: James Merrill, 31 March 2016

James Merrill: Life and Art 
by Langdon Hammer.
Knopf, 913 pp., £27, April 2015, 978 0 375 41333 9
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... and a peacock called Mirabell, all of it recorded with the help of Merrill’s longtime partner, David Jackson, during twenty years of séances using a Ouija board at their home in Stonington, Connecticut. This volume tips in at 560 pages. Merrill also wrote novels, plays and two memoirs. Born to enormous wealth, he had little to distract him from his ...

The Powyses

D.A.N. Jones, 7 August 1980

After My Fashion 
by John Cowper Powys.
Picador, 286 pp., £2.50, June 1980, 0 330 26049 9
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Weymouth Sands 
by John Cowper Powys.
Picador, 567 pp., £2.95, June 1980, 0 330 26050 2
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Recollections of the Powys Brothers 
edited by Belinda Humfrey.
Peter Owen, 288 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 7206 0547 4
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John Cowper Powys and David Jones: A Comparative Study 
by Jeremy Hooker.
Enitharmon, 54 pp., £3.75, April 1979, 0 901111 85 6
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The Hollowed-Out Elder Stalk 
by Roland Mathias.
Enitharmon, 158 pp., £4.85, May 1979, 0 901111 87 2
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John Cowper Powys and the Magical Quest 
by Morine Krissdottir.
Macdonald, 218 pp., £8.95, February 1980, 0 354 04492 3
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... Dr Leavis’s admiration for T.F. Powys, Dylan Thomas spoke of the little village of ‘Upper Storey’: ‘a small, lunatic area of Wessex, full of saintly or reprehensible vicars, wanton maidens, biblical sextons and old men called Parsnip or Dottle ... Everyone in this sophisticatedly contrived bucolic morality, has his or her obsession: Minnie Wurzel ...


Adam Phillips: ‘Paranoid Modernism’, 22 May 2003

The Short Sharp Life of T.E. Hulme 
by Robert Ferguson.
Allen Lane, 314 pp., £20, November 2002, 0 7139 9490 8
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Paranoid Modernism: Literary Experiment, Psychosis and the Professionalisation of English Society 
by David Trotter.
Oxford, 358 pp., £35, September 2001, 0 19 818755 6
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... original sin, secularised as the problem of anti-social behaviour, has been remarkably resilient. David Trotter believes that what we have learned to call Modernism is more akin to the cumulative trauma of secularisation, and that if we can’t get a wholly convincing sense of the beginnings of Modernism, we can get the next best thing: a sense of what the ...

Amor vincit Vinnie

Marilyn Butler, 21 February 1985

Foreign Affairs 
by Alison Lurie.
Joseph, 291 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 0 7181 2516 9
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... French’s Bleeding Heart, Malcolm Bradbury’s Stepping Westward and Rates of Exchange, and David Lodge’s Changing Places and Small World. Now, all around the large cabin, other refugees from Roger Moore in For Your Eyes Only and from Gene Wilder in The Woman in Red have their noses stuck into novels. Could it be that a certain kind of novel is being ...

The Good Old Days

Sheila Fitzpatrick: The Dacha-Owning Classes, 9 October 2003

Summerfolk 1710-2000: A History of the Dacha 
by Stephen Lovell.
Cornell, 259 pp., £18.95, April 2003, 0 8014 4071 8
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Socialist Spaces: Sites of Everyday Life in the Eastern Bloc 
edited by David Crowley and Susan Reid.
Berg, 261 pp., £15.99, November 2002, 1 85973 533 9
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Caviar with Champagne: Common Luxury and the Ideals of the Good Life in Stalin’s Russia 
by Jukka Gronow.
Berg, 179 pp., £15.99, October 2003, 1 85973 633 5
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The Unmaking of Soviet Life: Everyday Economies after Socialism 
by Caroline Humphrey.
Cornell, 265 pp., £13.95, May 2002, 0 8014 8773 0
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... were not strictly personal property. In his essay on Warsaw apartments in the 1950s and 1960s, David Crowley quotes Czeslaw Milosz’s remark that ‘to protect his position and his apartment (which he has by the grace of the state), the intellectual is prepared to make any sacrifice or compromise; for the value of privacy in a society that affords little ...

Tang and Tone

Stephen Fender: The Federal Writer’s Project’s American epic, 18 March 2004

Portrait of America: A Cultural History of the Federal Writers’ Project 
by Jerrold Hirsch.
North Carolina, 293 pp., £16.50, November 2003, 0 8078 5489 1
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... in autobiography; it positively ‘encapsulates rather than . . . qualifies its meaning’, as David Vincent has put it. However, it’s still possible to plot the degrees to which it was allowed to flourish in the FWP biographies. This is how Mary Hicks introduces her interview with Betty Cofer, a former slave of a plantation-owning family, in North ...

In Hebron

Yitzhak Laor: The Soldiers’ Stories, 22 July 2004

... Holocaust since the end of the 1980s (the first intifada), and its return into Hebrew literature (David Grossman’s See under: Love). The Holocaust is part of the victim imagery, hence the madness of state-subsidised school trips to Auschwitz. This has less to do with understanding the past than with reproducing an environment in which we exist in the ...


James Meek: Real Murderers!, 8 October 2015

... of conversation, I tried delicately to ask why and how Dau’s backers were providing a five-storey office building in one of the world’s most expensive districts for the sole purpose of curating an artistic project that had yet to be put before an audience, four years after filming wrapped in Kharkiv.* My curiosity chilled the atmosphere. Julius, once ...

His Friends Were Appalled

Deborah Friedell: Dickens, 5 January 2012

The Life of Charles Dickens 
by John Forster.
Cambridge, 1480 pp., £70, December 2011, 978 1 108 03934 5
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Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist 
by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.
Harvard, 389 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 674 05003 7
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Charles Dickens: A Life 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 527 pp., £30, October 2011, 978 0 670 91767 9
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... She can’t prove that Nelly and Dickens had a child, she admits, but she thinks they did: Gladys Storey, a friend of Dickens’s daughter Katey, once said that there may have been a child, a boy, who died shortly after birth. No evidence, no matter how apparently unyielding, seems to have gone unmarshalled. Dickens made several trips to France in the early ...

Remaining Issues

Robert Fisk, 23 February 1995

... who preceded her into Lebanese exile. They have all the family documents to prove that the three-storey house on the corner of Mukhaless and Shabatai Levy streets was theirs, along with the British mandate deeds showing that Jad Tawil – Selma’s brother, Samir and Fayez’s father – bought the house from another Palestinian Arab in 1938. On the top of ...

Just How It was

Anne Hollander: The work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, 7 May 1998

Tête à Tête: Portraits by Henri Cartier-Bresson 
edited by E.H. Gombrich.
Thames and Hudson, 144 pp., £32, February 1998, 9780500542187
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Henri Cartier-Bresson: Europeans 
edited by Jean Clair.
Thames and Hudson, 231 pp., £29.95, January 1998, 0 500 28052 5
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... of a man facing a huge breathtaking vista of mountains, mist and sun, a version of Caspar David Friedrich’s Traveller above the Sea of Clouds. A closer look tells us that this man is engaged in painting the railing in front of him, and just now standing back to survey his handiwork. In several different countries, Cartier-Bresson will show two or ...

Tastes like Cancer

J. Robert Lennon: The Sweet'N Low dynasty, 8 March 2007

Sweet and Low 
by Rich Cohen.
Cape, 272 pp., £12.99, April 2007, 978 0 224 07272 4
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... street in Old Westbury, Long Island. Their houses were huge and garlanded with bling: ‘the three-storey foyer that makes a man feel like a god; the $17,000 front door imported from northern Italy; the curvy backyard pool fed by a waterfall; the hot tub; the gazebo’. All these amenities were paid for with money stolen from Cumberland Packing. It’s unclear ...

Many Promises

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Prokofiev in Russia, 14 May 2009

The People’s Artist: Prokofiev’s Soviet Years 
by Simon Morrison.
Oxford, 491 pp., £18.99, November 2008, 978 0 19 518167 8
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... March 1936. The authorities immediately made good on one of their promises by offering them a two-storey house on the Garden Ring Road: celebrity accommodation, comparable with the house Maxim Gorky had been given when he returned from Capri a few years earlier. But Prokofiev unexpectedly turned it down, giving the unsocialist explanation that ‘I can’t ...

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