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Eliot Weinberger: Next stop, Forbidden City, 23 June 2005

... Group, in connection with an anthology of their earliest poems, A Splintered Mirror, edited by Donald Finkel and Carolyn Kizer (who referred to them as the ‘Misties’). The first night, Gu Cheng, Xie Ye and I went to a restaurant in Chinatown. As we sat down, my first question, predictably, was about his hat. He told me that he always wore it so that ...

A Regular Bull

Christopher Hitchens, 31 July 1997

Whittaker Chambers: A Biography 
by Sam Tanenhaus.
Random House, 640 pp., $35, February 1997, 0 394 58559 3
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... when recalled to Moscow, had a marked tendency to check out. (One such ‘disappeared’ member, Donald Robinson, falsely accused of contact with Trotsky in Mexico, later turned up in Hiss’s handwritten notes of the period and is the reason some on the left have always doubted Hiss’s word.) Chambers contrived to separate himself from the clandestine ...

Snarly Glitters

August Kleinzahler: Roy Fisher, 20 April 2006

The Long and the Short of It: Poems 1955-2005 
by Roy Fisher.
Bloodaxe, 400 pp., £12, June 2005, 1 85224 701 0
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... for the first time the work of the later William Carlos Williams, Basil Bunting, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Louis Zukofsky, Robert Creeley, Charles Olson and others. ‘I’d never seen poetry used as these people were, in their various ways, using it,’ Fisher remembered, ‘nor had I seen it treated as so vital an activity. These people were behaving ...

In a Frozen Crouch

Colin Kidd: Democracy’s Ends, 13 September 2018

How Democracy Ends 
by David Runciman.
Profile, 249 pp., £14.99, May 2018, 978 1 78125 974 0
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Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy Is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth – And How to Fix It 
by Dambisa Moyo.
Little, Brown, 296 pp., £20, April 2018, 978 1 4087 1089 0
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How Democracies Die 
by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.
Viking, 311 pp., £16.99, January 2018, 978 0 241 31798 3
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Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy 
by William Galston.
Yale, 158 pp., £25, June 2018, 978 0 300 22892 2
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... miners’ confrontation with Ted Heath’s government. When Armstrong’s colleague Sir Douglas Allen, the permanent secretary at the Treasury, speculated openly about coming in to work and finding tanks drawn up on Horse Guards Parade, his colleagues couldn’t tell whether or not he was joking. Was the UK on the brink of a left-wing revolution or a ...

What Life Says to Us

Stephanie Burt: Robert Creeley, 21 February 2008

The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley: 1945-75 
California, 681 pp., £12.55, October 2006, 0 520 24158 4Show More
The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley: 1975-2005 
California, 662 pp., £29.95, October 2006, 0 520 24159 2Show More
On Earth: Last Poems and an Essay 
by Robert Creeley.
California, 89 pp., £12.95, April 2006, 0 520 24791 4
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Selected Poems: 1945-2005 
by Robert Creeley, edited by Benjamin Friedlander.
California, 339 pp., $21.95, January 2008, 978 0 520 25196 0
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... of incipient talent – his classmates included Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery and Donald Hall – Creeley felt discouraged and alone. ‘My eager thirst for knowledge, almost Jude-the-Obscurian in its innocence, was all but shut down by the sardonic stance of my elders,’ he recalled. He left college in 1944 for non-combatant service, driving ...


Tom Carver: Philby in Beirut, 11 October 2012

... in August 1956, just as the Suez Crisis was brewing. Ever since the defection of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean five years earlier, he’d been living in something of a twilight zone. Intercepts of Soviet communications decrypted by the Venona Project had pointed to there being a ‘third man’ inside British intelligence who had helped Burgess and Maclean ...

Rising Moon

R.W. Johnson, 18 December 1986

L’Empire Moon 
by Jean-Francois Boyer.
La Découverte, 419 pp., August 1986, 2 7071 1604 1
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The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection 
by Edward Herman and Frank Brodhead.
Sheridan Square, 255 pp., $19.95, May 1986, 0 940380 07 2
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... Sub-Committee on Korean-American Relations, chaired by the liberal Minnesota Congressman, Donald Fraser. The Moonies have never fully recovered from the ‘Koreagate’ revelations that followed. Day after day the media regaled the public with the details of KCIA attempts to bribe Congressmen, intimidate Koreans living in the US, and use the Moonies ...

Lucky Kim

Christopher Hitchens, 23 February 1995

The Philby Files. The Secret Life of the Master Spy: KGB Archives Revealed 
by Genrikh Borovik, edited by Phillip Knightley.
Little, Brown, 382 pp., £18.99, September 1994, 0 316 91015 5
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The Fifth Man 
by Roland Perry.
Sidgwick, 486 pp., £16.99, October 1994, 0 283 06216 9
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Treason in the Blood: H. St John Philby, Kim Philby and the Spy Case of the Century 
by Anthony Cave Brown.
Hale, 640 pp., £25, January 1995, 9780709055822
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My Five Cambridge Friends 
by Yuri Modin.
Headline, 328 pp., £17.99, October 1994, 0 7472 1280 5
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Looking for Mr Nobody: The Secret Life of Goronwy Rees 
by Jenny Rees.
Weidenfeld, 291 pp., £18.99, October 1994, 0 297 81430 3
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... on the simplest facts. Yuri Modin, for example, claims that Guy Burgess did not flee ‘with’ Donald Maclean. He was ordered to accompany Maclean to Moscow so as to avoid any personal or alcoholic breakdown on his (Maclean’s) part, and was assured by the KGB that he could be back in London before anyone had noticed his absence. ‘Yeah, right,’ as I ...

It is still mañana

Matthew Bevis: Robert Frost’s Letters, 19 February 2015

The Letters of Robert Frost, Vol. 1: 1886-1920 
edited by Donald Sheehy, Mark Richardson and Robert Faggen.
Harvard, 811 pp., £33.95, March 2014, 978 0 674 05760 9
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... charging three times the amount he suggests here). Enter R. Frost, poet for all occasions – whom Allen Ginsberg would describe as ‘the original entrepreneur of poetry’, the man who would tell Robert Lowell that hell was a half-filled auditorium. The auditoriums were usually full, but one observer noted that ‘even when [Frost] consents to sit on a ...

Warrior Librarians

Neal Ascherson: Cultural Pillaging, 2 July 2020

Information Hunters: When Librarians, Soldiers and Spies Banded Together in World War Two Europe 
by Kathy Peiss.
Oxford, 296 pp., £22.99, March, 978 0 19 094461 2
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... to Lisbon dried up. Peiss was transferred to Switzerland, where for a time he worked alongside Allen Dulles, then Swiss director of the OSS, later director of the CIA. By now, the warrior librarians were learning that information itself, not the publications that contained it, was what the OSS and the military wanted. Accordingly, they set about breaking ...

Reasons for Liking Tolkien

Jenny Turner: The Hobbit Habit, 15 November 2001

... by Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins, which has published the Tolkien oeuvre since taking over Allen and Unwin in 1990. Humphrey Carpenter’s 1977 authorised biography and his 1981 edition of the Letters were also originally published by Allen and Unwin and are now with HarperCollins.I don’t want to defend Tolkien or ...

Some Names for Robert Lowell

Karl Miller, 19 May 1983

Robert Lowell: A Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Faber, 527 pp., £12.50, May 1983, 0 571 13045 3
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... provides testimony which brings out its susceptibility to romantic and dualistic interpretation. Donald Davie has written lately in this journal: ‘Great poetry is greatly sane, greatly lucid; and insanity is as much a calamity for poets and for poetry as for other human beings and other sorts of human business.’ These are impressive words. But of course ...

Gentlemen and ladies came to see the poet’s cottage

Tom Paulin: Clare’s anti-pastoral, 19 February 2004

John Clare: A Biography 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 650 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 330 37106 1
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‘I Am’: The Selected Poetry of John Clare 
edited by Jonathan Bate.
Farrar, Straus, 318 pp., $17, November 2003, 0 374 52869 1
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John Clare, Politics and Poetry 
by Alan Vardy.
Palgrave, 221 pp., £45, October 2003, 0 333 96617 1
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John Clare Vol. V: Poems of the Middle Period 1822-37 
edited by Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 822 pp., £105, January 2003, 0 19 812386 8
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... parish clerk at Helpston in Northamptonshire. In the early 1760s, she had a relationship with John Donald Parker, an itinerant Scottish fiddler and teacher who was working in the village school. On discovering she was pregnant, he disappeared and was never heard of again. Her son was christened for the absent father, and became a talented traditional singer, a ...

The Best Stuff

Ian Jack: David Astor, 2 June 2016

David Astor: A Life in Print 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 400 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 0 224 09090 2
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... and uneasy. When, towards the end of Astor’s editing career, the South African journalist Donald Woods proposed a series of interviews with him, Astor suggested that the theme shouldn’t be ‘How did a rich boy come to be so idealistic?’ but ‘How did a cripple come to have some success?’ By ‘cripple’ he meant mental not physical ...

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