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Karl Miller Remembered

Neal Ascherson, John Lanchester and Andrew O’Hagan, 23 October 2014

... which reached him and went down well. The first came when he and his wife Jane went to stay with George Barker, in Italy I think, and Barker exclaimed afterwards: ‘That boy! He’s got a tiger in his loins!’ Karl loved that. Who wouldn’t? His friends all got to hear about it. He laughed about it in a deprecating way but inside I think he felt that ...

Taking sides

Karl Miller, 17 April 1980

W.H. Auden: The Life of a Poet 
by Charles Osborne.
Eyre Methuen, 336 pp., £7.95, March 1980, 0 413 39670 3
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... of taking sides. This does not mean, and the present book does not reveal, that, in the words of George Watson in a letter to this journal, ‘like Hitler, if less effectively’, he ‘purposed the death of millions’ when he imagined the defeat of the bourgeoisie. It does mean that we should be no less careful in weighing the matter of betrayal in ...

Does one flare or cling?

Alice Spawls, 5 May 2016

‘Vogue’ 100: A Century of Style 
by Robin Muir.
National Portrait Gallery, 304 pp., £40, February 2016, 978 1 85514 561 0
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‘Vogue’ 100: A Century of Style 
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... two Corinne Day photographs (one of Kate again) and some earlier monochrome prints, including George Hoyningen-Huene’s 1930 Modern Mariners Put out to Sea, of two androgynous swimmers on a diving board, the old Penguin Classics cover for The Great Gatsby. The far end of this group is presided over by Alexander McQueen, in a huge image blown up to fill a ...

Settling down

Karl Miller, 20 November 1980

Young Emma 
by W.H. Davies.
Cape, 158 pp., £5.95, November 1980, 0 224 01853 1
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... In the supportive Introduction which he wrote in 1907 for The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp George Bernard Shaw calls him an ‘innocent’. Davies – the wisest fool ever to escape from a dosshouse? The second of the autobiographies will cause some people to think of him as a holy fool rather than a wise one, while others will be quick to dispense ...

Copying the coyote

Richard Poirier, 18 October 1984

The Principles of Psychology 
by William James, introduced by George Miller.
Harvard, 1302 pp., £14.95, December 1983, 0 674 70625 0
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A Stroll with William James 
by Jacques Barzun.
Chicago, 344 pp., £16, October 1983, 0 226 03865 3
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Becoming William James 
by Howard Feinstein.
Cornell, 377 pp., $24.95, May 1984, 0 8014 1617 5
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Essays in Psychology 
by William James, edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Fredson Bowers.
Harvard, 467 pp., £32, April 1984, 0 674 26714 1
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... When, in the summer of 1898, at the age of 56, William James went to Berkeley, California to deliver a series of lectures on pragmatism, he could have used his own life to illustrate the immensely difficult but successful application of one of its tenets: that truth is best seen as ‘what it is better for us to believe’, not as ‘as an accurate representation of reality’, and that what is better for us to believe is what can be ascertained only in and through our actions, not by consultation with fixed ideas or traditions or, notably in his case, by family example ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Britney’s Biggest Fan, 21 June 2001

... long as the leadership of the Tory Party doesn’t get in the way. The more hilarious sayings of George W. Bush have been collected in The Bush Dyslexicon by Mark Crispin Miller (Bantam, £6.99): ‘the great thing about America is everyone should vote’; ‘more and more of our imports come from overseas.’ In Humour in ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Basingstoke’s Paisleyite, 21 April 2005

... his ‘How I See It’ column for the last time; Conservatism in Basingstoke has a new face. Maria Miller is a working mother of three, campaigning vigorously on local issues: education, ‘local environment improvement’ and crime. She ought to win easily. The constituency, a hotbed of affluence, has returned a Tory in every election since World War ...

The Colossus of Maroussi

Iain Sinclair: In Athens, 27 May 2010

... nation. The Olympic Park was sited on a significant patch of ground: the memory field of Henry Miller’s fine but undervalued travel journal, The Colossus of Maroussi. It was written in the shadow of war and published in 1941. It was the first Miller title that Penguin felt brave enough to place on their list. Apart ...

Lord Eskgrove’s Indecent Nose

Rosalind Mitchison, 24 January 1980

Lord Cockburn: A Bicentenary Commemoration 
edited by Alan Bell.
Scottish Academic Press, 204 pp., £6, December 1980, 0 7073 0245 5
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... the great storm in the Scottish Church, John Pinkerton discusses his place as a lawyer, and Karl Miller the evidence his preferences give for the changing literary taste of the day. Before the proliferation of central government departments and local administrative bureaucracies the judges in Scotland were at the heart of politics. It was a time when law was ...

Roaming the stations of the world

Patrick McGuinness: Seamus Heaney, 3 January 2002

Electric Light 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 81 pp., £8.99, March 2001, 0 571 20762 6
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Seamus Heaney in Conversation with Karl Miller 
Between the Lines, 112 pp., £9.50, July 2001, 0 9532841 7 4Show More
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... recently dead friends and poets (Ted Hughes, Zbigniew Herbert, Joseph Brodsky, Norman MacCaig and George Mackay Brown) tend to be wide-ranging meditations on literature and language. In his criticism as well as his poetry, Heaney has always excelled at finding metaphors of process for the act of writing: moulding, thatching, digging. It is what makes him such ...

Prinney, Boney, Boot

Roy Porter, 20 March 1986

The English Satirical Print 1600-1832 
edited by Michael Duffy.
Chadwyck-Healey, February 1986
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... himself steered almost totally clear of personal lampoons against politicians. It was the reign of George III that put political cartoons on the map. The print-makers of the 1760s had a field-day with a heroic John Wilkes (‘Wilkes and Liberty’) and with Lord Bute as Public Enemy Number One (no fewer than four hundred anti-Bute satires appeared, mainly ...

Happier Days

Rosalind Mitchison, 4 April 1991

Scottish Voices 1745-1960 
by T.C. Smout and Sydney Wood.
Collins, 334 pp., £16.95, August 1990, 0 00 215190 1
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... hooks on life in Scotland, mostly memoirs and mostly familiar to historians. Old friends include George Robertson, Joseph Mitchell, Thomas Somerville and Ramsay of Ochtertyre. The accounts are separated into themes, such as school, factory and mine, leisure, crime (though none of the memorialists claim active participation in this). The excerpts are long ...

Boys will be girls

Clive James, 1 September 1983

Footlights! A Hundred Years of Cambridge Comedy 
by Robert Hewison.
Methuen, 224 pp., £8.95, June 1983, 0 413 51150 2
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... tongue far enough into his cheek to be anything more tolerable than stomach-turning about Eton. George Orwell, who had been there too but thought it was possible to have a life afterwards, was surely right to tell him to come off it. Even if there were room for doubt in this matter, however, there can be no question that an ex-Colonial transplantee who ...

Valet of the Dolls

Andrew O’Hagan: Sinatra, 24 July 2003

Mr S.: The Last Word on Frank Sinatra 
by George Jacobs and William Stadiem.
Sidgwick, 261 pp., £16.99, June 2003, 0 283 07370 5
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... finding instant and compelling evidence to prove he was a complete nightmare. Yet this book by George Jacobs, who was Sinatra’s valet for 15 years, might be understood to be wired in a whole new way: it is perhaps the ultimate diatribe by the disgruntled ex-staffer; a new high point (or low point) in a super-readable genre that should surely be given its ...


W.G. Runciman: You had better look out, 10 December 1998

... they to be prepared to take it either way? I know that’s easy to say, and I remember Jonathan Miller once telling me, and convincingly so, that nobody to whom it hasn’t happened can know how peculiarly disagreeable it is to be lampooned in print. But as Goethe said, and I quoted to the famous Jonathan on another occasion: ‘If you don’t want to be ...

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