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The Thing

Michael Wood: Versions of Proust, 6 January 2005

In Search of Lost Time: Vol. I: The Way by Swann’s 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Lydia Davis.
Penguin, 496 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118031 5
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol.II: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by James Grieve.
Penguin, 576 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118032 3
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. III: The Guermantes Way 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Mark Treharne.
Penguin, 640 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118033 1
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. IV: Sodom and Gomorrah 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by John Sturrock.
Penguin, 576 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 9780141180342
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. V: ‘The Prisoner’ and ‘The Fugitive’ 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Carol Clark and Peter Collier.
Penguin, 720 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118035 8
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. VI: Finding Time Again 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Ian Patterson.
Penguin, 400 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118036 6
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The Proust Project 
edited by André Aciman.
Farrar, Straus, 224 pp., $25, November 2004, 0 374 23832 4
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... leave it. Translating this sentence in its context, in the last volume of In Search of Lost Time, Ian Patterson has ‘the only true paradise is a paradise that we have lost.’ This is good because idiomatic, and it gets rid of the troubling plural. How many paradises could we bear to lose, and how many chances do we think we have? ‘Only’ seems a ...

Footpaths

Tom Shippey, 26 July 1990

England and Englishness: Ideas of Nationhood in English Poetry, 1688-1900 
by John Lucas.
Hogarth, 227 pp., £18, February 1990, 0 7012 0892 9
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The Englishman’s England: Taste, Travel and the Rise of Tourism 
by Ian Ousby.
Cambridge, 244 pp., £45, February 1990, 0 521 37374 3
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Fleeting Things: English Poets and Poems, 1616-1660 
by Gerald Hammond.
Harvard, 394 pp., £24.95, March 1990, 0 674 30625 2
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... Of all nations’, writes Ian Ousby, ‘we’, the English, have ‘perhaps the most strongly defined sense of national identity – so developed and so stylised, in fact, that we are frequently conscious of it as a burden or restraint’. I wonder what he can possibly mean by that. The most anomalous thing about England in comparison with all other European nations (of course it isn’t a nation, but even in comparison with Scotland and Wales) is that it doesn’t have the formal marks of national identity acquired even by Iceland or Finland, Luxembourg or Albania ...

Agh, Agh, Yah, Boo

David Wheatley: Ian Hamilton Finlay, 4 December 2014

Midway: Letters from Ian Hamilton Finlay to Stephen Bann, 1964-69 
edited by Stephen Bann.
Wilmington Square, 426 pp., £25, May 2014, 978 1 905524 34 1
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... Writing​ to his friend Stephen Bann, then a graduate student, in 1964, Ian Hamilton Finlay outlined his plans to treat readers of his brash new journal, Poor. Old. Tired. Horse, to a free lollipop, sellotaped to the magazine’s cover. Like many of his plans from this period it came to nothing. In any case, sugar and spice weren’t really Finlay’s thing ...

At Dulwich Picture Gallery

Peter Campbell: Norman Rockwell, 20 January 2011

... came to England, the Punch illustrators and others whose work had been reproduced as wood engravings went on working in line, or turned to watercolour but rarely to oil. Rockwell, particularly in later years, rummaged in the graphic toolbox for whatever was handy. If a photograph was a quicker way to record a pose, if painting over it gave you ...

Moscow’s New Elite

Ian Davidson, 19 June 1986

Gorbachev: The Path to Power 
by Christian Schmidt-Häuer.
Tauris, 218 pp., £12.95, March 1986, 1 85043 015 2
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Gorbachev 
by Zhores Medvedev.
Blackwell, 272 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 631 14782 9
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The Soviet Union: The Incomplete Super-Power 
by Paul Dibb.
Macmillan, 320 pp., £27.50, February 1986, 0 333 36281 0
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... General Secretary would not lack – and might need – allies in clearing out more of the dead wood. If so, Gorbachev’s personal authority may prove to have been greatest during the initial clear-out period, and it is at least possible that he will now become increasingly dependent on the collective leadership of his newly promoted allies: Yegor ...

Emotional Sushi

Ian Sansom: Tony, Nick and Simon, 9 August 2001

One for My Baby 
by Tony Parsons.
HarperCollins, 330 pp., £15.99, July 2001, 0 00 226182 0
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How to Be Good 
by Nick Hornby.
Viking, 256 pp., £16.99, May 2001, 0 670 88823 0
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Little Green Man 
by Simon Armitage.
Viking, 246 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 0 670 89442 7
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... with polystyrene tiles, floorboards with lino and wall-to-wall foam-backed rugs. Every inch of wood was treated and primed and slapped with coat after coat of shock-resistant, blindingly shiny gloss. After so many layers, it’s hard to get back to the true grain. The metaphors resound, and the sentences ring: ‘Winkie’s breath always smelt of ...

Somebody Shoot at Me!

Ian Sansom: Woody Guthrie’s Novel, 9 May 2013

House of Earth: A Novel 
by Woody Guthrie.
Fourth Estate, 234 pp., £14.99, February 2013, 978 0 00 750985 0
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... all about class war, and ‘the ecological threats inherent in fragmenting native habitats’; ‘wood is a metaphor for capitalist plunderers while adobe represents a socialist utopia where tenant farmers own land’; ‘it’s almost as if Guthrie had written House of Earth prophetically, with global warming in mind.’ They make it sound like Silent ...

On the Feast of Stephen

Karl Miller: Spender’s Journals, 30 August 2012

New Selected Journals, 1939-95 
by Stephen Spender and Lara Feigel, edited by John Sutherland.
Faber, 792 pp., £45, July 2012, 978 0 571 23757 9
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... suspicion persisted. Sharp little verses – by Thom Gunn and John Coleman – were flighted; and Ian Hamilton capped it all with a brilliant and damaging New Yorker profile. Stephen grew used to being abused. He abused himself. He could seem generous and long-suffering, but could hardly be blamed for resenting a few of the more vocal of the new generation of ...

She wore Isabel Marant

Joanna Biggs: Literary London, 2 August 2018

Crudo 
by Olivia Laing.
Picador, 140 pp., £12.99, June 2018, 978 1 5098 9283 9
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... of Kathy Acker for the Guardian; she had been holidaying in Val d’Orcia with her newish husband, Ian Patterson, the Cambridge academic and poet who was Jenny Diski’s husband until her death in April 2016; she was tweeting about Sam Shepard and Brexit and the Booker shortlist and a new Laure Prouvost show and Charlie Gard and Call Me by Your Name and cab ...

Allegedly

Michael Davie, 1 November 1984

Public Scandal, Odium and Contempt: An Investigation of Recent Libel Cases 
by David Hooper.
Secker, 230 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 0 436 20093 7
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... that it was factually correct. Clutching the galleys, I rang the bell at his house in St John’s Wood. Sir Thomas himself opened the door. He did not seem friendly. However, he allowed me into his drawing-room, though without offering me a chair, and himself sat down and began to read. Never before or since have I seen anyone so slowly and yet so inexorably ...

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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... great man, however bashful, stumbling and dishevelled. It is the work of a tyrannicide subject, in Ian Hamilton’s words, to ‘tyrant delusions’. Lowell was a pacifist who was able, at moments, to praise the ideology of the master race. Mischievously mad or mischievously sane, it was hard to tell which, he once urged companions to exercise a sortes ...

The Rupert Trunk

Christopher Tayler: Alan Hollinghurst, 28 July 2011

The Stranger’s Child 
by Alan Hollinghurst.
Picador, 565 pp., £20, June 2011, 978 0 330 48324 7
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... a need to publicise. In Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography (1992), Ian Hamilton quotes Brooke’s Rugby and Cambridge friend Geoffrey Keynes on the underlying causes of the Eddie-Ranee stand-off: Brooke’s unmanly physical beauty was often taken as an indication that he was probably a homosexual … It had, of course, been far ...

How’s the Empress?

James Wood: Graham Swift, 17 April 2003

The Light of Day 
by Graham Swift.
Hamish Hamilton, 244 pp., £16.99, February 2003, 0 241 14204 0
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... an exceptional narrative craftsman, adept at dangling sinister, wormy facts (in this he resembles Ian McEwan, a writer temperamentally close). George tells us, eventually, that he was pushed out of his job as a detective for over-zealous interviewing procedures, that he is divorced, and that his daughter has recently come out to him as a lesbian. If the novel ...

The Slightest Sardine

James Wood: A literary dragnet, 20 May 2004

The Oxford English Literary History. Vol. XII: 1960-2000: The Last of England? 
by Randall Stevenson.
Oxford, 624 pp., £30, February 2004, 0 19 818423 9
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... readers, encouraged some novelists almost to usurp the short story’s usual dimensions. When Ian McEwan moved on from short-story writing, it was to produce a first "novel", The Cement Garden (1978), not much in excess of one hundred pages.’ Ah, so that is why McEwan’s novels are so short. What layers of evasion are hidden in that careful verb ...

Most Curious of Seas

Richard Fortey: Noah’s Flood, 1 July 1999

Noah’s Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event that Changed History 
by William Ryan and Walter Pitman.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., £17.99, February 1999, 0 684 81052 2
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... Geologists seem destined to lock horns with those who want to interpret the Bible story literally. Ian Plimer, a geologist at the University of Melbourne and an expert in Turkish geology, recently placed his livelihood in peril to challenge what he sees as Creationist nonsense. A group of local fundamentalists, led by one Allen Roberts, claimed to have found ...

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