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Tomorrow is here again

Anne Wagner: The First Pop Age, 11 October 2012

The First Pop Age 
by Hal Foster.
Princeton, 338 pp., £20.95, October 2011, 978 0 691 15138 0
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... When Hal Foster uses the word ‘first’ in the title of his confidently focused study, he means to start us thinking about Pop now and then. It is a reference to Reyner Banham’s Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (1960), which argued that modernism’s prewar optimism was over and done ...

Evil Days

Ian Hamilton, 23 July 1992

The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligentsia 
by John Carey.
Faber, 246 pp., £14.99, July 1992, 0 571 16273 8
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... author remarked that at least some of the audience was clapping. These approvers were powerless to out-clamour the ‘hoots and jeers and catcalls of the roughs’, whose roars were ‘like those of a cage of beasts at some infernal zoo’, but for James they represented ‘the forces of civilisation’. This was one way of describing them. Another would ...

Hard Man

Ian Hamilton, 16 October 1980

Walk Don’t Walk The Camp From Scenes Like These 
by Gordon Williams.
Allison and Busby, 264 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 85031 309 0
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... Gordon Williams, formerly Gordon M. Williams: born 1934, educated at the John Neilson Institution in Paisley. Worked in Scotland as a farm labourer and newspaper reporter before undergoing National Service in Germany with the RAF. Has worked as a novelist for 16 years, based mainly in Soho but with a spell of rural isolation on the edge of Dartmoor ...

Interesting Fellows

Walter Nash, 4 May 1989

The Book of Evidence 
by John Banville.
Secker, 220 pp., £10.95, March 1989, 0 436 03267 8
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Carn 
by Patrick McCabe.
Aidan Ellis, 252 pp., £11.50, March 1989, 0 85628 180 8
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The Tryst 
by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 168 pp., £10.99, April 1989, 0 571 15450 6
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Gerontius 
by James Hamilton-Paterson.
Macmillan, 264 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 333 45194 5
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... Take one housemaid, who interrupts you while you are making a ludicrously maladroit attempt to swaddle a stolen painting in brown paper. Fly into a sulk. Bundle the poor girl into your car, and when she protests, silence her with a hammer, noting, as you do so, that its impact on her skull is like hitting clay or hard putty ...
Once a Jolly Bagman: Memoirs 
by Alistair McAlpine.
Weidenfeld, 269 pp., £20, March 1997, 9780297817376
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... When did it suddenly become obvious that the Tories were going to lose the election? Was it that golden moment when Michael Portillo, that scourge of unnecessary public spending, announced that £60m of public money was earmarked for a new yacht for the richest woman on earth – even though Her Majesty had made it plain she did not want one? Was it this deranged belief in the popular devotion to the monarchy which finally sealed the Tories’ fate? Or was it the announcement soon afterwards by the once rational Sir George Young, Secretary of State for Transport, that the answer to the mounting horrors of the London Underground is to flog it off to the likes of Stagecoach plc? Sir George timed his announcement to fit in sweetly with the news that Stagecoach, having just won the biggest of the new railway franchises, had set about balancing the books in the way they know best – by sacking train drivers ...
London Reviews 
edited by Nicholas Spice.
Chatto, 222 pp., £5.95, October 1985, 0 7011 2988 3
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The New Review Anthology 
edited by Ian Hamilton.
Heinemann, 320 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 31330 0
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Night and Day 
edited by Christopher Hawtree, by Graham Greene.
Chatto, 277 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 07 011296 7
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Lilliput goes to war 
edited by Kaye Webb.
Hutchinson, 288 pp., £10.95, September 1985, 9780091617608
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Penguin New Writing: 1940-1950 
edited by John Lehmann and Roy Fuller.
Penguin, 496 pp., September 1985, 0 14 007484 8
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... With more than eight hundred high-grade items to choose from, London Reviews gets the number down to just 28. But already it is the third such selection from the London Review of Books. Is three neat volumes sitting on a shelf better than hundreds of copies of the magazine mouldering in a corner? Yes, but not emphatically ...

An English Vice

Bernard Bergonzi, 21 February 1985

The Turning Key: Autobiography and the Subjective Impulse since 1800 
by Jerome Hamilton Buckley.
Harvard, 191 pp., £12.75, April 1984, 0 674 91330 2
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The Art of Autobiography in 19th and 20th-Century England 
by A.O.J. Cockshut.
Yale, 222 pp., £10.95, September 1984, 0 300 03235 8
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... derided as a bourgeois fabrication, ripe for deconstruction. But most readers remain very attached to selves, their own and other people’s, and like reading about them in biographies and autobiographies. Such books are evidently popular with publishers, and accounts of them regularly fill the review columns of the Sunday papers. But the idea of the self may ...

Short Cuts

John Sturrock: The Evil List, 25 April 2002

... Living as we do in the Land of the League Table, there’s sadly little call to be surprised by the appearance of what some will see as a prosopographical breakthrough: a book confidently entitled The Most Evil Men and Women in History (Michael O’Mara, £15.99) and with a cover where the word ‘evil’ appears in black in a type size several magnitudes greater than that of its supporting syntax ...

Smileyfication

Ian Hamilton, 20 March 1980

Smiley’s People 
by John le Carré.
Hodder, 327 pp., £5.95, February 1980, 0 340 24704 5
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... The thing about John le Carré used to be that he was a brilliantly ingenious spyhack but couldn’t really write; and one way of getting back at him for being rich and famous was to mock at his almost lovably transparent wish to have this judgment changed ...

One for the road

Ian Hamilton, 21 March 1991

Memoirs 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 346 pp., £16.99, March 1991, 0 09 174533 0
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... Amis has a reputation for not liking other people, but – these so-called Memoirs might seem to permit us to enquire – does anyone, could anyone, like him? Is Kingers himself, at the end of the day, the sort of bloke you’d want to run into at – well, at the end of the day, at ...

Boy or Girl

John Maynard Smith, 3 February 1983

The Theory of Sex Allocation 
by Eric Charnov.
Princeton, 355 pp., £29.80, December 1982, 0 691 08311 8
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... Why, in the great majority of animals, are there equal numbers of males and females? For John Arbuthnot, writing in 1710, it was evidence of the beneficence of God: ‘for by this means it is provided, that the species may never fail, nor perish, since every male may have its female, and of a proportionable age.’ But while that might do for man, it will hardly do for those many species in which there is no monogamous pair bond and no parental care, and in which one male can fertilise many females, and yet which have an equal sex ratio ...

Mostly Hoping, Not Planning

James Camp: Russell Banks, 10 May 2012

Lost Memory of Skin 
by Russell Banks.
Clerkenwell, 416 pp., £12.99, March 2012, 978 1 84668 576 7
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... In the America of Russell Banks’s novels, men risk ruin to buy a new speedboat. A man who punches his wife tells himself he’s not actually a wife beater. Drunk driving is just one of those ‘little things’, but speaking French is not allowed. A paedophile rapist starts crying when his stepson turns him down, and a schemer with a ‘system for beating the system’ offs himself in a Cadillac he can’t afford; when his brother discovers the body, the ‘neatly typed’ suicide note reads: ‘I’m a failure ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: It's a size thing, 19 September 1985

... current issue of a magazine called The Face there is an article on Norman Mailer’s recent visit to this country. He was here, it seems, to promote Tough guys don’t dance, his latest novel: he did some ‘major’ TV interviews, a bit of radio, and ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: New New Grub Street, 3 February 1983

... Frank Kermode’s review of the new Gissing biography (page 9) brings to mind a project which I have long thought someone ought to tackle: a fearless update of New Grub Street. The job wouldn’t be too taxing – indeed, in many cases, it would be all too easy to attach contemporary names to Gissing’s sunken literary types: his principled dullards as well as his sleek chancers ...

After the Woolwich

Frank Kermode, 7 February 1991

Spanner and Pen: Post-War Memoirs 
by Roy Fuller.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 190 pp., £16.95, February 1991, 1 85619 040 4
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... Seven years ago Roy Fuller published the third volume of his memoirs, which covered his life up to the end of the war. Reviewing it in this journal, I lamented his decision to stop there and called for a continuation, ‘all about the Woolwich, the Arts Council, the BBC and Oxford, with incidental observations on the conduct of the young, the remembered follies of youth, the tiresome defects of old age, and so forth ...

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