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Do I like it?

Terry Castle: Outsider Art, 28 July 2011

... anti-psychiatry movement.) Most gripping were the magnificently demented illustrations of Louis Wain (1860-1939), a hugely popular British artist who after a successful international career as an illustrator and cartoonist, spent the last ten years of his life in an asylum near St Albans. Wain specialised in comic ...

Who was David Peterley?

Michael Holroyd, 15 November 1984

... inequality of wealth, speak of the same world as Peterley’s but seen from the opposite angle,’ John Wain has written. ‘There is no evidence that Peterley worries about social injustice, or thinks about it at all, for that matter.’ With whatever undertow of self-disapproval, Richard Pennington rises from an inferior social position through the ...

Deeper Shallows

Stefan Collini: C.S. Lewis, 20 June 2013

C.S. Lewis: A Life 
by Alister McGrath.
Hodder, 431 pp., £20, April 2013, 978 1 4447 4552 8
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... world. One judgment about Lewis bound to cause offence was voiced by his admirer and former pupil John Wain, who observed in 1964 that ‘his writing improves as it gets further from the popular and demagogic.’ That latter adjective may sound harsh and inexact, but on occasion in his apologetics it does seem as though Lewis wrote to please the crowd ...

Decorations and Contingencies

John Bayley, 16 September 1982

Pea Soup 
by Christopher Reid.
Oxford, 65 pp., £4.50, September 1982, 0 19 211952 4
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... to ornament with appropriate curlicues the exposition of order and harmony in a poem like Sir John Davies’s Orchestra. In what might be called the new decorated style, or modern Elizabethan, the decoration has become an end in itself, serving only to embellish the sense of time passing, water dripping, bells ringing, clothes flying on the line. There is ...

Aardvark

John Bayley: In defence of Larkin, 22 April 1993

... independence, or irresponsibility, is all the more striking because it was always there. Amis, Wain, even Conquest, were once conventionally of the left, as the thing to be: Larkin gave it all the cold shoulder. And they remained politicised in a way that he did not. He made fun of it all in his own way, as the late poem ‘Aubade’ makes a joke and a ...

Something about her eyes

Patricia Beer, 24 June 1993

Daphne du Maurier 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 455 pp., £17.99, March 1993, 0 7011 3699 5
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... to be different from the rest, unless it was that they could not bear very much reality. ‘Wain’ meaning ‘embarrassing’, for example, ‘honky’ meaning ‘common’ or ‘ill-bred’, and ‘to nim’ meaning ‘to pee’, do not bring out the qualities of the words they conceal; in fact they provide the wrong associations. Every proper name ...

The Last Romantic

John Bayley, 5 May 1983

Philip Larkin 
by Andrew Motion.
Methuen, 96 pp., £1.95, October 1982, 0 416 32270 0
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... and his own diagnosis of Larkin’s virtues. Long ago, the Poet Laureate referred to him as ‘the John Clare of the building estates’, a decidedly quaint though no doubt a heartfelt compliment, in line with Eric Homberger’s later summing-up of Larkin as ‘the saddest heart in the post-war supermarket’, or the more magisterial pronouncement that his ...

Answering back

James Campbell, 11 July 1991

The Intended 
by David Dabydeen.
Secker, 246 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 436 20007 4
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Cambridge 
by Caryl Phillips.
Bloomsbury, 185 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 0 7475 0886 0
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Lucy 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Cape, 176 pp., £11.99, April 1991, 0 224 03055 8
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... only really switched on the power in the 1950s. Novelists such as George Lamming, Samuel Selvon, John Hearne, Andrew Salkey and V.S. Naipaul were among the first voices from the outposts of Empire to talk back. Not for them ‘clapping his hands and stamping his feet’ in order to communicate, like Conrad’s fireman (‘and he had filed ...

Diary

Christopher Harvie: Cars and Cuckoo Clocks, 26 January 1995

... to balls up both industry and heritage. Grangemouth Dockyard, the catalogues of Burmeister and Wain and the Motor Ship returned to mind when, researching the history of North Sea oil, I spent much of my time, troglodytic, in the cellar of the university library in Tübingen, working my way through back numbers of the Economist and the Financial Times, and ...

Like a row of books by Faber

Peter Porter, 22 January 1987

Other Passports: Poems 1958-1985 
by Clive James.
Cape, 221 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 224 02422 1
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... and name-dropping. Not surprisingly, Lowell was not amused. The same disapproval fills his ‘John Wain’s Letters to Five More Artists’. The target is not just the peculiarly discursive poetry Wain invented in Wildtrack and its sequel, but the poet himself, who is presented as lacking proportion in marshalling ...

Alas! Deceived

Alan Bennett: Philip Larkin, 25 March 1993

Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life 
by Andrew Motion.
Faber, 570 pp., £20, April 1993, 0 571 15174 4
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... and reads like a Fifties novel of provincial life, though not one written by him so much as by John Wain or Keith Waterhouse. Indeed Ruth sounds (or Larkin makes her sound) like Billy Liar’s unsatisfactory girlfriend, whose snog-inhibiting Jaffa Billy hurls to the other end of the cemetery. Having laid out a grand total of 15s. 7d. on an evening ...

Social Arrangements

John Bayley, 30 December 1982

The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry 
edited by Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 208 pp., £1.95, October 1982, 0 14 042283 8
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The Rattle Bag 
edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.
Faber, 498 pp., £10, October 1982, 0 571 11966 2
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... Movement’ itself – the incisively intelligent ‘academic-administrative’ verses of Larkin, Wain and Enright – could not help endorsing the most negative feedback of all – English gentility, the ‘decency and other social totems’ that ‘muddle through’. New poetry had to have ‘a new seriousness; the new poet must face the full range of his ...

Spruce

John Bayley, 2 June 1988

A.E. Housman: Collected Poems and Selected Prose 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Allen Lane, 528 pp., £18.95, April 1988, 0 7139 9009 0
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... year after Swinburne died. It has only appeared previously in the Cornhill Magazine, introduced by John Sparrow. Housman never authorised its publication, remarking to a friend that it was not bad but ‘not good enough for me’. It is marvellous about the poet’s use of anapaests, and sarcastic about his analogies, notably of a golden table that was as high ...

Dialect does it

Blake Morrison, 5 December 1985

No Mate for the Magpie 
by Frances Molloy.
Virago, 170 pp., £7.95, April 1985, 0 86068 594 2
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The Mysteries 
by Tony Harrison.
Faber, 229 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 9780571137893
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Ukulele Music 
by Peter Reading.
Secker, 103 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 40986 0
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Hard Lines 2 
edited by Ian Dury, Pete Townshend, Alan Bleasdale and Fanny Dubes.
Faber, 95 pp., £2.50, June 1985, 0 571 13542 0
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No Holds Barred: The Raving Beauties choose new poems by women 
edited by Anna Carteret, Fanny Viner and Sue Jones-Davies.
Women’s Press, 130 pp., £2.95, June 1985, 0 7043 3963 3
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Katerina Brac 
by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 47 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 571 13614 1
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Skevington’s Daughter 
by Oliver Reynolds.
Faber, 88 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 571 13697 4
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Rhondda Tenpenn’orth 
by Oliver Reynolds.
10 pence
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Trio 4 
by Andrew Elliott, Leon McAuley and Ciaran O’Driscoll.
Blackstaff, 69 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 85640 333 4
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Mama Dot 
by Fred D’Aguiar.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, August 1985, 0 7011 2957 3
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The Dread Affair: Collected Poems 
by Benjamin Zephaniah.
Arena, 112 pp., £2.95, August 1985, 9780099392507
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Long Road to Nowhere 
by Amryl Johnson.
Virago, 64 pp., £2.95, July 1985, 0 86068 687 6
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Mangoes and Bullets 
by John Agard.
Pluto, 64 pp., £3.50, August 1985, 0 7453 0028 6
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Ragtime in Unfamiliar Bars 
by Ron Butlin.
Secker, 51 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 07810 4
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True Confessions and New Clichés 
by Liz Lochhead.
Polygon, 135 pp., £3.95, July 1985, 0 904919 90 0
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Works in the Inglis Tongue 
by Peter Davidson.
Three Tygers Press, 17 pp., £2.50, June 1985
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Wild Places: Poems in Three Leids 
by William Neill.
Luath, 200 pp., £5, September 1985, 0 946487 11 1
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... from babyhood through convent to civil rights marches. The unfamiliar words are few (wheen, wain, sheoghe – the last, ‘changeling’, beautifully applied to the narrator’s father on his release from a long jail sentence), so that by the end the phonetic oddities are scarcely noticeable. This might not have pleased MacDiarmid, who would have wanted ...

You Muddy Fools

Dan Jacobson: In the months before his death Ian Hamilton talked about himself to Dan Jacobson, 14 January 2002

... of the usual morose adolescent parables and things like that. The first issue had a foreword by John Wain, the novelist, who had just appeared then and was very famous. I wrote to him to ask if there was some message he could send to youthful aspirants and he did. It was rather good, about half a page, which ended: ‘and, if all this fails, back to ...

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