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Customising Biography

Iain Sinclair, 22 February 1996

Blake 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 399 pp., £20, September 1995, 1 85619 278 4
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol I: Jerusalem 
editor David Bindman, edited by Morton D. Paley.
Tate Gallery, 304 pp., £48, August 1991, 1 85437 066 9
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. II: Songs of Innocence and Experience 
series editor David Bindman, edited by Andrew Lincoln.
Tate Gallery, 210 pp., £39.50, August 1991, 1 85437 068 5
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol III: The Early Illuminated Books 
series editor David Bindman, edited by Morris Eaves, Robert Essick and Joseph Viscomi.
Tate Gallery, 288 pp., £48, August 1993, 1 85437 119 3
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. IV: The Continental Prophecies: America, Europe, The Song of Los 
editor David Bindman, edited by D.W. Dörbecker.
Tate Gallery, 368 pp., £50, May 1995, 1 85437 154 1
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. V: Milton, a Poem 
series editor David Bindman, edited by Robert Essick and Joseph Viscomi.
Tate Gallery, 224 pp., £48, November 1993, 1 85437 121 5
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. VI: The Urizen Books 
 editor David Bindman, edited by David Worrall.
Tate Gallery, 232 pp., £39.50, May 1995, 9781854371553
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... induction into the Matter of Britain. It’s not easy to read the third part among the weird Kenneth Baker anthology that is Poets’ Corner. Dylan Thomas summoned alongside Henry James. A sampler of dubious quotations. A head of Blake with gaping Bedlam sockets instead of eyes. The Tate no longer has its Blake watercolours in glass cases under felt ...

Between centuries

Frank Kermode, 11 January 1990

In the Nineties 
by John Stokes.
Harvester, 199 pp., £17.50, September 1989, 0 7450 0604 3
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Olivia Shakespear and W.B. Yeats 
by John Harwood.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £35, January 1990, 0 333 42518 9
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Letters to the New Island 
by W.B. Yeats, edited by George Bornstein and Hugh Witemeyer.
Macmillan, 200 pp., £45, November 1989, 0 333 43878 7
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The Letters of Ezra Pound to Margaret Anderson: The ‘Little Review’ Correspondence 
edited by Thomas Scott, Melvin Friedman and Jackson Bryer.
Faber, 368 pp., £30, July 1989, 0 571 14099 8
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Ezra Pound and Margaret Cravens: A Tragic Friendship, 1910-1912 
edited by Omar Pound and Robert Spoo.
Duke, 181 pp., £20.75, January 1989, 0 8223 0862 2
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Postcards from the End of the World: An Investigation into the Mind of Fin-de-Siècle Vienna 
by Larry Wolff.
Collins, 275 pp., £15, January 1990, 0 00 215171 5
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Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age 
by Modris Eksteins.
Bantam, 396 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 593 01862 1
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Esprit de Corps: The Art of the Parisian Avant-Garde and the First World War, 1916-1925 
by Kenneth Silver.
Thames and Hudson, 506 pp., £32, October 1989, 0 500 23567 8
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... the Nineties is to have first-hand experience of l’entre-siècle, a useful word I picked up from Kenneth Silver. Expect to see signs of what Henri Focillon in his book on the year 1000 identified as ‘centurial mysticism’, an affliction even more likely to be endemic when the century that is ending is also ending a millennium. These chronological ...

God’s Own

Angus Calder, 12 March 1992

Empire and English Character 
by Kathryn Tidrick.
Tauris, 338 pp., £24.95, August 1990, 1 85043 191 4
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Into Africa: The story of the East African Safari 
by Kenneth Cameron.
Constable, 229 pp., £14.95, June 1990, 0 09 469770 1
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Burton: Snow upon the Desert 
by Frank McLynn.
Murray, 428 pp., £19.95, September 1990, 0 7195 4818 7
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From the Sierras to the Pampas: Richard Burton’s Travels in the Americas, 1860-69 
by Frank McLynn.
Barrie and Jenkins, 258 pp., £16.99, July 1991, 0 7126 3789 3
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The Duke of Puddle Dock: Travels in the Footsteps of Stamford Raffles 
by Nigel Barley.
Viking, 276 pp., £16.99, March 1992, 0 670 83642 7
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... then comes Herbert Chitepo, named after an African leader martyred in the struggle. To the south, Baker and Speke intrude between Samora Machel and Mugabe. Since those two famous explorers never came anywhere near the territory formerly known as Southern Rhodesia, their continued invocation in the centre of decolonised Harare is remarkable testimony to the ...

Bonfire in Merrie England

Richard Wilson: Shakespeare’s Burning, 4 May 2017

... to celebrate its rebuilding. Brave Enterprise was written by the theatre’s publicist, Arthur Kenneth Chesterton, who had moved to Stratford in 1925, after being appointed drama critic of the Stratford Herald on the recommendation of his famous second cousin, G.K. Chesterton. Born in 1899 in South Africa, where his father supervised a gold mine, A.K. had ...

Empty Cookie Jar

Donald MacKenzie: Ethnoaccountancy, 22 May 2003

Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego and the Death of Enron 
by Robert Bryce.
PublicAffairs, 394 pp., £9.99, November 2002, 1 903985 54 4
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Enron: The Rise and Fall 
by Loren Fox.
Wiley, 384 pp., £18.50, October 2002, 0 471 23760 4
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... 1986, Enron was involved in joint drilling with Bush’s company, Spectrum 7. Enron’s chairman, Kenneth Lay, seems to have developed a joshing intimacy with Bush. Loren Fox reproduces Bush’s 1997 birthday letter to Lay: ‘55 years old. Wow! That is really old. Thank goodness you have such a young, beautiful wife.’ Political links outside the US were ...

Barely under Control

Jenny Turner: Education: Who’s in charge?, 7 May 2015

... Labour, which is to say he was writing about the consequences of the Education Reform Act 1988. Kenneth Baker, the Conservative minister responsible for that legislation, set out to create a market and certainly achieved it: once you enforce a fixed curriculum and standardised testing, it’s easy to turn education into lots of little economic ...

Mrs Thatcher’s Universities

Peter Pulzer, 22 June 1989

... their replacements come from? Not to mention those who are to teach the extra students whom Mr Baker wants to have access to higher education. No doubt the DES is researching that one. Yet even if the number of graduate scholarships for UK students were to be increased, or if more jobs were created or unfrozen, and even if salaries were restored to their ...

Blood for Oil?

Retort: The takeover of Iraq, 21 April 2005

... in government. In December 2003 the administration trotted out the Bush family consigliere, James Baker, the consummate oilman, as special presidential envoy to restructure Iraq’s $130 billion debt. Baker’s law firm represents Halliburton; Baker Hughes, his oil-services company, was ...

Daisy packs her bags

Zachary Leader: The Road to West Egg, 21 September 2000

Trimalchio: An Early Version of ‘The Great Gatsby’ 
by F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by James L.W. West III.
Cambridge, 192 pp., £30, April 2000, 0 521 40237 9
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... time stops, the external world of rain and loud wind vanishes. It has been suggested by Kenneth Eble that the effect of following this moment with the newly interpolated material (introduced by way of an abrupt scene change to Gatsby’s interview with ‘an ambitious young reporter’) is to prolong the preceding scene and make it reverberate in ...

Even If You Have to Starve

Ian Penman: Mod v. Trad, 29 August 2013

Mod: A Very British Style 
by Richard Weight.
Bodley Head, 478 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 224 07391 2
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... In a lovely 1963 piece on Miles Davis, Kenneth Tynan quoted Cocteau to illuminate the art of his ‘discreet, elliptical’ subject: Davis was one of those 20th-century artists who had found ‘a simple way of saying very complicated things’. Jump to 1966 and the meatier, beatier sound of a UK Top 20 hit, the Who’s ‘Substitute’, a vexed, stuttering anti-manifesto, with its self-accusatory boast: ‘The simple things you see are all complicated!’ You couldn’t find two more different musical cries: Davis’s liquid tone is hurt, steely, recessive, where Townshend’s is upfront, impatient, hectoring ...

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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... At his best he is a marvellous poet, and ‘Marked with D’, a requiem for a tongue-tied cremated baker – I thought how his cold tongue burst into flame but only literally, which makes me sorry, sorry for his sake there’s no heaven to reach – will be in anthologies as long as Dylan Thomas’s requiem in ‘After the Funeral’ for ‘dead humped ...

Sod off, readers

John Sutherland, 26 September 1991

Rude Words: A Discursive History of the London Library 
by John Wells.
Macmillan, 240 pp., £17.50, September 1991, 0 333 47519 4
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Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English 
by Geoffrey Hughes.
Blackwell, 283 pp., £16.95, August 1991, 0 631 16593 2
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... seat in the British Library than to endow a professorial chair in library science at Oxford. Kenneth Cooper, the Library’s retiring chief executive, mournfully predicts that ‘the finished library will be “second-rate”.’ Cooper fears that, despite the new technology, ‘the delivery of some material to the new reading-rooms will take ...

Christian v. Cannibal

Michael Rogin: Norman Mailer and American history, 1 April 1999

The American Century 
by Harold Evans.
Cape, 710 pp., £40, November 1998, 0 224 05217 9
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The Time of Our Time 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 1286 pp., £25, September 1998, 0 316 64571 0
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... of the book and overlooked the subversive role of his ‘chief history researcher’, Kevin Baker, at the centre). Did the devil paint the picture, as Norman Mailer might have it, while God supplied the frame (or, since Mailer’s eschatology is not easy to decipher, was it the other way around)? Mailer, too, is having a love affair with America, but ...

It’s she, it’s she, it’s she

Joanna Biggs: Americans in Paris, 2 August 2012

Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis 
by Alice Kaplan.
Chicago, 289 pp., £17, May 2012, 978 0 226 42438 5
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As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Diaries 1964-80 
by Susan Sontag.
Hamish Hamilton, 544 pp., £18.99, April 2012, 978 0 241 14517 3
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... the sociologist Philip Rieff. Now she wrote about Nightwood instead of imitating it: her adviser, Kenneth Burke, had once lived with Barnes in Greenwich Village, and what she ended up writing – she argued that the novel made beauty out of something dissolute, where T.S. Eliot had said the book had a ‘quality of horror and doom’ – was loved by ...

The Breakaway

Perry Anderson: Goodbye Europe, 21 January 2021

... a couple of days after the Danes were forced into holding a second referendum. At the Treasury, Kenneth Clarke presided over a return to growth, but it was of no electoral avail. The Conservatives were comprehensively thrashed in the elections of May 1997, leaving Tony Blair with the largest Commons majority of any government since 1945.Dramatic though the ...

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