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No Dancing, No Music

Alex Clark: New Puritans, 2 November 2000

All Hail the New Puritans 
edited by Nicholas Blincoe and Matt Thorne.
Fourth Estate, 204 pp., £10, September 2000, 1 84115 345 1
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... paragraph of Scarlett Thomas’s ‘Mind Control’, the story that starts the collection: Mark got his Dreamcast five minutes before he died. His mother wanted it buried with him. The story is narrated by Mark’s girlfriend, who is living with his parents, and acting as a nursemaid-cum-housekeeper to both of ...

The Trouble with HRH

Christopher Hitchens, 5 June 1997

Princess Margaret: A Biography 
by Theo Aronson.
O’Mara, 336 pp., £16.99, February 1997, 1 85479 248 2
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... for a marriage of any member of the family who was younger than 25. After the quarter-century mark had been reached, things became simpler. All that was required was the consent of the British and Dominion Parliaments. But the year was 1953, and there was a Coronation on the way, and Canon 107 of the Church of England’s 1603 doctrines expressly forbade ...

In the Sorting Office

James Meek, 28 April 2011

... TNT,’ Leijten said. ‘The postal system is sick.’ On the eve of my journey to Holland, David Simpson, the earnest Ulsterman who is Royal Mail’s chief spokesman, took me to one of the facilities the company is most proud of, the Gatwick mail centre in Sussex. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with the nearby airport. It’s a giant mail processing ...

The Person in the Phone Booth

David Trotter: Phone Booths, 28 January 2010

... instead inhale the anonymous yet fiercely intimate odour of the crowd. The protagonist of Howard Simpson’s Vietnam spy novel, Someone Else’s War (2003), has information to gather. He makes a call. ‘The phone booth smelled of urine; someone had spat generously on the floor and a loud argument in Cantonese was going on at the stamp counter.’ Booths ...


Patricia Craig, 19 September 1985

But for Bunter 
by David Hughes.
Heinemann, 223 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 434 35410 4
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Bunter Sahib 
by Daniel Green.
Hodder, 272 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 340 36429 7
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The Good Terrorist 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 370 pp., £9.50, September 1985, 0 224 02323 3
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Unexplained Laughter 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 155 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 7156 2070 3
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Polaris and Other Stories 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 237 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 340 33227 1
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... Anthony Eden and put him down on paper as Harry Wharton. (In fact, this isn’t too wide of the mark. Charles Hamilton has left a record of how he went about the business of assembling his characters, picking up a podgy frame here, a pair of loud trousers there.) The author of But for Bunter, indeed, has a lot of fun selecting later celebrities with whom to ...


Daniel Soar: Benjamin Kunkel, 5 January 2006

by Benjamin Kunkel.
Picador, 241 pp., £12.99, November 2005, 0 330 44456 5
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... out to be no different from a load of others, and the faint but as yet untested hope that since no mark has yet been made his horizons are unlimited. There’s some anxiety in the syntax too, in the halting comma-laden first sentence, as though each step is a great labour. A few pages later we learn that Dwight, Quito-bound, knows no Spanish: ‘I guess I’d ...


Christopher Hitchens, 24 August 1995

To Renew America 
by Newt Gingrich.
HarperCollins, 260 pp., £18, July 1995, 9780060173364
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... would be Newt Gingrich of Georgia. Sounded like a redneck to me, and a wondrous name withal. (Mark Stamaty, best of Washington cartoonists, took to calling him ‘Congressman Hoot Salamander’.) I didn’t do much prep. As usual, the proceedings opened with the charge that I was ignorant of the lessons of Munich. Generally, the other side didn’t know ...

Frocks and Shocks

Hilary Mantel: Jane Boleyn, 24 April 2008

Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford 
by Julia Fox.
Phoenix, 398 pp., £9.99, March 2008, 978 0 7538 2386 6
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... and Anne Boleyn’s uncle, the Duke of Norfolk. Arrests took place in the first week of May: of Mark Smeaton, a court musician, and a number of gentlemen close to the king. George Boleyn was one of them. Along with the queen, the suspects were sent to the Tower, and a trial process set in motion. In the end, five men, including George, were charged with ...

All the girls said so

August Kleinzahler: John Berryman, 2 July 2015

The Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 427 pp., £11.99, October 2014, 978 0 374 53455 4
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77 Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 84 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53452 3
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Berryman’s Sonnets 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 127 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53454 7
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The Heart Is Strange 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 179 pp., £17.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 22108 9
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Poets in their Youth 
by Eileen Simpson.
Farrar, Straus, 274 pp., £11.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 23559 8
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... Married, happily it would seem, for five years to Eileen Mulligan (who 35 years later, as Eileen Simpson, now a psychologist, would write Poets in Their Youth, easily the most clear-eyed, intelligent and compassionate record of what it’s like to live with and among poets), he had begun an affair, the first since his marriage, with the wife of a young ...

Astride a White Horse

Declan Kiberd: Bridget Clearly, 6 January 2000

The Burning of Bridget Cleary: A True Story 
by Angela Bourke.
Pimlico, 240 pp., £10, August 1999, 0 7126 6590 0
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... she had been unfaithful to Cleary, who was often away at Clonmel. One possible lover was William Simpson, a man hated by many locals because he worked as a ‘heavy’ for the landlord. Bridget, always a defiant individualist, did his shopping when local grocers refused to serve him. (This may have helped the couple to secure the house from the ...

Gilded Drainpipes

E.S. Turner: London, 10 June 1999

The London Rich: The Creation of a Great City from 1666 to the Present 
by Peter Thorold.
Viking, 374 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 670 87480 9
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The Rise of the Nouveaux Riches: Style and Status in Victorian and Edwardian Architecture 
by Mordaunt Crook.
Murray, 354 pp., £25, May 1999, 0 7195 6040 3
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... battlements. For most, however, the preference was some form of Classicism, which was seen as the mark of a gentleman. French Classicism, in variable forms, was the choice of the super-rich, such as the Rothschilds at Waddesdon, Mentmore and Tring; but Château Impney in Worcestershire showed what a relatively humble salt manufacturer could do when bitten by ...

Wordsworth and the Well-Hidden Corpse

Marilyn Butler, 6 August 1992

The Lyrical Ballads: Longman Annotated Texts 
edited by Michael Mason.
Longman, 419 pp., £29.99, April 1992, 0 582 03302 0
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Strange Power of Speech: Wordsworth, Coleridge and Literary Possession 
by Susan Eilenberg.
Oxford, 278 pp., £30, May 1992, 0 19 506856 4
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The Politics of Nature: Wordsworth and Some Contemporaries 
by Nicholas Roe.
Macmillan, 186 pp., £35, April 1992, 0 333 52314 8
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... Preface, anyone seriously studying it (or for that matter the 1800 edition) will miss footnotes to mark where material was added in 1802. Two new critical books illustrate the range and diversity of present historical work on Wordsworth and Coleridge. Susan Eilenberg goes into the deep relationship between the collaborating authors that Mason puts ...


Tim Dee: Derek Walcott’s Birthday Party, 22 May 2014

... other bare feet besides Walcott’s belong to a corpse on a dissecting table in front of Keith Simpson, the forensic pathologist. An illegible name-tag is attached to a big toe. St Lucia may not be the Isle of Man, but legs matter here. By the time he arrived on the island in the 1550s the French privateer François Le Clerc had lost one of his in a naval ...
Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot 
by Michael Rogin.
California, 320 pp., $24.95, May 1996, 0 520 20407 7
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... of a Nation), Gone with the Wind and Alex Haley’s Roots – to which we can now add the O.J. Simpson trial. Rogin does not extend his historical schema beyond 1948, after which it might be argued that TV and pop music (and particularly their first synthesis, Elvis Presley) pick up and reinvent the blackface story. He does, however, introduce a new ...
... can easily become victims of the permanent black intifada (of which the exculpation of O.J. Simpson is as much an expression as the Los Angeles riots). That the low-skilled are being further impoverished merely means that the United States is on its way to acquiring the income-distribution characteristics of a Third World country, with a truly very rich ...

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