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Episteme, My Arse

Christopher Tayler: Laurent Binet, 15 June 2017

The Seventh Function of Language 
by Laurent Binet, translated by Sam Taylor.
Harvill Secker, 390 pp., £16.99, May 2017, 978 1 910701 58 4
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... generally indicted as the brainier half of a monstrous power couple. But the novel cuts her some slack for putting up with Sollers, then still the editor of Tel Quel, who in the course of the 1970s went from Moscow-line communism to Maoism and then to pro-Americanism with a sprinkling of libertinage and Catholic mysticism. Binet casts Sollers as a childishly ...

Alan Bennett chooses four paintings for schools

Alan Bennett: Studying the Form, 2 April 1998

... occasionally to be seen: reproductions on board of work by modern British painters – Ravilious, Paul Nash, Henry Moore, Pasmore. These, I think, were put out by Shell and turn up occasionally nowadays at auction, though not quite at Sotheby’s. That I’ve always liked – and found no effort in liking – British paintings of the Forties and Fifties I ...

In the Body Bag

Adam Mars-Jones: Ian McEwan’s ‘Nutshell’, 6 October 2016

by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 198 pp., £16.99, September 2016, 978 1 911214 33 5
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... but I tend to think of people with penises as men’) caused a certain amount of offence. When​ Paul Griffiths wrote his novel let me tell you, published in 2008, he made the formalist decision to narrate Ophelia’s life story using only her idiolect in the play – a vocabulary of 483 words. Good luck trying to voice personal grievances or casual opinions ...


John Kerrigan, 2 April 1987

The Faber Book of Contemporary American Poetry 
edited by Helen Vendler.
Faber, 440 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 571 13945 0
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Selected Poems 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 348 pp., £16.95, April 1986, 0 85635 666 2
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The Poetry Book Society Anthology 1986/87 
edited by Jonathan Barker.
Hutchinson, 94 pp., £4.95, November 1986, 0 09 165961 2
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Two Horse Wagon Going By 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 143 pp., £5.95, October 1986, 0 85635 661 1
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... and disabled by Vendler, Lowell staggers into the anthology as the author of unrhymed sonnets. Slack work from the Notebook years is no substitute for ‘The Quaker Graveyard’ and ‘Mr Edwards and the Spider’. To omit early Lowell constitutes censorship, not choice. Several kinds of density lie outside Vendler’s range, including that tortuous ...

Dummy and Biffy

Noël Annan, 17 October 1985

Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community 
by Christopher Andrew.
Heinemann, 616 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 02110 5
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The Secret Generation 
by John Gardner.
Heinemann, 453 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 434 28250 2
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Two Thyrds 
by Bertie Denham.
Ross Anderson Publications, 292 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 86360 006 9
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The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany 1933-1939 
by Wesley Wark.
Tauris, 304 pp., £19.50, October 1985, 1 85043 014 4
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... but, after all, sudden conversions occur. ‘Personally, I would have had the watchers out on St Paul for a long time if I had been in charge of the Christian secret service when he came blundering into Damascus yelling that he’d gone blind, and Christ was the Messiah.’ Railton does his work only too well and on the last page we see one of his younger ...

If I Turn and Run

Iain Sinclair: In Hoxton, 1 June 2000

by Bill Drummond.
Little, Brown, 361 pp., £12.99, March 2000, 0 316 85385 2
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Crucify Me Again 
by Mark Manning.
Codex, 190 pp., £8.95, May 2000, 0 18 995814 6
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... the big boys move in. Shoreditch Town Hall has the feel of those charity shops that take up the slack when serious commerce pulls out of pedestrianised, Kentish shopping precincts, killed off by the Bluewater retail landfill operation. Creeping stealthily in, behind all the art blather, are the developers. Now heritaged poverty is a selling point, the more ...

Tiny Little Lars

Joanna Kavenna: Von Trier’s Provocations, 15 April 2004

Trier on von Trier 
edited by Stig Björkman, translated by Neil Smith.
Faber, 288 pp., £16.99, February 2004, 0 571 20707 3
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directed by Lars von Trier.
May 2003
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... commentary on the town and its hypocrisies. Grace is found by an aspiring young writer called Tom (Paul Bettany), who is engaged in an inquiry into Moral Rearmament. Tom believes that the people of Dogville have no sense of community; and Grace’s arrival provides a perfect test of this notion. Politely, soft-spokenly reluctant to impose on Dogville, she is ...

A Bit Like Gulliver

Stephanie Burt: Seamus Heaney’s Seamus Heaney, 11 June 2009

Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney 
by Dennis O’Driscoll.
Faber, 524 pp., £22.50, November 2008, 978 0 571 24252 8
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The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney 
edited by Bernard O’Donoghue.
Cambridge, 239 pp., £45, December 2008, 978 0 521 54755 0
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... especially outside Ireland, may wonder at the gap in sensibility between Heaney (born in 1939) and Paul Muldoon (born in 1951), but to read about Heaney’s first years, his ‘nineteen-fifties/Of iron stoves and kin groups still in place’, is to see that the two poets do come from different generations: ‘I was well and truly formed,’ Heaney says, ‘by ...

The Getaway Car

Glen Newey: Machiavelli, 21 January 2016

Machiavellian Democracy 
by John McCormick.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 0 521 53090 3
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Machiavelli in the Making 
by Claude Lefort, translated by Michael Smith.
Northwestern, 512 pp., £32.50, January 2012, 978 0 8101 2438 7
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Redeeming ‘The Prince’: The Meaning of Machiavelli’s Masterpiece 
by Maurizio Viroli.
Princeton, 189 pp., £18.95, October 2013, 978 0 691 16001 6
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... earlier on the first Index Librorum Prohibitorum, issued in the Counter-Reformation pontificate of Paul IV, on the suspect grounds that they had fuelled the corruption of French politics. In the preface to the Six Books of the Commonwealth of 1576, Jean Bodin talks of ‘the delightful principles of Machiavelli, who lays down impiety and injustice as dual ...

Neutered Valentines

David Bromwich: James Agee, 7 September 2006

‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’, ‘A Death in the Family’, Shorter Fiction 
by James Agee.
Library of America, 818 pp., $35, October 2005, 1 931082 81 2
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Film Writing and Selected Journalism 
by James Agee.
Library of America, 748 pp., $40, October 2005, 1 931082 82 0
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Brooklyn Is 
by James Agee.
Fordham, 64 pp., $16.95, October 2005, 0 8232 2492 9
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... and tries to know the depth of Christ’s agony. His effort is broken up by stray thoughts and the slack morale of the boys around him, but he almost arrives at a point of identification. When the watch is over, the boys go out to swim in a pond, not long since cleared of winter ice and almost unbearable to the touch. Richard dives in and goes to the ...

My God, the Suburbs!

Colm Tóibín: John Cheever, 5 November 2009

Cheever: A Life 
by Blake Bailey.
Picador, 770 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 330 43790 5
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... have put myself into a position where I may be forced to lie. In 1964, Cheever invited the writer Paul Moor, who was a fan of his work, up to his hotel room in Berlin. ‘I think he was or may be a homosexual,’ he wrote to a friend about Moor. ‘This would account for the funny shoes and the tight pants and I thought his voice a note or two too ...

One Exceptional Figure Stood Out

Perry Anderson: Dmitri Furman, 30 July 2015

... out of the crisis in the teaching of Jesus, an ecstatic who believed in his own divinity, which Paul could transform into a faith beyond Judaism, no longer defined by the relation between God and his people, but God and the individual: a religion in which not observance of the Law, but love of the Almighty was the sole commandment. In China, during the only ...


Andrew O’Hagan: The Bournemouth Set, 21 May 2020

... entertained two separate minds on the value of reality, and he let his stories take up the slack. ‘The analogy between the life of the healthy man and that of the invalid suggested an analogy between art and life,’ Frank McLynn, another of his biographers, writes. ‘Yet Stevenson could never decide which of the two should be given paramountcy: his ...

The Lady in the Van

Alan Bennett, 26 October 1989

... braked by these large trailing carpet – slippered feet. Her legs are so thin now the feet are as slack and flat as those of a camel. Still there will be one moment to relish on this, as on all these journeys. When she has been pushed back from the market she will tell (and it is tell, there is never any thanks) whoever is pushing the chair to leave her ...

Why are you still here?

James Meek: Who owns Grimsby?, 23 April 2015

... the severed cable whiplashed back. The gunboat swept past tight across their stern, the cable went slack, and their net and all the fish it contained sank to the bottom of the Atlantic.Soon afterwards, in 1976, under pressure from the United States and Britain’s military chiefs, who took seriously Iceland’s threats to opt out of the North Atlantic ...

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