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Tortoises with Zips

David Craig: The Snow Geese by William Fiennes, 4 April 2002

The Snow Geese 
by William Fiennes.
Picador, 250 pp., £14.99, March 2002, 0 330 37578 4
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... North-East Canada and his alternation between dependence on home and an urge to hive off. Having Paul Gallico’s Snow Goose read to him at prep school, rediscovering the novella in a hotel when he was convalescing from a major operation in his mid-twenties: these experiences inspired him to follow the snow geese as they made their flight north-eastwards in ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... are snitches. What did the local liquor store owner in Woody Creek, Colorado, know about Hunter Thompson? The make of his car and that he was going to appear on the Today show. The main snitch in Ray Bradbury’s file was the actor and screenwriter Martin Berkeley, a former Communist Party member who gave around 160 names to the House Committee on ...

Short Cuts

Christian Lorentzen: The Weiner Trilogy, 29 August 2013

... Weiner a rather bland politician: a striver and a party hack, another jockish pretty boy, a Paul Ryan of the centre left. In the 1980s, just out of college, where he played hockey (still does, every Monday night), Weiner rose through the office of then Congressman Charles Schumer (now known as ‘Wall Street’s senator’), and was elected New York’s ...

At the Centre Pompidou

Jeremy Harding: Beat Generation, 8 September 2016

... a few years later. Peter Orlovsky and Allen Ginsberg at the Hotel de Londres, Paris in 1957. Bob Thompson, ‘LeRoi Jones and his Family’ (1964) Brion Gysin, ‘Calligraphy’ (1960) Brion Gysin, William S. Burroughs, Untitled (Primrose Path, the Third Mind, p.12, 1965) Ettore Sottsass, ‘Neal Cassady, Los Gatos, California’ (1962) Bernard ...

On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move, 13 September 2018

Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... manufactured look. (He had, in fact, changed it by deed poll from William Guinneach Gunn to Thompson William Gunn – Thompson was his mother’s maiden name.) It was clear, too, that he enjoyed his own style, his wit, his urge to dismiss what was dull and cautious, to celebrate what was dangerous and alive. This was ...
Joseph Conrad: A Biography 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Murray, 320 pp., £20, July 1991, 0 7195 4910 8
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Joseph Conrad and the Modern Temper 
by Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan.
Oxford, 218 pp., £30, August 1991, 9780198117858
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... by the sea striking her astern or amidships?’ That was one of the easier ones. When Captain Thompson – ‘motionless, remote and enigmatical’ – piled on the agony with fog, a lee-shore and a lost anchor cable, Conrad explained that he would ‘back the bow anchor and tail the heaviest hawser on board on the end of the chain before letting go, and ...

Yawning and Screaming

John Bayley, 5 February 1987

Jane Austen 
by Tony Tanner.
Macmillan, 291 pp., £20, November 1986, 0 333 32317 3
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... is there to be made use of, and everyone makes use of it in his own way. Christopher Hill and E.P. Thompson invent alternative Englands where radical social experiments were nipped in the bud by the entrenched forces of reaction, while T.S. Eliot’s successors imagine devout cavaliers preserving a unified sensibility in economic and spiritual matters. Apart ...

How stupid people are

John Sturrock: Flaubert, 7 September 2006

Bouvard and Pecuchet 
by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Mark Polizzotti.
Dalkey Archive, 328 pp., £8.99, January 2006, 1 56478 393 6
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Flaubert: A Life 
by Frederick Brown.
Heinemann, 629 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 434 00769 2
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... evidence of stupidity on hand – and none more eye-catching than that left behind him by ‘Thompson of Sunderland’, a vandal out of the North who had scrawled his name and address on Pompey’s column in Alexandria in letters that Flaubert claims could be read ‘a quarter of a league away’. More significantly stupid than ...

Writing Absurdity

Adam Shatz: Chester Himes, 26 April 2018

Chester B. Himes: A Biography 
by Lawrence P. Jackson.
Norton, 606 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 393 06389 9
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... can detect echoes of his jaundiced vision in Jordan Peele’s recent horror film, Get Out, and in Paul Beatty’s novel The Sellout. But, as if it were his destiny to remain just beyond the pale of literary approval, Himes, unlike Baldwin, flunks the contemporary ‘woke’ test. As much as he deplored the prejudices of the black bourgeoisie and aligned ...

In place of fairies

Simon Schaffer, 2 December 1982

Stolen Lightning: The Social Theory of Magic 
by Daniel O’Keefe.
Martin Robertson, 581 pp., £17.50, September 1982, 0 85520 486 9
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Scienze, Credenze Occulti, Livelli di Cultura 
edited by Paola Zambelli.
Leo Olschki, 562 pp., April 1982, 88 222 3069 8
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... to the structure and to the theme of Stolen Lightning. This is not a book that describes magic – Paul Daniels and his friends in the Magic Circle can rest easy. Instead, it is a book that celebrates a kind of magic, the magical arcana of high social science. As the author frequently points out, modern sociology and anthropology have been dominated by the ...

Entanglements

V.G. Kiernan, 4 August 1983

The Working Class in Modern British History: Essays in Honour of Henry Pelling 
edited by Jay Winter.
Cambridge, 315 pp., £25, February 1983, 0 521 23444 1
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The Chartist Experience: Studies in Working-Class Radicalism and Culture, 1830-60 
edited by James Epstein and Dorothy Thompson.
Macmillan, 392 pp., £16, November 1982, 0 333 32971 6
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Bread, Knowledge and Freedom: A Study of 19th-Century Working Class Autobiography 
by David Vincent.
Methuen, 221 pp., £4.95, December 1982, 0 416 34670 7
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... with the paper’s backers, and recent research seems to show him in no very creditable light. Paul Addison begins a commentary on Churchill’s career before 1914 by noting that it ‘depended in many respects on his relations with the urban working class’. His first constituency was Oldham. He was capable in those days, as Clarke reminds us, of ...

Seconds Away

Wayland Kennet, 8 January 1987

‘Peace’ of the Dead: The Truth behind the Nuclear Disarmers 
by Paul Mercer.
Policy Research Publications, 465 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 9511436 0 3
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... this because it never looked at the origin of the nuclear weapons phenomenon in the first place. Paul Mercer correctly notes the way CND has waxed and waned as new generations of nuclear weaponry, especially American, have appeared in Britain. He does not draw the interesting comparison between this country and France, where there is no ‘peace ...

On Thatcher

Karl Miller, 25 April 2013

... Gilmour, W.G. Runciman, Neal Ascherson, Christopher Hitchens, R.W. Johnson, Ross McKibbin, E.P. Thompson, Tam Dalyell and Peter Clarke. What they wrote seemed excellent to me, with Runciman bearing the palm for aphoristic conciseness. In embarking on a review, also in 1989, of Hugo Young’s biography of her, R.W. Johnson was also ...

A bout de Bogart

Jenny Diski, 19 May 2011

Tough without a Gun: The Extraordinary Life of Humphrey Bogart 
by Stefan Kanfer.
Faber, 288 pp., £14.99, February 2011, 978 0 571 26072 0
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... plain to downright ugly, if you don’t count Glen Ford or Dana Andrews (who weren’t exactly Paul Newman or Montgomery Clift themselves). My generation have Cahiers du cinéma, Godard and Truffaut to thank for the earlier generation of movie stars we might have overlooked. More fundamentally, we have to thank Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, who ...

Death in Greece

Marilyn Butler, 17 September 1981

Byron’s Letter and Journals. Vol. XI: For Freedom’s Battle 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 243 pp., £11.50, April 1981, 0 7195 3792 4
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Byron: The Complete Poetical Works 
edited by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 464 pp., £35, October 1980, 0 19 811890 2
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Red Shelley 
by Paul Foot.
Sidgwick, 293 pp., £12.95, May 1981, 0 283 98679 4
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Ugo Foscolo, Poet of Exile 
by Glauco Cambon.
Princeton, 360 pp., £15, September 1980, 0 691 06424 5
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... improved text of a major poet in its amplified context. It is hard on Shelley, and doubly hard on Paul Foot, to turn to his book after the Byronic feast. Foot is modest about his own professional credentials – he charmingly quotes the equally charming observation of the Shelley scholar G.M. Matthews: ‘I do not think you err on the side of pedantry.’ The ...

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