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Tears in the Café Select

Christopher Prendergast, 9 March 1995

Paris Interzone: Richard Wright, Lolita, Boris Vian and Others on the Left Bank 1946-1960 
by James Campbell.
Secker, 305 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 436 20106 2
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Foreign Correspondent: Paris in the Sixties 
by Peter Lennon.
Picador, 220 pp., £16.99, April 1994, 0 330 31911 6
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The Good Ship Venus: The Erotic Voyage of the Olympia Press 
by John de St Jorre.
Hutchinson, 332 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 09 177874 3
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... Paris figures in the titles of both James Campbell’s and Peter Lennon’s books, but this is a restricted, specialised Paris. Campbell takes us into something called the ‘Interzone’ (the term is odd, and troublesome), inhabited by assorted exiles, misfits and drop-outs during the Fifties and late Forties. Lennon’s jaunty impressionistic book takes us into the Sixties, with an account of his experiences as a young journalist writing, sporadically, for the Guardian, while, in the intervals, getting caught up in all kinds of adventures (best of all an improbable encounter, in the company of Samuel Beckett, with Peter O’Toole ...

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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... Even inferior tradesmen had to be kept at bay. The Great Fire of London – the point at which Peter Thorold’s book begins – led to an outflow of the dingier homeless from the City westward. Some were absorbed in rookeries and Alsatias, packed with thieves and noseless beggars, or in the sizable slum which adjoined Whitehall. There was no welcome for ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2019, 2 January 2020

... unaware of. I’ve never been an enthusiastic member, partly because Larkin wasn’t particularly keen on my stuff or keen on my being keen on his (which I am); Amis (K.) very much of the same mind. It wasn’t this, though, that put me off. What made me dubious about the society was the ...

Diary

Anne Enright: Mrs Robinson Repents, 28 January 2010

... struck him as ‘bizarre’, in that the interview took place on the day her husband, Peter Robinson, went to Downing Street to accept the role of First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly ‘and there really was a sense that Iris had stolen his thunder’. Black, who was hired as her political adviser, does not say when he decided to ...

Me First

Andrew O’Hagan, 7 March 1996

Peter York’s Eighties 
by Peter York and Charles Jennings.
BBC, 192 pp., £12.99, January 1996, 0 563 37191 9
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... wee lassie’, if that’s what was needed, ‘nice way of speaking’, ‘enthusiastic’, ‘keen’, ‘good reasons for wanting the job’, ‘a few exams passed’, ‘clearly looking for work’); a 2 meant they were okay, but less than perfect in all these areas; a 3 meant they were not so presentable, deficient, older, troublesome, or the wrong ...

Diary

Andrew Brighton: On Peter Fuller, 7 November 1991

... of Oxbridge voices reviewing an exhibition selected by and posthumously mounted as a tribute to Peter Fuller. The wannabe Oxbridge voice of Giles Auty, art bumbler for the Spectator, declares ‘Peter’ was led by his arguments rather than his eyes. Up speaks real Oxbridge voice, while duly patronising to Auty – not ...

A Welcome for Foreigners

Peter Burke, 7 November 1991

The Golden Age of Painting in Spain 
by Jonathan Brown.
Yale, 330 pp., £39.95, January 1991, 0 300 04760 6
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Spanish Paintings of the 15th through 19th Centuries 
by Jonathan Brown and Richard Mann.
National Gallery of Art, Washington/Cambridge, 165 pp., £50, April 1991, 0 521 40107 0
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... the Habsburg patronage of the visual arts’; Philip II, presented as ‘an exceptionally keen and informed patron of the arts’, despite his notorious inability to appreciate the talents of El Greco; his grandson Philip IV, whose artistic interests were discussed in Brown’s earlier book on Velazquez; and even Philip IV’s sickly son Charles ...

On the Blower

Peter Clarke: The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt, 18 February 1999

The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt: Volume I 
edited by Sarah Curtis.
Macmillan, 748 pp., £25, November 1998, 0 333 74166 8
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... to her. ‘I keep it very quiet,’ he remarks. ‘She is always giving it away.’ Wyatt’s keen sense of self-interest told him to keep quiet about a goose whose golden eggs he badly needed. When others flattered him with talk of his direct line to the Prime Minister, he always made deadpan responses. Moreover, we have the authority of Sarah ...

Unbosoming

Peter Barham: Madness in the nineteenth century, 17 August 2006

Madness at Home: The Psychiatrist, the Patient and the Family in England 1820-60 
by Akihito Suzuki.
California, 260 pp., £32.50, March 2006, 0 520 24580 6
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... modification of insanity’, he called it) expressly tailored to the needs of wealthy families keen to deprive relatives who were troublesome, but not insane by the usual criteria, of their civil rights in order to spare the family from ruin or infamy. One noted alienist, John Haslam, hinted at an affinity between respect for property and ...

Raven’s Odyssey

D.A.N. Jones, 19 July 1984

Swallow 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 312 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 0 575 03446 7
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First Among Equals 
by Jeffrey Archer.
Hodder, 446 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 340 35266 3
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Morning Star 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 264 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 9780856341380
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... a handkerchief’. But, unlike D.M. Thomas, both Raven and Archer are accomplished storytellers, keen on verisimilitude. Both are skilled in the use of stock characters, people who seem familiar, so that we may guess how they will respond to events – guess, not predict, for Archer and Raven are acquainted with the least-likely-person technique. Both add ...
By the Banks of the Neva: Chapters from the Lives and Careers of the British in 18th-Century Russia 
by Anthony Cross.
Cambridge, 496 pp., £60, November 1996, 0 521 55293 1
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... account of ‘Russians in 18th-century Britain’. Their profile was modest. Cross started with Peter I’s celebrated visit of 1698. Of around four hundred compatriots who followed in his footsteps, most enrolled as students, although there were also naval recruits, apprentices to shipbuilders and instrument-makers, and others (like British businessmen in ...

From Notre Dame to Cluny, via a Beehive Hut

John Bossy: Abelard’s Final Fling, 2 July 1998

Abelard: A Medieval Life 
by M.T. Clanchy.
Blackwell, 416 pp., £45, January 1997, 0 631 20502 0
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... but he does not bang on about it. He is telling a story; his mode, to borrow a phrase from Peter Burke, is thick narrative. First he sets up his characters: Abelard himself; his enemy Bernard of Clairvaux, saint and, on Clanchy’s showing, insufferable rhetorician; his lover, short-lived wife and long-lived correspondent Heloise, niece or daughter and ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Black Forest Thinking, 22 October 2020

... open over a secret courtyard, and I could hear what sounded like an old TV broadcast, the voice of Peter Jennings saying it was a historic moment. I wasn’t imagining it: the sound was coming from the Brandenburg Gate, where images from the fall of the Wall were being projected onto the façade to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of reunification.Fresh ...

Best Things

Alan Hollinghurst, 20 August 1981

Viewpoints: Poets in Conversation with John Haffenden 
Faber, 189 pp., £7.50, June 1981, 0 571 11689 2Show More
A Free Translation 
by Craig Raine.
Salamander, 29 pp., £4.50, June 1981, 0 907540 02 3
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A German Requiem 
by James Fenton.
Salamander, 9 pp., £1.50, January 1981, 0 907540 00 7
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Caviare at the Funeral 
by Louis Simpson.
Oxford, 89 pp., £4.50, April 1981, 0 19 211943 5
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... thoughts, opinions and intentions of writers we are interested in, and by and large writers are keen to express these things in reviews, essays and memoirs subsidiary to their main work. A critic lurks, an implicit presence, in every creative writer, and though most of them are starved of a Boswell to transcribe and irradiate obiter dicta as facets of the ...

Floreat Brixton

Tam Dalyell, 5 December 1985

An Eton Schoolboy’s Album 
by Mark Dixon.
Debrett, 118 pp., £10.95, November 1985, 0 905649 78 8
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... Work and scholarship mattered to teachers like Oliver Van Oss, M.N. Forrest, A.J. Marsden and Peter Hazell, fresh back from Normandy, Arnhem or the Far East. ‘You’d better realise how lucky you are to be here, and you’d better justify yourselves’: that was their attitude. I don’t detect the same pressures in Dixon’s book, nor the same ...

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