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Thomas Jones: Literary Prizes, 10 May 2001

... chocolate), help may still be at hand in the form of literary prizes. The Booker, which despite Martin Amis’s best protests still considers itself ‘Britain’s most prestigious literary accolade’ (whatever that means), won’t be bestowed until 17 October, and the shortlist isn’t due till mid-September, but the hype began to trundle back in ...

I am disorder

Michael Wood, 19 October 1995

Sabbath’s Theater 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 451 pp., £15.99, October 1995, 0 224 03814 1
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... Portnoy complained that his life was a Jewish joke, and Philip Roth himself once suggested that American reality beggared the imagination of even the most extravagant novelist. Who could have invented Eisenhower, he asked, and no sooner had he invented a caricature of Richard Nixon in Our Gang than Nixon turned out to be caricaturing himself in the same way, locker-room slang and all ...

A World of Waste

Philip Horne, 1 September 1983

The Proprietor 
by Ann Schlee.
Macmillan, 300 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 333 35111 8
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Slouching towards Kalamazoo 
by Peter De Vries.
Gollancz, 241 pp., £7.95, August 1983, 0 575 03306 1
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Marcovaldo 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 121 pp., £7.95, August 1983, 0 436 08272 1
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The Loser 
by George Konard, translated by Ivan Sanders.
Allen Lane, 315 pp., £8.95, August 1983, 0 7139 1599 4
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... than ‘outrageous’ (the blurb’s word), will fill us with a gloom like that discerned by Martin Scorsese in the worn features of the aging funnyman played by Jerry Lewis in his splendid recent film King of Comedy. The stories in Italo Calvino’s Marcovaldo (1963), a collection of 20 urban fables occupying a point in his work midway between the ...

The Way of the Warrior

Tom Shippey: Vikings, 3 April 2014

Vikings: Life and Legend 
edited by Gareth Williams, Peter Pentz and Matthias Wernhoff.
British Museum, 288 pp., £25, February 2014, 978 0 7141 2337 0
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The Northmen’s Fury 
by Philip Parker.
Cape, 450 pp., £25, March 2014, 978 0 224 09080 3
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... Life and Legend (until 22 June). The problem for the exhibition’s organisers – and for Philip Parker, whose book The Northmen’s Fury seems designed to tie in with it – is that we know too much about Vikings already. We know what they looked like: big, hairy, threatening, wearing horned helmets as like as not. We know what they did: rape and ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... know who Elena Ferrante was before the editors of the New York Review of Books did? Or how much Martin Amis drinks these days, and where? These scenarios seem unlikely. But perhaps they keep a file on Toni Morrison, who – as a photo that recently went viral made clear – hung out with Angela Davis in the early 1970s, and surely Don DeLillo’s ...

Losers

Ross McKibbin, 23 October 1986

The Politics of the UCS Work-In: Class Alliances and the Right to Work 
by John Foster and Charles Woolfson.
Lawrence and Wishart, 446 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 85315 663 8
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A Lost Left: Three Studies in Socialism and Nationalism 
by David Howell.
Manchester, 351 pp., £29.95, July 1986, 0 7190 1959 1
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The Miners’ Strike 1984-5: Loss without Limit 
by Martin Adeney and John Lloyd.
Routledge, 319 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 7102 0694 1
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Red Hill: A Mining Community 
by Tony Parker.
Heinemann, 196 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 434 57771 5
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Strike Free: New Industrial Relations in Britain 
by Philip Bassett.
Macmillan, 197 pp., £10.95, August 1986, 9780333418000
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... to Ireland was so suppressed as to be historically impossible. It is one of the many merits of Martin Adeney and John Lloyd’s excellent The Miners’ Strike that it, too, has a strong sense of history. As it needs to, since so many of the actors in the 1984-85 miners’ strike were all too conscious of their historical role: Mrs Thatcher and the ...

Do you think he didn’t know?

Stefan Collini: Kingsley Amis, 14 December 2006

The Life of Kingsley Amis 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 996 pp., £25, November 2006, 0 224 06227 1
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... No one writing about Amis’s life can help but be intimidated by the dazzling presence of Martin Amis’s Experience (2000). An unclassifiable memoir-testament-album-apologia, this deeply clever book is also a love song to his father, whose last years and death it selectively recounts, interweaving other episodes in the son’s life, including ...

How’s the vampire?

Christopher Hitchens, 8 November 1990

King Edward VIII: The Official Biography 
by Philip Ziegler.
Collins, 654 pp., £20, September 1990, 0 00 215741 1
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... the ridiculous blend of deference and denial that goes into the making of public support for it. Philip Ziegler is a historian of uncommon candour and, especially considering the ‘authorised’ nature of his work, unusual humour. Yet in the very first paragraph of his very first page he pitches face-forward into the enduring fallacy that sustains our ...

Diary

Zachary Leader: Oscar Talk at the Huntington, 16 April 1998

... Amis professed to hate ‘abroad’, but he was only intermittently a cultural nationalist. When Philip Larkin, in his capacity as librarian, canvassed him in 1960 for his views on the export of manuscripts, he received the usual robust reply: I will sell any of my manuscripts to the highest bidder, assuming such bidder to be of reputable standing, and I ...

Molehunt

Christopher Andrew, 22 January 1987

Sword and Shield: Soviet Intelligence and Security Apparatus 
by Jeffrey Richelson.
Harper and Row, 279 pp., £11.95, February 1986, 0 88730 035 9
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The Red and the Blue: Intelligence, Treason and the University 
by Andrew Sinclair.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £12.95, June 1986, 0 297 78866 3
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Inside Stalin’s Secret Police: NKVD Politics 1936-39 
by Robert Conquest.
Macmillan, 222 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 333 39260 4
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Conspiracy of Silence: The Secret Life of Anthony Blunt 
by Barrie Penrose and Simon Freeman.
Grafton, 588 pp., £14.95, November 1986, 0 246 12200 5
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... even fit all of the moles. The very first Cambridge recruit to the Comintern Intelligence apparat, Philip Spratt, was the withdrawn, heterosexual son of a Deptford elementary schoolmaster, who went to grammar school, won a scholarship to Downing College, read mathematics, had probably never heard of the Apostles, graduated with an ordinary degree, and felt an ...

Be interesting!

John Lanchester: Martin Amis, 6 July 2000

Experience 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 401 pp., £18, May 2000, 0 224 05060 5
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... continuum. Updike’s Self-Consciousness is well up at the art-over-life end of the spectrum; Philip Roth’s record-straightening and strangely flat The Facts is, perhaps surprisingly, of the other type (and his intensely focused Patrimony is somewhere in the middle). Kingsley Amis’s riotous Memoirs are lifelike, too much so for some. Terence Kilmartin ...

Pay me for it

Helen Deutsch: Summoning Dr Johnson, 9 February 2012

Samuel Johnson: A Life 
by David Nokes.
Faber, 415 pp., £9.99, August 2010, 978 0 571 22636 8
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Selected Writings 
by Samuel Johnson, edited by Peter Martin.
Harvard, 503 pp., £16.95, May 2011, 978 0 674 06034 0
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The Brothers Boswell: A Novel 
by Philip Baruth.
Corvus, 336 pp., £7.99, January 2011, 978 1 84887 446 6
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The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D. 
by John Hawkins, edited by O.M. Brack.
Georgia, 554 pp., £53.50, August 2010, 978 0 8203 2995 6
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... art with life by imagining him thinking, speaking and writing in perfect print-ready copy. Peter Martin’s introduction to the tercentenary edition of Selected Writings sets up an echo chamber of affirmations of Johnson’s eternal appeal ranging from Ruskin to Beckett to Seamus Heaney to that American avatar of Johnson, Harold Bloom, who places Johnson’s ...

Nutmegged

Frank Kermode: The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 by Martin Amis., 10 May 2001

The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 506 pp., £20, April 2001, 0 224 05059 1
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... can be left till later, if only a little later. Clichés are infallible symptoms of used thinking. Martin Amis has always wanted to be a good writer and he has got what he wanted. He early acquired a habit of vigilance, of stopping clichés at the frontier, and that habit couldn’t easily be broken. He is one of the few critics who trouble, even in a shortish ...

Adulterers’ Distress

Philip Horne, 21 July 1983

A Nail on the Head 
by Clare Boylan.
Hamish Hamilton, 135 pp., £7.95, July 1983, 0 241 11001 7
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New Stories 8: An Arts Council Anthology 
edited by Karl Miller.
Hutchinson, 227 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 9780091523800
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The Handyman 
by Penelope Mortimer.
Allen Lane, 199 pp., £6.95, May 1983, 0 7139 1364 9
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Open the Door 
by Rosemary Manning.
Cape, 180 pp., £7.95, June 1983, 0 224 02112 5
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A Boy’s Own Story 
by Edmund White.
Picador, 218 pp., £2.50, July 1983, 0 330 28151 8
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... with Bicycle’ by Jane Oxenford and the brief ‘Having taken off my wheels’ by Martin Elliott both associate love and cycling, the first affectedly gloomy and terse, the second too cleverly vivacious. The most valuable juxtaposition pairs two longish stories set in Scotland, David Craig’s ‘Jason and the Green Woman’ and John ...

Maids

Philip Horne, 1 April 1983

The Slow Train to Milan 
by Lisa St Aubin de Teran.
Cape, 254 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 224 02077 3
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Holy Pictures 
by Clare Boylan.
Hamish Hamilton, 201 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 241 10926 4
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Pilgermann 
by Russell Hoban.
Cape, 240 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 224 02072 2
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September Castle: A Tale of Love 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 261 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 85634 123 1
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The Watcher 
by Charles Maclean.
Allen Lane, 343 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 7139 1559 5
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The Little Drummer Girl 
by John le Carré.
Hodder, 433 pp., £8.95, March 1983, 0 340 32847 9
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... sleep of reason breeds monsters’: the premise of a genre which knows the dangers of the Unseen. Martin Gregory is an unreliable narrator of the unhappiest kind – one who can’t trust himself (his psychoanalyst’s reports give us at intervals a small purchase on reality). A compulsion from his past overtakes his ordered domestic life, and he finds ...

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