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Battle of the Wasps

C.K. Stead: Eliot v. Mansfield, 3 March 2011

... John has gone downstairs to see them off. Mrs E’s voice rises ‘Oh don’t commiserate Tom; he’s quite happy.’ I know it’s extravagant … but I dislike her so immensely. She really repels me. She makes me shiver with apprehension … I don’t dare to think what she is ‘seeing’. From the moment that John dropped a spoon & she cried: ‘I ...

Diary

Christopher Prendergast: Piss where you like, 17 March 2005

... the latter had done). One of my Dublin cousins came up with a generous suggestion. His father, Tom O’Brien, an erstwhile comrade-in-arms, was also buried in Mount Pleasant. Tom’s wife, Ann, my mother’s sister, still very much alive, was Jewish and had declared her intention of being buried in the Jewish ...

Emotional Sushi

Ian Sansom: Tony, Nick and Simon, 9 August 2001

One for My Baby 
by Tony Parsons.
HarperCollins, 330 pp., £15.99, July 2001, 0 00 226182 0
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How to Be Good 
by Nick Hornby.
Viking, 256 pp., £16.99, May 2001, 0 670 88823 0
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Little Green Man 
by Simon Armitage.
Viking, 246 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 0 670 89442 7
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... Tony Parsons is the talented journalist who used to play Leonard Bast to Tom Paulin’s rentier intellectual on Late Review, the BBC’s weekly parade of Schlegelisms. He was the mean little man with the Estuary accent who was entitled to his views. He currently writes a column for the Mirror and his opinions spill forth also now in novels ...

Plot 6, Row C, Grave 15

Malcolm Gaskill: Death of an Airman, 8 November 2018

... stall and flip and spin and burst into flames. Before I went to Italy, I took my nine-year-old son Tom to Duxford Air Museum to see a Bristol Fighter up close. It was bigger than I expected, with a wingspan of nearly forty feet, but it looked like a box kite, all struts and laced-up canvas. It fascinated Tom – the sort of ...

Here/Not Here

Wendy Steiner, 4 July 1996

... scar. How can the celebrity outsider maintain a sense of his identity, or painterly authority, when he is his own subject-matter and his audience sees that subject-matter as ‘other’, less than ‘us’? Basquiat’s solutions to this dilemma are often brilliant. In the triptych Zydeco (1984), for example, a cinematographer in profile looks through the lens of his movie camera ...

Aubade before Breakfast

Tom Crewe: Balfour and the Souls, 31 March 2016

Balfour’s World: Aristocracy and Political Culture at the Fin de Siècle 
by Nancy Ellenberger.
Boydell, 414 pp., £30, September 2015, 978 1 78327 037 8
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... eighty, published her personal tribute in the Times. The two women had been friends of a sort (Leonard disapproved): both were leading lights in famous circles of famous friends; both possessed a conversational brilliance liable to be iced with cruelty, an intensity threatening always to pitch into dangerous hilarity. Margot remembered her first sighting ...

Who is Laura?

Susannah Clapp, 3 December 1981

Olivia 
by Olivia.
Hogarth, 109 pp., £4.50, April 1981, 0 7012 0177 0
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... in his desk drawer, had at last been shown to friends in London. Rosamond Lehmann had praised it; Leonard Woolf wanted to publish it. The story was Olivia; the author, anonymous on publication in 1949, was Dorothy Strachey Bussy, Lytton Strachey’s sister. Olivia is a piece of spirited homage, by a woman both spirited and prone to homage. Dorothy Strachey ...

Grass Green Stockings

Eleanor Hubbard: A Spinster’s Accounts, 21 March 2013

The Business and Household Accounts of Joyce Jeffreys, Spinster of Hereford, 1638-48 
edited by Judith Spicksley.
Oxford, 413 pp., £90, March 2012, 978 0 19 726432 4
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... didn’t prevent her from being visited by an admirer or two. In 1641, she gave a shilling to Mr Tom Aston and Mr Dick Gravell, who, she wrote, ‘cam to be my valantine’. As a single woman, she couldn’t attend female neighbours who were giving birth, but she would send money to midwives and nurses. When her niece produced twins, Jeffreys stood as ...

Soldier, Sailor, Poacher

E.S. Turner, 3 October 1985

Great Britons: 20th-Century Lives 
by Harold Oxbury.
Oxford, 371 pp., £14.95, September 1985, 0 19 211599 5
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The Oxford Book of Military Anecdotes 
edited by Max Hastings.
Oxford, 514 pp., £9.50, October 1985, 0 19 214107 4
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The Long Affray: The Poaching Wars in Britain 
by Harry Hopkins.
Secker, 344 pp., £12.95, August 1985, 9780436201028
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... not Sir Alan Cobham, whose private air force introduced millions to flying, or Sir Donald Wolfit. Tom Webster, the sports cartoonist, gains his niche, but not ‘Beachcomber’. Enough of that; the game is too easy to play. The entries are skilfully ‘potted’, judicious in the DNB manner, but the more one browses the more it is apparent that a double ...

Genderbait for the Nerds

Christopher Tayler: William Gibson, 22 May 2003

Pattern Recognition 
by William Gibson.
Viking, 356 pp., £16.99, April 2003, 0 670 87559 7
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... moved closer to the present, though, his plots have mutated from dark conspiracies into Elmore Leonard-ish capers. The tone has become sunnier: fewer good guys are killed off, and the hero usually ends up getting the girl. Most of all, the high-tech stuff has moved from fantasy to something more like punditry. Gibson often seems as interested in technology ...

Entrepreneurship

Tom Paulin: Ted Hughes and the Hare, 29 November 2007

Letters of Ted Hughes 
edited by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 756 pp., £30, November 2007, 978 0 571 22138 7
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... Larkin must have refused the laureateship (he later realised Larkin wasn’t asked), he writes to Leonard and Lisa Baskin that ‘his general all-purpose No seems to me not so admirable, & there were attractions in turning mightily to my advantage what he’d shied from.’ Again we see his canniness. Learning that Larkin has cancer, he writes with details of ...

Diary

Paul Muldoon: Hiberno-English Shenanigans, 1 July 1999

... of Patrick Kavanagh, Brian Friel, Tim Pat Coogan, Oliver St John Gogarty, Neil Jordan and Hugh Leonard. It’s a method that seems to be at once academically sound and, for those committed to a long weekend in England and Wales carrying only one bag and one book, perfect for a bit of one-way crack, or ‘entertaining conversation. Ir craic is the ModE ...

Thank you for your letter

Anthony Grafton: Latin, 1 November 2001

Latin, or the Empire of a Sign: From the 16th to the 20th Centuries 
by Françoise Waquet, translated by John Howe.
Verso, 346 pp., £20, July 2001, 1 85984 615 7
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... simply to annoy us, the children of future generations’. Thomas Hughes vividly revealed in Tom Brown’s Schooldays how Latin verses were composed, as boys desperately sewed shreds and patches drawn from the Gradus ad Parnassum into verses that could be scanned and more or less made sense. Even some great writers of Latin, the historian Jacques-Auguste ...

Bounty Hunter

John Sutherland, 17 July 1997

Riders of the Purple Sage 
by Zane Grey.
Oxford, 265 pp., £4.99, May 1995, 0 19 282443 0
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The Man of the Forest: The Authorised Version 
by Zane Grey.
Nebraska, 383 pp., $15, September 1996, 0 8032 7062 3
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The Thundering Herd: The Authorised Version 
by Zane Grey.
Nebraska, 400 pp., $16, September 1996, 0 8032 7065 8
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... of few words, invincible in gunplay, and a dispenser of Solomonic justice. As portrayed first by Tom Mix, then by Randolph Scott, the Lassiter type descends directly to Clint Eastwood. The last scene in Unforgiven (even down to the whipping) is the first scene of Riders of the Purple Sage. All that’s been added is a sadism which would have appalled ...

Text-Inspectors

Andrew O’Hagan: The Good Traitor, 25 September 2014

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State 
by Glenn Greenwald.
Hamish Hamilton, 259 pp., £20, May 2014, 978 0 241 14669 9
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... that the Metropolitan Police had spied on the phone records of the political editor of the Sun, Tom Newton Dunn. Snowden might have taught us to expect to be monitored, but his message, that our freedom is being diluted by a manufactured fear of the evil that surveillance ‘protects’ us from, is not being heard. Louder and clearer to many is the message ...

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