Search Results

Advanced Search

46 to 60 of 89 results

Sort by:

Filter by:

Contributors

Article Types

Authors

I am a severed head

Colin Burrow: Iris Murdoch’s Incompatibilities, 11 August 2016

‘The Sea, the Sea’; ‘A Severed Head’ 
by Iris Murdoch.
Everyman, 680 pp., £14.99, March 2016, 978 1 84159 370 8
Show More
Show More
... The word​ ‘parodiability’ is not in the OED, but it is a significant literary attribute. Iris Murdoch certainly had it. Malcolm Bradbury’s Murdochian parody ‘A Jaundiced View’ has Sir Alex Mountaubon watching his daughter Flavia beneath a ‘dark and contingent cedar tree … sitting on a white wooden seat, in her unutterable otherness, her pet marmoset on her shoulder, her cap of auburn hair shining like burnished gold on her head ...

His Dark Example

Colin Burrow: ‘The Book of Dust’, 4 January 2018

The Book of Dust, Vol. I: La Belle Sauvage 
by Philip Pullman.
David Fickling, 546 pp., £20, October 2017, 978 0 385 60441 3
Show More
Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling 
by Philip Pullman.
David Fickling, 480 pp., £20, October 2017, 978 1 910200 96 4
Show More
Show More
... My children​ are now 21 and beyond the age of being reasoned with or read to. This has its advantages: reasoning has never come naturally to me. But I profoundly miss reading to them as they slumped against me in symmetrical warmth (they are non-identical twins). There were some books, it’s true, over which I fell asleep. Reading The Hobbit aloud enabled me to acquire the skill of slicing out three unnecessary subordinate clauses from a sentence without making it look as though I was skipping anything at all ...

Charm with Menaces

Colin Burrow: ‘The Mirror and the Light’, 19 March 2020

The Mirror and the Light 
by Hilary Mantel.
Fourth Estate, 883 pp., £25, March 2020, 978 0 00 748099 9
Show More
Show More
... Time moves​ in a mysterious way. Wolf Hall, the first instalment of Hilary Mantel’s trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, appeared more than a decade ago. Its 650 pages covered the years from roughly 1500 to 1535. Three years later came Bring Up the Bodies, which in 410 pages created a tight tragic narrative about Cromwell’s part in the fall of Anne Boleyn over the single year 1535-36 ...

Not Quite Nasty

Colin Burrow: Anthony Burgess, 9 February 2006

The Real Life of Anthony Burgess 
by Andrew Biswell.
Picador, 434 pp., £20, November 2005, 0 330 48170 3
Show More
Show More
... There is an awkward period in the lives of clothes, furniture and writers, when they become something more than dated but something less than a piece of history. We call things that have reached this state ‘unfashionable’, and usually throw such stuff away without thinking any more about it. Everyone sees a 1960s sideboard or a 1980s haircut as dated, and, beyond an embarrassed smile at our folly for ever having admired such cheesy horrors, these things rarely give rise to any thought ...

Clarety Clarity

Colin Burrow: Herrick and His Maidens, 31 July 2014

The Complete Poetry of Robert Herrick 
edited by Tom Cain and Ruth Connolly.
Oxford, 504 pp. and 803 pp., £125, October 2013, 978 0 19 921284 2
Show More
Show More
... Roughly​ thirty miles southwest of Exeter the A38 rips along the edge of the churchyard of Dean Prior, where Robert Herrick, with one period of interruption, was rector between 1630 and his death in 1674. The interruption began in or around January 1646, when the New Model Army marched along the predecessor of the A38 to relieve Plymouth. On their way they seem to have ejected Herrick from his relatively wealthy living, which had brought him £100 a year ...

Fetch the Scissors

Colin Burrow: B.S. Johnson, 11 April 2013

Well Done God! Selected Prose and Drama of B.S. Johnson 
edited by Jonathan Coe, Philip Tew and Julia Jordan.
Picador, 471 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 1 4472 2710 6
Show More
Trawl 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 183 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 1 4472 0036 9
Show More
Albert Angelo 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 180 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 1 4472 0037 6
Show More
Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 187 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 1 4472 0035 2
Show More
House Mother Normal 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 204 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 1 4472 0038 3
Show More
Show More
... Until very recently I had never read any B.S. Johnson. I had a staticky reminiscence of what he might have been, which could be represented, using his own idiosyncratic conventions for marking the lapses that run through our consciousness of the world, as ‘experimental … . suicide … . wrists was it?’To clear the static first: these reprints are to celebrate what would have been the eightieth birthday of the novelist B ...

Gold-Digger

Colin Burrow: Walter Ralegh, 8 March 2012

Sir Walter Ralegh in Life and Legend 
by Mark Nicholls and Penry Williams.
Continuum, 378 pp., £25, February 2012, 978 1 4411 1209 5
Show More
The Favourite: Sir Walter Ralegh in Elizabeth I’s Court 
by Mathew Lyons.
Constable, 354 pp., £14.99, March 2011, 978 1 84529 679 7
Show More
Show More
... The OED suggests that the word ‘star’ was not used of ‘a person of brilliant reputation or talents’ until the 19th century. Nonetheless Sir Walter Ralegh (1554-1618) struck his contemporaries as pretty much a ‘star’ in this sense. The attorney general said during his final trial: ‘He hath been as a star at which the world hath gazed; but stars may fall, nay they must fall when they trouble the sphere wherein they abide ...

Who wouldn’t buy it?

Colin Burrow: Speculating about Shakespeare, 20 January 2005

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Cape, 430 pp., £20, October 2004, 9780224062763
Show More
Show More
... As I was reading Stephen Greenblatt’s biography of Shakespeare on the train there was a woman sitting near me doing a deal on the phone. She was getting agitated. ‘But I have to transfer the money to Mr Shakespeare himself,’ she said. ‘No … Listen, I really need to speak to Mr Shakespeare. Can you put me through? Hello? … Hello?’ Then the line went dead ...

A Joke Too Far

Colin Burrow: My Favourite Elizabethan, 22 August 2002

Sir John Harington and the Book as Gift 
by Jason Scott-Warren.
Oxford, 273 pp., £45, August 2001, 0 19 924445 6
Show More
Show More
... Reader, where are you sitting? Perhaps sunk in a sunlounger by the pool, or perched on a joggling seat on the Tube. Should anyone be reading this on a hard, cold seat in the privy, then they ought to be profoundly grateful to Elizabeth I’s godson Sir John Harington, who in his extraordinary pamphlet The Metamorphosis of Ajax (or ‘A Jakes’ – get it?) invented the flushing water closet ...

Recribrations

Colin Burrow: John Donne in Performance, 5 October 2006

Donne: The Reformed Soul 
by John Stubbs.
Viking, 565 pp., £25, August 2006, 0 670 91510 6
Show More
Show More
... Literary biography is one of the background noises of our age. It’s a decent, friendly sort of hum, like the Sunday papers or chatter on a train. It gives the punters a bit of history and a bit of literature, and perhaps a bit of gossip, and what’s more it saves them the trouble of reading history. And poems too, for that matter. Not to mention the ordeal of ploughing through a load of literary criticism ...

Asterisks and Obelisks

Colin Burrow, 7 March 2019

Poems of Sextus Propertius 
edited and translated by Patrick Worsnip.
Carcanet, 253 pp., £12.99, September 2018, 978 1 78410 651 5
Show More
Show More
... Not much​ is known about Propertius beyond what he says or implies about himself in the four books of elegies he wrote between roughly 30 BC (when he was probably in his mid to late twenties) and about 16 BC. He was born in Assisi and came from a wealthy Umbrian family which seems to have resisted Octavian – the future Emperor Augustus – in the battle of Perugia of 41 BC ...

The Last Whale

Colin Burrow, 4 June 2020

Ahab’s Rolling Sea: A Natural History of Moby-Dick 
by Richard J. King.
Chicago, 430 pp., £23, November 2019, 978 0 226 51496 3
Show More
Complete Poems 
by Herman Melville, edited by Hershel Parker.
Library of America, 990 pp., £37.99, August 2019, 978 1 59853 618 8
Show More
Show More
... Are you​ a Moby-Dickhead? If so, are you enough of a Moby-Dickhead to have visited the Phallological Museum in Iceland to inspect a sperm whale’s penis? This is one of the many intrepid expeditions undertaken by Richard King in the course of researching Ahab’s Rolling Sea. His book, like Moby-Dick itself, tells you everything you ever wanted to know about whales but were too ashamed to ask ...

You’ve listened long enough

Colin Burrow: The Heaneid, 21 April 2016

Aeneid: Book VI 
translated by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 53 pp., £14.99, March 2016, 978 0 571 32731 7
Show More
Show More
... In​ one of those engagingly innocent-seeming anecdotes Seamus Heaney so skilfully used in both his poems and his prose, he relates (in an essay on Patrick Kavanagh from 1985) that one of his aunts ‘planted a chestnut in a jam jar’ in the year of his birth. In due course the seedling was planted out and grew to a fine height. Heaney says that ‘over the years I came to identify my own life with the life of the chestnut tree ...

I, Lowborn Cur

Colin Burrow: Literary Names, 22 November 2012

Literary Names: Personal Names in English Literature 
by Alastair Fowler.
Oxford, 283 pp., £19.99, September 2012, 978 0 19 959222 7
Show More
Show More
... as the great originator of English characteronyms, you might mingle popular pastoral names such as Colin in among the Red Cross Knights of allegorical narrative and the Belphoebes born of royal panegyric. You could import from Arcadia a frenzied Pyrochles and bring in the odd Italianate name (Duessa) for a whorish sorceress, as well as cautiously admitting a ...

Not for Horrid Profs

Colin Burrow: Kermode’s Shakespeare, 1 June 2000

Shakespeare's Language 
by Frank Kermode.
Allen Lane, 324 pp., £20, April 2000, 0 7139 9378 2
Show More
Show More
... The Oxford English Dictionary cites more than 33,000 passages from Shakespeare to illustrate the sense of English words. About 1900 of its main entries have first citations from Shakespeare. Although these figures are certain to over-estimate the impact of Shakespeare on the language there is no doubt that his vocabulary of about 29,000 words left English greater in all ways than it was before ...

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences