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Educating the Utopians

Jonathan Parry: Parliament’s Hour, 18 April 2019

The Oxford Handbook of Modern British Political History, 1800-2000 
edited by David Brown, Robert Crowcroft and Gordon Pentland.
Oxford, 626 pp., £95, April 2018, 978 0 19 871489 7
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... The clue​ is in the name. Parliament is designed for talk – for the expression of opinion and criticism. Pundits, particularly in the 19th century, wrote about ‘parliamentary government’ as the nation’s pride and Britain’s gift to a less fortunate world, but they did not mean that Parliament should actually govern. It would zealously check an overmighty executive, and scrutinise hasty ideas, but was not in itself a decisive body ...

At Tate Britain

John Barrell: Late Turner, 18 December 2014

... this review. ‘Out of the ashes of this Götterdämmerung,’ wrote the scourge of the poppies, Jonathan Jones, of his own exit from the exhibition, ‘I crawled away exhausted, wrecked, into the empty light of the modern world.’ Wow. That is some reaction. After all that mundane examining, admiring, taking notes, I was a touch exhausted myself, but ...

All about Me

Kevin Kopelson: Don Bachardy, 9 April 2015

by Don Bachardy.
Glitterati, 368 pp., £45, October 2014, 978 0 9913419 2 4
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... autobiographical (Goodbye to Berlin, Mr Norris Changes Trains), along with a biography of him by Jonathan Fryer. And so I had also long known – a bit – about Bachardy. I knew back then, for instance, that he was considerably more to Isherwood than just a protégé. They had been lovers since 1953, when the writer was 48 and the artist-to-be only 18. They ...

Enlightenment Erotica

David Nokes, 4 August 1988

Eros Revived: Erotica of the Enlightenment in England and America 
by Peter Wagner.
Secker, 498 pp., £30, March 1988, 0 436 56051 8
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’Tis Nature’s Fault: Unauthorised Sexuality during the Enlightenment 
edited by Robert Purks Maccubin.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 521 34539 1
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The New Eighteenth Century: Theory, Politics, English Literature 
edited by Felicity Nussbaum and Laura Brown.
Methuen, 320 pp., £28, February 1988, 0 416 01631 6
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... Rousseau, that the commander of the British forces was gay. Although Felicity Nussbaum and Laura Brown diplomatically avoid so vivid a phrase as ‘prudery and cowardice’, their charges against the conservatism of the Augustan establishment are scarcely less severe. For them the taboo areas are not sexual but ideological. ‘Theory’ is the dirty word ...

Corbyn’s Progress

Tariq Ali, 3 March 2016

... What appealed to the young and to the many who had left the party in disgust during the Blair/Brown years – what appealed to the people who turned the campaign into a genuine social movement – was precisely what alienated the political and media cliques. Corbyn’s campaign generated a mass movement that renewed the base of the Labour Party – nearly ...

Infisal! Infisal! Infisal!

Jonathan Littell: A Journey in South Sudan, 30 June 2011

... cream-coloured leather armchair, in a carefully designed room decorated in white, beige and brown, enhanced by the candy pink of what look like balls of straw stacked up in large vases, he speaks calmly, without raising his voice, in impeccable English. ‘The autonomous government gave money for the returnees, 40 million Sudanese pounds [about nine ...

England and Other Women

Edna Longley, 5 May 1988

Under Storm’s Wing 
by Helen Thomas and Myfanwy Thomas.
Carcanet, 318 pp., £14.95, February 1988, 0 85635 733 2
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... Even the recent spate of studies – by Michael Kirkham, Stan Smith, and the contributors to Jonathan Barker’s Art of Edward Thomas – seems more fortuitous than co-ordinated. Thomas, as Robert Frost reminded him, ‘knew the worth of [his] bays’. However, it is unwise to die in war when a hegemonic project like Modernism is getting under ...

War is noise

Jonathan Raban: Letters from My Father, 17 December 2020

... his pipe and said: ‘More one-oh minutes repeat.’The gun talked again. Looking along the level brown and green sea marshes, we saw one shell drop against the right wall of the house and another nestle against the left wall. The house shimmered queerly and changed shape.‘You won’t need your putter,’ the Colonel said.In the second week of April, Arthur ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: How We Are, 5 July 2007

... in motion, for example: a barn owl with a mouse in its beak, caught by Eric Hosking in 1948, a brown rat photographed by Stephen Dalton as it jumped from a bin in 1983. Curiosity about the look of exotic tribes was not limited to pictures from abroad. The four performers of the Abbot’s Bromley Horn Dance, taken by Benjamin Stone in 1899, stare at the ...

Meaningless Legs

Frank Kermode: John Gielgud, 21 June 2001

Gielgud: A Theatrical Life 1904-2000 
by Jonathan Croall.
Methuen, 579 pp., £20, November 2000, 0 413 74560 0
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John G.: The Authorised Biography of John Gielgud 
by Sheridan Morley.
Hodder, 510 pp., £20, May 2001, 0 340 36803 9
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John Gielgud: An Actor’s Life 
by Gyles Brandreth.
Sutton, 196 pp., £6.99, April 2001, 0 7509 2752 6
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... These biographies of John Gielgud by Jonathan Croall and Sheridan Morley are quite hard to tell apart. They are of much the same size, bear handsome pictures of the actor in old age on the front of their dust-jackets, and are, inevitably, affectionate and indulgent towards their subject. As Dirk Bogarde remarked when Croall consulted him about the work in hand, ‘everybody adored him, so the book might make rather flat reading ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... does the FBI keep files on? Is there a filing cabinet in Washington that contains a rundown of Jonathan Franzen’s feud with Oprah Winfrey? Do the Feds keep track of how many words Joyce Carol Oates writes in a day? Do they monitor Karl Ove Knausgaard’s border crossings? Did they know who Elena Ferrante was before the editors of the New York Review of ...

Lost in the Void

Jonathan Littell: In Ciudad Juárez, 7 June 2012

... just need to have the money, the equivalent of three dollars for a dose of ‘Mexican Mud’, a brown, poorly refined paste that quickly clogs needles and veins. People shoot up everywhere, in the picaderos – squats run by drug dealers, where entry is five pesos – and in houses, often with family. Pancho is a 26-year-old who when he isn’t too wasted ...

Martian Arts

Jonathan Raban, 23 July 1987

Home and Away 
by Steve Ellis.
Bloodaxe, 62 pp., £4.50, February 1987, 9781852240271
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The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 48 pp., £4.95, May 1987, 0 7011 3227 2
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The Frighteners 
by Sean O’Brien.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £4.50, February 1987, 9781852240134
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... socks, windows, the car, the looall downstream from each other. Whenthat final basinful of brown scumwas scattered over the garden plants,you could see water in his own eyesaching to join it ...The only problem with this engaging portrait is why it needed to be a poem at all. It’s the beginning of an okay prose short story whose lines stop short of ...


Alex Ivanovitch: William Boyd, 4 June 1998

by William Boyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 310 pp., £16.99, February 1998, 0 241 13928 7
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Nat Tate: American Artist, 1928-60 
by William Boyd.
Twenty One, 77 pp., £9.95, April 1998, 1 901785 01 7
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... of New York’s art establishment a few weeks ago: ‘what if we had been called Gilbert Kline, Jonathan Pollock, Cyril O’Hara, Jennifer Krasner, Timothy Rivers, Philip Tate?’ The question is left hanging but the answer, in Tate’s case, is that this little practical joke would surely have gone out into the world without its best gag. Had the guests at ...

And That Rug!

Michael Dobson: Images of Shakespeare, 6 November 2003

Shakespeare’s Face: The Story behind the Newly Discovered Portrait 
by Stephanie Nolen.
Piatkus, 365 pp., £18.99, March 2003, 0 7499 2391 1
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Imagining Shakespeare: A History of Texts and Visions 
by Stephen Orgel.
Palgrave, 172 pp., £25, August 2003, 1 4039 1177 0
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Shakespeare in Art 
by Jane Martineau et al.
Merrell, 256 pp., £29.95, September 2003, 1 85894 229 2
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In Search of Shakespeare 
by Michael Wood.
BBC, 352 pp., £20, May 2003, 9780563534778
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... late Elizabethan doublet with an unusual semi-transparent lace collar. He has fashionably shortish brown hair, a fairly high forehead, bags under his eyes as if he hasn’t been sleeping well lately, and a lightweight, almost fluffy beard and moustache. The top right-hand corner of the painting gives a date – 1603, perfectly consonant with the clothes, the ...

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