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At the Hydropathic

T.J. Binyon, 6 December 1984

Agatha Christie 
by Janet Morgan.
Collins, 393 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 0 00 216330 6
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... recent politics to one of the most pleasant of popular literature. But politicians have left their mark on her: at times she appears to share, on the one hand, their belief that the public knows nothing about anything and requires instruction (usually misinformed) of the most simple kind; and, on the other, their curious ignorance about the normal procedures ...


Hugh Barnes, 2 May 1985

Towards the End of the Morning 
by Michael Frayn.
Harvill, 255 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 00 221822 4
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Sweet Dreams 
by Michael Frayn.
Harvill, 223 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 00 221884 4
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The Fall of Kelvin Walker 
by Alasdair Gray.
Canongate, 144 pp., £7.95, March 1985, 9780862410728
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Lean Tales 
by James Kelman, Agnes Owens and Alasdair Gray.
Cape, 286 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 224 02262 8
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Stones for Ibarra 
by Harriet Doerr.
Deutsch, 214 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 9780233977522
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Family Dancing 
by David Leavitt.
Viking, 206 pp., £8.95, March 1985, 0 670 80263 8
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The Whitbread Stories: One 
by Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson.
Hamish Hamilton, 184 pp., £4.95, April 1985, 0 241 11544 2
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... of the Horned Magdalene’ is a black comedy about furious turn-over in an old people’s home. Leonard Deane-King combines Science Fiction and fairy-tale in ‘Good Intentions’ – a story which will appeal to admirers of Spielberg’s E.T. – when Chaz and Len find a friendly Martian in the backyard. Mark Illis’s ...

Fortress Freud

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 18 April 1985

In the Freud Archives 
by Janet Malcolm.
Cape, 165 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 224 02979 7
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... Malcolm’s word) throughout the intellectual world. He was passionately determined to make his mark as a scientist, and it could be that the most effective way of persuading the world that he’d seen further than any of his rivals, especially those among them, like Adler and Jung, who’d been obliged to pack their bags and leave the Freudian house, was ...

We were the Lambert boys

Paul Driver, 22 May 1986

The Lamberts: George, Constant and Kit 
by Andrew Motion.
Chatto, 388 pp., £13.95, April 1986, 0 7011 2731 7
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... and were artists (Kit a quasi-artist) who between them embraced virtually all media, leaving a mark on the histories both of fashion and of achievement. Motion’s project is not just to tell the story of passing generations, which he does very readably and well, but necessarily also to describe and evaluate aspects of English culture – revivalist ...

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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... it.’ In fact, the lack of practical utility made Latin all the more attractive, as a pure mark of distinction. It became the ‘chapeau bras’ of high culture, as Benjamin Franklin astutely remarked – the hat that a man of fashion carried under his arm even though his wig made it superfluous. It survived the fall of the Ancien Régime to become the ...

Enemies For Ever

James Wolcott: ‘Making It’, 18 May 2017

Making It 
by Norman Podhoretz.
NYRB, 368 pp., £13.98, May 2017, 978 1 68137 080 4
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... Meanwhile, Making It would go down in legend and out of print, a sunken landmark of sorts. To mark​ the fiftieth anniversary of Making It, NYRB Classics has revived Podhoretz’s battle-scarred memoir with an innocuous new introduction by Terry Teachout, Commentary’s critic at large, who isn’t about to jeopardise his post by saying anything too ...

A Great Deaf Bear

James Wood: Beethoven gets going, 7 January 2021

Beethoven: A Life in Nine Pieces 
by Laura Tunbridge.
Penguin, 276 pp., £16.99, June 2020, 978 0 241 41427 9
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The Beethoven Syndrome: Hearing Music as Autobiography 
by Mark Evan Bonds.
Oxford, 325 pp., £22.99, January 2020, 978 0 19 006847 9
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Beethoven: Variations on a Life 
by Mark Evan Bonds.
Oxford, 147 pp., £14.99, September 2020, 978 0 19 005408 3
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Beethoven: The New Complete Edition 
Deutsche Grammophon, 123 discs, November 2019Show More
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... of terror, of pain, and awakens that infinite yearning which is the essence of Romanticism.’Mark Evan Bonds describes this modern tendency to hear music as ‘sonic autobiography’ as the ‘Beethoven Syndrome’. Extending the project of an earlier work, Music as Thought (2006), Bonds shows in his acute new book how novel this emphasis was, and how ...

Not Dead Yet

Anthony Grafton: Latin, 8 January 2015

Latin: Story of a World Language 
by Jürgen Leonhardt, translated by Kenneth Kronenberg.
Harvard, 352 pp., £22.95, November 2013, 978 0 674 05807 1
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... such as the epithalamia, sexier and less discreet than their ancient models, which served, as Leonard Forster argued long ago, as safety valves for Renaissance Latinists. Their arteries would have snapped like pipestems if they had been confined to writing chaste Petrarchan verse. Only​ in the late 18th century, Leonhardt argues, did elites gradually ...

Heat in a Mild Climate

James Wood: Baron Britain of Aldeburgh, 19 December 2013

Benjamin Britten: A Life in the 20th Century 
by Paul Kildea.
Allen Lane, 635 pp., £30, January 2013, 978 1 84614 232 1
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Benjamin Britten: A Life for Music 
by Neil Powell.
Hutchinson, 512 pp., £25, January 2013, 978 0 09 193123 0
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... Carpenter, ‘only Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy could relate an occasion when Britten overstepped the mark’:He was in a towel following a bath at Crag House, when ‘Ben came up with an extremely soppy, sentimental look on his face, and put his arms round me, and kissed me on the top of the head. And I made the speech which I’d long prepared. I ...


Stefan Collini: C. Day-Lewis, 6 September 2007

C. Day-Lewis: A Life 
by Peter Stanford.
Continuum, 368 pp., £25, May 2007, 978 0 8264 8603 5
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... published all his early volumes of poetry was a sign of his good connections, and the fact that Leonard Woolf arranged for the release of a limited, more luxurious edition of 100 copies of The Magnetic Mountain, signed by the author, indicates one of the ways in which political idealism and commercial shrewdness could promote each other in the publishing ...

Scotland’s Dreaming

Rory Scothorne, 21 May 2020

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot: The Great Mistake of Scottish Independence 
by John Lloyd.
Polity, 224 pp., £20, April 2020, 978 1 5095 4266 6
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The Literary Politics of Scottish Devolution: Voice, Class, Nation 
by Scott Hames.
Edinburgh, 352 pp., £24.99, November 2019, 978 1 4744 1814 0
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... from the Scottish literary community for heresy. His book begins by quoting a letter the poet Tom Leonard wrote to an ‘inquiring editor’: ‘The one area I couldn’t touch would be contemporary Scottish writers, or the recent past. The place is too small, and I like to relax when I go for a walk.’Hames is challenging the belief that the affirmation of ...

Hopi Mean Time

Iain Sinclair: Jim Sallis, 18 March 1999

Eye of the Cricket 
by James Sallis.
No Exit, 190 pp., £6.99, April 1998, 1 874061 77 7
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... from the current stars of hardboiled lite, the Florida ecologist Carl Hiaasen and grizzled Elmore Leonard (as cannibalised by Quentin Tarantino), but also from Mosley. The Griffin books won’t reduce to exploitable Hollywood storylines, they’re much too rich and strange for that. Villains don’t have to be land-grabbing corporate monsters or tourists with ...

Very like St Paul

Ian Sansom: Johnny Cash, 9 March 2006

The Man Called Cash: The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend 
by Steve Turner.
Bloomsbury, 363 pp., £8.99, February 2006, 0 7475 8079 0
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Walk the Line 
directed by James Mangold.
November 2005
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... guitar from the school music cupboard – because he was the bass player – and my other friend Mark and I had old nylon-string classical guitars from jumble sales or somewhere, and we must have known at least three chords between us, and we were assuming that pretty soon we’d be on the Peel Show and then before we knew it there’d be a call and we’d ...

Chop, Chop, Chop

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘Grief Is the Thing with Feathers’, 21 January 2016

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers 
by Max Porter.
Faber, 114 pp., £10, September 2015, 978 0 571 32376 0
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... the headline Man with Friend with Cancer ‘Going through a rough Time’: Three months ago, Mark Sennis received the news that everyone dreads: Ben Murphy, a friend and coworker with whom he ‘occasionally went out to lunch’, had been diagnosed with cancer. ‘You never think you’re going to be the one,’ Sennis said. ‘At first, I remember ...

Malfunctioning Sex Robot

Patricia Lockwood: Updike Redux, 10 October 2019

Novels, 1959-65: ‘The Poorhouse Fair’; ‘Rabbit, Run’; ‘The Centaur’; ‘Of the Farm’ 
by John Updike.
Library of America, 850 pp., £36, November 2018, 978 1 59853 581 5
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... of his semen … appear on her skin, and though easily wiped away leave in his imagination a mark like an acid-burn on her shoulders, her throat, the small of her back; he has the vision of her entire slender fair flexible body being eventually covered with these invisible burns.’ If you were worried that somewhere in this sweeping tetralogy Rabbit ...

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