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Vehicles of Dissatisfaction

Jonathan Dollimore: Men and Motors, 24 July 2003

Autopia: Cars and Culture 
edited by Peter Wollen and Joe Kerr.
Reaktion, 400 pp., £25, November 2002, 1 86189 132 6
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... traffic – more roads produce more cars, and congestion soon becomes as bad as it was before. Ian Parker describes in Autopia how a signal engineer got vehicles flowing again at the Hanger Lane gyratory system in London by finding seven ‘spare’ seconds in a nearby set of traffic lights. When this time was redistributed between other lights, the ...

Tea-Leafing

Duncan Campbell, 19 October 1995

The Autobiography of a Thief 
by Bruce Reynolds.
Bantam, 320 pp., £15.99, April 1995, 0 593 03779 0
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... to stay there because he liked the people and the atmosphere. He was the one who liked his Charlie Parker rather than his Matt Monroe and did not yearn, when on the run, for HP Sauce and Queen’s Park Rangers. And, as far as he was concerned, a thief is what he was. He stole other people’s things. ‘The younger element, brought up after the war and ...

Cold Winds

Walter Nash, 18 December 1986

Answered Prayers 
by Truman Capote.
Hamish Hamilton, 181 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 241 11962 6
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A Rich Full Death 
by Michael Dibdin.
Cape, 204 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780224023870
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Leaning in the Wind 
by P.H. Newby.
Faber, 235 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 571 14512 4
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The Way-Paver 
by Anne Devlin.
Faber, 155 pp., £8.95, November 1986, 0 571 14597 3
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... in the year 1855, and the narration takes the form of letters written by a young American, Robert Booth, to his friend Professor Prescott, an authority on Theoretical and Practical Ethics. Booth, in retreat from rejection in love and a sense of his own failure in literature, has known at least one stroke of luck: he has become, he tells his ...

Living on Apple Crumble

August Kleinzahler: James Schuyler, 17 November 2005

Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler 1951-91 
edited by William Corbett.
Turtle Point, 470 pp., £13.99, May 2005, 1 885586 30 2
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... artist, to develop rather than possess innately). While Schuyler and his circle tolerated Auden, Robert Lowell and his reputation gave them fits. Schuyler would define his poetic project, at least in part, by opposing it to that of Lowell and the other gloomy campus darlings of the New Critics: New York poets, except I suppose the colour-blind, are affected ...

Gentlemen and ladies came to see the poet’s cottage

Tom Paulin: Clare’s anti-pastoral, 19 February 2004

John Clare: A Biography 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 650 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 330 37106 1
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‘I Am’: The Selected Poetry of John Clare 
edited by Jonathan Bate.
Farrar, Straus, 318 pp., $17, November 2003, 0 374 52869 1
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John Clare, Politics and Poetry 
by Alan Vardy.
Palgrave, 221 pp., £45, October 2003, 0 333 96617 1
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John Clare Vol. V: Poems of the Middle Period 1822-37 
edited by Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 822 pp., £105, January 2003, 0 19 812386 8
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... clerk at Helpston in Northamptonshire. In the early 1760s, she had a relationship with John Donald Parker, an itinerant Scottish fiddler and teacher who was working in the village school. On discovering she was pregnant, he disappeared and was never heard of again. Her son was christened for the absent father, and became a talented traditional singer, a gift ...

Success

Marilyn Butler, 18 November 1982

The Trouble of an Index: Byron’s Letters and Journals, Vol. XII 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 166 pp., £15, May 1982, 0 7195 3885 8
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Lord Byron: Selected Letters and Journals 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 404 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 0 7195 3974 9
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Byron 
by Frederic Raphael.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £8.95, July 1982, 0 500 01278 4
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Byron’s Political and Cultural Influence in 19th-Century Europe: A Symposium 
edited by Paul Graham Trueblood.
Macmillan, 210 pp., £15, April 1981, 0 333 29389 4
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Byron and Joyce through Homer 
by Hermione de Almeida.
Macmillan, 233 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 333 30072 6
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Byron: A Poet Before His Public 
by Philip Martin.
Cambridge, 253 pp., £18.50, July 1982, 0 521 24186 3
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... doxies’. He quotes Byron’s own reminiscence of his cousin, Margaret Parker, ‘one of the most beautiful of evanescent beings’, only to round off the paragraph by observing that Margaret Parker ‘took evanescence to the limit by dying’. Biographer and subject could hardly be closer in step ...

Glimmerings

Peter Robb, 20 June 1985

Selected Letters of E.M. Forster: Vol. I: 1879-1920, Vol. II: 1921-1970 
edited by Mary Lago and P.N. Furbank.
Collins, 344 pp., £15.95, October 1983, 0 00 216718 2
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... desert, mistaken by me for the Nevadan ... we seem to have reached Nevada after all ... my Parker 51 ink is checked in my grip for Chicago.’ By the time Forster is 84 and writing that ‘I seem to be losing everything today and knocking most things over – the milk has just gone onto the poems of George Herbert,’ we may feel we’ve been rummaging ...

He knew he was right

John Lloyd, 10 March 1994

Scargill: The Unauthorised Biography 
by Paul Routledge.
HarperCollins, 296 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 0 300 05365 7
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... support. Thanks in part to the evidence of Scargill’s chauffeur-bodyguard, Jim Parker – a former YCL comrade who would eventually break with his charge – Routledge portrays a man of ruthless ambition, driven by an aversion to the off-hours habits of the union leadership – long drinking sessions at which a man’s ...

Four Funerals and a Wedding

Andrew O’Hagan: If something happens to me…, 5 May 2005

... dark pocket at the outer edge the future king of England lowered his eyes to shake the hand of Robert Mugabe. We live in cultish times – not to say, occultist ones – in which it seems not unreasonable for people, en masse, to weep in the streets for public figures they previously cared little about. Pope John Paul II was pretty much like that ...

You’ve got it or you haven’t

Iain Sinclair, 25 February 1993

Inside the Firm: The Untold Story of the Krays’ Reign of Terror 
by Tony Lambrianou and Carol Clerk.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.99, October 1992, 0 330 32284 2
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Gangland: London’s Underworld 
by James Morton.
Little, Brown, 349 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 356 20889 3
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Nipper: The Story of Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read 
by Leonard Read and James Morton.
Warner, 318 pp., £5.99, September 1992, 0 7515 0001 1
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Smash and Grab: Gangsters in the London Underworld 
by Robert Murphy.
Faber, 182 pp., £15.99, February 1993, 0 571 15442 5
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... the cognoscenti like a confederation of secret masters: Gerald Kersh, James Curtis, Mark Benney, Robert Westerby, Alexander Baron, John Lodwick, Jack Trevor Story. They have been struck from the canon, these technicians, these life-enhanced witnesses. They are noticed only by slumming journalists (who have built up their own collections of the stuff) or by ...

Keeping up with Jane Austen

Marilyn Butler, 6 May 1982

An Unsuitable Attachment 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 256 pp., £6.95, February 1982, 0 333 32654 7
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... to the rector of a fashionable Mayfair parish, blends the hypochondria of Sanditon’s Diana Parker with the injudicious high living of Dr Grant in Mansfield Park. ‘Bertha’s health,’ says her husband Randolph regretfully, ‘wouldn’t have stood any district but W1 or SW1. Anything near the Harrow Road, or the canal, or Kensal Green cemetery had ...

Horsemen

Carolyn Steedman, 4 February 1988

Spoken History 
by George Ewart Evans.
Faber, 255 pp., £9.95, August 1987, 0 571 14982 0
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... the material that came out of Wales and Ireland, farms and fishing, men’s work with horses. Like Robert Roberts, another recorder of the lives of the poor born at the end of the last century, Evans grew up in a grocer’s shop – not in the classic slum of Salford, but in the mining valley of Abercynon. The children of shopkeepers in poor working-class ...

An Unreliable Friend

R.W. Johnson: Nelson Mandela, 19 August 1999

Mandela: The Authorised Biography 
by Anthony Sampson.
HarperCollins, 500 pp., £24.99, May 1999, 0 00 255829 7
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... out applause and ramming it through. No wonder the Liberals, and the Pan-Africanists under Robert Sobukwe, were appalled: a room full of black people had cheered the Charter through and felt empowered in the process, but a small number of white Communists had run the thing from start to finish. The Congress was their idea, they had organised it; the ...

Lachrymatics

Ferdinand Mount: British Weeping, 17 December 2015

Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears 
by Thomas Dixon.
Oxford, 438 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 0 19 967605 7
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... also a good deal of repetition. We are reminded four times of Blake’s maxim, almost as often of Robert Burton’s admittedly splendid description of tears as ‘excrementitious humours of the third concoction’. But Dixon’s instinct for connections and comparisons is unfailingly sharp and illuminating. He ranges effortlessly from Margery Kempe ...

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