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D.A.N. Jones, 18 September 1986

Search Sweet Country 
by B. Kojo Laing.
Heinemann, 256 pp., £10.95, August 1986, 0 434 40216 8
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The Jewel Maker 
by Tom Gallagher.
Hamish Hamilton, 180 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 241 11866 2
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The Pianoplayers 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 208 pp., £8.95, August 1986, 0 09 165190 5
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An After-Dinner’s Sleep 
by Stanley Middleton.
Hutchinson, 224 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 09 163620 5
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Coming Home 
by Mervyn Jones.
Piatkus, 263 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 86188 525 2
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... Sackey has a peaceful friend called ½-Allotey who has gone back to the land, dutifully breeding fish and growing beans in the bush, away from Accra. ‘This wild nonsense of trees!’ growls the professor, visiting ½-Allotey. ‘I am in an inappropriate place. I don’t want any of this nature-worship on the soil of Ghana. Change this place, change ...

Humid Fidelity

Peter Bradshaw: The letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill, 16 September 1999

Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill 
edited by Mary Soames.
Black Swan, 702 pp., £15, August 1999, 0 552 99750 1
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... for a long time. Several cubs were killed just outside the coverts – about 11 o’clock Venetia [Stanley] – I were just going home when the hounds got away after a big cub (I believe it was an old fox!) – we had a glorious run for about half an hour. She is always going away to recover from a series of ailments, including ...

Uncle Vester’s Nephew

Graham Coster, 27 February 1992

Dead Elvis: A Chronicle of a Cultural Obsession 
by Greil Marcus.
Viking, 256 pp., £17.99, February 1992, 0 670 83846 2
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Rythm Oil: A Journey through the Music of the American South 
by Stanley Booth.
Cape, 254 pp., £16.99, October 1991, 0 224 02779 4
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... Who does Elvis Presley the man, symbol or democratic paradigm exclude? Who does he not sing for? Stanley Booth sets Presley in a different perspective. His piece on the King, a portrait of an innocuous, slightly obtuse young man aimless among the redundant ostentation of his home, is only one of 20 collected in Rythm Oil – another agglomeration of ...

Blame it on the Belgians

Hilary Mantel, 25 June 1992

The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe 
by Charles Nicholl.
Cape, 413 pp., £19.99, June 1992, 0 224 03100 7
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... one. Nicholl evokes the Deptford evening: the scent of apple orchards mingling with the reek of fish and sewage. At about six o’clock, the young gentlemen came in for their bespoke supper. A short while later, Ingram Frizer put the point of his dagger into Christopher Marlowe’s right eyesocket. He inserted it to a depth of two inches. Marlowe died ...

Saint Terence

Jonathan Bate, 23 May 1991

Ideology: An Introduction 
by Terry Eagleton.
Verso, 242 pp., £32.50, May 1991, 0 86091 319 8
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... theorists, most notably the Post-Modern Baudrillard in France and the pragmatist Fish in America. The book is the usual kind of Eagletonian sandwich, its introduction and conclusion offering direct polemic with the meat in the middle consisting of a potted history – in this instance, of the meanings of the term ‘ideology’. Once again ...

From Papa in Heaven

Russell Davies, 3 September 1981

Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters 1917-1961 
edited by Carlos Baker.
Granada, 948 pp., £15, April 1981, 0 246 11576 9
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... a character called Steve Ketehell who I guess he thinks fought Jack Johnson, but we know that was Stanley Ketchell, if not Ketchel, don’t we Pos? The poor sap was knocked out by Johnson and murdered in 1910 before I had the chance to teach him to see it coming. We have some swell fights up here. Guys who god knows how they got in here (pardon the ...

Sexual Subjects

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 21 October 1982

The Sexual Fix 
by Stephen Heath.
Macmillan, 191 pp., £12.95, June 1982, 0 333 32750 0
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Questions of Cinema 
by Stephen Heath.
Macmillan, 257 pp., £12.50, August 1981, 0 333 26122 4
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‘Sight and Sound’: A 50th-Anniversary Selection 
edited by David Wilson.
Faber, 327 pp., £12.50, September 1982, 0 571 11943 3
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... take your place, fit.’ The task, it seems, is to unfit, to in some way hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner and make love in between, without being hunter, fisher, herder, critic or lover. As ever, we are not told how. Nevertheless, simple, even simple-minded, and derivative though it ...


Geoffrey Hawthorn: Watch the birdy!, 2 November 1995

... to this final volume of the BWP, had a ‘track record of serious ornithological exploration’. Stanley Cramp, by contrast, who retired early from Customs and Excise in the Sixties and an active life in the London Natural History Society to edit the BWP, was to Nicholson and the other members of the birding establishment of the time ‘a dark horse, little ...

So-so Skinny Latte

James Francken: Giles Foden’s Zanzibar, 19 September 2002

by Giles Foden.
Faber, 389 pp., £12.99, September 2002, 0 571 20512 7
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... leaves the couple little scope for simpering exchanges and cutesy-poo routines. Nick is too cold a fish for there to be many soft-edged moments; Zanzibar tends to focus on the asperities in the romance. Besides, their island paradise is soon disturbed by the arrival of three rough-looking customers: the al-Qaida associates who, it turns out, will co-ordinate ...

Like a Meteorite

James Davidson, 31 July 1997

Homer in English 
edited by George Steiner.
Penguin, 355 pp., £9.99, April 1996, 0 14 044621 4
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Homer’s ‘Iliad’ 
translated by Stanley Lombardo.
Hackett, 584 pp., £6.95, May 1997, 0 87220 352 2
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Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ 
translated by Robert Fagles.
Viking, 541 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 670 82162 4
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... of epic and to flesh out Homer’s world. Plato noticed that the heroes of the Iliad did not eat fish, although they were encamped by the Hellespont. Others working at the great library of Alexandria noticed that fish were eaten in the Odyssey and concluded that the two epics must have had different authors. This started a ...


John Lanchester: A Whiff of Tear Gas, 19 December 2019

... after Hong Kong’s surrender on Christmas Day 1941. They spent three years and nine months in Stanley prison. After the war my father got a job with a Hong Kong-based bank and spent most of his working life there; he spoke Cantonese and Japanese and read both languages too. (Written Chinese and written Japanese share a script.) He was British, according ...

A Man of No Mind

Colm Tóibín: The Passion of Roger Casement, 13 September 2012

The Dream of the Celt 
by Mario Vargas Llosa and Edith Grossman.
Faber, 404 pp., £18.99, June 2012, 978 0 571 27571 7
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... be navigated. The river itself was a rich source of food, with five hundred different kinds of fish, and it helped that the territory which comprised the river basin was not a single kingdom with any form of centralised power which could defend itself. There were two hundred different ethnic groups with four hundred different languages and dialects. Many ...


Charles Nicholl: ‘The Shakespeare Circle’, 19 May 2016

The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography 
edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 107 69909 0
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... and rather unexpectedly it goes a good way towards providing one. Edited by the unflagging team of Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson, the book is a remarkable collection of 25 essays, each focusing on a person or group of people known to Shakespeare, on the ways they related to him and influenced him, and, in some cases, on the ways they perceived and reported ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1996, 2 January 1997

... word. 19 May. Come out this morning (still grey, still cold) to find smack in front of my door a fish – a wet fish actually, about nine inches long, still glistening as if just caught. Pinkish in parts (a mullet?) dropped by a seagull perhaps or hurled into the garden by a dissatisfied customer? Except the wet ...


Colm Tóibín: Bishop v. Lowell, 14 May 2009

Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell 
edited by Thomas Travisano and Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 875 pp., £40, November 2008, 978 0 571 24308 2
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... of Lowell’s opening line, ‘It was a real Maine fishing town,’ and the line ‘where the fish were trapped’. ‘I have two minor questions,’ she wrote. As usual, they have to do with my George Washington-handicap. I can’t tell a lie even for art, apparently; it takes an awful effort or a sudden jolt to make me alter facts. Shouldn’t it be a ...

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