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Patriotic Gore

Michael Wood, 19 May 1983

by Gore Vidal.
Heinemann, 203 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 434 83076 3
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Pink Triangle and Yellow Star and Other Essays 1976-1982 
by Gore Vidal.
Heinemann, 278 pp., £10, July 1982, 0 434 83075 5
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... into her ear ... ’ The fictiveness of the real is a favourite theme with Americans, from Wallace Stevens to Harold Robbins. They are afraid they live in a world they have made up, and made up badly, so that a soap opera, for example, may be seen not as an escape but as a secret verdict, a last metaphor for a bungled invention. Vidal knows this ...

The First Bacchante

Lorna Sage: ‘The Ground Beneath Her Feet’, 29 April 1999

The Ground Beneath Her Feet 
by Salman Rushdie.
Cape, 575 pp., £18, April 1999, 0 224 04419 2
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... A myth you act out, a fiction you believe in knowing it to be a fiction. Kermode liked to quote Wallace Stevens, the aphoristic Stevens of Opus Posthumous, and Rushdie’s Rai sounds rather like Stevens too – ‘our love of metaphor is pre-religious ... Religion came and ...


Joseph Epstein: A Thinker Thinks, 20 September 1984

... but, unlike hanging, it does not necessarily concentrate it. I not long ago read the letters of Wallace Stevens, that highly cerebral poet, who, in these letters, again and again cautions against reading too much. Stevens felt that too much reading left too little time for thinking. In part, no doubt, he had in mind ...


Frank Kermode, 2 November 1995

Roy Fuller: Writer and Society 
by Neil Powell.
Carcanet, 330 pp., £25, September 1995, 1 85754 133 2
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... He did not miss the parallel between his life and that of the American poet and insurance lawyer Wallace Stevens. But after all it is not very close: to Stevens the quotidian was a malady, not a stimulus, and his jargon as a poet did not have the same struggle with the constrictions of ordinary language. And ...

Stand-Up Vampire

Gillian White: Louise Glück, 26 September 2013

Poems 1962-2012 
by Louise Glück.
Farrar, Straus, 634 pp., £30, November 2012, 978 0 374 12608 7
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... The difference between ‘selected’ and ‘collected’ poems, Wallace Stevens wrote in a letter in 1954, is that ‘people read selected poems but don’t buy them’ and ‘buy collected poems but don’t read them’. The symbolism of a collected volume worried him: ‘A book that contains everything that one has done in a lifetime does not reassure one ...

Main Man

Michael Hofmann, 7 July 1994

Walking Possession: Essays and Reviews 1968-1993 
by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 302 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 7475 1712 6
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Gazza Italia 
by Ian Hamilton.
Granta, 188 pp., £5.99, May 1994, 0 14 014073 5
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... substantial bulk’; ‘the parsimonious connoisseur had discovered the necessity of eloquence’ (Stevens). All this is evidence of Hamilton’s fascination at the road not taken; here is someone (inaudibly, to most readers), crying: ‘Hold! Enough!’ Not only are Hamilton’s pursuits scrupulously separated off, and kept away from his own poetry (and his ...

Genetic Supermarket

Paul Seabright, 3 May 1984

What sort of people should there be? 
by Jonathan Glover.
Penguin, 187 pp., £2.50, January 1984, 0 14 022224 3
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... that remains for them afterwards is life working in an insurance company’ – when Glover meets Wallace Stevens in the hereafter, I should love to be a fly on the celestial wall. The book is not, and does not claim to be, a substantive contribution to the academic discussion of ethical principles, but it is a book that will offer a wide readership a ...

Coughing Out Slogans

Andrew O’Hagan: DeLillo tunes out, 3 December 2020

The Silence 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 117 pp., £14.99, October, 978 1 5290 5709 6
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... Libra, staring nowhere, ‘a look they’d been practising for years’. Like a long, late poem by Wallace Stevens, The Silence can seem like its own quiet battle with stillness, a thing of refrains and echoes.This should be no surprise. Leaving the old stability of reality begetting fiction, we have long since lived in a world where fiction begets ...

Weeding in the Nude

Ange Mlinko: Edna St Vincent Millay, 26 May 2022

Rapture and Melancholy: The Diaries of Edna St Vincent Millay 
edited by Daniel Mark Epstein.
Yale, 390 pp., £28, March, 978 0 300 24568 4
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... with a broken neck.Millay rose to fame while still in her twenties. She beat Robert Frost and Wallace Stevens for the Pulitzer Prize in 1923. Although she became a proselytiser in her last decade, devoted to progressive causes to which she fitted her verses (‘not poems, posters,’ she admitted), she was still in demand for lectures and ...

Making sense

Denis Donoghue, 4 October 1984

A Wave 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 89 pp., £4.95, August 1984, 9780856355479
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Secret Narratives 
by Andrew Motion.
Salamander, 46 pp., £6, March 1983, 0 907540 29 5
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Liberty Tree 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 78 pp., £4, June 1983, 0 05 711302 5
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111 Poems 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 185 pp., £5.95, April 1983, 0 85635 457 0
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New and Selected Poems 
by James Michie.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2723 6
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By the Fisheries 
by Jeremy Reed.
Cape, 79 pp., £4, March 1984, 0 224 02154 0
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by George Mackay Brown.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2736 8
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... intentions. The reference to ‘one idea’ recalls the passage in ‘Esthétique du Mal’ where Wallace Stevens dismisses                                      the lunatic of one idea         In a world of ideas, who would have all the people Live, work, suffer and die in that idea In a world of ideas. The ...


Mark Ford: Love and Theft, 2 December 2004

... LRB (5 August). The idea for the poem came from a comment in an excellent book by Tony Sharpe on Wallace Stevens, in which he speculates on the flocks of pigeons mentioned in the last lines of ‘Sunday Morning’: And, in the isolation of the sky, At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make Ambiguous undulations as they sink, Downward to darkness, on ...

Yoked together

Frank Kermode, 22 September 1994

History: The Home Movie 
by Craig Raine.
Penguin, 335 pp., £9.99, September 1994, 0 14 024240 6
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... Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva make appearances. Rilke drops in, mocked by Karl Kraus. Dante and Wallace Stevens are silently cited. Obviously there is never a dull moment, though the sum total of those moments seems duller than they are. There is an old argument about texture and structure in poetry, and John Crowe Ransom thought that although you had ...


John Bayley, 19 January 1989

The Amis Anthology 
edited by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 360 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 09 173525 4
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The Chatto Book of Nonsense Verse 
edited by Hugh Haughton.
Chatto, 530 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 7011 3105 5
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... in drawing coy attention to its nonsensicality. The watchword of such verse should be a line from Wallace Stevens: ‘Life’s nonsense pierces us with strange relation.’ The strange relation is inevitable to poetry, and to its supreme fiction, but to pursue it consciously is to achieve tedium, as Joyce does in Finnegans Wake. ‘Any poet is a ...

Broken Knowledge

Frank Kermode, 4 August 1983

The Oxford Book of Aphorisms 
edited by John Gross.
Oxford, 383 pp., £9.50, March 1983, 0 19 214111 2
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The Travellers’ Dictionary of Quotation: Who said what about where? 
edited by Peter Yapp.
Routledge, 1022 pp., £24.95, April 1983, 0 7100 0992 5
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... of the koan. Emerson’s ‘All the thoughts of a turtle are turtle’ is the germ of a lot of Wallace Stevens; it has the quality of wonder. Poems, then, may grow out of aphorisms; they may also sink into aphorisms, as when Churton Collins scribbles on some famous lines of Milton: ‘We are no more responsible for evil thoughts which pass through our ...

Bloom’s Gnovel

Marilyn Butler, 3 July 1980

The Flight to Lucifer: A Gnostic Fantasy 
by Harold Bloom.
Faber, 240 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 374 15644 1
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... to the understanding of Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, Browning, Yeats, as well as Wallace Stevens and still-living American poets. That concern with establishing a canon of great literature, and with the interpretation of all poems within the canon, is traditional to literary scholarship, and generally treated with scorn by theorists. Yet ...

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