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London Reviews 
edited by Nicholas Spice.
Chatto, 222 pp., £5.95, October 1985, 0 7011 2988 3
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The New Review Anthology 
edited by Ian Hamilton.
Heinemann, 320 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 31330 0
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Night and Day 
edited by Christopher Hawtree, by Graham Greene.
Chatto, 277 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 07 011296 7
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Lilliput goes to war 
edited by Kaye Webb.
Hutchinson, 288 pp., £10.95, September 1985, 9780091617608
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Penguin New Writing: 1940-1950 
edited by John Lehmann and Roy Fuller.
Penguin, 496 pp., September 1985, 0 14 007484 8
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... it is the third such selection from the London Review of Books. Is three neat volumes sitting on a shelf better than hundreds of copies of the magazine mouldering in a corner? Yes, but not emphatically. When a literary magazine is as good ...

Entrepreneurship

Tom Paulin: Ted Hughes and the Hare, 29 November 2007

Letters of Ted Hughes 
edited by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 756 pp., £30, November 2007, 978 0 571 22138 7
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... Ted Hughes did his National Service in the RAF. Writing from RAF West Kirby, in the Wirral, to a friend, Edna Wholey, in 1949 – characteristically there is no date on the letter – he exults in the wild weather:Edna, I’ve seen rain and I tell you this isn’t rain, – a steady river, well laced with ice, tempest ...

God’s Godfather

Douglas Johnson, 6 October 1983

God’s Banker: An Account of the Life and Death of Roberto Calvi 
by Rupert Cornwell.
Gollancz, 260 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 575 03351 7
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A Man of Honour: The Autobiography of a Godfather 
by Joseph Bonnano and Sergio Lalli.
Deutsch, 416 pp., £9.95, September 1983, 0 233 97609 4
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The Biggest Game in Town 
by A. Alvarez.
Deutsch, 186 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 233 97521 7
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... On the evening of 15 June 1982 Roberto Calvi landed in a private plane at Gatwick airport and using a false passport proceeded to London. At the time he was one of the most sought-after men in Europe, and at the centre of a considerable financial scandal ...

Going underground

Elaine Showalter, 12 May 1994

The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes 
by Janet Malcolm.
Knopf, 208 pp., $23, April 1994, 0 679 43158 6
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... Ours is not an age in which literary events get much attention, but the publication in the New Yorker last August of Janet Malcolm’s study of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes was an exception. Brilliantly packaged with reprints of the Plath poems which the New Yorker had originally published, the issue was a sell-out on both sides of the Atlantic, and for weeks no dinner party from Hampstead to the Hamptons was complete without a discussion of it ...

Enlarging Insularity

Patrick McGuinness: Donald Davie, 20 January 2000

With the Grain: Essays on Thomas Hardy and Modern British Poetry 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 346 pp., £14.95, October 1998, 1 85754 394 7
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... In a recent poem, ‘Languedoc Variorum: A Defence of Heresy and Heretics’, the American poet Ed Dorn honours Donald Davie’s penultimate collection of poems, To Scorch or Freeze (1989), as ‘the most economical rebuke ... this age in moral free-fall is likely to get ...

Cuban Heels with Twisting Tongues

Salman Rushdie, 4 June 1981

Three Trapped Tigers 
by G. Cabrera Infante.
Picador, 487 pp., £2.95, August 1980, 0 330 26133 9
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... Cuba in 1961. The magazine Lunes de Revolution protests against the censorship of PM, a film about a black woman who sings boleros in Havana’s nighttown. The magazine is closed down forthwith, by that very revolution whose Mondays its title salutes. Lunes’ editor is a 32-year-old writer named Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and the director of the film is his brother, Saba Cabrera ...

Who they think they are

Julian Symons, 8 November 1990

You’ve had your time 
by Anthony Burgess.
Heinemann, 391 pp., £17.50, October 1990, 0 434 09821 3
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An Immaculate Mistake: Scenes from Childhood and Beyond 
by Paul Bailey.
Bloomsbury, 167 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 7475 0630 2
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... Little Wilson and Big God, left our hero in January 1960 under sentence of death, no more than a few months to live. With one bound, or at least one letter from the Neurological Institute, he is free. ‘The protein content of my spinal liquor had gone down dramatically’: the death sentence is cancelled. Too late: he ...

On Rosemary Tonks

Patrick McGuinness: Rosemary Tonks, 2 July 2015

... In​  The Waste Land, a ‘young man carbuncular’ makes a play for ‘the typist home at teatime’: Flushed and decided, he assaults at once; Exploring hands encounter no defence; His vanity requires no response, And makes a welcome of indifference ...

When Pigs Ruled the Earth

James Secord: A prehistoric apocalypse, 1 April 2004

When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time 
by Michael Benton.
Thames and Hudson, 336 pp., £16.95, March 2003, 9780500051160
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... Some years ago, a National Enquirer headline announced that Martians had killed off the dinosaurs while visiting Earth to do some big-game hunting. It is hard to imagine such an explanation for the extinction of the trilobites – hard-shelled creatures that looked like giant woodlice ...

Half-Fox

Seamus Perry: Ted Hughes, 29 August 2013

Poet and Critic: The Letters of Ted Hughes and Keith Sagar 
edited by Keith Sagar.
British Library, 340 pp., £25, May 2013, 978 0 7123 5862 0
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Ted and I: A Brother’s Memoir 
by Gerald Hughes.
Robson, 240 pp., £16.99, October 2012, 978 1 84954 389 7
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... Among the many delights to be found in Roger Lonsdale’s New Oxford Book of 18th-Century Verse is a squib by Thomas Holcroft, provoked by some disparaging remarks Voltaire made about Shakespeare. In fact, Voltaire was perfectly ready to concede that Shakespeare was possessed of real genius, though of a rough and ready kind, but in denying that he had ‘so much as a Spark of good Taste, or knew one Rule of the Drama’, and other such remarks, he scandalised what Gibbon once described as the ‘idolatry for the Gigantic Genius of Shakespeare which is inculcated from our infancy as the first duty of an Englishman ...

Miss Simpson stayed to tea

Philippa Tristram, 20 April 1989

William Wordsworth: A Life 
by Stephen Gill.
Oxford, 525 pp., £17.50, March 1989, 0 19 812828 2
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... if only in indirect ways, offer some representation of their own life, but the biographer faces a particular problem where interpretation has already been shaped by his subject in autobiography. Wordsworth was not the only writer of his period to dislike the public appetite for private information, or to seek to forestall the biographer’s ‘abominable ...

Fame

Ian Hamilton, 2 July 1981

Charles Charming’s Challenges on the Pathway to the Throne 
by Clive James.
Cape, 103 pp., £4.95, June 1981, 0 224 01954 6
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... like Clive, but almost embarrassingly overanxious to establish that the pop mode could accommodate a finely-educated literary talent. The ‘education’, I need hardly say, came over in the form of dropped names and flowery adjectives, and as for the pop, one could all too easily imagine teeny-boppers wondering how this ...

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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... A robber is a bandit, an outlaw, a desperado. A thief is a tea-leaf. A robber ends up at the Old Bailey – the London Palladium of the nation’s courts – and gets a ten stretch ...

Diary

Frank Kermode: Being a critic, 27 May 1999

... If you wanted to make your way as a literary journalist in the days of Addison you might have done well to begin by heading for Button’s coffeehouse in Russell Street where the great man held court, and be as submissively impressive as possible ...

Snap Me

Peter Howarth: ‘A Theory of 20th-Century Poetry’, 6 October 2016

Poetic Artifice: A Theory of 20th-Century Poetry 
by Veronica Forrest-Thomson, edited by Gareth Farmer.
Shearsman, 238 pp., £16.95, April 2016, 978 1 84861 445 1
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... has been trying to rescue Sylvia Plath’s ‘Purdah’ from the critics who think the poem is a straightforward confession of her desire to avenge herself on Ted Hughes. ‘Why she should have bothered to write poems if this was what she wanted to say is of course not explained,’ Forrest-Thomson remarks tartly. ‘It is taken to be enough that she was ...

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