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Deathward

Adam Begley, 24 November 1988

Libra 
by Don DeLillo.
Viking, 456 pp., £11.95, November 1988, 0 670 82317 1
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... John Kennedy was killed 25 years ago, on 22 November 1963. The President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, known familiarly as the Warren Commission, issued its report a little less than a year later. In the report, members of the commission allowed that certain questions remained unanswered, but their conclusion left no room for doubt: ‘The commission has found no evidence that either Lee Harvey Oswald or Jack Ruby was part of any conspiracy, domestic or foreign, to assassinate President Kennedy ...

Less and More

Adam Begley, 15 September 1988

Elephant, and Other Stories 
by Raymond Carver.
Collins Harvill, 124 pp., £9.95, August 1988, 0 00 271912 6
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The Tidewater Tales 
by John Barth.
Methuen, 655 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 0 413 18770 5
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... Raymond Carver, acclaimed shot-story writer and poet, died on 2 August. A painstaking craftsman, he wrote most often about working-class Americans whose lives are, or have been, on the verge of collapse. Broken marriages, alcoholism, poverty, and acute, debilitating anxiety – these things rule the daily existence of his characters. Fashioned out of grim material, the stories are sometimes heartbreaking, occasionally funny, always disturbing ...

Sad Stories

Adam Begley, 5 January 1989

Capote: A Biography 
by Gerald Clarke.
Hamish Hamilton, 632 pp., £16.95, July 1988, 0 241 12549 9
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Jean Stafford: A Biography 
by David Roberts.
Chatto, 494 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7011 3010 5
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... The June 1947 issue of Life Magazine contains an article called ‘Young US Writers’, a round-up of 11 promising post-war authors. Of the 11, three are well-known today; of this famous trio, one is still alive, the other two subjects of recently published biographies. The first page of the feature is dominated by a large photograph of a superbly arrogant Truman Capote – 22 years old, tiny, but potent ...
Stories in an Almost Classical Mode 
by Harold Brodkey.
Knopf, 596 pp., $24.95, September 1988, 0 394 50699 5
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... Harold Brodkey, whose debut collection of stories, First Love and Other Sorrows, was greeted with well-deserved acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic when it appeared in1958, has produced a hefty new collection: Stories in an Almost Classical Mode. During the intervening thirty years his reputation, bolstered by occasional stories in the New Yorker and other glossy American magazines, has grown formidable ...

All he does is write his novel

Christian Lorentzen: Updike, 4 June 2014

Updike 
by Adam Begley.
Harper, 558 pp., £25, April 2014, 978 0 06 189645 3
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... down. (Called Home, it was dismantled and used for spare parts.) But one gets the sense from Adam Begley’s sharp and diverting biography that he felt a little bit dead anytime a piece under his byline (or, in the old New Yorker, with his name at the end) wasn’t on the newsstands. ‘Johnny knew it was possible to be a writer because he saw me ...

Photomania

Emilie Bickerton, 22 November 2018

The Great Nadar: The Man behind the Camera 
by Adam Begley.
Tim Duggan, 247 pp., £12.99, July 2018, 978 1 101 90262 2
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... Charles Bataille said of his friend Félix Nadar, ‘turbulent, unexpected, terrifying’. Adam Begley’s biography describes a life lived so frenetically, it’s surprising it lasted so long – Nadar died at the age of ninety, in 1910. Yet he is remembered today primarily for the stillness and serenity of his photographic portraits of ...

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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... Anatole Broyard, who at the time was passing for white. (Updike’s loving and thorough biographer Adam Begley offers the following hedge: ‘His judgment is complicated by that experience but not necessarily invalidated; few critics can have devoted more thought to what it means to be black in America.’ No further questions.) Broyard reserves special ...

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