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Blooming Symbols

Adam Lively, 27 May 1993

Dr Haggard’s Disease 
by Patrick McGrath.
Viking, 180 pp., £14.99, May 1993, 0 670 85195 7
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Griefwork 
by James Hamilton-Paterson.
Cape, 238 pp., £14.99, May 1993, 9780224037174
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... The Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal recently argued that great literature has no need of symbols: it simply presents life as it is. A symbol in a novel can act like a leech on a living body, sucking the imaginative reality from it. I am talking here not of a smattering of metaphorical language at the micro-level (as in the previous sentence), but of the way in which artsy modernist writers (it’s amazingly easy to start sounding like Sir Kingsley Amis once you start following this line of thought) load their novels with pretentious structures of symbolism instead of getting on with the business of telling stories about ‘life as it is ...

Fisticuffs

Adam Lively, 10 March 1994

The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness 
by Paul Gilroy.
Verso, 261 pp., £11.95, November 1993, 0 86091 675 8
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Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Culture 
by Paul Gilroy.
Serpent’s Tail, 257 pp., £12.99, October 1993, 9781852422981
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... In The Morris Book (1907), a work that did much to foster the 20th-century revival of interest in English folk dancing, Cecil Sharp both acknowledges and attempts to repress the hybrid, extra-national origins of the morris dance: The weight of the testimony must be held to show Morocco as the fount and origin, no matter if the genius of our own folk – so far removed from anything native to Africa – has, in the process of the centuries, altered it until it bears, in spirit, little resemblance to the parent stock ...

Down and Out in London and Amis

Zachary Leader, 22 June 1989

Ripley Bogle 
by Robert McLiam Wilson.
Deutsch, 273 pp., £11.95, May 1989, 0 233 98392 9
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The Burnt House 
by Adam Lively.
Simon and Schuster, 264 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 671 69999 7
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Two Women of London: The Strange Case of Ms Jekyll and Mrs Hyde 
by Emma Tennant.
Faber, 121 pp., £10.99, June 1989, 0 571 15242 2
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The Magic Drum 
by Emma Tennant.
Viking, 142 pp., £11.95, May 1989, 0 670 82556 5
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... indebtedness and clamouring, bumptious self-regard. Though only three years Wilson’s senior, Adam Lively’s virtues as a novelist are altogether more sober and measured. Not that The Burnt House, his second novel, isn’t ambitious, only that its ambitions are structural or conceptual rather than local, its concerns oddly abstract and ...

Stop the war

Penelope Lively, 1 April 1982

The Parting of Ways: A Personal Account of the Thirties 
by Shiela Grant Duff.
Peter Owen, 223 pp., £10.50, March 1982, 0 7206 0586 5
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From Middle England: A Memory of the Thirties 
by Philip Oakes.
Deutsch, 185 pp., £5.95, May 1980, 0 233 97232 3
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Dwellers All in Time and Space: A Memory of the 1940s 
by Philip Oakes.
Deutsch, 227 pp., £8.50, March 1982, 0 233 97434 2
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... but more specifically to her intense, emotional and eventually embittered relationship with Adam von Trott. She and von Trott met at Oxford, in the brief deceptive sunshine before the rise of the Nazis; von Trott was to die in 1944, shot for his part in the plot against Hitler. They were part of a circle of young people – Goronwy Rees, Douglas ...

At the Courtauld

Peter Campbell: Cranach’s Nudes, 19 July 2007

... A new exhibition, Temptation in Eden: Lucas Cranach’s Adam and Eve, runs at the Courtauld Institute of Art until 23 September. It consists of five paintings: Cupid Complaining to Venus, Apollo and Diana, A Faun and His Family with a Slain Lion, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the Courtauld’s own Adam and Eve ...

That sh—te Creech

James Buchan: The Scottish Enlightenment, 5 April 2007

The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in 18th-Century Britain, Ireland and America 
by Richard Sher.
Chicago, 815 pp., £25.50, February 2007, 978 0 226 75252 5
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... particular, kept in close touch with his Scottish authors and it was to him in November 1776 that Adam Smith wrote his famous letter on Hume’s last days. Even the parasites or free-riders on the London-Edinburgh trade, such as the men in Dublin and Philadelphia who reprinted texts without permission, nonetheless propagated Scottish notions of ...

Self-Hugging

Andrew O’Hagan: A Paean to Boswell, 5 October 2000

Boswell's Presumptuous Task 
by Adam Sisman.
Hamish Hamilton, 352 pp., £17.99, November 2000, 0 241 13637 7
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James Boswell’s ‘Life of Johnson’: Research Edition: Vol. II 
edited by Bruce Redford and Elizabeth Goldring.
Edinburgh, 303 pp., £50, February 2000, 0 7486 0606 8
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Samuel Johnson: The Life of an Author 
by Lawrence Lipking.
Harvard, 372 pp., £11.50, March 2000, 0 674 00198 2
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Dr Johnson's London 
by Liza Picard.
Weidenfeld, 362 pp., £20, July 2000, 0 297 84218 8
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... their red-hot efforts to strike a deal with respect to futurity, have left them large and lively on the page. Boswell, a slovenly, scribbling, lovable Scot, and Johnson, a cantankerous old genius, a John Bull himself, now appear to us as creatures of one another’s making. Together they constitute a minor archipelago of literary selves. In the past ...

Irish Adventurers

Janet Adam Smith, 25 June 1992

The Grand Tours of Katherine Wilmot: France 1801-3 and Russia 1805-7 
edited by Elizabeth Mavor.
Weidenfeld, 187 pp., £17.99, February 1992, 0 297 81223 8
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... provided the historical context. She has done well to bring Katherine Wilmot back into print. This lively, well-read, intelligent Irish girl was equipped with the qualities of a good traveller: gusto, curiosity, tolerance, endurance, good humour – and an ability to laugh at herself. She is wonderfully free of fashionable attitudes, trusts to her own ...

Who will punish the lord?

Robert Alter: Saramago’s Cain, 6 October 2011

Cain 
by José Saramago, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Harvill Secker, 150 pp., £12.99, July 2011, 978 1 84655 446 9
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... Costa’s deft translation, strikes this note: When the lord, also known as god, realised that adam and eve, although perfect in every outward aspect, could not utter a word or make even the most primitive of sounds, he must have felt annoyed with himself, for there was no one else in the garden of eden whom he could blame for this grave oversight, after ...

Northern Lights

Rosalind Mitchison, 19 April 1984

Literature and Gentility in Scotland 
by David Daiches.
Edinburgh, 114 pp., £6.50, June 1982, 9780852244388
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New Perspectives on the Politics and Culture of Early Modern Scotland 
edited by John Dwyer, Roger Mason and Alexander Murdoch.
John Donald, 340 pp., £15, August 1982, 0 85976 066 9
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Adam Smith 
by R.H. Campbell and A.S. Skinner.
Croom Helm, 231 pp., £12.95, June 1982, 9780709907299
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Sister Peg 
edited by David Raynor.
Cambridge, 127 pp., £15.50, June 1981, 0 521 24299 1
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Boswell: The Applause of the Jury 1782-1785 
edited by Irma Lustig and Frederick Pottle.
Heinemann, 419 pp., £15, July 1982, 0 434 43945 2
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Muir of Huntershill 
by Christina Bewley.
Oxford, 212 pp., £8.50, May 1981, 0 19 211768 8
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... English English came naturally to Boswell, less naturally but effectively in the sentences of Adam Smith and David Hume, but at the cost of the reservation of the Scottish tongue for casual, domestic or low-life use. Yet, as Daiches reminds us, with an exceptionally happy choice of quotations, the literary endeavours of the upper class were accompanied by ...

Yawping

Adam Gopnik, 23 May 1996

The Scandal of Pleasure 
by Wendy Steiner.
Chicago, 263 pp., £19.95, January 1996, 0 226 77223 3
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... Anyone disagree?’). The book’s faults are a good teacher’s faults, too: the belief that a lively digression is as worthwhile as a conclusive argument; a tendency to confuse energy with lucidity; a desire to please, or at least not offend, as many people as possible; and the belief that citing a lot of instances is the same thing as covering a lot of ...

Nanny knows best

Michael Stewart, 4 June 1987

Kinnock 
by Michael Leapman.
Unwin Hyman, 217 pp., £11.95, May 1987, 0 04 440006 3
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The Thatcher Years: A Decade of Revolution in British Politics 
by John Cole.
BBC, 216 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 563 20572 5
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Thatcherism and British Politics: The End of Consensus? 
by Dennis Kavanagh.
Oxford, 334 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 19 827522 6
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The New Right: The Counter-Revolution in Political, Social and Economic Thought 
by David Green.
Wheatsheaf, 238 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 7450 0127 0
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... not find much in either Michael Leapman’s sympathetic and readable portrait, or John Cole’s lively and good-humoured canter over the events of the last decade, to change one’s mind. The nature of the Labour Party’s – and Kinnock’s – problem was vividly illustrated by what happened when James Callaghan resigned the leadership late in 1980. At ...

Nothing in a Really Big Way

James Wood: Adam Mars-Jones, 24 April 2008

Pilcrow 
by Adam Mars-Jones.
Faber, 525 pp., £18.99, April 2008, 978 0 571 21703 8
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... maimed body as something that, being broken, was only fit for abuse.’ In his new novel, Pilcrow, Adam Mars-Jones slips in a quick reference to ‘One Arm’, when the narrator, a disabled boy called John Cromer, tells us that he and a schoolfriend ‘wept together over “One Arm” – Jimmy’s tears the more surprising since he knew the story so ...

Man Who Burned

Adam Kuper: James Brooke, 12 December 2002

White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke 
by Nigel Barley.
Little, Brown, 262 pp., £16.99, October 2002, 0 316 85920 6
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... boys and young men, and was never happier than when cruising about in a boat with a complement of lively young sailors. In 1848, travelling back to the East with a company of cadets, his secretary recalled that Brooke’s large cabin was ‘the rendezvous of as unruly a set of young officers as it has been my fortune to meet’: No place in the cabin was ...

Cause and Effect

A.J. Ayer, 15 October 1981

Hume and the Problem of Causation 
by Tom Beauchamp and Alexander Rosenberg.
Oxford, 327 pp., £15, August 1981, 0 19 520236 8
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The Science of Legislator: The Natural Jurisprudence of David Hume and Adam Smith 
by Knud Haakonssen.
Cambridge, 240 pp., £17.50, September 1981, 0 521 23891 9
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... determines the mind to form the idea of the other, and the impression of the one to form a more lively idea of the other’, can be blended into a unified theory, that Hume rightly treats particular causal statements as entailing causal laws, and that causal relations hold between events. I subscribe to most of these theses, though not to all of them. I ...

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