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Saint Q

Alan Brien, 12 September 1991

Well, I forget the rest 
by Quentin Crewe.
Hutchinson, 278 pp., £17.99, September 1991, 0 09 174835 6
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... staircase on the cradled hands of Martha, the first Mrs Quentin Crewe, and Nancy, the second Mrs Alan Brien, two American women of dazzling good looks, one dark, one blonde. He looked as if he thought it the only way to travel. One lunchtime, depositing him at his table, I shall never forget. I posed him a question I had long wanted answering. In a ...

Alan Coren

Alan Brien, 4 December 1980

The Best of Alan Coren 
Robson, 416 pp., £7.50, October 1980, 0 86051 121 9Show More
Tissues for Men 
by Alan Coren.
Robson, 160 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 86051 116 2
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... Alan Coren is the editor of Punch, and also probably the funniest writer of humorous columns now in regular practice – by no means an inevitable, or even usual, combination. Punch seems to me to have one invaluable asset, its name; and one inescapable handicap, its name. The most famous long-running comic weekly in the world, it often sets me wondering whether it might not be easier to buy, or indeed write for, if it were called, say, the Hibbert Journal, or Notes and Queries, or just the Tudor Street Weekly ...

Titbits

Alan Brien, 15 May 1980

Breasts 
by Daphna Ayalah and Isaac Weinstock.
Hutchinson, 286 pp., £7.95, March 1980, 0 09 140870 9
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... It is worthwhile to note, first of all, that this book is American, though you don’t have to read far to discover that. To the British eye, interview questions such as ‘How do you relate to the term “flat-chested”?’ or ‘How have men related to your breasts?’ seem slightly comical, and even unnatural, as normal speech. And you would have to travel far in this country, and be rather unlucky, to come across a woman who dropped into conversation, as one does here, the sentence: ‘I’m still not entirely deculturated in terms of my aesthetic values ...

Diary

Alan Brien: Finding Lenin, 7 August 1986

... Reads like a novel,’ it says more and more often on the jackets of biographies, memoirs, travellers’ tales, historical studies, collections of essays, volumes of poetry – anything in print, except the novel. And the claim, unlike most of those on blurbs, is frequently true, since non-fiction nowadays contains so much fiction. Examples are everywhere ...

The Fame Game

Alan Brien, 6 September 1984

Hype 
by Steven Aronson.
Hutchinson, 198 pp., £5.95, May 1984, 0 09 156251 1
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Automatic Vaudeville 
by John Lahr.
Heinemann, 241 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 434 40188 9
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Broadway Babies: The People who made the American Musical 
by Ethan Mordden.
Oxford, 244 pp., £19, August 1984, 0 19 503345 0
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... Steven Aronson’s Hype, a guide to the latest techniques of mass manipulation, may have less impact on British readers than it has had on American. The word is a recent coinage, but since the days of Dickens’s American Notes or, even earlier, of Fanny Trollope’s Domestic Manners of the Americans, we have been accustomed to associate the practice of hype with what many Brits still call the Yank ...

Vernon, Grandison, Caroline and Regent

Alan Brien, 9 January 1992

Martha Jane and Me: A Girlhood in Wales 
by Mavis Nicholson.
Chatto, 243 pp., £14.99, November 1991, 0 7011 3356 2
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Vanessa Redgrave: An Autobiography 
Hutchinson, 300 pp., £17.99, October 1991, 0 09 174593 4Show More
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... Everybody, they say, has a book in them, if only the history of their lives up to their graduation from adolescence. I would agree, but with the proviso that these books be openly offered as fiction. When I think what unreliable witnesses my book chums are, especially about each other, I wonder how any trust worthy biographies, let alone autobiographies, ever get to be written ...

Pamela

Alan Brien, 5 December 1985

Orson Welles 
by Barbara Leaming.
Weidenfeld, 562 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 297 78476 5
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The Making of ‘Citizen Kane’ 
by Robert Carringer.
Murray, 180 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 7195 4248 0
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Spike Milligan 
by Pauline Scudamore.
Granada, 318 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 246 12275 7
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Nancy Mitford 
by Selina Hastings.
Hamish Hamilton, 274 pp., £12.50, October 1985, 0 241 11684 8
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Rebel: The Short Life of Esmond Romilly 
by Kevin Ingram.
Weidenfeld, 252 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 297 78707 1
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The Mitford Family Album 
by Sophia Murphy.
Sidgwick, 160 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 283 99115 1
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... One mid-morning in the mid-Fifties, I came across Ken Tynan on Fleet Street, hurrying towards the Evening Standard offices, then around the corner in Shoe Lane. I tagged along as he explained, between puffs, that there had been an unfortunate misprint in a piece he had written about Orson Welles. Luckily, he had spotted this in the first edition and now was on his way to ensure it was corrected for the rest of the day’s run ...

Powerful People

D.A.N. Jones, 15 October 1987

Anthills of the Savannah 
by Chinua Achebe.
Heinemann, 233 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 434 00604 1
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Familiar Wars 
by Julietta Harvey.
Joseph, 251 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 7181 2823 0
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Lenin: The Novel 
by Alan Brien.
Secker, 703 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 436 06840 0
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... police chiefs – he knows what he is talking about. He is something like Conor Cruise O’Brien in this respect, better informed about government than most novelists and professors. Anthills of the Savannah is comparable with A Man of the People partly because it concerns a statesman under the scornful gaze of a well-educated aide – who is perhaps ...

Truth

Nina Bawden, 2 February 1984

At the Jazz Band Ball: A Memory of the 1950s 
by Philip Oakes.
Deutsch, 251 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 233 97591 8
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... endless riotous party in which other merrymakers were George Melly, Bernard Levin, Harold Pinter, Alan Brien and the joyfully randy Mick Mulligan of the Magnolia Jazz Band. The account of the pranks they get up to is amusing only in patches – other people’s drunken excesses tend to be boring. The whole jamboree is set in a London still ‘shabby and ...

We’ve done awfully well

Karl Miller: The Late 1950s, 18 July 2013

Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, June 2013, 978 0 7475 8893 1
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... Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard, Bruce Forsyth are vignetted time and again. The theatre critic Alan Brien makes more appearances than Kenneth Tynan, but is worth his place. He once accompanied Mr and Mrs Macmillan on a visit to Tyneside, to the North Sands shipyard. The ‘bronchial blast’ of a hooter sounded, startling Macmillan. ‘Lady Dorothy ...

Journos de nos jours

Anthony Howard, 8 March 1990

Alan Moorehead 
by Tom Pocock.
Bodley Head, 311 pp., £16.95, February 1990, 0 370 31261 9
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Loyalties: A Son’s Memoir 
by Carl Bernstein.
Macmillan, 254 pp., £15.95, January 1990, 0 333 52135 8
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Downstart 
by Brian Inglis.
Chatto, 298 pp., £15.95, January 1990, 0 7011 3390 2
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... as much as the relatively recent invention of the journalist as superstar. Like Cameron himself, Alan Moorehead was just such a figure. He was probably the most celebrated of all the 1939-45 war correspondents. Along with his rival from the radio, Chester Wilmot, Moorehead was an Australian by birth – and he may well have owed some of his success (not ...

Chinaberry Pie

D.A.N. Jones, 1 March 1984

Modern Baptists 
by James Wilcox.
Secker, 239 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 9780436570988
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Speranza 
by Sven Delblanc, translated by Paul Britten Austin.
Secker, 153 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 9780436126802
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High Spirits 
by Robertson Davies.
Penguin, 198 pp., £2.50, January 1984, 0 14 006505 9
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Hanabeke 
by Dudley St John Magnus.
Angus and Robertson, 133 pp., £6.95, January 1984, 0 207 14565 2
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Train to Hell 
by Alexei Sayle.
Methuen, 152 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 413 52460 4
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The English Way of Doing Things 
by William Donaldson.
Weidenfeld, 229 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 297 78345 9
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... new book, we find tributes to that earlier novel: ‘A cross between Wodehouse and Isherwood’ (Alan Brien), ‘The most glitteringly funny prose since Evelyn Waugh’ (Kenneth Tynan). The English Way of Doing Things does not live up to these tributes. The farcical plot evidently attempts a dirtied-up Wodehouse style, of the kind successfully carried ...

Et in Alhambra ego

D.A.N. Jones, 5 June 1986

Agate: A Biography 
by James Harding.
Methuen, 238 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 413 58090 3
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Subsequent Performances 
by Jonathan Miller.
Faber, 253 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 571 13133 6
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... turn to the theatre pages with the excitement that I once did and although contemporaries like Alan Brien lacked Tynan’s flamboyant, showstruck, star-fucking excitement, he too was an invigorating critic to read ... Why Tynan was influential within the theatre is hard to explain.’ (Jonathan Miller, who likes explaining, is particularly interesting ...

My Old, Sweet, Darling Mob

Iain Sinclair: Michael Moorcock, 30 November 2000

King of the City 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 421 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 684 86140 2
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Mother London 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 496 pp., £6.99, May 2000, 0 684 86141 0
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... was twitching on his scalp.’ Behind Kingsley Amis and ‘ice-cream suited’ J.G. Ballard are Alan Brien, Maeve Peake, Dave Britton and legions of the erased and discontinued: Notting Hill colons, grafters, bullshitters, pharmaceutical casualties and Fleet Street drain-rats. Moorcock grants us more than any novelist is required to deliver: hence the ...

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