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Just a Big Silver Light

Theo Tait: Alan​ Warner

25 May 2006
The Worms Can Carry Me to Heaven 
by Alan​ Warner.
Cape, 390 pp., £11.99, May 2006, 0 224 07129 7
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... It’s not very clear what The Worms Can Carry Me to Heaven is really about, or why Alan Warner has written it. It’s not that it’s conspicuously awful or straightforwardly confusing, like some of his other novels. It’s clear enough what’s happening and where; for the most part ...

In a Restaurant

Alan​ Brownjohn

15 September 1983
... nine, The world seemed darker, and confused, Its outlines harder to define, Its faces tinier. There, instead Of warmth and clarity, and bright Colours for everything, we saw A shadow land, a listless light Which neither of us understood: A place so closed and small and black It nearly hurt, smiling, gripping Our glasses harder, coming back ...

Three Poems

Alan​ Ross

28 November 1996
... There are figures in the wake, gesticulating. No 45 Bus They have unique brakes, juddering To a halt with the noise Of rubbery foghorns. In the early hours, Sleepless, they cruise Beaufort Street, Light on the river behind them Like marbled endpapers, swilling Under bridges. On such nights In convoy ships lowed like cattle, Sixth senses warning of proximity. Hearing them I wake sweating. In ...
4 September 1997
... party ... Roast duck and mulberry tart were the chief dishes and there was champagne. My place was third from the oriel window on the west side of the table between Holmes and Simopoulos whose host, Alan Taylor, had the end seat ... In SCR I was at the opposite end of the horseshoe to the Vice-president, the only consequence of which was that the melon gave out before it reached me. But there were ...


Alan​ Jenkins

4 October 2001
... ends of lanes, and blood-red maps? – Men were employed to keep the Empire going in distant, dark-skinned places, names no one had heard till then, where the sun was not allowed to set but where the light was fiercer anyway. It was God’s will, like the deaths they bloomed to, leeches clinging to their heads in place of clouds of hair . . . I put them back and went out to the garden – there the ...

Into the Dark

Kathleen Jamie: A Winter Solstice

18 December 2003
... Mid-December. It was eight in the morning and Venus was hanging like a wrecker’s light above the Black Craig. The hill itself – seen from our kitchen window – was still in silhouette, though the sky was lightening to a pale yellow-grey. It was a weakling light, stealing into the ...


Alan​ Bennett: What I did in 2012

3 January 2013
... from the programme is Tony Harrison, an old boy of Leeds Grammar School, the snobbery of which is pilloried in some of his poems. By rights all such schools should be free schools, as indeed in the light of their origins, should many public schools. The nearest public school to us in Yorkshire is Giggleswick which started off as the local grammar school. It’s certainly not free today, though like ...
24 January 2013
A Hologram for the King 
by Dave Eggers.
Hamish Hamilton, 312 pp., £18.99, February 2013, 978 0 241 14585 2
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... and is written in the third person, in stripped-down, journalistic language. But, again, many will be bothered by Eggers’s need to portray Zeitoun as unrelentingly virtuous, especially in light of recent developments: Zeitoun was charged last year with repeatedly assaulting – and soliciting the murder of – his wife. Eggers’s detractors, of course, have made hay of Zeitoun’s fall ...

Lager and Pernod

Frank Kermode: Alan​ Warner

22 August 2002
The Man Who Walks 
by Alan​ Warner.
Cape, 280 pp., £16.99, May 2002, 0 224 06294 8
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... Reviewers rarely feel it prudent to begin by confessing bafflement, but the admission may sometimes be unavoidable. This is my sentiment as I contemplate the four novels of Alan Warner. He has been highly praised (‘dazzling’, ‘classic’, ‘significant’, ‘vastly gifted’, ‘a genius’, ‘one of the most influential literary mould-breakers ever’), and I’m ...

Travelling Hero

G.R. Wilson Knight

19 February 1981
Coriolanus in Europe 
by David Daniell.
Athlone, 168 pp., £9.95, October 1980, 0 485 11192 6
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... were raised, but for the most part it was recognised that the play stood outside them and audiences responded mainly to its single-minded concentration on the personality of the hero as revealed by Alan Howard’s performance. This dominated the production and whatever our personal opinions might have been, it was clearly a grand achievement. It had an immediate appeal, and that is a final, or ...

Someone Else

Peter Campbell

17 April 1986
In the American West 
by Richard Avedon.
Thames and Hudson, 172 pp., £40, October 1985, 0 500 54110 8
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by Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Thames and Hudson, 283 pp., £35, October 1985, 0 500 54109 4
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... The first picture in Richard Avedon’s folio is captioned ‘Alan Silvey, drifter, Route 93, Chloride, Nevada’. Such photographs were taken in the Dustbowl fifty years ago. But this is art, not documentation. We have learned a lot about photography since the ...
23 September 1993
Will Pop Eat Itself? Pop Music in the Soundbite Era 
by Jeremy J. Beadle.
Faber, 269 pp., £7.99, June 1993, 9780571162413
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Present Tense: Rock & Roll and Culture 
edited by Anthony DeCurtis.
Duke, 317 pp., £11.95, October 1992, 0 8223 1265 4
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... a new relevance to old black music (thus beginning an important and continuing dialogue between jazz and rap). In his essay on rap in Present Tense – one of the best things in the collection – AlanLight writes that rap is ‘the genre that speaks most directly to and for its audience, full of complications, contradictions and confusion’. Beadle ignores the fast-moving complexities of rap in ...


Susannah Clapp

23 July 1987
A Life with AlanThe Diary of A.J.P. Taylor’s Wife, Eva, from 1978 to 1985 
by Eva Haraszti Taylor.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £14.95, June 1987, 0 241 12118 3
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The Painted Banquet: My Life and Loves 
by Jocelyn Rickards.
Weidenfeld, 172 pp., £14.95, May 1987, 0 297 79119 2
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The Beaverbrook Girl 
by Janet Aitken Kidd.
Collins, 240 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 00 217602 5
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... attention. He reported that his wife, the Hungarian historian Eva Haraszti, was in hospital, and chronicled the resulting ‘devastation’: his incompetence at bed-making, his inability to light the oven, the misery of his solitary meals. In the middle of reading one such bulletin, I rang the Taylors’ home to take his proof marks. Eva Taylor answered the phone: she was home and she was ...


Alan​ Bennett: What I did in 1984

20 December 1984
... often arduous. To an onlooker, which for much of the time I am, it’s like war: long periods of boredom punctuated by bouts of frenzied activity. The scene in Tony Richardson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade in which Lord Raglan and his party view the charge from a nearby hilltop is (perhaps deliberately) very like watching the making of a film. The terminology of film – ‘cut’, ‘shoot ...
16 March 1989
Stories in an Almost Classical Mode 
by Harold Brodkey.
Knopf, 596 pp., $24.95, September 1988, 0 394 50699 5
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... of one unhappy family. The names change (inexplicably), but the characters remain the same: mother, father, older sister, immigrant nursemaid – and the narrator, Wiley, who also appears as Alan Cohn and Harold ‘Buddy’ Brodkey. Adopted at two, Wiley/Alan/Buddy goes through several distinct phases: damaged infant, beautiful child, ugly and precocious young boy, ungainly, brooding ...

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