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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, it’s gently diverting, sometimes even entertaining ...

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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... 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 sure none of these eulogies, understandably preserved ...

‘Don’t scum me out!’

Scott Hames: Alan Warner

28 April 2011
The Stars in the Bright Sky 
by Alan Warner.
Vintage, 394 pp., £7.99, May 2011, 978 0 09 946182 1
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... far as I know, there are no half-timbered terminal buildings or pebble-dashed control towers.’ Alan Warner isn’t a novelist you’d expect to be much interested in the departures hall, being best known for a sort of wild provincial fabulism. Each of his first five books is saturated with ‘place’, using skewed dialect and surreal local legend to ...

Mortal on Hooch

William Fiennes: Alan Warner

30 July 1998
The Sopranos 
by Alan Warner.
Cape, 336 pp., £9.99, June 1998, 0 224 05108 3
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... Morvern Callar, the narrator of Alan Warner’s Morvern Callar (1995) and These Demented Lands (1997), reacts to the suicide of her boyfriend by lighting a Silk Cut, opening her Christmas presents and shaving her legs in a hot bath. The boyfriend is lying in a pool of blood but Morvern remains emotionally numb: ‘Trying to get in the oven to heat up the pizza ...

Fairy Lights

Jenny Turner

2 November 1995
Morvern Callar 
by Alan Warner.
Cape, 224 pp., £9.99, February 1995, 0 224 04011 1
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... mixed arising from the every sight of that capital H for Him. What sort of novel do you suppose Alan Warner imagined himself first writing? A young boy’s life among the mountains he loved and which constrained him? A piece of social realism, about how hard life is for the isolated, economically marginal clumps of working-class people scattered here ...

Every Young Boy’s Dream

James Meek: Michel Houellebecq

14 November 2002
Platform 
by Michel Houellebecq, translated by Frank Wynne.
Heinemann, 362 pp., £12.99, September 2002, 9780434009893
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... fuck with love.’ Recounting his pathetic early sex life, Michel explains that he used Viagra to balance out the effect of alcohol. With Valérie, it is her exhaustion after long days at the office, rather than booze, which needs to be overcome. There’s always love: ‘She would come back from work so exhausted that she hadn’t the energy to make ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Is it just me?

1 December 2005
... copy of Is It Just Me or Is Everything Shit? The Encyclopedia of Modern Life by Steve Lowe and Alan McArthur (Time Warner, £9.99). Some of the entries in Is It Just Me . . . ? that have also – or at any rate might well have – appeared on Spoons are: Tony Blair, chick-lit, city breaks, Sofia Coppola, Alain de ...
10 September 2014
... a sentiment Blair fully shares but dare not admit to, fearing that his intervention might tip the balance in the opposite direction. There is no issue of principle here, just imperial interests. The US accelerated the break-up of the old Soviet state, first the Baltic republics, then Ukraine and Central Asia. This was followed by the destruction of ...
1 October 1998
Bodies of Law 
by Alan Hyde.
Princeton, 290 pp., £39.50, July 1997, 0 691 01229 6
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... have been accompanied – and deepened – by a myriad interpretative moves. The originality of Alan Hyde’s Bodies of Law is that he is trying to apply psychoanalytic, structuralist, poststructuralist and feminist theories of the embodied individual to the analysis of American law. His approach depends on the Foucauldian tenet that while bodies exist in ...

Moguls

J. Hoberman: Did the Jews invent Hollywood?

7 March 2002
Hollywood and Anti-Semitism: A Cultural History up to World War Two 
by Steven Alan Carr.
Cambridge, 342 pp., £42.50, July 2001, 9780521798549
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... anti-capitalist, anti-Communist or anti-American. That, at any rate, is the argument of Steven Alan Carr’s Hollywood and Anti-Semitism, an impressively researched and closely reasoned cultural history, which takes up its theme in 1880, 25 years before the appearance of the first nickelodeons, and pursues it through to the US entry into World War ...

Got to go make that dollar

Alex Abramovich: Otis Redding

3 January 2019
Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life 
by Jonathan Gould.
Crown, 544 pp., £12.99, May 2018, 978 0 307 45395 2
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... Steve Cropper playing rhythm and Johnny Jenkins on lead, the band struck an uneasy balance between rockabilly and blues that only exaggerated the outdated sound of the material.’ If Redding had gone home then – if Stewart had cancelled the session – that might been the whole story. Instead, in Gould’s telling: Steve Cropper sat down at ...

Long live the codex

John Sutherland: The future of books

5 July 2001
Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future 
by Jason Epstein.
Norton, 188 pp., £16.95, March 2001, 0 393 04984 1
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... considered buying Penguin Books’ American branch. The two men crossed the pond for talks with Alan [sic] Lane. Epstein was not impressed. He decided that Lane, ‘like most British publishers’, was in hock to his bankers. The penguin would never fly. Epstein went home to the skyscrapers, where a publisher could spread his wings. The glorious world of ...

Injury Time

Robert Taubman

2 July 1981
Gorky Park 
by Martin Cruz Smith.
Collins, 365 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 00 222278 7
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The Turn-Around 
by Vladimir Volkoff, translated by Alan Sheridan.
Bodley Head, 411 pp., £6.95, April 1981, 0 370 30323 7
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Thus was Adonis murdered 
by Sarah Caudwell.
Collins, 246 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 00 231854 7
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A Splash of Red 
by Antonia Fraser.
Weidenfeld, 229 pp., £5.95, May 1981, 0 297 77937 0
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... prototypes aside, he essentially belongs in the tradition of the American cop, his true home a Warner Brothers movie. He’s not expected to answer awkward existential questions: but he has something, an integrity of his own, that only a hero empty of everything else seems to possess. The empty heroes of Hemingway and the earlier American crime novelists ...

John Sturrock

Mary-Kay Wilmers

20 September 2017
... the paper’s readers, and elicited the largest number of indignant letters, was written by John. Alan Sokal, a professor of mathematics at UCL and physics at NYU, had gone into battle against the postmodern theorists whom he accused – I’m simplifying but not greatly – of having no understanding of the concepts they borrowed from science, and no respect ...

The Eerie One

Bee Wilson: Peter Lorre

23 March 2006
The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre 
by Stephen Youngkin.
Kentucky, 613 pp., $39.95, September 2005, 0 8131 2360 7
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... for making the Moto films (though he was markedly underpaid, earning only $10,000 a picture to Warner Oland’s $40,000 as Charlie Chan), but were also the palliative that enabled him to participate in such rubbish. A couple of years after the series ended, while he was making the Warner Bros film All through the ...

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