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Orpheus in his Underwear

Harold James, 1 November 1984

My Life 
by Richard Wagner, translated by Andrew Gray, edited by Mary Whittall.
Cambridge, 786 pp., £22.50, November 1983, 0 521 22929 4
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Untimely Meditations 
by Friedrich Nietzsche, translated by R.J. Hollingdale, introduced by J.P. Stern.
Cambridge, 256 pp., £15, December 1983, 0 521 24740 3
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Wagner: A Case-History 
by Martin von Amerongen.
Dent, 169 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 460 04618 7
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... phrase than the English ‘real’, and carries a sense of something ‘charged with meaning’. Gray and Whittall believe the phrase should be read as ‘purely friendly relationship to the young lady’. This is much too unambiguous. Wagner’s phrase need not be taken to mean that his relationship was chaste. Doubtless he was teasing Cosima as he ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: On Peregrine Worsthorne, 4 November 1993

... Alms for Oblivion novel sequence, we are introduced to the hopeless young charmer Fielding Gray. His father is remote and sourly reactionary; his mother develops ominous signs of chippiness and puritanism. Young Fielding gets through most of the right hoops but usually in the wrong way. His public school, in other words, is slightly too minor. He is ...

Diary

Andrew Saint: Foscolo’s Grave, 20 September 2007

... this country. His notions about its burial customs drew heavily on Young’s Night Thoughts and Gray’s Elegy, poems then honoured in Italy. That Foscolo himself should end up in an English churchyard would have seemed absurd in 1807. Yet the seed that led him to an impoverished death in Chiswick had already germinated. Foscolo was always something of an ...

Ecoluxury

John Gray, 20 April 1995

The Fading of the Greens: The Decline of Environmental Politics in the West 
by Anna Bramwell.
Yale, 224 pp., £18.95, September 1994, 0 300 06040 8
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The Chicago Gangster Theory of Life: Nature’s Debt to Society 
by Andrew Ross.
Verso, 308 pp., £18.95, October 1994, 0 86091 429 1
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Green Delusions: An Environmentalist Critique of Radical Environmentalism 
by Martin Lewis.
Duke, 288 pp., $12.95, February 1994, 0 8223 1474 6
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... been economic. It is to the surprising, and perhaps ominous, recrudescence of biologism that Andrew Ross devotes some of the most interesting chapters of The Chicago Gangster Theory of Life. Ross makes some shrewd and witty criticisms of recent exclusions by natural scientists into sociobiology, such as those of Richard Dawkins, the behaviour of ...

Fraynwaves

Hugh Barnes, 2 May 1985

Towards the End of the Morning 
by Michael Frayn.
Harvill, 255 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 00 221822 4
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Sweet Dreams 
by Michael Frayn.
Harvill, 223 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 00 221884 4
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The Fall of Kelvin Walker 
by Alasdair Gray.
Canongate, 144 pp., £7.95, March 1985, 9780862410728
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Lean Tales 
by James Kelman, Agnes Owens and Alasdair Gray.
Cape, 286 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 224 02262 8
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Stones for Ibarra 
by Harriet Doerr.
Deutsch, 214 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 9780233977522
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Family Dancing 
by David Leavitt.
Viking, 206 pp., £8.95, March 1985, 0 670 80263 8
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The Whitbread Stories: One 
by Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson.
Hamish Hamilton, 184 pp., £4.95, April 1985, 0 241 11544 2
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... for ‘this prosperous decade between two disastrous economic depressions’ (as Alasdair Gray recalls it in The Fall of Kelvin Walker, subtitled ‘A Fable of the Sixties’). It occurs to John Dyson, Frayn’s downtrodden hero, that ‘failure was the secular equivalent of sin.’ But even his failure now seems like success. He and Bob Bell ...

Lawful Charm

Donald Davie, 6 July 1995

Selected Poems 
by William Barnes, edited by Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 171 pp., £6.99, May 1994, 0 14 042379 6
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Selected Poems 
by William Barnes, read by Alan Chedzoy.
Canto, £6.99
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... translated out of dialect into Standard English with very little loss? Obviously it wasn’t up to Andrew Motion to make the experiment: reprinting the dialect poems, he had to reproduce the diacritical marks and phonetic spellings that Barnes insisted on in his lifetime. Yet these certainly impede the patient reader, and it’s still open to question whether ...

Raven’s Odyssey

D.A.N. Jones, 19 July 1984

Swallow 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 312 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 0 575 03446 7
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First Among Equals 
by Jeffrey Archer.
Hodder, 446 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 340 35266 3
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Morning Star 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 264 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 9780856341380
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... earldom) and for his Tory rival, Simon, the thrusting young meritocrat. On the Labour side we have Andrew, bred in a powerful Scots Conservative-and-Unionist clan, doomed to defect from Labour to the Social Democrats. (We may fancy we recognise in Andrew some aspects of Tarn Dalyell and of the late John P. Mackintosh.) Then ...

But Stoney was Bold

Deborah Friedell: How Not to Marry if You’re a Millionaire, 26 February 2009

Wedlock 
by Wendy Moore.
Weidenfeld, 359 pp., £18.99, January 2009, 978 0 297 85331 2
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... when one of her attempts failed, she reluctantly made preparations for a second marriage to George Gray or Grey, a Scotsman recently returned from India. Enter the Irish adventurer Andrew Robinson Stoney, a former soldier and ‘villain to the backbone’, by his friends’ accounts. After reading in the Newcastle Chronicle ...

Peine forte et dure

Hazel V. Carby: Punishment by Pressing, 30 July 2020

... knees on back; feet or knees on neck; chokeholds. Such deaths are mostly out of sight – Freddie Gray died from injuries sustained during a prolonged ride in a police van while handcuffed and shackled to the floor – but in July 2015, in Montclair, California, witnesses saw between five and eight police officers sitting on top of Christian Siqueiros, who ...

The Paranoid Sublime

Andrew O’Hagan, 26 May 1994

How late it was, how late 
by James Kelman.
Secker, 374 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 436 23292 8
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... and infuriating it was that the better writers – whom we may as well call James Kelman, Alasdair Gray and Tom Leonard among others – wouldn’t join in on the song. ‘It’s their loss,’ she said. ‘I mean, what do they want?’ A fairly good idea of what they wanted could be gleaned at that time from a visit to the Scotia Bar in Stockwell ...

Do you like him?

Ian Jack: Ken Livingstone, 10 May 2012

You Can’t Say That: Memoirs 
by Ken Livingstone.
Faber, 710 pp., £9.99, April 2012, 978 0 571 28041 4
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... next Prime Minister but three’. But the mind’s eye can be wrong – Johnson’s biographer, Andrew Gimson, records that Boris was a quiet boy who had hearing difficulties – and it may be that the reason we can readily conceive Johnson aged seven is that the public persona of Johnson aged 47 is so irrepressibly boys-will-be-boys. With Livingstone the ...

I have written as I rode

Adam Smyth: ‘Brief Lives’, 8 October 2015

‘Brief Lives’ with ‘An Apparatus for the Lives of Our English Mathematical Writers’ 
by John Aubrey, edited by Kate Bennett.
Oxford, 1968 pp., £250, March 2015, 978 0 19 968953 8
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John Aubrey: My Own Life 
by Ruth Scurr.
Chatto, 518 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 0 7011 7907 6
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... words, ‘politically tone-deaf’ is a ranging inclusivity in his social relations: John Dryden, Andrew Marvell, Edmund Waller, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, John Milton, Wenceslaus Hollar. As Kate Bennett writes in the introduction to her superb new edition of Brief Lives, ‘we may be able to hear, through him, the 17th century talking to and about ...
Northern Antiquity: The Post-Medieval Reception of Edda and Saga 
edited by Andrew Wawn.
Hisarlik, 342 pp., £35, October 1994, 1 874312 18 4
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Heritage and Prophecy: Grundtvig and the English-Speaking World 
edited by A.M. Allchin.
Canterbury, 330 pp., £25, January 1994, 9781853110856
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... did not pick up popularity till after Walter Scott. ‘Valkyries’ were introduced to English by Gray in 1768, closely followed by Percy’s translation of the Swiss professor Paul-Henri Mallet’s Monuments de la mythologie et de la poésie des Celtes et particulièrement des anciens Scandinaves. But ‘berserkers’ did not appear till 1822, though by 1879 ...

Updike’s Innocence

Craig Raine, 25 January 1990

Just Looking: Essays on Art 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 210 pp., £19.95, November 1989, 0 233 98501 8
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... Studio and Piero della Francesca’s stately explorations of perspective’. Similarly, faced with Andrew Wyeth’s frequently nude sequence of Helga Testorf, Updike resists his inclination to the obvious. He notes Wyeth’s ‘glamorising touch’ and his bogus claims to be an abstractionist, then he caves in. But before he is prepared to admit that he ...

Devolution Doom

Christopher Harvie: Scotland’s crisis, and some solutions, 5 September 2002

... along with self-government. Which is why Geddes – a recurrent presence in the novels of Alasdair Gray – counts as a patron of devolution, and indeed of that peaceable civic Europe in which Gray’s ‘Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Republic’ would find its place. The outcome has been rather different. The MSPs and the ...

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