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Ventures

Susannah Clapp, 10 November 1988

The Suzy Lamplugh Story 
by Andrew Stephen.
Faber, 198 pp., £10.95, October 1988, 0 571 15152 3
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... are probably (bar the Royals) one of the most well-known families in Britain.’ Andrew Stephen’s book has added to this celebrity. So have the newspaper stories about his story. For three long weeks the Observer carried huge chunks of this tiny book. Their estimate of the story which was most likely to attract readers was the same as ...

Stepchildren

Elspeth Barker, 9 April 1992

Stepsons 
by Robert Liddell.
Peter Owen, 228 pp., £14.95, February 1992, 0 7206 0853 8
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Farewell Sidonia 
by Erich Hackl.
Cape, 135 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 224 02901 0
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... took place despite the potent opposition of Oswald’s sisters-in-law, who were caring for Andrew and Stephen. Elsa insisted on being called ‘mummy’. ‘Never call that German woman what you called your own mother,’ an aunt had insisted. Guilt and treachery thus informed the children’s first dealings with ...

Purging Stephen Spender

Susannah Clapp, 26 October 1989

Sylvia Townsend Warner: A Biography 
by Claire Harman.
Chatto, 358 pp., £16.95, July 1989, 0 7011 2938 7
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For Sylvia: An Honest Account 
by Valentine Ackland.
Chatto, 135 pp., £6.95, July 1989, 9780701135621
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... Before she was born, Sylvia Townsend Warner was called Andrew. When she was seven, her mother took against her for failing to be pretty and failing to be male; by the time she was 17 she was known to the boys of Harrow, where her father was a master, as ‘the cleverest fellow we had’. She described herself as repelled by the ‘devouring femaleness’ of her mother and as owning a ‘preponderantly masculine’ intellect ...

Kitty still pines for his dearest Dub

Andrew O’Hagan: Gossip, 6 February 2014

Becoming a Londoner: A Diary 
by David Plante.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 1 4088 3975 1
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The Animals: Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 
edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 481 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 0 7011 8678 4
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... by Bloomsbury – the books, the people, the scarves, the gossip – which led them to venerate Stephen Spender as one of its last links. Squeezed into a narrow bed, they would read Spender’s World within World together and admire ‘that entirely English’ set-up in which, Plante wrote at the time, ‘I fantasise having a place, even if that world no ...

The Bart

Gabriele Annan, 10 December 1987

Broken Blood: The Rise and Fall of the Tennant Family 
by Simon Blow.
Faber, 224 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 571 13374 6
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... firm to Consolidated Goldfields. He has more to say about the two younger brothers, David and Stephen. David led a rackety life with three wives and a lot of drink. Blow gives him no credit for founding the Gargoyle Club. But he descrves some: in the Twenties, Thirties and Forties, the Gargoyle, though a nightclub and not a café, was a London version of ...

From Soup to Fish

Andrew O’Hagan: The Spender Marriage, 17 December 2015

A House in St John’s Wood: In Search of My Parents 
by Matthew Spender.
William Collins, 448 pp., £25, August 2015, 978 0 00 813206 4
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... In​ the 1990s, when literary parties were more fun, or I was more fun, I used occasionally to see Stephen Spender: there he was, the establishment on quivering legs, queer as a chocolate orange but safely married. (When I spoke to him, I discovered he could flirt with his eyes shut.) Frank Kermode, a great friend to this paper but never knowingly unmalicious, remarked that ‘Stephen never knew where he was going but he always knew the quickest way to get there ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: A journey to citizenship, 16 November 2006

... that might detail the history of ‘celebratory’ integration in the homeland of Enoch Powell and Stephen Lawrence. The problem – or the hilarity – begins when one begins to read the code of honour that seems to be inscribed between the plain-speaking lines of the manual. One need hardly be I.A. Richards to spot the workings of this, but it often jars ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: The Queen, 11 May 2006

... to politics – and how New Labour politicians turned to the Windsors – will have to wait for Stephen Frears’s film The Queen, out in September, which raises the whole sordid business to the lovely heights of the national history play. In one scene, we see the Queen (played with delicious aplomb by Helen Mirren) beholding the slain carcass of a great ...

Prize Poems

Donald Davie, 1 July 1982

Arvon Foundation Poetry Competion: 1980 Anthology 
by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.
Kilnhurst Publishing Company, 173 pp., £3, April 1982, 9780950807805
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Burn this 
by Tom Disch.
Hutchinson, 63 pp., £7.50, April 1982, 0 09 146960 0
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... The Arvon Foundation’s 1980 Anthology contains four splendid poems: Stephen Watts’s ‘Praise Poem for North Uist’, and Keith Bosley’s ‘Corolla’; Aidan Carl Mathews’s ‘Severances’, and John Levett’s ‘The Photographs of Paris’. The first two are longish, the others shorter. The only one that won a prize – and that the smallest, £100 – is ‘Corolla’, a sequence of nine exactly rhymed and metred sonnets, culminating in a stunning version of the Ronsard sonnet that defeated Yeats: When you are old and lost in memory you might, seized by a sentimental fit, take down this book and blow the dust off it recalling: ‘Bosley was quite keen on me ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: New Writing, 8 March 2001

... contents page: Barbara Trapido, Anthony Thwaite, Anne Stevenson, Alan Brownjohn, Helen Simpson, Andrew Motion, Michael Hofmann, Alan Sillitoe, Louis de Bernières and Geoff Dyer are ten of them, and ‘new’ isn’t the first word that springs to mind. But there are plenty of good reasons, too obvious to need repeating, for the inclusion of well-known ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: On the Bus, 28 April 2011

... and English’. We might assume that Joyce continued to take the bus. (At 11 a.m., doesn’t Stephen Dedalus travel by public transport on his way from the school in Dalkey?) Censuses may not give you the heart and soul of the country, that’s literature’s job, but they tell you the circumstances of the population on a given day, which might also be ...

Many Andies

Andrew O’Hagan, 16 October 1997

Shoes, Shoes, Shoes 
by Andy Warhol.
Bulfinch Press, 35 pp., $10.95, May 1997, 0 8212 2319 4
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Style, Style, Style 
by Andy Warhol.
Bulfinch Press, 30 pp., $10.95, May 1997, 0 8212 2320 8
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Who is Andy Warhol? 
edited by Colin MacCabe, Mark Francis and Peter Wollen.
BFI, 162 pp., £40, May 1997, 9780851705880
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All Tomorrow’s Parties: Billy Name’s Photographs of Andy Warhol’s Factory 
by Billy Name.
frieze, 144 pp., £19.95, April 1997, 0 9527414 1 5
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The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco and the Culture of the Night 
by Anthony Haden-Guest.
Morrow, 404 pp., $25, April 1996, 9780688141516
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... sphinx without a secret,’ said Truman Capote; ‘the Ecce Homo of modern exhibitionism,’ said Stephen Spender. For his own part, Warhol was intensely reasonable: ‘I just want to be a machine,’ he said. There were many Andies: the Andy who brought cruelty back into art; the Andy who worried about ‘boy trouble’; the Andy who saw to the heart of ...

Who’s sorry now?

Andrew O’Hagan: Michael Finkel gets lucky, 2 June 2005

True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa 
by Michael Finkel.
Chatto, 312 pp., £15.99, May 2005, 0 7011 7688 1
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Burning Down My Master’s House 
by Jayson Blair.
New Millennium, 288 pp., $24.95, March 2004, 9781932407266
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The Journalist and the Murderer 
by Janet Malcolm.
Granta, 163 pp., £8.99, January 2004, 1 86207 637 5
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... from Michael Finkel streaks across a firmament already glittering with apologetic precedents. Stephen Glass, once a popular and ambitious young thing at the New Republic, invented email addresses and whole companies to hide his deceit, and later went on to invent a novel about the affair, The Fabulist, which features a not-entirely-well-concealed ...

Short Cuts and Half Cuts

Luke Kennard: ‘Early Work’, 20 June 2019

Early Work 
by Andrew Martin.
Picador, 256 pp., £14.50, July 2019, 978 1 250 21501 7
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... Andrew Martin​ ’s Early Work functions simultaneously as a celebratory autofiction about literary life in the United States and an indictment of the generation that populates it. ‘Most of the people I associated with considered themselves exceptional,’ says Pete, the protagonist, and we may take this to mean above average or, simply, those to whom normal rules don’t apply: ‘So you work from, uh, home?’ ‘Yeah, I’m a bum,’ she said ...

Diary

Andrew O’Hagan: Orders of Service, 18 April 2019

... the sad and a PR guru. There was Bach for Larkin and a bit of Bix Beiderbecke. Ten years later, at Stephen Spender’s wingding in St Martin-in-the-Fields, there was Beethoven’s Quartet in A minor, an adagio from Haydn, a speech by Richard Wollheim, and no fewer than 13 of Spender’s own poems, read by Harold Pinter, Ted Hughes, James Fenton, Jill Balcon ...

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