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Last Words

John Bayley

7 January 1988
The Collected Stories of Angus​ Wilson 
Secker, 414 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 0 436 57612 0Show More
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... a wounded German airman, who pleads for help. She refuses it, and watches his death agony with intense pleasure, afterwards taking a bath and sitting on the sofa in a mood of relaxed satisfaction. AngusWilson had some interesting things to say about the story in his book The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling. But he did not mention its crucial point: did these events really happen, or was the ...


Frank Kermode

8 June 1995
Angus​ Wilson 
by Margaret Drabble.
Secker, 714 pp., £20, May 1995, 0 436 20038 4
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... At a party given forty-odd years ago by the suddenly-famous AngusWilson, Dwight Macdonald ‘introduced himself, American-style, to Rose Macaulay, describing himself as an editor of the Partisan Review and founder of his own journal Politics: she stared at him and said ...

Blood Relations

J.I.M. Stewart

1 December 1983
Diversity and Depth in Fiction: Selected Critical Writings of Angus​ Wilson 
edited by Kerry McSweeny.
Secker, 303 pp., £15, August 1983, 0 436 57610 4
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... All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ The second part, at least, of Tolstoy’s celebrated dictum is borne out by AngusWilson’s fiction, which deals largely in families, and this with a rich diversity through a long series of books. Sir Angus shuffles the cards brilliantly, but Unhappy Families remains the name of the ...

The Powyses

D.A.N. Jones

7 August 1980
After My Fashion 
by John Cowper Powys.
Picador, 286 pp., £2.50, June 1980, 0 330 26049 9
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Weymouth Sands 
by John Cowper Powys.
Picador, 567 pp., £2.95, June 1980, 0 330 26050 2
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Recollections of the Powys Brothers 
edited by Belinda Humfrey.
Peter Owen, 288 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 7206 0547 4
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John Cowper Powys and David Jones: A Comparative Study 
by Jeremy Hooker.
Enitharmon, 54 pp., £3.75, April 1979, 0 901111 85 6
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The Hollowed-Out Elder Stalk 
by Roland Mathias.
Enitharmon, 158 pp., £4.85, May 1979, 0 901111 87 2
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John Cowper Powys and the Magical Quest 
by Morine Krissdottir.
Macdonald, 218 pp., £8.95, February 1980, 0 354 04492 3
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... Big guns (J. B. Priestley, G. Wilson Knight, George Steiner, AngusWilson) have been booming the name of John Cowper Powys for many years, outraged that other big guns will not join the salute. In the first number of the Powys Review, in 1977, George Steiner blamed Dr ...

A House and its Heads

Christopher Ricks

7 August 1980
Setting the World on Fire 
by Angus Wilson.
Secker, 296 pp., £6.50, July 1980, 9780436576041
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... that a reviewer should not mar the ending, but that he probably should not let the author’s marring the book do more harm than it has to. This is a painful matter, especially for anyone who admires AngusWilson’s novels very much, and who believes that it is with the best of intentions that he plotted and plaited what turns out to be a nouement. But the road to this particular Hell Fire Club is ...

Evils and Novels

Graham Coster

25 June 1992
Black Dogs 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 176 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 9780224035729
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... As Penguin rescues the novels of AngusWilson from out-of-print obscurity, here is an excuse to recall the argument of his most important work of literary criticism, the essay ‘Evil in the English Novel’. ‘For some time,’ he wrote in the ...
6 March 1986
Aspects of Feeling 
by Peter Vansittart.
Peter Owen, 251 pp., £10.95, January 1986, 0 7206 0637 3
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... Peter Vansittart, novelist, historian and writer for children, has been singled out for praise by critics as diverse as Philip Toynbee, Francis King, AngusWilson and Andrew Sinclair. All feel that he lacks the large audience he deserves. Yet the curious reader, anxious to gain more information about this somewhat enigmatic writer, of undoubted power (and ...


Harry Ricketts

16 March 1989
Rudyard Kipling 
by Martin Seymour-Smith.
Macdonald, 373 pp., £16.95, February 1989, 0 356 15852 7
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... first chapter of his posthumously-published autobiography Something of Myself (1937), and is supported by his sister’s reminiscences. Most of the previous biographers – Hilton Brown (1945), Sir AngusWilson (1977), Lord Birkenhead (1978) – have accepted the Kiplings’ version as literally true. Certainly no one, not even Charles Carrington, who takes a less literal view in his official ...


Frank Kermode: Angry Young Men

28 November 2002
The Angry Young Men: A Literary Comedy of the 1950s 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Allen Lane, 244 pp., £18.99, September 2002, 0 7139 9532 7
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... been but few occasions when the whole company of Angry Young Men was assembled. Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin and John Wain knew one another at Oxford, but had little to do with autodidacts like Colin Wilson, John Osborne and Alan Sillitoe – this last name less often mentioned in this context than might have been expected, doubtless because Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) was published a ...


Frank Kermode

5 June 1997
The Untouchable 
by John Banville.
Picador, 405 pp., £15.99, May 1997, 0 330 33931 1
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... of booze, snobbery, sodomy and that hopelessly abstract tenderness for the lower classes, unknown except as subordinates and bed fellows. Some scenes, some dialogue, remind one of the early AngusWilson. Others recall Anthony Powell’s Poussin-dominated series of novels and also, at moments, that writer’s earlier work. Yet Banville’s own style is distinctive, especially at those epiphanic time ...

Third World

Frank Kermode

2 March 1989
... the work of Giles Cooper and Beckett’s great radio play All That Fall. Equally important, and more autonomous, was ‘Features’. We learn that Rayner Heppenstall as a Features producer could call AngusWilson, Henry Reed, Laurie Lee and Muriel Spark ‘exclusively mine’, and there were staff stars like Louis MacNeice and W.R. Rodgers (stars at the bar of the George as well as in Broadcasting ...


Duncan Campbell

19 October 1995
The Autobiography of a Thief 
by Bruce Reynolds.
Bantam, 320 pp., £15.99, April 1995, 0 593 03779 0
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... of The Robbers’ Tale(1965), whose husband was one of the barristers in the trial, describing the participants: ‘[Jimmy] White is the most ordinary and engaging little man in the world ... Charlie Wilson, the sort of father you see by the hundred in France on Sunday outings ... [Gordon] Goody, nerves of steel and the wolfish handsomeness of the pack leader ... The events were so vividly in the minds ...
10 September 1992
The Children of Men 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 239 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 571 16741 1
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A Philosophical Investigation 
by Philip Kerr.
Chatto, 336 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 7011 4553 6
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by Georgina Hammick.
Chatto, 212 pp., £13.99, August 1992, 0 7011 4133 6
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The Death of the Author 
by Gilbert Adair.
Heinemann, 135 pp., £13.99, August 1992, 0 434 00623 8
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Jerusalem Commands 
by Michael Moorcock.
Cape, 577 pp., £15.99, July 1992, 0 224 03074 4
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... the year for computer buffs, amateur philosophers and would-be time-travellers. Back to the 20th century and middle-aged, middle-class anxieties with the nine stories in Georgina Hammick’s Spoilt. AngusWilson’s name has been mentioned in comparison, but these pieces have none of the acidity and satiric hardness of Wilson’s early short stories. Their sheen, style and deliberate under-statement ...

How not to do it

John Sutherland

22 July 1993
The British Library: For Scholarship, Research and Innovation: Strategic Objectives for the Year 2000 
British Library, 39 pp., £5, June 1993, 0 7123 0321 9Show More
The Library of the British Museum: Retrospective Essays on the Department of Printed Books 
edited by P.R. Harris.
British Library, 305 pp., £35, June 1993, 0 7123 0242 5
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... authoritative inside history of the Private Case, and Alec Hyatt King wraps the collection up with ‘Some Memoirs of the British Museum and its Music Room’ (King has some sharp things to say about AngusWilson – or ‘Angus Frank Johnstone-Wilson’ as his early colleagues remember him). What comes across most strongly from the volume is the institution’s ability to endure. It has survived the ...


Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows

7 October 1993
... meant it, as though they meant it to matter ... Samuel Beckett (of course), John Berger, Christine Brooke-Rose, Brigid Brophy, Anthony Burgess, Alan Burns, Angela Carter, Eva Figes, Giles Gordon, Wilson Harris, Rayner Heppenstall, even hasty, muddled Robert Nye, Ann Quin, Penelope Shuttle, Alan Sillitoe (for his last book only. Raw Material indeed), Stefan Themerson, and (coming) John Wheway (stand ...

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