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James Wood: The ‘TLS’

27 June 2002
Critical Times: The History of the ‘Times Literary Supplement’ 
by Derwent May.
HarperCollins, 606 pp., £25, November 2001, 0 00 711449 4
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... this postwar environment, the TLS began to present a new kind of writing, one of stiffened scholarship and greater rigour. This was the era of Pevsner, Namier, E.H. Carr, D.W. Brogan, A.J.P. Taylor, Anthony Blunt and Noel Annan, all regular reviewers for the TLS (though the old, cosy TLS reappeared in 1946 when Russell’s History of Western Philosophy was sent to J.B. Hawkins, the vicar of Esher). May ...

Why do you make me do it?

David Bromwich: Robert Ryan

18 February 2016
... Angry men​ and furious machines.’ No verb, no explanation – it is the first line of ‘Dutch Graves in Bucks County’, a poem that Wallace Stevens published in 1943. The image may have come from a march-of-time documentary of Americans training to fight in the Second World War. Probably the machines included tanks and a lorry convoy, possibly a ...

Military to Military

Seymour M. Hersh

7 January 2016
... death on 20 October 2011).* The operation was largely run out of a covert CIA annex in Benghazi, with State Department acquiescence. On 11 September 2012 the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed during an anti-American demonstration that led to the burning down of the US consulate in Benghazi; reporters for the Washington Post found copies of the ambassador’s schedule in the ...

The Real Magic

David Sylvester

8 June 1995
A Biographical Dictionary of Film 
by David Thomson.
Deutsch, 834 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 233 98859 9
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... musicals, but how many musicals are great films? Or, speaking of moments, the killing of Jack Palance by Alan Ladd in Shane is exquisite, but Shane as a whole is a phoney. (But its director, George Stevens, did direct a musical that’s a serious candidate for greatness: Swing Time.) And the problem of evaluating the makers is vastly complicated, as it is with the Elizabethan and Jacobean plays, by the ...

Puffed Wheat

James Wood: How serious is John Bayley?

20 October 2005
The Power of Delight: A Lifetime in Literature: Essays 1962-2002 
by John Bayley, selected by Leo Carey.
Duckworth, 677 pp., £25, March 2005, 0 7156 3312 0
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... one of several bizarre marriages in this book; Bohumil Hrabal would surely have offered the obvious alternative to Kundera: natural, comic, unself-conscious and Czech.) Betjeman, Wodehouse, Austen, Anthony Powell and Larkin are all examples, for Bayley, of this kind of evasive magic, which is opposed again and again to what he calls ‘seriousness’. Any jobbing writer, it seems, can be ‘serious ...

By All Possible Art

Tobias Gregory: George Herbert

18 December 2014
Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert 
by John Drury.
Penguin, 396 pp., £9.99, April 2014, 978 0 14 104340 1
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... little use for The Country Parson, calling it ‘a symbol of an outdated “father knows best” view of the church’. For the updated view, she links to a recent book by another vicar, Justin Lewis-Anthony, with the unbeatable title If You Meet George Herbert on the Road, Kill Him: Radically Rethinking Priestly Ministry. Both these ministers are products of a Church of England that has adapted to an ...

Criminal Justice

Ronan Bennett

24 June 1993
... the defence became bolder in their assertions about Armstrong. Careful at first to avoid saying directly that he was guilty, by the time it came to the closing speeches all inhibitions had been shed. Anthony Evans QC, for Donaldson, asked the jury: ‘Can anyone believe that Armstrong was not an active member of the IRA?’ He continued: We say to you that the innocent Patrick Armstrong does not exist ...

Who to Be

Colm Tóibín: Beckett’s Letters

6 August 2009
The Letters of Samuel Beckett 1929-40 
edited by Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck.
Cambridge, 782 pp., £30, February 2009, 978 0 521 86793 1
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... from 1950 to 1963. McGreevy flits in and out of the lives of various figures in these years. He was a friend of W.B. Yeats’s wife, George, and of Joyce’s wife, Nora; he corresponded with Wallace Stevens, who dedicated a poem to him. Richard Aldington called him ‘a paradox of a man if ever there was one. He looked like a priest in civvies.’ McGreevy chatted and gossiped a lot, knew a great deal ...

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