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At the Centre Pompidou

Jeremy Harding: Beat Generation, 7 September 2016

... read on the same night. So did Lew Welch, who disappeared years later in the Sierra Nevada. Barry Miles, who has written the introductory essay in the catalogue for the Centre Pompidou’s exhibition Beat Generation (until 3 October), identifies the reading as the movement’s ‘birth certificate’: the following day Ferlinghetti cabled Ginsberg ...

Oms and Hums

Julian Symons, 22 March 1990

Ginsberg: A Biography 
by Barry Miles.
Viking, 588 pp., £20, January 1990, 0 670 82683 9
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... There was a time in the Fifties when, no doubt about it, the literary and even extra-literary activities of the Beats were an exhilarating contrast to the careful sobriety of Movement poets and the wistful glances in the direction of social orthodoxy made by the younger English novelists. The heroes of Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’, ‘destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked/dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix’ positively bounced with energy when put beside Donald Davie sitting wrapped in his overcoat beside the fire saying Heigh-ho on a winter afternoon ...

The poet steamed

Iain Sinclair: Tom Raworth, 19 August 2004

Collected Poems 
by Tom Raworth.
Carcanet, 576 pp., £16.95, February 2003, 1 85754 624 5
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Removed for Further Study: The Poetry of Tom Raworth 
edited by Nate Dorward.
The Gig, 288 pp., £15, March 2003, 0 9685294 3 7
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... greyer than the version flourished in early snapshots – the cover of A Serial Biography, the Barry Flanagan etching from Act – but this is still the same mouth, the same disguise. The same bite. The lights are on and there is somebody at home. The speed of eye/ear/mind remains, absolutely, that of a particle accelerator. Heart is everything: the ...

Predatory Sex Aliens

Gary Indiana: Burroughs, 7 May 2014

Call Me Burroughs: A Life 
by Barry Miles.
Twelve, 718 pp., £17, January 2014, 978 1 4555 1195 2
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... By now, anyone at all curious about Burroughs has absorbed a few interchangeable synopses of Barry Miles’s Call Me Burroughs – an exhaustive biography in every sense of ‘exhaust’ – along with boilerplate exegeses of the ‘cut-up’ and ‘fold-in’ methods; gleaned the current value of his stock in the literary market; and glazed over at ...

Junk Mail

Jeremy Harding, 23 September 1993

The Letters of William Burroughs, 1949-1959 
edited by Oliver Harris.
Picador, 472 pp., £17.50, August 1993, 0 330 33074 8
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... Pottering around his white woodframe house in Kansas and dressing, according to his biographer Barry Miles, from the L.L. Bean catalogue, Burroughs is nowadays a sedate American figure: an oddball reactionary, a gun handler, a bit of an anti-semite, a sentimentalist – he says of his cats that ‘they just opened up a whole area of compassion in ...
... in the presence of Buñuel, by André Breton in the presence of Eluard. But the words were said by Barry Humphries in the persona of the ruminating convalescent Sandy Stone, and in the Australian context they are not surreal. They are real. Every Australian, even if he lives in Sydney’s Point Piper or Melbourne’s Toorak, has at some time or other found ...

Fixing Westminster

Caroline Shenton, 16 November 2017

... delay to the construction of the new Houses of Parliament. ‘I am in a towering rage,’ Charles Barry, the architect of the new building, wrote to Augustus Pugin, who was responsible for the interior design, and in the right humour for throwing up my appointment, which I expect I shall be driven to do before long. All the arrangements, including the ...

A History of Disappointment

Jackson Lears: Obama’s Parents, 5 January 2012

The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father 
by Sally Jacobs.
Public Affairs, 336 pp., £20, July 2011, 978 1 58648 793 5
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A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother 
by Janny Scott.
Riverhead, 384 pp., £18.99, May 2011, 978 1 59448 797 2
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... by the conversion.) Barack went to a mission school run by Seventh-Day Adventists, walking three miles but, unlike his classmates, wearing shoes. His father told him: ‘I want you to go beyond where I am.’ On returning home each day, the boy was required to recite sums to his father while standing by the dinner table. If he was slightly less than ...

Life of Brian

Kevin Barry, 25 January 1990

No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O’Brien 
by Anthony Cronin.
Grafton, 260 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 246 12836 4
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... reservation. In 1973, in the only thorough essay we have on O’Nolan’s art, published in Miles: Portraits of Brian O’Nolan, J.C.C. Mays delineated the complex development through which O’Nolan ‘recognised in Joyce the most dazzling star in the contemporary literary firmament, but in the end unsound’. That unsoundness can only appear to ...

Don’t wear yum-yum yellow

Theo Tait: Shark Attack!, 2 August 2012

Demon Fish: Travels through the Hidden World of Sharks 
by Juliet Eilperin.
Duckworth, 295 pp., £18.99, January 2012, 978 0 7156 4291 7
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... like antelope or songbirds. In winter they leave the California coast and head out thousands of miles to Hawaii. In August, they return to congregate at ‘hub spots’ off the California coast, including one just off a popular beach near Monterey. In between they go to the ‘White Shark Café’, a remote, empty area halfway between Baja California and ...

I am Prince Mishkin

Mark Ford, 23 April 1987

‘Howl’: Original Draft Facsimile 
by Allen Ginsberg, edited by Barry Miles.
Viking, 194 pp., £16.95, February 1987, 0 670 81599 3
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White Shroud: Poems 1980-1985 
by Allen Ginsberg.
Viking, 89 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 670 81598 5
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... It’s over thirty years since the angry drumbeat of Howl first assembled the dissatisfied tribes of an expanding American subculture, and gave them a name and a voice. The first reading took place at the Six Gallery in San Francisco on 7 October 1955. Michael McClure who also read that night along with Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen and Philip Lamantia, describes the poem’s impact in Scratching the Beat Surface (1982): I hadn’t seen Allen in a few weeks and I had not heard Howl – it was new to me ...

Nature made the house

William Fiennes: Barry Topez, 29 July 1999

Arctic Dreams 
by Barry Lopez.
Harvill, 464 pp., £7.99, January 1999, 1 86046 583 8
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About This Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory 
by Barry Lopez.
Harvill, 275 pp., £12, January 1999, 9781860465659
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... Many of the 17 ‘essays’ in Barry Lopez’s About This Life are fragments of memoir: snapshots of the day of a mother’s death from cancer; early road trips up and down America; Jesuit prep school in Manhattan; childhood years in California; a tributary career in photography. The book begins with a series of travelogues ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Malingering trolley dollies, 8 February 2007

... hot countries, to say nothing of endless fun with make-up and always knowing you were a million miles from Crapland, otherwise known as your mother’s front room and boring nights at the local disco. The matter is put rather well by Kathleen Barry, the author of a book called Femininity in Flight: A History of Flight ...

Theroux and Through

Julian Barnes, 21 June 1984

The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 303 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 0 241 11086 6
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Doctor Slaughter 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 137 pp., £6.95, June 1984, 0 241 11255 9
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... A couple of years ago there was one of those Barry Humphries TV specials in which the Australian entertainer teases an audience of notables to the edge of humiliation. The guests attend to the act warily, poised between the pleasure of being official celebrities and the fear of being publicly ridiculed. After tormenting various patsies in a way that must have made them wish there was an RSPCA for humans, Dame Edna (for it was she) suddenly spotted Melvyn Bragg ...

In Letchworth

Gillian Darley: Pevsner's Hertfordshire, 2 January 2020

... half of the 20th century. The plan (and many of the cottages) was the work of Raymond Unwin and Barry Parker, who remained closely involved with the area. When George Bernard Shaw, who lived in the nearby village of Ayot St Lawrence, needed a garage, he asked Parker (his revolving writing hut was Shaw’s own work).Stevenage and Hemel Hempstead followed ...

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