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His Peach Stone

Christopher Tayler: J.G. Farrell, 2 December 2010

J.G. Farrell in His Own Words: Selected Letters and Diaries 
edited by Lavinia Greacen.
Cork, 464 pp., €19.95, September 2010, 978 1 85918 476 9
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... against mutinous tenant farmers to make a good manager; ‘as for baldly asking a lady to pay her bill, he would as soon have committed sodomy.’ In consequence, his only guests are genteel old women too cash-strapped or confused to move elsewhere. Once the Major has been absorbed into the hotel, his comic-Kafkaesque engagement comes to an end. Angela dies ...

Who’s the real cunt?

Andrew O’Hagan: Dacre’s Paper, 1 June 2017

Mail Men: The Unauthorised Story of the ‘Daily Mail’, the Paper that Divided and Conquered Britain 
by Adrian Addison.
Atlantic, 407 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 1 78239 970 4
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... and detested them in a way that made the hatred seem deeply earned. The MailOnline columnist Katie Hopkins is a sloppy writer but a wild hater who has run up at least £474,000 in legal costs and damages over the last two years. Britain’s right-wing papers used to be funny. They had some amusing writers and they knew the value of a stunt. A quiet news day at ...

A chemistry is performed

Deborah Friedell: Silicon Valley Girl, 7 February 2019

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup 
by John Carreyrou.
Picador, 320 pp., £9.99, March 2019, 978 1 5098 6808 7
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... is, I realised that I could have just as well been looking into the eyes of a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates.’ Her family wasn’t well connected, but one of her childhood friends was the daughter of Tim Draper, the venture capitalist currently in the news for his vast holdings in bitcoin, and for spending millions of dollars in an attempt to split ...


Ian Penman: Elvis looks for meaning, 25 September 2014

Elvis Has Left the Building: The Day the King Died 
by Dylan Jones.
Duckworth, 307 pp., £16.99, July 2014, 978 0 7156 4856 8
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Elvis Presley: A Southern Life 
by Joel Williamson.
Oxford, 384 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 19 986317 4
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... exuberance and obvious delight at his own just accepted dare; Scotty Moore’s rattlesnake guitar; Bill Black’s rail-jumping bass. You can find the music itself a bit thin, jerky, underwhelming, and still see why it ignited all the brush fires up ahead. (In sonic terms, Moore and Phillips were probably far more influential than Elvis. Phillips’s use of ...

Roaming the Greenwood

Colm Tóibín: A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition by Gregory Woods, 21 January 1999

A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition 
by Gregory Woods.
Yale, 448 pp., £24.95, February 1998, 0 300 07201 5
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... most of the figures who recreated modern writing were gay, or Irish, or Jewish: Melville, Whitman, Hopkins, James, Yeats, Kafka, Woolf, Joyce, Stein, Beckett, Mann, Proust, Gide, Firbank, Lorca, Cocteau, Auden, Forster, Cavafy. But he would have been slightly unsettled, I think, by the thought of the gay element in this list, and by the idea that in place of ...

I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters, 24 January 2013

Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... a good subject to bring up with him, but it didn’t interest him very much. All the while, host Bill Styron looking a bit subdued as usual these days; we talked about Randall Jarrell’s possible suicide, Bill’s own depression. And I talked to him about William James’s own breakdown and his resuscitation through ...

Guests in the President’s House

Steven Shapin: Science Inc., 18 October 2001

Science, Money and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion 
by Daniel Greenberg.
Chicago, 530 pp., £22.50, October 2001, 0 226 30634 8
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... up to half of that would be contributed by foreign governments. Several years later, the projected bill stood at $12 billion, and, since no foreign governments had actually been involved in the planning process, not a single pound, yen or Deutschmark was ever committed. As Bush the Elder’s science adviser told Greenberg, the Europeans were bridling at this ...

Pink and Bare

Bee Wilson: Nicole Kidman, 8 February 2007

Nicole Kidman 
by David Thomson.
Bloomsbury, 311 pp., £18.99, September 2006, 0 7475 7710 2
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... flannel shirts’ by day but takes them off later on for a love scene with her deceived husband (Bill Pullman). Thomson is not so keen on her bottom here. In itself, it is ‘pretty’ and ‘enough to bring credit to any actress’ but it is ‘so guarded by a separate close-up that we don’t necessarily trust it to be Nicole’s’. More authentic is the ...

Elizabeth Bishop’s Aviary

Mark Ford: Elizabeth Bishop’s Aviary, 29 November 2007

... electric-blue eyes, grey-blue legs and feet. Most of him is black, except the base of the enormous bill is green and yellow and he has a bright gold bib and bunches of red feathers on his stomach and under his tail. He eats six bananas a day. I must say they seem to go right through him & come out practically as good as new – meat, grapes – to see him ...

Inside Every Foreigner

Jackson Lears: America Intervenes, 21 February 2019

Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life 
by Robert M. Dallek..
Allen Lane, 692 pp., £30, November 2017, 978 0 241 31584 2
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... Berle), economic planners (Rexford Tugwell) and social-welfare liberals (Harry Hopkins). This was the heterogeneous group that lay behind the American version of the welfare state. A flurry of legislation followed; dams and highways were built; electricity was brought to remote rural areas; there was regulation of finance capital; people ...

A Strange Blight

Meehan Crist: Rachel Carson’s Forebodings, 6 June 2019

‘Silent Spring’ and Other Writings on the Environment 
by Rachel Carson, edited by Sandra Steingraber.
Library of America, 546 pp., £29.99, March 2018, 978 1 59853 560 0
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... now with the sea, Carson set aside her dreams of being a writer. She did graduate work at Johns Hopkins, where she studied eels and, unable to afford a full PhD, graduated with an MA in zoology in 1932. Her father had by then fallen ill, and her whole family – mother, father, divorced sister, two small nieces – had moved to Baltimore to live with ...

Yuh wanna play bad?

Christopher Tayler: Henry Roth, 23 March 2006

Redemption: The Life of Henry Roth 
by Steven Kellman.
Norton, 372 pp., $16.99, September 2005, 0 393 05779 8
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Call It Sleep 
by Henry Roth.
Picador US, 462 pp., $15, July 2005, 0 312 42412 4
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... wearing pigskin gloves and arranging to be caught ‘muttering snatches of Dante and Gerard Manley Hopkins to himself’, but he also worked steadily on Call It Sleep. It was impressive talent-spotting on Walton’s part, since his only publication so far was a student piece called ‘Impressions of a Plumber’. And she was supportive when Roth confessed that ...

Bought a gun, found the man

Anne Hollander: Eadweard Muybridge, 24 July 2003

Motion Studies: Time, Space and Eadweard Muybridge 
by Rebecca Solnit.
Bloomsbury, 305 pp., £16.99, February 2003, 0 7475 6220 2
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... unmatched even by the industrial East. Stanford’s fellow tycoons in these projects were Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker and Collis P. Huntington – ‘and their corruption was as big as their profit,’ Solnit says. These ‘Big Four’, all former Sacramento storekeepers who had sold goods to Gold Rush miners, had come to monopolise political and ...

Everything is good news

Seamus Perry: Dylan Thomas’s Moment, 20 November 2014

The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas: The New Centenary Edition 
edited by John Goodby.
Weidenfeld, 416 pp., £20, October 2014, 978 0 297 86569 8
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Under Milk Wood: The Definitive Edition 
edited by Walford Davies and Ralph Maud.
Phoenix, 208 pp., £7.99, May 2014, 978 1 78022 724 5
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Collected Stories 
by Dylan Thomas.
Phoenix, 384 pp., £8.99, May 2014, 978 1 78022 730 6
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A Dylan Thomas Treasury: Poems, Stories and Broadcasts 
Phoenix, 186 pp., £7.99, May 2014, 978 1 78022 726 9Show More
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... Empson had celebrated in Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930). The poems Empson wrote about there, by Hopkins and Herbert and others, were mostly about the dazzling clash of contradictions that constituted the person of Christ. ‘Scapegoat and tragic hero; loved because hated; hated because godlike; freeing from torture because tortured; torturing his torturers ...

As Astonishing as Elvis

Jenny Turner: Ayn Rand, 1 December 2005

Ayn Rand 
by Jeff Britting.
Duckworth, 155 pp., £12.99, February 2005, 0 7156 3269 8
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... governments pass progressively more anti-business legislation: the Equalisation of Opportunity Bill; the Anti-Dog Eat Dog Rule. Across this blasted landscape strides the beautiful Dagny Taggart, her body ‘slim and nervous’, her planes ‘angular’, her instep ‘arched’ – her only desire to get the trains of Taggart Transcontinental to run on ...

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