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Good Housekeeping

Jenny Diski, 11 February 1993

The Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer 
by Brian Masters.
Hodder, 242 pp., £14.99, February 1993, 0 340 57482 8
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... for you and me, with no more than a window-shopper’s interest, to know about Jeffrey Dahmer? Brian Masters says yes, not only is it useful, it is vital to examine this human being in detail, because he is one of us. I suppose the world divides into those who look and those who look away. Looking away is easiest, of course, because it requires no ...

Dennis Nilsen, or the Pot of Basil

John Ryle, 21 February 1985

Killing for Company: The Case of Dennis Nilsen 
by Brian Masters.
Cape, 352 pp., £9.95, February 1985, 0 224 02184 2
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by Pickles.
Quartet, 289 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 7043 2439 3
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Ritualised Homosexuality in Melanesia 
edited by Gilbert Herdt.
California, 409 pp., £19.95, October 1984, 0 520 05037 1
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... between sex and death to deliver him and them into such a mess of evil. In Killing for Company Brian Masters attempts, with the active participation of his subject, to explain how a person like Nilsen came to be; how his necrophiliac fantasies invaded real life; how, in Masters’s words, it is possible to wake up ...

Heroes of Our Time

Karl Miller, 19 May 1988

The Monument 
by T. Behrens.
Cape, 258 pp., £11.95, May 1988, 0 224 02510 4
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The Passion of John Aspinall 
by Brian Masters.
Cape, 360 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 224 02353 5
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... when any of them stepped out of line: forgiveness is ‘unbiological’ apparently, non-Darwinian. Brian Masters’s book arrived at Easter, and its title – there on the dust-jacket on top of a sepia study of Aspinall kissing a tiger – may have been awarded a religious meaning. Did it refer to the saviour of the biosphere, who has had his ...

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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... in wartime Berlin to The Pillar of Cloud, Redemption and The Flowering Cross. Ten years earlier Brian O’Nolan, alias Flann O’Brien, had written At Swim Two Birds and The Third Policeman. These two works, of which only the first was published in the author’s lifetime, differ from those of Beckett and Stuart in many ways, not least in the ...

At the Duveen Galleries

Brian Dillon: ‘The Asset Strippers’, 18 July 2019

... The galleries were paid for by Lord Duveen of Millbank, energetic and ingenious purveyor of Old Masters to the grandest industrialists and financiers of North America, and in turn to US and Canadian museums. The Asset Strippers slyly points to the contemporary reliance of art museums on private sponsorship, shadowy assets and investments. All of this risks ...

English Fame and Irish Writers

Brian Moore, 20 November 1980

Selected Poems 1956-1975 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 136 pp., £3.95, October 1980, 0 571 11644 2
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Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968-1978 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 224 pp., £7.95, October 1980, 0 571 11638 8
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... magazines, notably the New Yorker, have welcomed the talents of John McGahern, Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel, Edna O’Brien and Benedict Kiely, among others, one could give long odds against a manuscript by an unknown Irish novelist or poet seeing the light of first publication in Boston or in New York. So it’s back to London and the old Anglo-Irish ...

A Taste for the Obvious

Brian Dillon: Adam Thirlwell, 22 October 2009

The Escape 
by Adam Thirlwell.
Cape, 322 pp., £16.99, August 2009, 978 0 224 08911 1
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... novel that is so avowedly in thrall to writers its narrator keeps gauchely referring to as his ‘masters’. (Channelling both Tolstoy and Nabokov, he muses: ‘All photo albums are unhappy, in the words of the old master, in their own particular way.’) It manifests especially in a tendency to decorate a perfectly felicitous metaphor with unnecessary ...

Short Cuts

John Sturrock: Reading Butler, 5 August 2004

... that the most reliable ones were ‘the least worrying’. One person thoroughly vindicated is Dr Brian Jones, the sidelined MOD analyst who complained at the time about the tabloidisation of the intelligence material, not least its repeated use of what even George Tenet, in the days when he was still hanging onto his job as head of the CIA, is quoted in ...

Nationalising English

Patrick Parrinder, 28 January 1993

The Great Betrayal: Memoirs of a Life in Education 
by Brian Cox.
Chapmans, 386 pp., £17.99, September 1992, 1 85592 605 9
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... are storming one of the last bastions of progressive education. So runs the latest episode in what Brian Cox terms ‘the great betrayal’: the betrayal of teachers and their pupils over the last thirty years by government interference, false ideologies and starvation of resources. The current cast of this depressing production seems to have wandered off the ...

Naming of Parts

Patrick Parrinder, 6 June 1985

Quinx or The Ripper’s Tale 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 201 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 571 13444 0
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Helliconia Winter 
by Brian Aldiss.
Cape, 285 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 0 224 01847 7
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Black Robe 
by Brian Moore.
Cape, 256 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 224 02329 2
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... to the Arthurian story, and a major concern is the history of the Templars, whose legendary Grand Masters were to Languedoc and Provence what Arthur is to Wessex. One aspect of Durrell’s ambiguous Grail consists – as befits a banned author of the Thirties and a former associate of Henry Miller – of ‘love-lore’ or the secrets of sex. These, which ...

Lessons for Civil Servants

David Marquand, 21 August 1980

The Secret Constitution 
by Brian Sedgemore.
Hodder, 256 pp., £7.95, July 1980, 0 340 24649 9
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The Civil Servants 
by Peter Kellner and Lord Crowther-Hunt.
Macdonald/Jane’s, 352 pp., £9.95, July 1980, 0 354 04487 7
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... as misses, and both focus attention on one of the central problems of modern British politics. Brian Sedgemore’s is by far the sillier and more dangerous of the two, but it is also more entertaining and politically the more significant. Mr Sedgemore was Labour MP for Luton in the last Parliament, when he was probably the most intelligent member of the ...


Michael Ignatieff: Canadian Elections, 1 November 1984

... with a lantern jaw and a hand on the ladle of the public trough, versus another. When the new man, Brian Mulroney, appeared on the screens in the small hours, waving in ragged colour from a hockey auditorium in his home town, Baie Comeau, Quebec, there were ripples of mockery in Canada House. Canada is a difficult country to govern and the electorate seemed ...

A Slight Dash of the Tiresome

Brian Harrison, 9 November 1989

The Blind Victorian: Henry Fawcett and British Liberalism 
edited by Lawrence Goldman.
Cambridge, 199 pp., £25, August 1989, 0 521 35032 8
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... economy.’ Goldman goes so far as to speak of ‘the basic irrationality of the party of the masters bidding for, and winning, the votes of the organised working class’, and Giacomo Beccattini claims that Fawcett’s ‘uncompromising individualism identified his position more and more with those of the middle classes’. Yet this is surely to ignore ...

Introversion Has Its Limits

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘Essayism’, 8 March 2018

by Brian Dillon.
Fitzcarraldo, 138 pp., £10.99, June 2017, 978 1 910695 41 8
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Sound: Stories of Hearing Lost and Found 
by Bella Bathurst.
Wellcome, 224 pp., £8.99, February 2018, 978 1 78125 776 0
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Proxies: A Memoir in Twenty-Four Attempts 
by Brian Blanchfield.
Picador, 181 pp., £9.99, August 2017, 978 1 5098 4785 3
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... it’s a variation of flavour rather than a difference between species. Guy Davenport, one of the masters of essay form, wrote two sparkling pieces a year apart on table manners, one for the Hudson Review in 1979, the other for Antaeus in 1980. Shockingly, there is no overlap between them, though cannibalising your own material is generally regarded as ...

Sans Sunflowers

David Solkin, 7 July 1994

Nineteenth-Century Art: A Critical History 
by Stephen Eisenman, Thomas Crow, Brian Lukacher, Linda Nochlin and Frances Pohl.
Thames and Hudson, 376 pp., £35, March 1994, 0 500 23675 5
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... dedicated to preserving the authority of the canon, and to parading a spectacular array of great masters and great masterpieces in a ‘pure’ space, cocooned from the gross, corrupt world of politics, ideology and social strife. Monographs and surveys are still published today in great numbers, of course; and there remain large parts of the discipline ...

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