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Flowering and Fading

Michael Irwin, 6 March 1980

Wrinkles 
by Charles Simmons.
Alison Press/Secker, 182 pp., £4.95, January 1980, 9780436464904
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Devotion 
by Botho Strauss, translated by Sophie Wilkins.
Chatto, 120 pp., £5.50, January 1980, 0 7011 2421 0
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The Followed Man 
by Thomas Williams.
Sidgwick, 352 pp., £5.95, January 1980, 9780399900259
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Reverse Negative 
by André Jute.
Secker, 264 pp., £5.95, January 1980, 0 436 22980 3
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... speeded-up nature films that shows within a minute the growth, flowering and fading of a plant, Mr Simmons collects many unusual crumbs of truth and tellingly questions conventional ideas as to what is ‘significant’ in a human life. I couldn’t feel, however, that Wrinkles added up to much more than the sum total of its parts. The various fragments are ...

Only More So

Rosemary Hill: 1950s Women, 19 December 2013

Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties 
by Rachel Cooke.
Virago, 368 pp., £18.99, October 2013, 978 1 84408 740 2
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... war beginning to recede, there was another film based on Elizabeth’s life. Young Bess had Jean Simmons in the lead. Hemmed in by Stewart Granger as Thomas Seymour and Charles Laughton reprising his prewar role as Henry VIII, there isn’t much Simmons can do beyond tossing her hair and ...

Walking in high places

Michael Neve, 21 October 1982

The Ferment of Knowledge: Studies in the Historiography of 18th-Century Science 
edited by G.S. Rousseau and R.S. Porter.
Cambridge, 500 pp., £25, November 1980, 9780521225991
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Romanticism and the Forms of Ruin 
by Thomas McFarland.
Princeton, 432 pp., £24.60, February 1981, 0 691 06437 7
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Poetry realised in Nature: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Early 19th-Century Science 
by Trevor Levere.
Cambridge, 271 pp., £22.50, October 1981, 0 521 23920 6
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Coleridge 
by Richard Holmes.
Oxford, 102 pp., £1.25, March 1982, 0 19 287591 4
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Young Charles Lamb 1775-1802 
by Winifred Courtney.
Macmillan, 411 pp., £25, July 1982, 0 333 31534 0
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... the view of posterity. The most extraordinary of these acts of intellectual banditry remains Sir Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology, of 1830-1833, where Lyell argues that geology starts with himself. So, an Enlightenment which believed in materialism and progress, but which was a scientific non-event. Strange. The great merit of The Ferment of Knowledge ...

The Common Touch

Paul Foot, 10 November 1994

Hanson: A Biography 
by Alex Brummer and Roger Cowe.
Fourth Estate, 336 pp., £20, September 1994, 1 85702 189 4
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... firm and make some more money. His chief interest appeared to be female film stars, notably Jean Simmons and Audrey Hepburn. (On these matters his new partner, who has stayed with him for the whole of his business life, Gordon White, boasted to a Sunday Mirror gossip columnist: ‘Why should I marry? I don’t need anyone to look after me. I’ve got a good ...

Seeing Stars

Alan Bennett: Film actors, 3 January 2002

... in Picture Post (and probably at the barber’s) about The Way to the Stars with the young Jean Simmons, and the making of Michael Powell’s A Canterbury Tale, and the first Royal Command Performance, another Powell film, A Matter of Life and Death. Suburban cinemas were often pretty comfortless places. While the entrance could be quite imposing, with the ...

Afloat with Static

Jenny Turner: Hey, Blondie!, 9 December 2019

Face It 
by Debbie Harry.
HarperCollins, 352 pp., £20, October 2019, 978 0 00 822942 9
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... with her guitarist and then lover, Chris Stein.This new memoir is also ghosted, by Sylvie Simmons, and is packaged more as a fan book than a piece of writing, with pics and graphics on glossy paper, and a great deal of padding. But there’s lots in it that’s lovely, such as a picture, on page 152, of a tea party Harry gave in London in the late ...

Criminal Justice

Ronan Bennett, 24 June 1993

... after Conlon had been charged, the police arrived at the hostel to question the residents. One, Charles Burke, gave a statement in which he said he had seen Conlon asleep in bed on the night of the bombing. The police passed Burke’s statement to the DPP, who subsequently sent it to the prosecution team, led by the late Sir Michael Havers; the juniors were ...

Neutered Valentines

David Bromwich: James Agee, 7 September 2006

‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’, ‘A Death in the Family’, Shorter Fiction 
by James Agee.
Library of America, 818 pp., $35, October 2005, 1 931082 81 2
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Film Writing and Selected Journalism 
by James Agee.
Library of America, 748 pp., $40, October 2005, 1 931082 82 0
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Brooklyn Is 
by James Agee.
Fordham, 64 pp., $16.95, October 2005, 0 8232 2492 9
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... use but liked enough to give him another project, The African Queen. Later Agee collaborated with Charles Laughton on the screenplay of Davis Grubb’s extraordinary novel about the discovery of evil in childhood, The Night of the Hunter. He died in 1955, of a heart attack, aged 45, leaving behind several manuscript chapters of an autobiographical novel, A ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Notes on 1997, 1 January 1998

... books I swotted up for my scholarship. Remembering Bruce MacFarlane was at Dulwich, I wander into Charles Barry’s huge hammerbeam hall, the walls lined with honours boards of distinctions at Oxford and Cambridge chiefly; though there’s some mention of the Army and the Indian Civil Service, there is none of any other universities or places of higher ...

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