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Poet at the Automat

Eliot Weinberger: Charles Reznikoff, 22 January 2015

... Charles Reznikoff​ may be the most elusive poet in American poetry and his book-length Testimony the most elusive long poem of modernism. He is remembered as a kind of New York saint, an urban Emily Dickinson: the unknown poet, walking the city streets, writing intense, seemingly matter-of-fact lyrics about things he saw and heard ...

Regrets

Michael Wood, 17 December 1992

The Art of Cinema 
by Jean Cocteau, André Bernard and Claude Gauteur, translated by Robin Buss.
Marion Boyars, 224 pp., £19.95, May 1992, 0 7145 2947 8
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Jean Renoir: A Life in Pictures 
by Célia Bertin, translated by Mireille Muellner and Leonard Muellner.
Johns Hopkins, 403 pp., £20.50, August 1991, 0 8018 4184 4
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Jean Renoir: Projections of Paradise 
by Ronald Bergan.
Bloomsbury, 378 pp., £25, October 1992, 0 7475 0837 2
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Malle on Malle 
edited by Philip French.
Faber, 236 pp., £14.99, January 1993, 0 571 16237 1
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Republic of Images: A History of French Film-Making 
by Alan Williams.
Harvard, 458 pp., £39.95, April 1992, 0 674 76267 3
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... not that I consciously went back to my childhood; my childhood came back to me.’ Alan Williams’s Republic of Images will become a standard work on the French cinema, and deservedly so. It is thorough, and intelligent, and its generalisations have clearly been hesitated over, thought about. It’s called a history of film-making, but as ...

I really mean like

Michael Wood: Auden’s Likes and Dislikes, 2 June 2011

The Complete Works of W.H. Auden: Prose Vol. IV, 1956-62 
edited by Edward Mendelson.
Princeton, 982 pp., £44.95, January 2011, 978 0 691 14755 0
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... or false?” has never occurred to him’); a haunting, repeated definition of Hell borrowed from Charles Williams (‘nobody is ever sent to hell; he, or she, insists on going there’). There is a letter to the Sunday Times correcting the suggestion that Auden had snubbed Guy Burgess when he was in disgrace. It was true, Auden said, that he had been ...

I just let him have his beer

Christopher Tayler: John Williams Made it Work, 19 December 2019

The Man who Wrote the Perfect Novel: John Williams, ‘Stoner’ and the Writing Life 
by Charles Shields.
Texas, 305 pp., £23.99, October 2018, 978 1 4773 1736 5
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Nothing but the Night 
by John Williams.
NYRB, 144 pp., $14.95, February 2019, 978 1 68137 307 2
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... the appearance of Thomas Pynchon’s first book and the Beatles’ second long-player, John Williams, a professor at the University of Denver, sent his agent in New York a draft of his latest novel, which detailed the unhappy marriage, undistinguished career and early death from cancer of an imagined professor at the University of Missouri a generation ...

His One Eye Glittering

August Kleinzahler: Creeley’s Chatter, 20 May 2021

The Selected Letters of Robert Creeley 
edited by Rod Smith, Peter Baker and Kaplan Harris.
California, 467 pp., £25, March 2020, 978 0 520 32483 1
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... Logorrhoea:​ Charles Olson, Robert Duncan and Robert Creeley were all afflicted with it. I only ever witnessed Duncan’s performances – free-form, extended, mostly improvised soliloquies. The one I remember best was at the poet Carl Rakosi’s house. It was many years ago, but I think he touched on Plato, Beethoven, Milton, Tom Thumb, Lysistrata, the genus Asterias (starfish) and the song ‘Penny Lane ...

The Virgin

David Plante, 3 April 1986

... had its front paws between her breasts, and, its tongue out, it stared at her as she spoke to it. Charles, the husband, undressed and hung his clothes askew on the silent butler. When he took off his underpants, he held them in his hands a moment, expecting his wife to look towards him naked. She didn’t. About to throw his underpants on the floor, where his ...

This Condensery

August Kleinzahler: In Praise of Lorine Niedecker, 5 June 2003

Collected Works 
by Lorine Niedecker, edited by Jenny Penberthy.
California, 471 pp., £29.95, May 2002, 0 520 22433 7
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Collected Studies in the Use of English 
by Kenneth Cox.
Agenda, 270 pp., £12, September 2001, 9780902400696
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New Goose 
by Lorine Niedecker, edited by Jenny Penberthy.
Listening Chamber, 98 pp., $10, January 2002, 0 9639321 6 0
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... Madison, is 34 miles north-west and Milwaukee about 60 miles away, east-northeast. Jonathan Williams, of Jargon Press, visited Niedecker in 1962, a year before her second marriage to Albert Millen and subsequent move to Milwaukee: Miss Niedecker, I guess in her fifties by now, lives in a tiny green house out at Black Hawk Island . . . Right out in back ...

What Philosophers Dream Of

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Bernard Williams, 2 July 2015

Essays and Reviews 1959-2002 
by Bernard Williams.
Princeton, 435 pp., £24.95, January 2014, 978 0 691 15985 0
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... going to say better than you understand it yourself’, Gilbert Ryle said of the young Bernard Williams, ‘and sees all the possible objections to it, all the possible answers to all the possible objections, before you’ve got to the end of your sentence’. Williams’s declared enemies in philosophy ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Don’t panic, 13 December 2007

... Panicology (Viking, £18.99) is the work of two statisticians, Simon Briscoe and Hugh Aldersey-Williams, who show signs of knowing everything there is to know about the right reasons for being afraid. It turns out that Armageddon, like everything else, can be something of a lifestyle choice, and is considered by many people to be a must-go travel ...

Past Masters

Raymond Williams, 25 June 1987

Joachim of Fiore and the Myth of the Eternal Evangel in the 19th Century 
by Marjorie Reeves and Warwick Gould.
Oxford, 365 pp., £35, March 1987, 0 19 826672 3
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Beauty and Belief: Aesthetics and Religion in Victorian Literature 
by Hilary Fraser.
Cambridge, 287 pp., £25, January 1987, 0 521 30767 8
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The Correspondence of John Ruskin and Charles Eliot Norton 
edited by John Bradley and Ian Ousby.
Cambridge, 537 pp., £45, April 1987, 0 521 32091 7
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... What can we possibly say of the claim that ‘the first great revolutionary movements in Europe’ were all ‘more or less imbued with the ideas of Joachim of Fiore’? Or, if ‘more or less’ offers an escape clause, what can we say of another claim: that ‘Joachim created the aggregate of symbols which govern the self-interpretation of modern political society to this day’? Or that ‘it is hardly too much to claim that the vague and powerful assumptions we all make about historical transition have their roots in Joachism’? ‘Aggregate of symbols’, ‘vague and powerful assumptions’, ‘more or less imbued’: whatever the actual history, these phrases bear the mark of very recent times; all were written, in fact, within the last twenty years ...

Eunice’s Story

Hilary Mantel, 20 October 1994

The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America 
by John Demos.
Knopf, 325 pp., $25, July 1994, 0 394 55782 4
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... is an incident from the War of the Spanish Succession. The thread of history stretches from Charles II, last of the Spanish Habsburgs: from his dead hands across an ocean, to the bound hands of John Williams, a minister of religion in Deerfield, a small settlement in New England. Europe’s conflicts are echoed and ...

Flirting with Dissolution

Mark Ford: August Kleinzahler, 5 April 2001

Live from the Hong Kong Nile Club: Poems 1975-90 
by August Kleinzahler.
Faber, 82 pp., £8.99, September 2000, 0 571 20428 7
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... purely for their own sake. This returns us to Kleinzahler’s New Jersey precursor, William Carlos Williams, and his deceptively simple rallying cry, ‘no ideas but in things’. Of course the things that get thrown up by the New Jersey landscape are rarely conventionally beautiful, yet many of Kleinzahler’s most compelling poems work by splicing together ...

Sprawson makes a splash

John Bayley, 23 July 1992

Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero 
by Charles Sprawson.
Cape, 307 pp., £15.99, June 1992, 0 224 02730 1
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... ever and anon the bubbling cry/Of some strong swimmer in his agony’). In this enchanting book Charles Sprawson comments on the romantic tendency to regard a watery plunge as the ideal therapy for romantic ills, for Sénancour’s ‘inexhaustible discontent, languor and homesickness’. Those words of Matthew Arnold, half yearning and half ...

Making It Up

Raphael Samuel, 4 July 1996

Raymond Williams 
by Fred Inglis.
Routledge, 333 pp., £19.99, October 1995, 0 415 08960 3
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... This biography opens with a vivid chapter on Raymond Williams’s funeral. Entitled ‘Prologue, in Memoriam’, it transports the reader to Clodock Church, ‘a plain little building’ in the foothills of the Black Mountains. It is a comfortless day, Fred Inglis tells us. ‘The light fell crooked and the road fell wrong ...

Fast Water off the Bow-Wave

Jeremy Harding: George Oppen, 21 June 2018

21 Poems 
by George Oppen, edited by David B. Hobbs.
New Directions, 48 pp., £7.99, September 2017, 978 0 8112 2691 2
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... It included a short, boisterous preface by Pound. Reviewing it for Poetry in 1934, William Carlos Williams called it a blueprint for ‘a new construction’, undertaken with an ‘irreducible minimum’ of means. The icy charm of those poems, 31 in all, one per page, along with their brevity and occasionally their flat refusal to make sense, asked much of ...

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