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I just let him have his beer

Christopher Tayler: John Williams Made it Work

9 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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... appearance several months ago, is, I think, such a work.’ Williams’s boss’s widow later told Charles Shields, who tells the story in The Man who Wrote the Perfect Novel, that the novelist stationed himself in the English department’s outer office, in sight of the faculty mailboxes, the morning after Howe’s review reached subscribers in ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Bad and the Beautiful’

5 April 2012
The Bad and the Beautiful 
directed by Vincente Minnelli.
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... the flashback. We see and hear three phone calls in the narrative present. A man called Jonathan Shields is trying to reach three Hollywood figures, a director (Barry Sullivan), an actress (Lana Turner) and a writer (Dick Powell), in that order. The first two refuse to take the call, the third takes it and tells Shields to ...


William Feaver: John and Myfanwy Piper

17 December 2009
John Piper, Myfanwy Piper: Lives in Art 
by Frances Spalding.
Oxford, 598 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 19 956761 4
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... that of Ealing Studios; indeed, his posters for Robert Hamer’s Pink String and Sealing Wax and Charles Crichton’s Painted Boats were demonstratively appropriate, though Googie Withers dolled up like a Staffordshire figure in front of a spread of Kemp Town Georgian exerted rather more box office pull than the bargeful of bargee art jammed in a benighted ...

The Danger of Giving In

Andrew Saint: George Gilbert Scott Jr

17 October 2002
An Architect of Promise: George Gilbert Scott Jr (1839-97) and the Late Gothic Revival 
by Gavin Stamp.
Shaun Tyas, 427 pp., £49.50, July 2002, 1 900289 51 2
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... Gilbert, designed the Albert Memorial, the Foreign Office and the tumultuous cliff of a hotel that shields St Pancras Station. A spiteful ditty, summing up the Victorian business of church restoration, also accounted him first among ‘the earnest band that spoiled half the churches in the land’. Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960), hereafter Sir Giles, was Sir ...

Must poets write?

Stephanie Burt: Poetry Post-Language

10 May 2012
Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century 
by Marjorie Perloff.
Chicago, 232 pp., £11.50, April 2012, 978 0 226 66061 5
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Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age 
by Kenneth Goldsmith.
Columbia, 272 pp., £15.95, September 2011, 978 0 231 14991 4
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Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing 
edited by Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith.
Northwestern, 593 pp., £40.50, December 2010, 978 0 8101 2711 1
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Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004, The Joy of Cooking: [Airport Novel Musical Poem Painting Film Photo Hallucination Landscape] 
by Tan Lin.
Wesleyan, 224 pp., £20.50, May 2010, 978 0 8195 6929 5
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... concerns the great dead, she became known in the 1980s as a champion of the language poets: Charles Bernstein, Lyn Hejinian, Rae Armantrout, Steve McCaffery, Ron Silliman, Susan Howe, Bruce Andrews and perhaps a dozen others, who first published during the 1970s in a brace of little magazines, one of which bore the all too catchy name ...

Limits of Civility

Glen Newey: Walls

17 March 2011
Walled States, Waning Sovereignty 
by Wendy Brown.
Zone, 167 pp., £19.95, October 2010, 978 1 935408 08 6
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... cheap labour would raise wages and force some firms out of business. As with the missile defence shields promoted by administrations since Kennedy’s, the wall’s political value is emblematic, projecting a front of impermeability in the face of vulnerability. Brown doesn’t much like political walls. In stressing their makeshift quality, she is perhaps ...


Charles Glass: Israel’s occupation of Palestine

21 February 2002
... demonstrators in the Occupied Territories, as it has on Palestinians, making them useless as shields. Jeff Halper, an Israeli academic who heads the Committee against House Demolitions, said he thought Israelis were too tribal to shoot Jews. A few days after our conversation, he was beaten by Israeli police during a protest against the destruction of ...

The New Piracy

Charles Glass: Terror on the High Seas

18 December 2003
... badlands of Russia are more restive than ever. So are the oceans. America constructs nuclear shields in space, fortifies its borders and patrols its coasts. The barbarians are at the gates, and shortly they will be at the harbour walls, but they are inside, too – washing the dishes, shoplifting and, occasionally, beating someone to death to pay for a ...

Strange Little Woman

Ferdinand Mount: First and Only Empress

22 November 2018
Empress: Queen Victoria and India 
by Miles Taylor.
Yale, 388 pp., £25, August 2018, 978 0 300 11809 4
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Eastern Encounters: Four Centuries of Paintings and Manuscripts from the Indian Subcontinent 
by Emily Hannam.
Royal Collections Trust, 256 pp., £45, June 2018, 978 1 909741 45 4
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Splendours of the Subcontinent: A Prince’s Tour of India 1875-76 
by Kajal Meghani.
Royal Collections Trust, 216 pp., £29.95, March 2017, 978 1 909741 42 3
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... rebels. Fid. Def. survives on the coinage, though threatened with pluralisation of faiths under Charles III. But Ind. Imp. vanished seventy years ago, a fading embarrassment even then, to be explained away as a typical piece of Disraeli’s showmanship. Historians have shied away from closer examination of Queen Victoria’s role as empress, but the subject ...


Michael Church

18 April 1985
Gypsy and Me: At Home and on the Road with Gypsy Rose Lee 
by Erik Lee Preminger.
Deutsch, 277 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 233 97736 8
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George Thomas, Mr Speaker: The Memoirs of Viscount Tonypandy 
Century, 242 pp., £9.95, February 1985, 0 7126 0706 4Show More
Toff down Pit 
by Kit Fraser.
Quartet, 129 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 0 7043 2513 6
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Menlove: The Life of John Menlove Edwards 
by Jim Perrin.
Gollancz, 347 pp., £14.95, February 1985, 0 575 03571 4
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... reads like a series of postcards home, complete with snaps: Self with the Queen, Self with Prince Charles, Kenyatta, Chairman Hua, Lee Kuan Yew, Self receiving life-membership of the NUT (some gift!), Self receiving honorary doctorate, Self in state robes. The great events of history alternate, paragraph by cosy paragraph, with the great events of his ...
9 November 1989
The Burt Affair 
by Robert Joynson.
Routledge, 347 pp., £25, August 1989, 9780415010399
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... technique known as ‘factor analysis’ so as to minimise the contributions of his early mentor Charles Spearman while falsely accentuating his own; and that he had systematically abused his position as editor of the British Journal for Statistical Psychology. Hearnshaw concluded that Burt might have been an honourable person in his prime, but that he had ...

Isle of Dogs

Iain Sinclair

10 May 1990
Pit Bull 
by Scott Ely.
Penguin, 218 pp., £4.99, March 1990, 0 14 012033 5
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... with the possession of a satellite disk, if not the rancid channel itself. These hideous shields, each one representing a dog’s head, creep like malign barnacles over barracks of guttered experiments in public housing. Nobody has yet marketed a mock-Georgian satellite disk, decently rusticated, with pseudo coat-of-arms. The dog and the disk: they ...

Missionary Work

Christopher Turner: Henry Wellcome

13 May 2010
An Infinity of Things: How Sir Henry Wellcome Collected the World 
by Frances Larson.
Oxford, 343 pp., £18.99, September 2009, 978 0 19 955446 1
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... lose them.’ While Wellcome was the impetus and the chequebook behind the collection, Charles Thompson, its first curator, was the unrecognised hero. Thompson ran what Larson describes as ‘a well-oiled acquisition machine’, a network of agents and buyers who trawled the globe for antiquities. He wrote weekly progress reports to Wellcome ...

What Dettol Can’t Fix

Bee Wilson: A Life in Lists

13 September 2018
Elisabeth’s Lists: A Family Story 
by Lulah Ellender.
Granta, 318 pp., £16.99, March 2018, 978 1 78378 383 0
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... but also by ‘strict protocols and complex systems of etiquette’ in which lists could act as shields against frightening emotions. A perceptive and original first book, it is as much a meditation on the meaning of lists as it is a biography. In and of itself, the life of Elisabeth Young was not particularly noteworthy. Apart from the travel to far-off ...

Museums of Melancholy

Iain Sinclair: Silence on the Euston Road

18 August 2005
... shudders from the silent pounding of stone ordnance, the mute thunder of that lifesize howitzer by Charles Sergeant Jagger on the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner. Arranged on obelisks are squadrons of engineless planes that will never achieve flight. Granite battleships hide in alcoves. Ghost armies perch on temporary plinths in a psychosexual ...

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