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More Pain, Better Sentences

Adam Mars-Jones: Satire and St Aubyn

7 May 2014
Lost for Words 
by Edward St Aubyn.
Picador, 261 pp., £12.99, May 2014, 978 0 330 45422 3
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by Charlie Hill.
Tindal Street, 192 pp., £6.99, November 2013, 978 1 78125 163 8
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... from the harsh but habitable territory of satire and into the badlands of travesty or burlesque. For​ another view of the book world, just as jaundiced but more far-ranging, it’s worth turning to CharlieHill’s indignant romp Books, published last year. Book prizes, after all, claim an impossibly innocent relationship with the marketplace, unaffected by non-literary considerations but feeding ...


Duncan Campbell

19 October 1995
The Autobiography of a Thief 
by Bruce Reynolds.
Bantam, 320 pp., £15.99, April 1995, 0 593 03779 0
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... century, choose to call his book The Autobiography of a Thief ? It was, he says, a bit of homage to Jean Genet. The Thief’s Journal was being translated into English just as Bruce and Buster and Charlie were driving £2,631,684 in mail bags to Leather-slade Farm on 8 August 1963, with Tony Bennett singing ‘The Good Life’ on the radio. When Buster Edwards hanged himself last year and I rang Bruce ...


John Bayley

19 February 1987
A Choice of Kipling’s Prose 
by Craig Raine.
Faber, 448 pp., £12.50, January 1987, 0 571 13735 0
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Kipling’s Kingdom: His Best Indian Stories 
by Charles Allen.
Joseph, 288 pp., £14.95, January 1987, 0 7181 2570 3
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... Charlie Chaplin was not hopeful when the talkies arrived in Hollywood. ‘It would mean giving up my tramp character entirely. Some people suggested that the tramp might talk. This was unthinkable.’ In his ...
3 December 1981
The Mosquito Coast 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 392 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 0 241 10688 5
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... of the London novel The Family Arsenal comes across as no less strange and freshly rendered than the Creole of The Mosquito Coast. Theroux is pedantic about sounds. ‘ “Born and bred in Tulse Hill,” said Mr Flack, pronouncing it “Towse Hew”.’ ‘Yerp’ is American for ‘Europe’. And frequently, in all parts of the world, there occurs the well-practised joke or bar-room story. This ...

Dirty Jokes

Julian Symons

13 September 1990
Brief Lives 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 217 pp., £12.95, August 1990, 0 224 02747 6
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by Philip Roth.
Cape, 208 pp., £12.95, September 1990, 0 224 03000 0
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by Seth Morgan.
Chatto, 390 pp., £12.95, August 1990, 0 7011 3664 2
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... decorations of their London home, done by Owen’s first wife who had ‘advanced ideas on interior decoration’. Fay’s life is on one level the story of her exploitation – by Owen, Julia, Charlie and a doctor with whom she doesn’t quite have an affair – but at the age of 70 she is able to say without irony or complacency that on the whole her life has been easy and happy. ‘When I keep ...

Taking Sides

John Mullan: On the high road with Bonnie Prince Charlie

22 January 2004
The ’45: Bonnie Prince Charlie​ and the Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising 
by Christopher Duffy.
Cassell, 639 pp., £20, March 2003, 0 304 35525 9
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Samuel Johnson in Historical Context 
edited by J.C.D. Clark and Howard Erskine-Hill.
Palgrave, 336 pp., £55, December 2001, 0 333 80447 3
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... sympathies where they existed? Such inquiries do not much detain Duffy who, after a cursory sketch of 18th-century political history, is back where he is happiest, on the high road with Bonnie Prince Charlie. After first landing on the island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides on 23 July 1745, he arrived two days later on the mainland in Arisaig. Joined by MacDonalds and Camerons, he raised his standard on ...

Running on Empty

Christopher Hitchens: The Wrong Stuff

7 January 1999
A Man in Full 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 742 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 224 03036 1
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... on country life among the rich that Fallow had done ... It had been full of names and titles and helicopters and perplexing perversions (‘that thing with the cup’). The Bonfire of the Vanities Charlie Croker, master builder – Croker Concourse! – checking into a motel on the Buford Highway with a 23-year-old girl – but he had lost his mind to her demented form of lust. Danger! Imminent ...

Home’s for suicides

Lucie Elven: Alfred Hayes’s Hollywood

18 July 2019
The Girl on the Via Flaminia 
by Alfred Hayes.
Penguin, 151 pp., £7.99, August 2018, 978 0 241 34232 9
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My Face for the World to See 
by Alfred Hayes.
Penguin, 119 pp., £7.99, May 2018, 978 0 241 34230 5
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In Love 
by Alfred Hayes.
Penguin, 120 pp., £7.99, January 2018, 978 0 241 30713 7
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... factor in the growth of revolutionary consciousness’. A chance encounter with the composer Earl Robinson at Camp Unity in the summer of 1936 led to his poem about the execution of the activist Joe Hill becoming an anthem of the labour movement (‘I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night/Alive as you or me/Says I, But Joe, you’re ten years dead/I never died, says he’). After the Moscow Trials began ...

Gorgon in Furs

D.D. Guttenplan: Paula Fox

12 December 2002
Borrowed Finery: A Memoir 
by Paula Fox.
Flamingo, 256 pp., £12, August 2002, 0 00 713724 9
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... harrowing even by the standards of contemporary confessional literature – the memoir risks overshadowing, even undermining the fiction. Desperate Characters begins on a Friday afternoon in Cobble Hill, a neighbourhood of brownstone houses a few blocks from Brooklyn Heights. Otto and Sophie Bentwood are sitting down to sauteéd chicken livers and risotto Milanese. With her inventory of the couple ...

Never Mainline

Jenny Diski: Keith Richards

16 December 2010
by Keith Richards, with James Fox.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £20, October 2010, 978 0 297 85439 5
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... light editing has produced what feels like an authentic experience of many hours and days of sitting at a bar, or worse, in a Caribbean hideaway (with no train or clipper home) while some over the hill geezer (rhymes with ‘sneezer’) a.k.a. Richards – who has given up smack and coke but not booze and dope – rambles about his 66 years on the planet. Oh, how he rambles. But as with the aged ...


Ian Hamilton: Sport Poetry

23 January 1986
... What matters is that soccer Is Back, and that we can all happily plug in again on Saturdays: Frank Furillo might be cool in dead-ball situations but he’s no Glenn Hoddle, and we all know that at Hill Street no one ever heard of a slow-motion replay ...So it goes, or so it’s meant to go. But something jars. The jaunty build-up – our old buddy welcomed back, our prized weekend routines restored ...
31 March 1988
by Joe Haines.
Macdonald, 525 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 356 17172 8
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Maxwell: The Outsider 
by Tom Bower.
Aurum, 374 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 948149 88 4
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Maxwell: A Portrait of Power 
by Peter Thompson and Anthony Delano.
Bantam, 256 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 593 01499 5
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Goodbye Fleet Street 
by Robert Edwards.
Cape, 260 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 224 02457 4
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... used for Mirror works outings? Is she perhaps a ‘nice little earner’ when chartered to Arabs? A picture with a cosier domestic appeal shows the one-time home of Lady Ottoline Morrell, Headington Hill Hall, near Oxford, now the ‘council house’ seat of Robert Maxwell, lit up by rockets at night, with a huge illuminated sign saying ‘Happy Birthday Bob’ suspended from a tall tree. Perhaps ...
18 June 1981
... of the Welsh advantage of language difference nor the Irish (and English) perception of historical mythology to sustain it – nothing much beyond the hopeless romanticism of Bannockburn and Prince Charlie, mixed with a sour economic complaint and an annual celebration on the terraces of Wembley or Hampden. Clearly, this nationalism was something felt in the bones of the people. And so we held our ...

On Nicholas Moore

Peter Howarth: Nicholas Moore

23 September 2015
... will translate everything into his own language and time, since that’s what poetry always does. So the singing clowns who fail to amuse Baudelaire’s bored young prince reappear in Moore as Elvis, Charlie Chaplin, Dylan Thomas, Louis Armstrong, Brenda Lee or Spike Milligan. It’s now the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazis, Biafra, Mosley and the fashionable dramas of ‘Kitchen-Sink Sade-Marats’ whose ...

Choke Point

Patrick Cockburn: In Dover

7 November 2019
... £122 billion in imports and exports pass through here every year. Big container ships, heading north or south, stand out against the French coast. Nicolas Deshayes – an artist who lives on the hill, just below Henry II’s magnificent 12th-century castle, the largest in England – revels in the spectacle of choreographed movement. He makes works that reference water: vast bodies of it, along ...

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