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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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Books 
by Charlie Hill.
Tindal Street, 192 pp., £6.99, November 2013, 978 1 78125 163 8
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... another view of the book world, just as jaundiced but more far-ranging, it’s worth turning to Charlie Hill’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 directly into sales figures. As an ex-bookseller, ...

Travelling in circles

Robert Taubman, 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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... 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 is due partly to Theroux’s sense of fun, which is both ...

Tea-Leafing

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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... 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 Reynolds for a comment (an explanation, if there can ...

Insupportable

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 introduction, probably the most searching piece of Kipling criticism to date, Craig Raine quotes Chaplin’s words, and his further comment that the ‘matrix’ out of which the tramp was born was ‘as mute as the rags he wore ...

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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Deception 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 208 pp., £12.95, September 1990, 0 224 03000 0
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Homeboy 
by Seth Morgan.
Chatto, 390 pp., £12.95, August 1990, 0 7011 3664 2
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... 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 away from the old songs and my own disappointments I ...

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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... 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 exposure! That thing with the cup! A Man in Full From Masters ...

Ooh the rubble

Rosemary Hill: Churchill’s Cook, 16 July 2020

Victory in the Kitchen: The Life of Churchill’s Cook 
by Annie Gray.
Profile, 390 pp., £16.99, February, 978 1 78816 044 5
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... said “Welcome back Mrs Landemare” and I was so pleased.’ She was, in her way, famous. When Charlie Chaplin came to dinner he was asked if he would like to meet her. By now she was seventy. There were numerous attempts at retirement, but whether she missed the Churchills or they – now blacklisted by all the recruitment agencies – couldn’t manage ...

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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... 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 19 August at the head of Loch Shiel. The monument at ...

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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... 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’s willow-ware platter, Tiffany lampshade and a bookcase ...

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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... 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, Hayes felt that the ...

Never Mainline

Jenny Diski: Keith Richards, 16 December 2010

Life 
by Keith Richards, with James Fox.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £20, October 2010, 978 0 297 85439 5
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... 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 drunken bores I used to listen to at the French Pub in the ...

Do put down that revolver

Rosemary Hill, 13 July 2016

The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House between the Wars 
by Adrian Tinniswood.
Cape, 406 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 0 224 09945 5
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... whisky and crying. Indeed Lawrence and Baldwin become a kind of leitmotif, often shadowed by Charlie Chaplin, who seems to have been on everyone’s guest list. Lawrence knew John and Susan Buchan, country-house owners of the new weekending sort, and spent his time with them talking about ‘the Arabs … his muddled masochism and his ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Sport Poetry, 23 January 1986

... 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 – ought to discover an answering jauntiness in us. It ...

Savage Rush

David Trotter: The Tube, 21 October 2010

Underground Writing: The London Tube from George Gissing to Virginia Woolf 
by David Welsh.
Liverpool, 306 pp., £70, May 2010, 978 1 84631 223 6
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... he would normally alight. By High Street Kensington, he has taken the seat opposite; by Notting Hill Gate, he is at her elbow. ‘The extraordinary part of the matter,’ James observes, ‘was that they were not in the least meeting where they had left off, but ever so much further on, and that these added links added still another between High Street and ...

Do what you wish, du Maurier

E.S. Turner, 31 March 1988

Maxwell 
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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... 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 because the picture does not show the full dimensions of ...

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