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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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... 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, ...


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 ...


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 ...
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 ...

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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... 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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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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... 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 ...


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 ...
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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... 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 ...
18 June 1981
... 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 breath, watching as Scotland moved, it seemed, relentlessly ...

On Nicholas Moore

Peter Howarth: Nicholas Moore

23 September 2015
... 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 atrocious crimes fail to turn the green waters of Lethe lying ...

Choke Point

Patrick Cockburn: In Dover

7 November 2019
... from France: a defiant image of Britain repelling an external threat. From the top of one of the hills overlooking the town you look down on the Eastern Docks, where ten thousand lorries stream in and out every day, along with the hordes of cars and caravans and passengers on foot transported on P&O ferries to and from Calais. The Port of Dover is the UK’s ...

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