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Diary

Blake Morrison: On the Independent on Sunday , 27 May 1993

... sitting one gloomy afternoon in the makeshift office looking out at the starlings flocking over Blake’s grave in Bunhill Fields, and wondering what had possessed me to move. The last books pages I’d worked on at the Observer lay beside me (Ian Hamilton and Ted Hughes on the life of Sylvia Plath, Alison Lurie’s obituary of Mary McCarthy, Salman Rushdie ...

Surely, Shirley

J. Robert Lennon: Ottessa Moshfegh, 21 January 2021

Death in Her Hands 
by Ottessa Moshfegh.
Cape, 259 pp., £14.99, August 2020, 978 1 78733 220 1
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... as an experimental novelist, but the narrative slackness of these books isn’t like that of David Markson’s novels, for instance, which have the minimalist, unnerving rhythm of a needle trapped in the final groove of a record. Their dark outlook isn’t like that of Thomas Bernhard, whose cynicism is driven by a kind of grim joy, nor do they have the ...

Utopia Limited

David Cannadine, 15 July 1982

Fabianism and Culture: A Study in British Socialism and the Arts, 1884-1918 
by Ian Britain.
Cambridge, 344 pp., £19.50, June 1982, 0 521 23563 4
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The Elmhirsts of Dartington: The Creation of an Utopian Community 
by Michael Young.
Routledge, 381 pp., £15, June 1982, 9780710090515
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... turned cattle herdsman), Sir Richard Bulkeley (an early 18th-century hunchback virtuoso), William Blake (‘I see so little of Mr Blake now,’ his wife once complained: ‘He is always in Paradise’), and James Pierrepont Greaves (damned by Carlyle as a ‘blockhead’ and an ‘imbecile’), preferred to leave the world ...

Incriminating English

Randolph Quirk, 24 September 1992

Language, Self and Society: A Social History of Language 
edited by Peter Burke and Roy Porter.
Polity, 358 pp., £45, December 1991, 0 7456 0765 9
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Images of English: A Cultural History of the Language 
by Richard Bailey.
Cambridge, 329 pp., £16.95, March 1992, 0 521 41572 1
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The Oxford Companion to the English Language 
edited by Tom McArthur and Feri McArthur.
Oxford, 1184 pp., £25, September 1992, 9780192141835
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The History of the English Language: A Source Book 
by David Burnley.
Longman, 373 pp., £25, January 1992, 0 582 02522 2
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The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol. I: Beginnings to 1066 
edited by Richard Hogg and Norman Blake.
Cambridge, 609 pp., £60, August 1992, 9780521264747
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... culture. A still more obvious place to look for solid fare is the source book assembled by David Burnley in The History of the English Language. This is, in effect, an anthology of English written between the ninth century and the early 20th. The passages are well chosen both as representative samples of their time and as having inherent ...

Freddie Gray

Adam Shatz, 21 May 2015

... about race but class, as if it couldn’t be about both. Baltimore’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, her police commissioner and three of the officers charged in Gray’s death are African-American, they point out, as though that were proof the city has entered a kind of post-racial era. This is an updated version of an argument that blamed black mayors ...

At Tate Britain

T.J. Clark: Paul Nash , 2 February 2017

... with all that followed in terms of a settling of accounts with Constable and Turner, and Blake and Palmer, and Crome and the watercolourists and Ford Madox Brown, was at all compatible with being a painter ‘in the 20th century’. The pressure of this last question – or indeed of all three – is not to be collapsed into shorthand of the ...

The Smell of Blood

Blake Morrison: Sarah Moss, 13 August 2020

Summerwater 
by Sarah Moss.
Picador, 202 pp., £14.99, August, 978 1 5290 3543 8
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... now and to our divisions. By contrast to Lola and Steve, there’s the retired Scottish doctor, David: ‘How could the English be so stupid, he thinks again pointlessly, how could they not see the ring of yellow stars on every new road and hospital and upgraded railway and city centre regeneration of the last thirty years?’ Arms sales, the refugee ...

It wasn’t the Oval

Blake Morrison: Michael Frayn, 7 October 2010

My Father’s Fortune: A Life 
by Michael Frayn.
Faber, 255 pp., £16.99, September 2010, 978 0 571 27058 3
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... wistfully of seeing Len Hutton in his prime, captained a team called the Gaieties XI. Simon Gray, David Hare and Ronald Harwood are or were known to be keen on the game, too. And Tom Stoppard, another follower, has a striking set-piece in The Real Thing in which a playwright, explaining dramatic technique, says: ‘What we’re trying to do is to write ...

Why do it, Sarah?

Blake Morrison: ‘The Glass Kingdom’, 18 March 2021

The Glass Kingdom 
by Lawrence Osborne.
Hogarth, 304 pp., £16.99, August 2020, 978 1 78109 078 7
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... him. We warm to his characters as little as they warm to one another. He revels in their flaws (David, in The Forgiven, whose accidental but culpable killing of a young Arab drives the plot, is thrillingly odious) and keeps them at a distance. Even the underdogs are too devious and grasping to be likeable. They know to be pak-wan, that is to flatter their ...

The Shoreham Gang

Seamus Perry: Samuel Palmer, 5 April 2012

Mysterious Wisdom: The Life and Work of Samuel Palmer 
by Rachel Campbell-Johnston.
Bloomsbury, 382 pp., £25, June 2011, 978 0 7475 9587 8
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... readable because animated by all of Grigson’s brilliant erudition and spirit of advocacy. Lord David Cecil’s long chapter in his 1969 book Visionary and Dreamer: Two Poetic Painters (the other one is Burne-Jones) is a more languid affair, but it usefully brought Cecil’s own Romantic instincts to bear on a painter whose inspiration was often professedly ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: Samuel Palmer’s dream landscapes, 17 November 2005

... Through Linnell, who was his friend and patron and later his father-in-law, Palmer met William Blake. It was the light of Blake and of the old prints Linnell pointed him towards – in particular those of Dürer, Lucas van Leyden and Bonasone – that showed Palmer the path out of the pit of modernity. Palmer and his ...

In a Bookshop

Peter Campbell: Penguin by Illustrators, 10 September 2009

... of illustration, which would once have defined the word, is now quite uncommon. The covers Quentin Blake did for Penguin fiction in the 1960s fall into this category. He writes of the books he worked on that ‘they had to be read with a certain degree of inwardness and what I produced was, for better or worse, more like illustration than a cover ...

Shakers

Denis Donoghue, 6 November 1986

Write on: Occasional Essays ’65-’85 
by David Lodge.
Secker, 211 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 436 25665 7
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... This is a gathering of David Lodge’s easy pieces: they are footnotes, shouldernotes and headnotes to the formal work in fiction and literary criticism he has published in the past twenty years. The book is in two parts. The first, ‘Personal and Descriptive’, includes a memoir of his first year in America, mostly a travel-year, 1964-65; his report on the turbulence at Berkeley in 1969; a trip to Poland in 1981; memories of a Catholic childhood; how he came to read Joyce; an introduction to his novel Small World; and his account of going to a Shakin’ Stevens concert in Birmingham ...

He will need a raincoat

Blake Morrison: Fathers and Sons, 14 July 2016

The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between 
by Hisham Matar.
Viking, 276 pp., £14.99, June 2016, 978 0 670 92333 5
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... helps to have a dad who was a bit (or more than a bit) of a rogue, as, variously, Greer, Ackerley, David Cornwell (a.k.a. John le Carré) and Tobias Wolff did. Ackerley’s left two letters, ‘to be read only in the case of my death’, in which he revealed his ‘secret orchard’: the mistress and three daughters he’d been hiding for many ...

Convenient Death of a Hero

Arnold Rattenbury, 8 May 1997

Beyond the Frontier: the Politics of a Failed Mission, Bulgaria 1944 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin/Stanford, 120 pp., £12.95, December 1996, 0 85036 457 4
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... there occurs in it a passing reference to ‘the raw material for half-finished books on William Blake and Customs in Common’, works long since published. From the mid-Eighties mountainous illness surrounded Edward, from which he nonetheless retrieved the last big works: Customs in Common (1991), which traced a disappearing culture back over ground where ...

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