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Old America

W.C. Spengemann, 7 January 1988

Look homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe 
by David HerbertDonald.
Bloomsbury, 579 pp., £16.95, April 1987, 0 7475 0004 5
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From this moment on: America in 1940 
by Jeffrey Hart.
Crown, 352 pp., $19.95, February 1987, 9780517557419
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... that far country through study and then begin to remember it as their own birthplace. Others, like David Donald and Jeffrey Hart, remember it first and then study it up in order to flesh out their memories with circumstantial detail. In either case, historiography is given the task that Wordsworth assigned to poetry: to reconcile the seemingly unrelated ...

Unaccountables

Donald Davie, 7 March 1985

The Letters of Hugh MacDiarmid 
edited by Alan Bold.
Hamish Hamilton, 910 pp., £20, August 1984, 0 241 11220 6
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Between Moon and Moon: Selected Letters of Robert Graves 1946-1972 
edited by Paul O’Prey.
Hutchinson, 323 pp., £14.95, November 1984, 9780091557508
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... are commonly brought up to show that the modernist impetus survived in the generation after Pound: David Jones, Anglo-Welshman; Basil Bunting, Northumbrian Englishman; and Hugh MacDiarmid, Lowland Scot. The claim for Jones seems the weakest: it is advanced by Jones’s admirers, not by the poet himself, who took no interest in the question, having other fish ...

Just a smack at Grigson

Denis Donoghue, 7 March 1985

Montaigne’s Tower, and Other Poems 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 72 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 436 18806 6
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Collected Poems: 1963-1980 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 557 3
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The Faber Book of Reflective Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Faber, 238 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 571 13299 5
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 279 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 558 1
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 9780850315592
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Before the Romantics: An Anthology of the Enlightenment 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Salamander, 349 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 907540 59 7
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... to me a litmus paper of the genuine’), Auden (‘the greatest of my contemporaries’), George Herbert, Vaughan, Crabbe, Hopkins, Whitman, Campion, Morris, Christina Rossetti, John Crowe Ransom, Wyndham Lewis, Louis MacNeice, Stevie Smith. I would think a life of diverse affections could be made upon such affiliations. But Grigson seems to need to be ...

Attending Poppy

Christopher Tayler: David Grand, 9 December 1999

Louse 
by David Grand.
Quartet, 255 pp., £10, April 1999, 9780704381155
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... no talking, coughing, clearing of the throat, or any movement whatsoever of the lips. As David Thomson remarks in his Biographical Dictionary of Film, this was a life ‘so primed for legend, it leaves one feeling that the doleful, suspicious Hughes had some hygienic plan for missing life altogether and going straight into myth’. Hughes was, after ...

There is only one Harrods

Paul Foot, 23 September 1993

Tiny Rowland: A Rebel Tycoon 
by Tom Bower.
Heinemann, 659 pp., £16.99, May 1993, 0 434 07339 3
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... bid, backed by merchant bankers Kleinwort Benson and the legendarily expensive City solicitors Herbert Smith, claimed that the Fayeds came from an ancient Egyptian aristocratic family, that they had a fleet of liners, that they owned oil wells and the Rockefeller Plaza and had hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of construction work on order from one ...

The Magic Lever

Donald MacKenzie: How the Banks Do It, 9 May 2013

... Fund, estimates the US subsidy at $83 billion a year. Senators Sherrod Brown (Democrat, Ohio) and David Vitter (Republican, Louisiana) have asked Congress’s investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, to come up with a more authoritative figure. No one to my knowledge has done the equivalent calculation for the countries of continental ...

Poetry and Christianity

Barbara Everett, 4 February 1982

Three for Water-Music 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 69 pp., £2.95, July 1981, 0 85635 363 9
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The New Oxford Book of Christian Verse 
edited by Donald Davie.
Oxford, 319 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 19 213426 4
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... experts in consciousness who have got to know the hard way where the limits of their theories lie. Donald Davie’s new sequence of poems, ‘Three for Water-Music’ (which fills the first third of his Carcanet paperback), refers not only to pleasant 18th-century entertainments by water, but to something like Yeats’s ‘words for music, perhaps’: or like ...

Dogface

Ian Hamilton, 28 September 1989

Wartime: Understanding and Behaviour in the Second World War 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 330 pp., £15, September 1989, 0 19 503797 9
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War like a Wasp: The Lost Decade of the Forties 
by Andrew Sinclair.
Hamish Hamilton, 312 pp., £17.95, October 1989, 0 241 12531 6
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... on the great issues of our time. In The Great War and Modern Memory he quotes with enthusiasm David Jones’s dodgy-sounding dictum that ‘the artist in man is the infantryman in man ... all men are aboriginally of this infantry, though not all serve with this infantry ... continued employment “away from the front” has made habitual and widespread a ...

‘My God was bigger than his’

Colin Kidd: The Republicans, 4 November 2004

The Right Nation: Why America Is Different 
by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge.
Allen Lane, 450 pp., £14.99, August 2004, 0 7139 9738 9
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Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet 
by James Mann.
Penguin, 448 pp., $16, September 2004, 0 14 303489 8
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Nixon’s Shadow: The History of an Image 
by David Greenberg.
Norton, 496 pp., £9.99, November 2004, 0 393 32616 0
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America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism 
by Anatol Lieven.
HarperCollins, 274 pp., £18.99, October 2004, 0 00 716456 4
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... generations of Republicans disdained conservatism. Micklethwait and Wooldridge remind us that Herbert Hoover claimed to be a ‘true liberal’. Indeed, nobody in the political mainstream – Republican or Democrat – invoked the cause of conservatism until the insurgencies of Goldwater and Reagan (a former Democrat) within the Republican Party during ...

The Superhuman Upgrade

Steven Shapin: The Book That Explains It All, 13 July 2017

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow 
by Yuval Noah Harari.
Vintage, 528 pp., £9.99, March 2017, 978 1 78470 393 6
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... from recent prods to produce work of greater scope. In The History Manifesto (2014), Jo Guldi and David Armitage worry that the production of scholarly miniatures disqualifies historians from contributing to urgent cultural and political discussions – about climate change, sustainable production, international governance etc – in which the longue durée ...

Little England

Patrick Wright: The view through a bus window, 7 September 2006

Great British Bus Journeys: Travels through Unfamous Places 
by David McKie.
Atlantic, 359 pp., £16.99, March 2006, 1 84354 132 7
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... tradition of Tory thinking about public transport. It was in the same genre as the rumour – even David McKie has been unable to turn up a precise source – that Margaret Thatcher once remarked that anyone who rode a bus after reaching the age of 26 was a failure. It also reminded me of a story Ken Livingstone liked to recite when he was leader of the ...

Nothing Becomes Something

Thomas Laqueur: Pathography, 22 September 2016

When Breath Becomes Air 
by Paul Kalanithi.
Bodley Head, 228 pp., £12.99, February 2016, 978 1 84792 367 7
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... no sustained narratives of disease. Autobiographies in the shadow of death were rare and brief. In David Hume’s six-page-long account of his life there are four sentences about his impending end: ‘I was struck with a disorder in my bowels which at first gave me no alarm, but has since, as I apprehend it, become mortal and incurable. I now reckon upon a ...

How bad can it get?

LRB Contributors, 15 August 2019

... Daisy Hildyard, Colin Kidd, James Meek, Ferdinand Mount, Jan-Werner Müller, Jonathan Parry, David RuncimanNeal Ascherson‘On​ 17 June poor France fell. That day, as we trudged past Greenwich … a tug skipper yelled gaily across the water: “Now we know where we are! No more bloody allies!”’ The writer A.P. ...

Trouble down there

Ferdinand Mount: Tea with Sassoon, 7 August 2003

Siegfried Sassoon: The Making of a War Poet 1886-1918 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Duckworth, 600 pp., £9.99, September 2002, 0 7156 2894 1
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Siegfried Sassoon: The Journey from the Trenches 1918-67 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Duckworth, 526 pp., £30, April 2003, 0 7156 2971 9
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Sassoon: The Worlds of Philip and Sybil 
by Peter Stansky.
Yale, 295 pp., £25, April 2003, 0 300 09547 3
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... poems; only Yeats and Hardy had significantly more. True, Larkin’s anthology was denounced by Donald Davie and others as a counterblast against Modernism. But it can’t be denied that Sassoon’s war poems share with Kipling’s the quality of being conspicuously memorable: the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations includes a dozen of them, mostly in ...

Angering and Agitating

Christopher Turner: Freud’s fan club, 30 November 2006

Freud’s Wizard: The Enigma of Ernest Jones 
by Brenda Maddox.
Murray, 354 pp., £25, September 2006, 0 7195 6792 0
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... Britain (an honour Freud, much to Jones’s chagrin, later conferred on Jones’s friend and rival David Eder). He was Freud’s chief administrator and enforcer – he served as president of the International Psychoanalytic Association from 1920 to 1924 and again from 1932 to 1949 – and his most enthusiastic missionary. He did more than anyone to ...

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