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The Pain of History

Stephen Brook, 19 February 1981

The Star-Apple Kingdom 
by Derek Walcott.
Cape, 58 pp., £2.50, March 1980, 0 224 01780 2
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Selected Poems 1961-1978 
by David Holbrook.
Anvil, 143 pp., £5.95, November 1980, 0 85646 066 4
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Death Valley and Other Poems in America 
by Alan Ross.
London Magazine Editions, 92 pp., £3, June 1980, 0 904388 32 8
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Poems 1955-1980 
by Roy Fisher.
Oxford, 193 pp., £7.95, November 1980, 0 19 211935 4
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A.R.T.H.U.R. & M.A.R.T.H.A. 
by Laurence Lerner.
Secker, 69 pp., £2.95, November 1980, 0 436 24440 3
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... is always tempered by technical skill and a beautiful intelligence. After Walcott’s orchestra, David Holbrook strikes one as deliberately low-keyed, muted both in his choice of subject and his manner of handling it. Although his Selected Poems span twenty years, there is remarkably little change or development. The themes remain constant: his ...

End of the Century

John Sutherland, 13 October 1988

Worlds Apart 
by David Holbrook.
Hale, 205 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 9780709033639
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Story of My Life 
by Jay McInerney.
Bloomsbury, 188 pp., £11.95, August 1988, 0 7475 0180 7
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Forgotten Life 
by Brian Aldiss.
Gollancz, 284 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 575 04369 5
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Incline Our hearts 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £11.95, August 1988, 0 241 12256 2
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... It would be interesting to place Jay McInerney and David Holbrook as neighbours at E.M. Forster’s imaginary table. Both novelists are fascinated by decadence – that much they have in common. But their diagnoses and anatomies of the decadent condition are quite different; worlds apart, to use Holbrook’s dominant image ...

Death of a Poet

Karl Miller, 22 January 1981

... but these attacks ought not to be forgotten. They are what this country is capable of. The poet David Holbrook said that the Beatles were talentless, and that their music, and the dancing that went with it, were ‘a low form of masturbation’. This was in a letter of 1964 to the New Statesman, the people’s friend, where Paul Johnson had proclaimed ...

Meltdown

Anthony Thwaite, 26 October 1989

Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath 
by Anne Stevenson.
Viking, 413 pp., £15.95, October 1989, 0 670 81854 2
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... were either soured by authorial complaints against Olwyn Hughes, Ted Hughes and the Estate (e.g. David Holbrook, Edward Butscher) or have come to nothing (e.g. Lois Ames, Harriet Rosenstein). Most of the book-length literary criticism is unimpressive. There isn’t much to choose, for example, between Margaret Dickie Uroff (‘As they developed, Plath ...

Everything is good news

Seamus Perry: Dylan Thomas’s Moment, 20 November 2014

The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas: The New Centenary Edition 
edited by John Goodby.
Weidenfeld, 416 pp., £20, October 2014, 978 0 297 86569 8
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Under Milk Wood: The Definitive Edition 
edited by Walford Davies and Ralph Maud.
Phoenix, 208 pp., £7.99, May 2014, 978 1 78022 724 5
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Collected Stories 
by Dylan Thomas.
Phoenix, 384 pp., £8.99, May 2014, 978 1 78022 730 6
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A Dylan Thomas Treasury: Poems, Stories and Broadcasts 
Phoenix, 186 pp., £7.99, May 2014, 978 1 78022 726 9Show More
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... Such donnish tolerance was rare. The most ferocious analyst of his immaturity was probably David Holbrook, whose account of Thomas’s ‘infantile egocentricity’ in Llareggub Revisited (1962) represents a high-water mark of Leavisite moralism. Thomas shows ‘an impotence of language belonging to an impotence in living’, ...

By San Carlos Water

Neal Ascherson, 18 November 1982

Authors take sides on the Falklands 
edited by Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Cecil Woolf, 144 pp., £4.95, August 1982, 0 900821 63 9
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The Falklands War: The Full Story 
by the Sunday Times ‘Insight’ Team.
Deutsch and Sphere, 276 pp., £2.50, October 1982, 0 233 97515 2
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The Winter War: The Falklands 
by Patrick Bishop and John Witherow.
Quartet, 153 pp., £2.95, September 1982, 0 7043 3424 0
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Iron Britannia: Why Parliament waged its Falklands war 
by Anthony Barnett.
Allison and Busby, 160 pp., £2.95, November 1982, 0 85031 494 1
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Falklands/Malvinas: Whose Crisis? 
by Martin Honeywell.
Latin American Bureau, 135 pp., £1.95, September 1982, 0 906156 15 7
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Los Chicos de la Guerra 
by Daniel Kon.
Editorial Galerna, Buenos Aires, August 1982
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A Message from the Falklands: The Life and Gallant Death of David Tinker, Lieut RN 
compiled by Hugh Tinker.
Junction, 224 pp., £3.50, November 1982, 0 86245 102 7
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... by homicidal maniacs on a collision course are also coming closer to one another. The novelist David Lodge, in one of the earnest but flustered contributions typical of Authors take sides on the Falklands, is more realistic. He writes that regaining the Falklands is not worth one human life. But he then confesses: ‘There is no doubt in my mind ...

As if Life Depended on It

John Mullan: With the Leavisites, 12 September 2013

Memoirs of a Leavisite: The Decline and Fall of Cambridge English 
by David Ellis.
Liverpool, 151 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 1 84631 889 4
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English as a Vocation: The ‘Scrutiny’ Movement 
by Christopher Hilliard.
Oxford, 298 pp., £57, May 2012, 978 0 19 969517 1
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The Two Cultures? The Significance of C.P. Snow 
by F.R. Leavis.
Cambridge, 118 pp., £10.99, August 2013, 978 1 107 61735 3
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... post 13 years earlier. He died, aged 82, only six months after I glimpsed him. On the cover of David Ellis’s Memoirs of a Leavisite he is photographed standing with a tree and a bench behind him in (according to the jacket info) the very garden into which he escaped that autumn afternoon. He is wearing the same literary-critical uniform too: the ...

Social Arrangements

John Bayley, 30 December 1982

The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry 
edited by Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 208 pp., £1.95, October 1982, 0 14 042283 8
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The Rattle Bag 
edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.
Faber, 498 pp., £10, October 1982, 0 571 11966 2
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... alongside the solitary star. But there is a difference. Good poets in the Alvarez anthology, like David Holbrook or Norman MacCaig, have their counterparts in the present collection, but while not being egotistically impetuous and obsessed in the way Alvarez desiderated, they were also not haunted, as their successors appear to be, by wistful feelings ...

Rub gently out with stale bread

Adam Smyth: The Print Craze, 2 November 2017

The Print Before Photography: An Introduction to European Printmaking 1550-1820 
by Antony Griffiths.
British Museum, 560 pp., £60, August 2016, 978 0 7141 2695 1
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... Constable grew increasingly preoccupied with printmaking and collaborated with the young engraver David Lucas to translate his oil sketches and paintings into 22 mezzotints, part of what would become known as English Landscape Scenery. Proofs survive, and are covered with the handwritten revisions and instructions with which Constable besieged Lucas: ‘two ...

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