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Stag at Bay

Adam Phillips: Byron in Geneva

25 August 2011
Byron in Geneva: That Summer of 1816 
by David​ Ellis.
Liverpool, 189 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 1 84631 643 2
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... he has Cain say, ‘I look/Around a world where I seem nothing, with/Thoughts which arise within me, as if they/Could master all things.’ All this has a bearing on the before and after story that David Ellis wants us to take more seriously as the real story of Byron’s life. In Ellis’s view the summer of 1816, which he spent in Geneva, marked a turning point in Byron’s life. He was, Ellis ...

Big Head, Many Brains

Colin Burrow: H.G. Wells

16 June 2011
A Man of Parts 
by David​ Lodge.
Harvill, 565 pp., £18.99, March 2011, 978 1 84655 496 4
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... direct as he was, is curiously hard. It is easy to sound crass, because Wells seems already to have noticed that his readers won’t believe everything his persona says. This takes us to David Lodge. A Man of Parts complements his biographical novel about Henry James, Author, Author.* The sliding and evanescent ironies of Henry James tended to elicit from Lodge some over-heavy ironies at ...

No one hates him more

Joshua Cohen: Franzen on Kraus

7 November 2013
The Kraus Project 
by Jonathan Franzen.
Fourth Estate, 318 pp., £18.99, October 2013, 978 0 00 751743 5
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... then spread throughout Europe, taking on, according to Kraus, each language’s, and country’s, worst attributes. In Germany it became pedantic and moralising; in Austria-Hungary melodramatically moody and snobbishly refined. Kraus compared the sentimentality of Heine, a Jew from Düsseldorf, with the farce of Nestroy, the Catholic dramatist from Vienna, and it’s no surprise which of the two he ...

Into the Eisenshpritz

Elif Batuman: Superheroes

10 April 2008
Life, in Pictures: Autobiographical Stories 
by Will Eisner.
Norton, 493 pp., £18.99, November 2007, 978 0 393 06107 9
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by David​ B..
Cape, 368 pp., £12.99, March 2006, 0 224 07920 4
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by Adrian Tomine.
Faber, 108 pp., £12.99, September 2007, 978 0 571 23329 8
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Misery Loves Comedy 
by Ivan Brunetti.
Fantagraphics, 172 pp., £15.99, April 2007, 978 1 56097 792 6
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... codeword, not only for double identity in general, but for a particularly historical double consciousness. This is the case even among non-Jewish cartoonists. A particularly striking case is that of David B. (né Pierre-François Beauchard), whose autobiographical L’Ascension du haut mal (1996-2003) is available in a single-volume English translation called Epileptic. The ‘epileptic’ is Pierre ...
21 May 1981
Jane Austen’s ‘Sir Charles Grandison’ 
edited by Brian Southam.
Oxford, 150 pp., £7.95, March 1981, 0 19 812637 9
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... any inflated claims for the quality of the play, he has so placed it in Jane Austen’s career as to maximise its literary importance. All Southam’s principal deductions are supported by Lord David Cecil, in a foreword written with that critic’s customary charm, his inimitable blend of middlebrow thoughts in upper-class tones. Though he cavils gently at Jane Austen’s taste for Grandison ...

Our Island Story

Stefan Collini: The New DNB

20 January 2005
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 
edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison.
Oxford, sixty volumes, £7,500, September 2004, 9780198614111
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... the latter spent more time in this country and arguably had a greater effect on its fate. Rather different considerations must have lain behind the inclusion of the 19th-century evangelists Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey: though they were born, lived and died in the United States, their revivalist meetings were hugely popular during their visits to Britain in the 1870s and 1880s, leading David ...

American Manscapes

Richard Poirier

12 October 1989
Manhood and the American Renaissance 
by David​ Leverenz.
Cornell, 372 pp., $35.75, April 1989, 0 8014 2281 7
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... all these won’t for long dissuade the hearty reader from going back to the classics as to some plate of infamous goodies. Meanwhile, FDA criticism will probably earn a few more adherents thanks to David Leverenz’s Manhood and the American Renaissance. It is better than most such books because, for one thing, he is at times a competent if constricted close reader, while being at heart resentful ...

More a Voyeur

Colm Tóibín: Elton Took Me Hostage

9 December 2019
by Elton John.
Macmillan, 376 pp., £25, October, 978 1 5098 5331 1
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... The reviews were good. Famous singers, such as Pete Townsend, Jeff Beck and Dusty Springfield, began to turn up at Elton’s gigs to check him and his band out. The album’s cover photo showed a moody, nerdy-looking guy with glasses; his face was lit, but the space around him was black. He could easily have been someone’s answer to Leonard Cohen, the songwriter as lonely, fucked-up guy. He ...
2 December 1982
The ‘Private Eye’ Story: The First 21 Years 
by Patrick Marnham.
Private Eye/Deutsch, 232 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 233 97509 8
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One for the Road: Further Letters of Denis Thatcher 
by Richard Ingrams and John Wells.
Private Eye/Deutsch, 80 pp., £2.50, October 1982, 9780233975115
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Sir James Goldsmith: The Man and the Myth 
by Geoffrey Wansell.
Fontana, 222 pp., £1.95, April 1982, 0 00 636503 5
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... the DPP); while the third, for all its drama and farce, arose not out of some major investigative disclosure but out of a piece of inaccurate gossip. The Goldsmith case, though presented in the usual David-and-Goliath terms, in fact confirmed the established strength of the Eye: Goldsmith, who hadn’t been much in the public view since his elopement with Isabel Patino, ran headfirst into the magazine ...

The Divine Miss P.

Elaine Showalter

11 February 1993
Sex, Art and American Culture 
by Camille Paglia.
Viking, 256 pp., £16.99, March 1993, 0 670 84612 0
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... McCarthy in 1950, advocating post-war ironic detachment. To which I reply, cast a hot eye, amorously acquisitive and devotional. This isn’t a totally new style in academic speaking and writing; as David Lodge has famously shown, the performative style of showbiz and avant-garde theatre entered academic cultural life in the Eighties through the very conference circuit that Paglia claims to despise ...

How not to do it

John Sutherland

22 July 1993
The British Library: For Scholarship, Research and Innovation: Strategic Objectives for the Year 2000 
British Library, 39 pp., £5, June 1993, 0 7123 0321 9Show More
The Library of the British Museum: Retrospective Essays on the Department of Printed Books 
edited by P.R. Harris.
British Library, 305 pp., £35, June 1993, 0 7123 0242 5
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... document are less creative than the 11 full-plate pictures. These have been skilfully thematised by the designer Frances Salisbury (sub-contracted, presumably). The photography (by Phil Starling) is moody, artfully under-exposed and obliquely-angled. Cumulatively the illustrations suggest a cathedral quiet and nobility of mission, combined with beyond-the-cutting-edge technology: less 2000 than 2001 ...
20 December 1990
From Early Life 
by William Cooper.
Macmillan, 180 pp., £13.95, August 1990, 0 333 52367 9
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Son of Adam 
by Denis Forman.
Deutsch, 201 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 9780233985930
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A Welsh Childhood 
by Alice Thomas Ellis and Patrick Sutherland.
Joseph, 186 pp., £15.99, September 1990, 0 7181 3292 0
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Alarms and Excursions: Thirty Years in Israel 
by Naomi Shepherd.
Collins, 220 pp., £16, August 1990, 0 00 215333 5
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Birds of Ill Omen 
by Marie Seurat, translated by Dorothy Blair.
Quartet, 168 pp., £10.95, September 1990, 0 7043 2694 9
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... of them, large and handsome: they celebrate the misty greyness and wetness of rural Wales, small, ruined houses in vast, numinous landscapes, properly illustrating some aspects of the author’s moody, rambling text. Alice Thomas Ellis, a Roman Catholic novelist, was brought up in Penmaenmawr, between Conwy and Bangor on the North Wales coast, facing the island of Anglesey. In one of her moods ...

Stifled Truth

Wyatt Mason: Tobias Wolff and fictions of the self

5 February 2004
Old School 
by Tobias Wolff.
Bloomsbury, 195 pp., £12.99, February 2004, 0 7475 6948 7
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... Robert Coover, Guy Davenport, William Gass, Harry Mathews, Paul Metcalf, Gilbert Sorrentino, Ronald Sukenick and Paul West, as well as their heirs, such as T. Coraghessan Boyle, Lydia Davis, Rick Moody, William Vollmann and David Foster Wallace. None of these writers – however popular or influential, however frequently their writing appeared in the Paris Review or Conjunctions or the year-end ...

Ends of the Earth

Jeremy Harding: ‘Mimesis: African Soldier’

6 December 2018
Mimesis: African Soldier 
by John Akomfrah.
Imperial War Museum, until 30 March 2018
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... for their demeanour: ‘big, lusty coal-black devils … whose advent would not be regarded by the Boches as a pleasing omen of more to come of the same sort’.By the turn of the century, as David Olusoga explained in The World’s War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire (2014), Britain had already sorted its Indian subjects into martial races (mostly hardy mountain types from the Punjab and Nepal ...

A New Kind of Being

Jenny Turner: Angela Carter

3 November 2016
The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography 
by Edmund Gordon.
Chatto, 544 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 7011 8755 2
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... Bristol novels that followed it – Several Perceptions (1968), Love (1971) – capture the ugly underside of the 1960s fixation on beautiful young people, the hangers-on and the left-behinds, as David Widgery once put it, ‘who hung on to the myths and … ended up in a mess’. It’s spooky the way Carter describes Honeybuzzard, with his ‘soft, squashy-nosed, full-lipped face’, his ‘new ...

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