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Emily v. Mabel

Susan Eilenberg: Emily Dickinson

30 June 2011
Lives like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Virago, 491 pp., £9.99, April 2011, 978 1 84408 453 1
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Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 535 pp., £25.95, September 2010, 978 0 674 04867 6
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... enjoyed riddles, apparently enjoyed being one.’ But was she a riddle that wanted to be solved? Did she want readerly guests? Helen Vendler’s Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries and Lyndall Gordon’s Lives like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds take different positions on this question. In the more ambitious and freewheeling of the two studies, Gordon treats not only ...

Triumph of the Termites

Tom Nairn: Gordon​ Brown

8 April 2010
The End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New Labour 
by Andrew Rawnsley.
Viking, 802 pp., £25, March 2010, 978 0 670 91851 5
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What Went Wrong, Gordon​ Brown?: How the Dream Job Turned Sour 
edited by Colin Hughes.
Guardian, 294 pp., £8.99, January 2010, 978 0 85265 219 0
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Broonland: The Last Days of Gordon​ Brown 
by Christopher Harvie.
Verso, 206 pp., £8.99, February 2010, 978 1 84467 439 8
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... Much of the tale is conveyed by the covers. A sad, thoughtfully dithering photo of the prime minister fronts What Went Wrong, Gordon Brown? The cover of Christopher Harvie’s book features a cartoon from the Independent: an apocalyptic lightning flash strikes and anoints David Cameron, while Brown and Alistair Darling flee London ...

A Bit of Ginger

Theo Tait: Gordon​ Burn

5 June 2008
Born Yesterday: The News as a Novel 
by Gordon​ Burn.
Faber, 214 pp., £15.99, April 2008, 978 0 571 19729 3
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... Gordon Burn’s work takes place at a point where fact and fiction, public events and private lives, fame and death all meet. He began his career as a proponent of the non-fiction novel pioneered by Truman ...
26 January 1995
Ezra Pound and James Laughlin: Selected Letters 
edited by David Gordon.
Norton, 313 pp., £23, June 1994, 0 393 03540 9
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‘Agenda’: An Anthology. The First Four Decades 
edited by William Cookson.
Carcanet, 418 pp., £25, May 1994, 1 85754 069 7
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... when the rock was broken out hopped marse toad live and chipper after 3000 or whatever years inclaustration. For anyone who prefers to concentrate solely on the negative side of the Pound ledger DavidGordon’s selection inevitably offers material. Pound’s tone with those who were trying to help him was often rude and ungrateful, even when his situation was desperate. you punks NEVER connect ...

Mr Straight and Mr Good

Paul Foot: Gordon​ Brown

19 February 1998
Gordon​ Brown: The Biography 
by Paul Routledge.
Simon and Schuster, 358 pp., £17.99, February 1998, 0 684 81954 6
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... shines from afar.’ Judging from this hagiography, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must be very unhappy. The guiding star of his youth has entirely vanished from his firmament. In 1975 the young Gordon Brown compiled, edited and published a socialist manifesto entitled Red Paper for Scotland. At 24, he had just completed a three-year term as rector of Edinburgh University and chaired the University ...

Preacher on a Tank

David​ Runciman: Blair Drills Down

7 October 2010
A Journey 
by Tony Blair.
Hutchinson, 718 pp., £25, September 2010, 978 0 09 192555 0
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... possibly help. But it is also hard to avoid the thought that Blair is himself shirking the real question. He faced two serious and determined enemies during his time in Downing Street: al-Qaida and Gordon Brown. One, he concluded, represented a force so strong and rooted that it had to be uprooted and destroyed, since confrontation was inevitable; the only question was when and how. The other had to ...

Dying Falls

John Lanchester

23 July 1987
Temporary Shelter 
by Mary Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 231 pp., £11.95, July 1987, 0 7475 0006 1
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Bluebeard’s Egg 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 287 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 224 02245 8
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The Native 
by David​ Plante.
Chatto, 122 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 7011 3247 7
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The March of the Long Shadows 
by Norman Lewis.
Secker, 232 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 436 24620 1
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... that Terry Eagleton has called a ‘pulled punch’. The pulled punch – the resonant and suggestive dying fall – is a common enough ending in short fiction too, and it’s exactly the ending Mary Gordon consistently avoids in her new collection of stories, which end with a single note rather than with a cadence, with the pressing-through of an emotion or a theme rather than with an ironic withdrawal ...

Brown and Friends

David​ Runciman

3 January 2008
... Gordon Brown, like all prime ministers, like all politicians, like all of us really, is over-reliant on the advice of a small group of people he thinks he can trust. In Brown’s case, these tend to be men ...

Diary

Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows

7 October 1993
... Valentine Cunningham and he had been invited to the party because I’d quoted in my memoir a remark of his, in the TLS, about a subsequent book of mine: ‘There is even a case to be made for Giles Gordon being the only true inheritor of the late B.S. Johnson’s mantle as one of the serious Anglicises of French modes.’ Heady stuff. No British reviewer or critic would write like that now. Many ...

Look…

David​ Runciman: How the coalition was formed

16 December 2010
22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition 
by David​ Laws.
Biteback, 335 pp., £9.99, November 2010, 978 1 84954 080 3
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... because she had much more reason to be frightened of the voters. And luckily, being politicians (and Australians), they seem to have been unembarrassable. Yet that’s not how it worked over here. David Laws’s 22 Days in May, which recounts the negotiations that preceded the formation of the coalition government from the inside, explains how it happened that in our case the winners actually ended ...
22 November 1990
Leonard Bernstein 
by Joan Peyser.
Bantam, 430 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 593 01454 5
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Leonard Bernstein 
by Michael Freedland.
Harrap, 273 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 245 54499 2
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Leonard Bernstein 
by Peter Gradenwitz.
Berg, 310 pp., £15, October 1987, 0 85496 510 6
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Make the music: The Life and Work of Marc Blitzstein 
by Eric Gordon.
St Martin’s, 605 pp., $29.95, March 1989, 0 312 02607 2
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... to expect to become the music director of a major symphony orchestra reveals an important aspect of Bernstein’s personality.’ Among the names in Peyser’s list of acknowledgments is that of Eric Gordon, the author of a substantial critical biography of Blitzstein which was published last year, under the Shakespearean title Mark the music. Not surprisingly, Gordon’s view of Bernstein’s ...

Diary

Chris Mullin: A report from Westminster

25 June 2009
... parliamentary party. The chairman, Tony Lloyd, opened with a little pep talk, remarking that there was ‘a duty on us collectively not to give into despair’. (Yes, that’s how bad it is.) Then Gordon, eyes half-closed with fatigue, spoke. This was Gordon like I’ve never seen him before. He spoke with real passion. As good as Blair at his best, coming out fighting. He sat down to a thunderous ...

Exit Humbug

David​ Edgar: Theatrical Families

1 January 2009
A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and Their Remarkable Families 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 620 pp., £25, September 2008, 978 0 7011 7987 8
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... Harry Irving were both actors (the former was a playwright as well). Terry’s daughter, Edith (Edy) Craig, had a career as a designer, director and producer of feminist plays; her brother, Edward Gordon Craig, acted with Irving, but became disillusioned with the English theatre and, like other maverick theatre visionaries since, moved to the Continent, where his (rare) productions and extensive ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Climate Change

5 April 2007
... Since the LRB went to press with the last issue, climate change has made one of its periodic appearances in the headlines, with David Cameron and Gordon Brown each making announcements about what he will do when in office. This amounts to a green beauty contest, with the public in the position of the pen-sucking judges. Cameron first. The Tory leader ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: David​ Davis v. Miss Great Britain

3 July 2008
... When David Davis, the shadow home secretary, announced his resignation as an MP on 12 June – in order to fight a by-election for his own seat on an issue about which he was in total agreement with his party ...

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