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8 June 1995
Deciphering the Indus Script 
by Asko Parpola.
Cambridge, 374 pp., £60, September 1994, 0 521 43079 8
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The World on Paper 
by David Olson.
Cambridge, 318 pp., £17.95, May 1994, 0 521 44311 3
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... The issue which divided them was real. Tyndale was threatening to unleash a force that might unite society, but which might equally tear it apart. Do we possess writing or does it possess us? DavidOlson’s The World on Paper explores the relationship between thought and writing from a different perspective. Olson is a cognitive scientist, and a brave man. ‘Contrary to writers from Aristotle to ...

Why Not Eat an Eclair?

David​ Runciman: Why Vote?

9 October 2008
Free Riding 
by Richard Tuck.
Harvard, 223 pp., £22.95, June 2008, 978 0 674 02834 0
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... still looks like ‘no’, because the selflessness of one’s motives has no impact on the usefulness of one’s contribution to group activities on this scale. This was a point made by Mancur Olson in 1965 in The Logic of Collective Action, which is often seen as initiating the widespread acceptance of the problem of ‘free riding’ for large group activities, the free rider being the person ...
9 May 1996
John Wayne: American 
by Randy Roberts and James Olson.
Free Press, 738 pp., £17.99, March 1996, 0 02 923837 4
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... John Wayne International Airport; now, so as not to suffer the weatherbeaten fate of the original, the cowboy statue has sought protection from the elements and taken shelter indoors. Florence has David, also transferred from open to inner space; Orange County has John Wayne. Orange County, where unfettered individualism rises from a government-subsidised foundation in mineral wealth, agribusiness ...
11 April 2013
Collected Poems 
by Edward Dorn.
Carcanet, 995 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 1 84777 126 1
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... sharky cultural bureaucrats and strategic prize-givers who fix the syllabus and polyfilla inconvenient holes in sponsored periodicals. The scene was being set for the arrival in Colchester of Charles Olson, last rector of the now collapsed and dispersed Black Mountain College, theorist and psychopomp of ‘Projective Verse’ and open-field poetics, author of the great post-Poundian epic The Maximus ...

Enlarging Insularity

Patrick McGuinness: Donald Davie

20 January 2000
With the Grain: Essays on Thomas Hardy and Modern British Poetry 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 346 pp., £14.95, October 1998, 1 85754 394 7
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... its entirety, along with a number of essays, directly or obliquely related, spanning almost forty years: on Basil Bunting, Charles Tomlinson, Ted Hughes, Robert Graves, Hugh MacDiarmid, J.M. Synge, David Jones, George Steiner, Geoffrey Hill, Elizabeth Daryush and the fraternity of poets anthologised by Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville in A Various Art. It also includes a number of Davie’s poems. If ...

Going Electric

Patrick McGuinness: J.H. Prynne

7 September 2000
Poems 
by J.H. Prynne.
Bloodaxe/Folio/Fremantle Arts Centre, 440 pp., £25, March 2000, 1 85224 491 7
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Pearls that Were 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 28 pp., £4, March 1999, 1 900968 95 9
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Triodes 
by J.H. Prynne.
Barque, 42 pp., £4, December 1999, 9781903488010
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Other: British and Irish Poetry since 1970 
edited by Richard Caddel and Peter Quartermain.
Wesleyan, 280 pp., $45, March 1999, 0 8195 2241 4
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... has never republished it) rather than a first collection. It is Prynne’s most recognisably ‘traditional’ book and enables us to identify two important early influences: Donald Davie and Charles Olson. The rest of his work has appeared from small presses and in little magazines. It has been regular and prolific: more than two dozen books or pamphlets to date, of which two – Pearls that Were and ...
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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...   Shall float to Heaven – to Hardy’s ‘rather monotonously small follower Philip Larkin’, etc? If he despises William Carlos Williams, Dylan Thomas, Gertrude Stein, Robert Lowell, Charles Olson, Edith Sitwell, Augustus John and Ted Hughes, what’s the merit of vulgarity and spleen? Many trees have been cut down to make the paper on which Grigson has spewed his contempt for teachers ...

Vindicated!

David​ Edgar: The Angry Brigade

16 December 2004
The Angry Brigade: The Cause and the Case 
by Gordon Carr.
ChristieBooks, 168 pp., £34, July 2003, 1 873976 21 6
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Granny Made Me an Anarchist 
by Stuart Christie.
Scribner, 423 pp., £10.99, September 2004, 0 7432 5918 1
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... died in a Los Angeles police shoot-out in May 1974, and a further three (including Hearst) were arrested 14 months later. Escaping arrest, Soliah had gone underground, changed her name to Sara Jane Olson and built a new life for herself as the wife of a suburban doctor. In December 2001, she was sentenced to five years and four months’ imprisonment (later extended to 14 years) for attempting to ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945

1 April 1999
The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... especially of poets who challenge received opinions, particularly about the Forties and Fifties. We won’t find, for instance, Burns Singer, one of the most original poets of the Fifties, or David Wright and John Heath-Stubbs. All three were friends of Graham, and their inclusion might have helped the Forties and Fifties out of their New Apocalypse v. Movement stand-off. Hamish Henderson ...

Is R2-D2 a person?

Galen Strawson

17 June 2015
Staying Alive: Personal Identity, Practical Concerns and the Unity of a Life 
by Marya Schechtman.
Oxford, 214 pp., £35, March 2014, 978 0 19 968487 8
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... same national insurance number, same DNA). This is enough for the passport office, HMRC and those philosophers of personal identity who are called ‘animalists’ (notably Paul Snowdon and Eric Olson). But the concept of a person contains pressures that push us to say different things. We have for example to consider diseases that radically alter personality. People have divorced on the grounds ...

Death (and Life) of the Author

Peter Wollen: Kathy Acker

5 February 1998
... once for structure, and so on. Writing and reading became as confused and mixed up as sense and nonsense, male and female, self and other, the sexual and the political. Writing about Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath , Kathy Acker commented on its nihilism, as she saw it: ‘The sexual is the political realm. There is no engagement.’ Barbara Kruger paid outrageous homage to Acker by ...

Callaloo

Robert Crawford

20 April 1989
Northlight 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 81 pp., £8.95, September 1988, 0 571 15229 5
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A Field of Vision 
by Charles Causley.
Macmillan, 68 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 333 48229 8
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Seeker, Reaper 
by George Campbell Hay and Archie MacAlister.
Saltire Society, 30 pp., £15, September 1988, 0 85411 041 0
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In Through the Head 
by William McIlvanney.
Mainstream, 192 pp., £9.95, September 1988, 1 85158 169 3
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The New British Poetry 
edited by Gillian Allnutt, Fred D’Aguiar, Ken Edwards and Eric Mottram.
Paladin, 361 pp., £6.95, September 1988, 0 586 08765 6
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Complete Poems 
by Martin Bell, edited by Peter Porter.
Bloodaxe, 240 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 1 85224 043 1
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First and Always: Poems for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital 
edited by Lawrence Sail.
Faber, 69 pp., £5.95, October 1988, 0 571 55374 5
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Birthmarks 
by Mick Imlah.
Chatto, 61 pp., £4.95, September 1988, 0 7011 3358 9
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... on the journey of a great writer’. Not the sort of language you should get away with at home. People who write poetry of home are often aware of its dangers though they may not always avoid them. David Dabydeen’s ‘Coolie Odyssey’, dedicated ‘for Ma’, and included in Section One of the four-part ‘alternative’ anthology, The New British Poetry, opens: Now that peasantry is in vogue ...

Omdamniverous

Ian Sansom: D.J. Enright

25 September 2003
Injury Time: A Memoir 
by D.J. Enright.
Pimlico, 183 pp., £12.50, May 2003, 9781844133154
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... desk, and at the centre of Injury Time, are other people’s writings, which are what seem always to have amused him and stimulated him, and made him want to write in the first place. Charles Olson once wrote of Melville that ‘he read to write,’ which is a profound tribute: it’s certainly better than writing to be read. One of the reasons we enjoy reading Enright is because we want to ...

The Coat in Question

Iain Sinclair: Margate

20 March 2003
All the Devils Are Here 
by David​ Seabrook.
Granta, 192 pp., £7.99, March 2003, 9781862075597
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... Yet the dream he describes is a traveller’s nightmare: Englishness lost, identity cancelled, fatal infection,’ David Seabrook writes of Thomas De Quincey. Of himself, the dole-queue De Quincey, making a high-velocity, long-term progress through the Isle of Thanet. More speed, less haste: Seabrook is a master of the ...

I have nothing to say and I am saying it

Philip Clark: John Cage’s Diary

15 December 2016
The Selected Letters of John Cage 
edited by Laura Kuhn.
Wesleyan, 618 pp., £30, January 2016, 978 0 8195 7591 3
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Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse) 
by John Cage, edited by Richard Kraft and Joe Biel.
Siglio, 176 pp., £26, October 2015, 978 1 938221 10 1
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... I am without news of music, and you know I love music with all my heart.’ He went to considerable efforts to organise the American premiere of Boulez’s Second Sonata – performed by the pianist David Tudor, who would premiere 4’33” – but relations between the two composers began to deteriorate as Cage’s obsession with using chance in composition proved incompatible with Boulez’s ...

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