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Sad Stories

Adam Begley

5 January 1989
Capote: A Biography 
by Gerald Clarke.
Hamish Hamilton, 632 pp., £16.95, July 1988, 0 241 12549 9
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Jean Stafford: A Biography 
by David Roberts.
Chatto, 494 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7011 3010 5
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... that her biographer can afford to rely exclusively on an intimate narrative of her days, and David Roberts offers little more: his discussion of her novels and stories is limited to summaries and the occasional biographical footnote. He makes no attempt to define the various cultural and intellectual milieux in which she lived: merely to say that ...
1 June 1989
The Well-Known Troublemaker: A Life of Charlotte Charke 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 231 pp., £19.95, November 1988, 0 571 14743 7
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The Ladies: Female Patronage of Restoration Drama 
by David Roberts.
Oxford, 188 pp., £22.50, February 1989, 0 19 811743 4
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The Complete Lover: Eros, Nature and Artifice in the 18th-Century French Novel 
by Angelica Goodden.
Oxford, 329 pp., £32.50, January 1989, 0 19 815820 3
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... yet does so in a jaunty tone that turns somersaults over despair. Such energy is sadly absent from David Roberts’s book The Ladies: Female Patronage of Restoration Drama, though, like Charke, Roberts is more concerned with events behind the scenes and in the auditorium than with those on the stage. Determinedly ...
7 February 1991
Jean Stafford: The Savage Heart 
by Charlotte Margolis Goodman.
Texas, 394 pp., $24.95, May 1990, 0 292 74022 0
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Jean Stafford: A Biography 
by David Roberts.
Chatto, 494 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7011 3010 5
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... American writer deserving revival, but they take very different approaches to her life and work. David Roberts was mesmerised by this ‘enigmatic, thwarted writer’ and sought to unravel her story with the help of Eve Auchincloss, Stafford’s friend and editor, and her 42-year correspondence with ex-lover and friend Robert Hightower. He paints a ...

A Plumless Pudding

John Sutherland: The Great John Murray Archive Disaster

18 March 2004
... has already pledged £6.5m towards the purchase. A campaign to be headed, it’s hoped, by Sir David Attenborough and Scottish worthies is planned to drum up the missing millions. The publicity push, and a barrage of press handouts, are already inspiring such blandly favourable pieces as that of the Guardian arts correspondent and John Murray himself on ...

Ariel the Unlucky

David Gilmour

5 April 1990
Warrior: The Autobiography of Ariel Sharon 
by Ariel Sharon and David Chanoff.
Macdonald, 571 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 356 17960 5
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The Slopes of Lebanon 
by Amos Oz, translated by Maurie Goldberg-Bartura.
Chatto, 246 pp., £13.95, January 1990, 0 7011 3444 5
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From Beirut to Jerusalem 
by Thomas Friedman.
Collins, 541 pp., £15, March 1990, 0 00 215096 4
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Pity the nation: Lebanon at War 
by Robert Fisk.
Deutsch, 622 pp., £17.95, February 1990, 0 233 98516 6
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... Palestine has less connection with the modern world than with the picturesque towns engraved by David Roberts in the 19th century. Old men still talk about their orange groves and their old stone houses in Jaffa, remembering every tree and every stone, and one doesn’t have the heart to tell them that the houses have been bulldozed and the orchards ...

Slipper Protocol

Peter Campbell: The seclusion of women

10 May 2001
Harems of the Mind: Passages of Western Art and Literature 
by Ruth Bernard Yeazell.
Yale, 314 pp., £22.50, October 2000, 0 300 08389 0
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... landscape painters have chosen subjects close to home. Those who decided to go East – like David Roberts and Edward Lear – tend to be of the second rank. Writers, too, grow strong on a diet of familiar material. Harems of the Mind is mostly an account of talent betrayed by ignorance into shallowness or excess; only a few spirits were strong ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The gangster movie

13 December 2007
American Gangster 
directed by Ridley Scott.
November 2007
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... is a parallel to Lucas’s life of denial, and this is the curious double-standard story of Richie Roberts, played by Russell Crowe. In a world where many cops are on the take, and others are at least keeping quiet about what they know, Roberts not only doesn’t steal, he returns to the authorities a haul of a million ...

Lenin Shot at Finland Station

Slavoj Žižek: Counterfactuality and the conservative historian

18 August 2005
What Might Have Been: Imaginary History from 12 Leading Historians 
edited by Andrew Roberts.
Phoenix, 208 pp., £7.99, May 2005, 0 7538 1873 6
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... who allegedly believe in historical determinism. Take this latest instalment, edited by Andrew Roberts, who has himself contributed an essay on the bright prospects that would have faced Russia in the 20th century had Lenin been shot on arriving at the Finland Station. One of Roberts’s arguments in favour of this kind ...
29 March 2017
... who, at 68 with a receding hairline and advancing stomach, no longer much resembled it. A David Low cartoon from 1921 Churchill’s long career makes a history of his portraits a history of British art from Sickert to Gerald Scarfe. This is the premise of Black’s book, which ranges over cartoons and photographs as far as Clarice Cliff’s Art Deco ...
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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... 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, aerospace and real-estate speculation. When John Wayne ...

At the Imperial War Museum

Gaby Wood: Lee Miller

17 December 2015
... never wore the same outfit for more than a few hours. She was also a hypochondriac. Her colleague David Scherman (who took the famous picture of Miller in Hitler’s bathtub) later remembered that ‘you named a disease and Lee would imagine she had it in no time at all.’ Regina Lisso, Town Hall, Leipzig (1945) by Lee Miller. Lee Miller ...

Diary

Sean French: Fortress Wapping

6 March 1986
... Shortly after the Sunday Times’s enforced move into the London Docklands, David Blundy and Jon Swain were strolling towards the new production plant’s heavily-guarded entrance. These two foreign correspondents are used to witnessing military activity (you may remember Swain as a character in Roland Joffe’s movie, The Killing Fields), but they were astonished to see an armoured car with a full complement of Royal Marines apparently patrolling inside the heavily-fortified perimeter fence ...

In Coleridge’s Bed

Ange Mlinko: Dead Poets Road Trip

19 April 2017
Deaths of the Poets 
by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts.
Cape, 414 pp., £14.99, February 2017, 978 0 224 09754 3
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... Why should​ poets’ deaths carry more weight than those of others? David Markson’s litany of deaths, This Is Not a Novel, starts off with a poet’s death (Byron’s) and expands to commemorate, in laconic sentences and judicious fragments, the deaths (sprinkled with quotes and quirks) of novelists, painters, composers, philosophers ...

Uncle Kingsley

Patrick Parrinder

22 March 1990
The folks that live on the hill 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 246 pp., £12.95, March 1990, 0 09 174137 8
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Kingsley Amis: An English Moralist 
by John McDermott.
Macmillan, 270 pp., £27.50, January 1989, 9780333449691
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In the Red Kitchen 
by Michèle Roberts.
Methuen, 148 pp., £11.99, March 1990, 9780413630209
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See Under: Love 
by David Grossman, translated by Betsy Rosenberg.
Cape, 458 pp., £13.95, January 1990, 0 224 02640 2
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... writer. The other two novelists under review are more blatant in this respect, since both Michèle Roberts and David Grossman have written novels which pivot on the sentimental privileging of authorship. ‘I want to tell you my stories. I want to record my life with you. I want to give myself a history,’ insists one of ...

Maggiefication

Peter Clarke

6 July 1995
The Path to Power 
by Margaret Thatcher.
HarperCollins, 656 pp., £24, June 1995, 0 00 255050 4
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... early in life, it might lead anywhere. Look what happened to the daughter of Councillor Alfred Roberts of Grantham. ‘Perhaps the main interest which my father and I shared while I was a girl was a thirst for knowledge about politics and public affairs,’ Baroness Thatcher tells us in The Path to Power, thus confirming the centrality of Councillor (later ...

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