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In a Dry Place

Nicolas Tredell

11 October 1990
On the Look-Out: A Partial Autobiography 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 234 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 85635 758 8
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In Two Minds: Guesses at Other Writers 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 296 pp., £18.95, September 1990, 0 85635 877 0
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... he takes to the streets: his ‘natural tropism’ is ‘towards the second-hand bookshops of the Charing Cross Road’. Occasionally, the day’s work done, he goes to pubs and meets poets: DavidWright, ‘a literary instrument of precision’, and a long-time friend and supporter; Patrick Kavanagh, who was to be approached ‘with a large whisky in one’s outstretched hand’; George Barker ...

One word says to its mate

Claire Harman: W.S. Graham

4 October 2001
The Nightfisherman: Selected Letters of W.S. Graham 
edited by Michael Snow and Margaret Snow.
Carcanet, 401 pp., £12.95, November 1999, 1 85754 445 5
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... in 1939, but failed his Army medical anyway and was sent to work in a Clydeside torpedo factory. He wrote The Seven Journeys at this time (it wasn’t published until 1944) and made friends with David Archer, the publisher and bookseller whose Scott Street Arts Centre in Glasgow was a venue for the avant-garde of the interwar years. Graham met Dylan Thomas there, who was sufficiently impressed to ...
8 May 1997
From Idiocy to Mental Deficiency: Historical Perspectives on People with Learning Disabilities 
edited by David Wright and Anne Digby.
Routledge, 238 pp., £45, October 1996, 9780415112154
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... It is easy to conjure up landscapes of the past peopled by holy fools, and to suppose that medieval times were full of simpleton jesters, and boy bishops leading rites of inversion and showing how all sinners were equal in God’s eyes. It is equally easy to imagine a subsequent darkening of the plain – the old Christian reverence for simplicity yielding to the carceral project of modernity, Foucault’s ...

Tomboy Grudge

Claire Harman

27 February 1992
Rose Macaulay: A Writer’s Life 
by Jane Emery.
Murray, 381 pp., £25, June 1991, 0 7195 4768 7
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... old lady, but anyone who suspected that she had had her day may have their suspicions confirmed by this book. The ‘mélange of toughness, independence, enterprise, courage and good humour’ which DavidWright admired when he met Macaulay in the Fifties, reads like an uncorroborated report, and, ironically, the most lasting image is Wright’s description of an unattended bicycle, a familiar sight ...

Signing

Ian Hacking

5 April 1990
Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf 
by Oliver Sacks.
Picador, 186 pp., £12.95, January 1990, 0 330 31161 1
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When the mind hears: A History of the Deaf 
by Harlan Lane.
Penguin, 537 pp., £6.99, August 1988, 0 14 022834 9
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Deafness: A Personal Account 
by David Wright.
Faber, 202 pp., £4.99, January 1990, 0 571 14195 1
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... to talk among themselves will inbreed ...) but also confusion and deceit. For oralism – speaking and lip-reading – is not obviously a bad mode of education for those not deaf at birth. The poet DavidWright, deaf from scarlet fever at the age of seven, tells, in Deafness: A Personal Account, how glad he is to have been at that kind of school. The people on whom oralism worked had some experience ...

What’s Happening in the Engine-Room

Penelope Fitzgerald: Poor John Lehmann

7 January 1999
John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure 
by Adrian Wright.
Duckworth, 308 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 7156 2871 2
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... like his father, the sheltered child who doesn’t need to know the time or even the season because James, the always reliable butler, deals with that, the illusion of a dedication to poetry. Adrian Wright, in this new biography, refers several times to Lehmann’s half-commitment (in spite of his energy) to the professional life he chose. Fieldhead was the magic enclosure to which, as an adult, he ...

Downland Maniacs

Michael Mason

5 October 1995
The Village that Died for England 
by Patrick Wright.
Cape, 420 pp., £17.99, March 1995, 0 224 03886 9
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... callousness about it, then wisdom dawned, in isolated heroic acts such as Silent Spring, and now we are blessedly enlightened, like South Sea cannibal islanders converted to Christianity. Patrick Wright’s new book is all about not being triumphalist, or taking any simple view on the history of attitudes to human use of the natural world. This sounds like an implausibly large endeavour for a book ...

Wilsonia

Paul Foot

2 March 1989
The Wilson Plot: The Intelligence Services and the Discrediting of a Prime Minister 
by David​ Leigh.
Heinemann, 271 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 434 41340 2
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A Price too High 
by Peter Rawlinson.
Weidenfeld, 284 pp., £16, March 1989, 0 297 79431 0
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... unrewarded. My own voyage had taken me from the Wigan Alps to Bulgarian export/import statistics but had produced not a glimpse of Wilsonia. Many years later, inspired by the Spycatcher revelations, David Leigh of the Observer has set out on the journey once more. There is no one better qualified. All through the awful Eighties David Leigh has kept the flag of investigative journalism fluttering high ...

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 DavidWright 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, whose 1948 ...
9 September 2015
The Wright​ Brothers 
by David​ McCullough.
Thorndike, 585 pp., £22, May 2015, 978 1 4104 7875 7
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Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Is Shaping Our Future 
by Ashlee Vance.
Virgin, 400 pp., £20, May 2015, 978 0 7535 5562 0
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... Some stories​ are so well known in outline that we don’t really know them at all. The headline news about the Wright brothers’ invention of powered flight is so familiar that it’s easy to think we know all about it. David McCullough’s excellent biography The Wright Brothers brings the story back to life with ...
20 May 2004
The Jesuits: Missions, Myths and Histories 
by Jonathan Wright.
HarperCollins, 334 pp., £20, February 2004, 0 00 257180 3
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... might be unfair and destructive (or it might not). But it does seem to evoke something about Jesuits and not simply about members of religious orders: Benedictines do not seem to suffer from it. David Knowles wrote a history of the monks and friars in medieval England that was instantly recognised as a masterpiece, but I can’t quite see a Jesuit pulling off something similar – though on a ...

Crossed Palettes

Ronald Paulson

4 November 1993
Painting for Money: The Visual Arts and the Public Sphere in 18th-Century England 
by David​ Solkin.
Yale, 312 pp., £40, July 1993, 0 300 05741 5
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... precepts, often slavishly but sometimes imaginatively (Reynolds, Wilson, Barry and West), and those whose paintings were, in important ways, anti-academic, or ‘English’: Hogarth himself, Zoffany, Wright of Derby, Stubbs, Gainsborough, Rowlandson and Blake. The second group all shared something of Hogarth’s anti-authoritarian scepticism. Turner acknowledged his allegiance to it when he donated ...

Upstaging

Paul Driver

19 August 1993
Shining Brow 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 86 pp., £5.99, February 1993, 0 571 16789 6
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... who lives in America, as Auden did, has written a libretto for a composer of whom I confess I haven’heard. He is Daron Aric Hagen, and Shining Brow is an opera about the early life of Frank Lloyd Wright, commissioned by Madison Opera, Wisconsin, Wright’s home state. The work was premièred there in April, but not having heard it, I cannot speak for the opera’s music. That, though, would not ...

What did they name the dog?

Wendy Doniger: Twins

19 March 1998
Twins: Genes, Environment and the Mystery of Identity 
by Lawrence Wright.
Weidenfeld, 128 pp., £14.99, November 1997, 0 297 81976 3
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... The Prince and the Pauper, The Prisoner of Zenda), race (Puddn’head Wilson) or even species (Herakles and Iphikles, the immortal and mortal infant twins born of Zeus and Amphitryon). Lawrence Wright grounds what he calls ‘this widespread fantasy’ in other peoples’ studies of separated identical twins: Babies actually do get lost or separated, and, however rare such an event may be, when a ...
18 April 1996
Foreign Country: The Life of L.P. Hartley 
by Adrian Wright.
Deutsch, 304 pp., £17.99, March 1996, 0 233 98976 5
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... reproved his friends for comparing him with Other People. It is fatal to this kind of art to be standardised critically in terms of other people and their conventional problems. To assert, as Adrian Wright continually does, that familiar traumas and ‘terrible truths’ lie under it collapses art into convention, and indeed into banality. Shorn of the disguise that is itself, the allurements and the ...

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