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19 October 1995
Bret Harte: Selected Stories and Sketches 
by David Wyatt.
Oxford, 332 pp., £5.99, February 1995, 9780192823540
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... though – to use his own metaphor – he kept ‘grinding out the old tunes on the old organ’. His subsequent career is a seemingly irreversible decline into neglect and oblivion: according to DavidWyatt he no longer makes even a token appearance in standard anthologies of American literature. Mark Twain’s reputation, of course, has rarely been higher. Back in 1866, however, Twain declared ...

Purple Days

Mark Ford

12 May 1994
The Pugilist at Rest 
by Thom Jones.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 571 17134 6
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The Sorrow of War 
by Bao Ninh, translated by Frank Palmos.
Secker, 217 pp., £8.99, January 1994, 0 436 31042 2
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A Good Scent from Strange Mountain 
by Robert Olen Butler.
Minerva, 249 pp., £5.99, November 1993, 0 7493 9767 5
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Out of the Sixties: Storytelling and the Vietnam Generation 
by David Wyatt.
Cambridge, 230 pp., £35, February 1994, 9780521441513
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... attempt at exorcism. ‘This war’s gonna end some day,’ the smell-of-napalm-loving Robert Duvall character in Apocalypse Now mournfully observes; but one sometimes wonders. In Out of the Sixties DavidWyatt argues that Vietnam remains ‘the defining thing, our war, our story’, and he compares it to an iceberg, ‘a mostly submerged history that cruises through our dreams’. Oddly though, he in ...


Jeremy Harding: Syd Barrett

2 January 2003
Madcap: The Half-Life of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd’s Lost Genius 
by Tim Willis.
Short Books, 175 pp., £12.99, October 2002, 1 904095 24 0
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... a Syd Barrett thing, and Syd Barrett was a Cambridge thing, the son of a Cambridge pathologist, Max Barrett, who died of cancer in 1961 – Barrett was nearly 16. (There was Roger Waters, too, and David Gilmour – who’d replace Barrett within moments, almost, of the band’s success. Both were Cambridge boys. Both, Willis tells us, had messed around with paint pots in a late-toddler phase in the ...
10 May 1990
Thomas Starkey and the Commonweal 
by Tom Mayer.
Cambridge, 326 pp., £32.50, April 1989, 0 521 36104 4
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Politics and Literature in the Reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII 
by Alistair Fox.
Blackwell, 317 pp., £35, September 1989, 0 631 13566 9
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The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Portraits at the Court of Henry VIII 
by Retha Warnicke.
Cambridge, 326 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 521 37000 0
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English Travellers Abroad 1604-1667 
by John Stoye.
Yale, 448 pp., £12.95, January 1990, 0 300 04180 2
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... and Lupset, a work whose significance has been more often acknowledged than explored. Fox’s concern is the imaginative literature of the age of John Skelton and Thomas More, and then of Sir Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of Surrey: literature which he believes to have been gravely undervalued, and which he commends not only for its intrinsic pleasures but as a rich historical source. What the most ...

A Very Active Captain

Patrick Collinson: Henricentrism

22 June 2006
The King’s Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church 
by G.W. Bernard.
Yale, 736 pp., £29.95, November 2005, 0 300 10908 3
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Writing under Tyranny: English Literature and the Henrician Reformation 
by Greg Walker.
Oxford, 556 pp., £65, October 2005, 0 19 928333 8
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... or the cast of thousands which was the Pilgrimage of Grace – as those middling public figures who were also important to the history of Tudor literature: John Heywood, Sir Thomas Elyot, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Henry Howard, ‘writers who in one way or another tried to come to terms with the experience of writing under a despotic monarch’. Walker’s strength is that he understands and engages ...

Cod on Ice

Andy Beckett: The BBC

10 July 2003
Panorama: Fifty Years of Pride And Paranoia 
by Richard Lindley.
Politico’s, 404 pp., £18.99, September 2002, 1 902301 80 3
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The Harder Path: The Autobiography 
by John Birt.
Time Warner, 532 pp., £20, October 2002, 0 316 86019 0
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... return, the on-camera journalists were better paid, allowed to broadcast their opinions – against the BBC’s usual conventions of ‘impartial’ news reporting – and treated like stars. Woodrow Wyatt was the first. When he was hired in 1955, he had already been a successful print journalist and a Labour junior minister, and had an opinion of himself to match. To look at, he was well-fed rather ...

Zeitgeist Man

Jenny Diski: Dennis Hopper

22 March 2012
Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel 
by Peter Winkler.
Robson, 376 pp., £18.99, November 2011, 978 1 84954 165 7
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... the Kid), is from start to finish. His plain nastiness in almost all situations, including those that warrant none, is actually a bit of a relief played against Fonda’s beatific and self-righteous Wyatt (think Earp), a.k.a. Captain America. But Billy’s meanness and scariness are startling. It’s possible to argue that it’s what redeems the otherwise self-indulgent film. Billy and Wyatt were ...

Dangerous Play

Mike Selvey

23 May 1985
Gubby Allen: Man of Cricket 
by E.W. Swanton.
Hutchinson, 311 pp., £12.95, April 1985, 0 09 159780 3
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Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack: 1985 
edited by John Woodcock.
Wisden, 1280 pp., £11.95, April 1985, 0 947766 00 6
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... at cover from the rebound. He recalls not appreciating the significance until returning to the dressing-room, where he lapsed into a state of knee-knocking shock. Another Englishman, the Lancastrian David Lloyd, was hit a terrifying blow in the groin by Jeff Thomson. The following summer, I too hit him in the same region. I saw him later, ice packs clasped to his nether regions, and asked after his ...

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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... 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 Best American and Pushcart ...

Don’t like it? You don’t have to play

Wyatt​ Mason: David​ Foster Wallace

18 November 2004
Oblivion: Stories 
by David​ Foster Wallace.
Abacus, 329 pp., £12, July 2004, 0 349 11810 8
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... the United States. Entitled ‘Tense Present: Democracy, English and the Wars over Usage’, its 17,000 words were generated by the celebrated youngish American novelist, journalist and story-writer David Foster Wallace. Although willing to tilt at shiny targets of grammatical contention (the ending of sentences with prepositions etc), Wallace was, for the most part, hunting bigger game: America is ...


Jon Halliday

2 June 1983
In the Service of the Peacock Throne: The Diaries of the Shah’s Last Ambassador to London 
by Parviz Radji.
Hamish Hamilton, 343 pp., £12.50, April 1983, 0 241 10960 4
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... London: the BBC, Amnesty International and the British press. His account of his work is largely taken up with attempts to win them over. Early on in his tenure, Radji lunches with a helpful figure, David Spanier, the Diplomatic Correspondent of the Times. Spanier tells him that there are only ‘about fifteen to twenty people who are the opinion-makers in the British press and suggests I establish ...

La Bolaing

Patrick Collinson: Anne Boleyn

18 November 2004
The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn 
by Eric Ives.
Blackwell, 458 pp., £25, July 2004, 0 631 23479 9
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... likes of Thomas More but the sacred monarch himself who had found his wife to have been a whore. So much Protestant appraisal was muted and cautious: ‘a very wilful woman,’ according to George Wyatt, full of ‘devilish devices’; her life was ‘shameful to rehearse’, William Thomas said, defending the reputation of his recently deceased sovereign Henry VIII to an Italian audience. The story ...
17 February 2011
Full Circle: How the Classical World Came Back to Us 
by Ferdinand Mount.
Simon and Schuster, 438 pp., £20, June 2010, 978 1 84737 798 2
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... In February 1863, the newly founded Roman Bath Company opened its first premises in Jesus Lane, Cambridge. Behind an impressively classical façade, designed by Matthew Digby Wyatt, was a labyrinth of hot and cold rooms, and swimming pools, vaguely reflecting the layout and practice of an ancient Roman bath. Local worthies had invested considerable sums of money in the venture ...

House of Miscegenation

Gilberto Perez: Westerns

18 November 2010
Hollywood Westerns and American Myth 
by Robert Pippin.
Yale, 198 pp., £25, May 2010, 978 0 300 14577 9
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... as ‘natural aristocrats’: even if they are the best people in the film, the best hope for the future, they are still very much of the common people. Stagecoach was the director’s own project. David Selznick wouldn’t take it on as producer because he saw it as ‘just another Western’ with no big stars, and Walter Wanger, the eventual producer, would have wanted Marlene Dietrich and Gary ...

Absolutely Bleedin’ Obvious

Ian Sansom: Will Self

6 July 2006
The Book of Dave 
by Will Self.
Viking, 496 pp., £17.99, June 2006, 0 670 91443 6
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... to Hannibal Hamlin, in Psalm Culture and Early Modern English Literature (2004), English versions and translations of the Book of Psalms, the original book of Dave – supposedly written by King David, the Neim Z’mirot Yisrael (‘the sweet singer of Israel’) – ‘substantially shaped the culture of 16th and 17th-century England, resulting in creative forms as diverse as singing psalters ...

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