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Eels on Cocaine

Emily Witt, 22 April 2021

No One Is Talking about This 
by Patricia Lockwood.
Bloomsbury, 210 pp., £14.99, February, 978 1 5266 2976 0
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... could not go back to being a regular word.’ The language of the portal arouses suspicion: ‘“Don’t normalise it!!!!” we shouted at each other. But all we were normalising was the use of the word normalise.’ It’s not that this posturing is a threat to free speech, but that it’s a distraction, a pseudo-battle for justice that masks a real one ...

What the Public Most Wants to See

Christopher Tayler: Rick Moody, 23 February 2006

The Diviners 
by Rick Moody.
Faber, 567 pp., £12.99, January 2006, 0 571 22946 8
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... arm of American fiction – the tradition of Thomas Pynchon, Robert Coover, William Gaddis and Don DeLillo. That might not sound hard if you think of R&D as a matter of surface effects: pop-cultural references, metafictional gestures, glazed irony and so on. But for Moody (b.1961), as for Jonathan Franzen (b.1959) and David ...

I did not pan out

Christian Lorentzen: Sam Lipsyte, 6 June 2019

by Sam Lipsyte.
Granta, 304 pp., £12.99, March 2019, 978 1 78378 321 2
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... your subject matter is the lives of fatalistic losers. The book takes off from an idea latent in Don DeLillo’s White Noise: a patient receives a death sentence but lacks discernible symptoms; in this case, there is also no discernible cause, no airborne toxic event. The condition, called Goldfarb-Blackstone Preparatory Extinction Syndrome, aka ...

A Magazine of Wisdom

Linda Colley, 4 September 1997

Edmund Burke: A Life in Caricature 
by Nicholas Robinson.
Yale, 214 pp., £30, October 1996, 0 300 06801 8
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The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke. Vol. III: Party, Parliament and the American War 1774-80 
edited by Warren Elofson and John Woods.
Oxford, 713 pp., £75, September 1996, 0 19 822414 1
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Edmund Burke and India: Political Morality and Empire 
by Frederick Whelan.
Pittsburgh, 384 pp., £39.95, December 1996, 0 8229 3927 4
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... through the gaps in his clothes. But more commonly, as in The Political Banditti of 1786, he is Don Quixote tilting at latter-day windmills, rusting armour not quite concealing a bare, exposed foot or stringy buttock. This was partly a reference to Burke’s real economic straits. The payments on his estate at Beaconsfield, a crucial part of his ambition to ...

Enlightenment Erotica

David Nokes, 4 August 1988

Eros Revived: Erotica of the Enlightenment in England and America 
by Peter Wagner.
Secker, 498 pp., £30, March 1988, 0 436 56051 8
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’Tis Nature’s Fault: Unauthorised Sexuality during the Enlightenment 
edited by Robert Purks Maccubin.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 521 34539 1
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The New Eighteenth Century: Theory, Politics, English Literature 
edited by Felicity Nussbaum and Laura Brown.
Methuen, 320 pp., £28, February 1988, 0 416 01631 6
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... faithful to the spirit of his subject-matter. With the single-minded dedication of a Casanova or a Don Giovanni he records several hundred literary encounters of Dick and Fanny, Pego and Pussy, until exhaustiveness gives way to exhaustion. What is most strikingly absent is any sustained attempt at scholarly analysis of the material he presents in such ...

The Iceman Cometh

Ross McKibbin: Tony Adams, 6 January 2000

by Tony Adams and Ian Ridley.
HarperCollins, 384 pp., £6.99, August 1999, 0 00 218795 7
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... worse, he says, ‘by lying to him about my whereabouts and state of fitness’. The luckless Don Howe, who Adams liked and respected, was, he thinks, happier at Wimbledon ‘than dealing with some of the problem players he had at Arsenal’. The most powerful manager during Adams’s time at Arsenal – excluding for the moment Arsène Wenger – was ...

What sort of traitors?

Neal Ascherson, 7 February 1980

The Climate of Treason 
by Andrew Boyle.
Hutchinson, 504 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 9780091393403
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... their lapfuls of wizened beans. There must be a connection here. The British Intelligence services don’t divulge the sort of stuff they gave Boyle out of the kindness of their hearts. Most ‘authoritative’ books about them have rather the status of Palace memoirs by governesses and grooms: as a brass watch for long service, a few veterans of relatively ...

What’s wrong with that man?

Christian Lorentzen: Donald Antrim, 20 November 2014

The Emerald Light in the Air: Stories 
by Donald Antrim.
Granta, 158 pp., £12.99, November 2014, 978 1 84708 649 5
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... invariably linked with a group of US fiction writers around his age that includes the late David Foster Wallace, George Saunders, Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides. There are a few things that set Antrim apart: he’s Southern; his strongest affinity to a writer in the previous generation is to Donald Barthelme, not ...

Only Men in Mind

Susan Pedersen: R.H. Tawney, 21 August 2014

The Life of R.H. Tawney 
by Lawrence Goldman.
Bloomsbury, 411 pp., £65, September 2013, 978 1 78093 704 5
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... appears to have assumed he would get a first and slide effortlessly into the life of an Oxford don. When he didn’t, that future was suddenly closed to him.The result meant that Tawney had to find a job and a different path to achievement. But it also inserted a kind of awkward question, a sort of foundational discomfort, into Tawney’s relationship with ...

Why am I so fucked up?

Christian Lorentzen: 37 Shades of Zadie, 8 November 2012

by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 295 pp., £18.99, August 2012, 978 0 241 14414 5
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... attacks, she responded that the term was ‘painfully accurate’, and mounted a defence of David Foster Wallace and Don DeLillo, as if the prescriptive Englishman posed the already canonised Americans a grave threat. ‘We cannot be all the writers all the time,’ she wrote. ‘We can only be who we are … Writers do not ...

Everything Must Go!

Andrew O’Hagan: American Beauties, 13 December 2001

The Corrections 
by Jonathan Franzen.
Fourth Estate, 568 pp., £17.99, November 2001, 1 84115 672 8
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Ghost World 
directed by Terry Zwigoff.
August 2001
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directed by Todd Solondz.
November 2001
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... essays on the social organisation of Norwegian ships or riffs on the stupidity of the cocktails don’t matter (though it does raise a smile that they have to attend the Sören Kierkegaard Dining-Room). Stylish metaphors are suddenly welcome (a neighbour of Albert’s, an investor, steers his Fairlane ‘into his driveway with one index finger, as if ...

Literary Friction

Jenny Turner: Kathy Acker’s Ashes, 19 October 2017

After Kathy Acker: A Literary Biography 
by Chris Kraus.
Allen Lane, 352 pp., £20, August 2017, 978 1 63590 006 4
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... she said to a friend, ‘we’re good at media images.’ But as she wrote in her picaresque novel Don Quixote, ‘even a woman who has the soul of a pirate … who is a freak in our society, needs a home.’Acker, Kraus thinks, staked her all on a bid to become a ‘Great Writer as Countercultural Hero’, a position no woman had held before her, and I’m ...


Jonathan Raban: I’m for Obama, 20 March 2008

... Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant, The age discovers he is not the true one. Byron, Don Juan For the last few weeks, I’ve left the blue-sheathed national edition of the New York Times out in the yard, where it’s tossed over the gate at 3 a.m. each morning, and gone straight to the paper’s website, because news printed nine or ten hours ...

Say thank you

Clive James: Witty Words in Pretty Mouths, 23 May 2002

Fast-Talking Dames 
by Maria DiBattista.
Yale, 365 pp., £19.95, June 2001, 0 300 08815 9
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... example, was regarded during his busy heyday as only one step up from a Poverty Row director, like Don Siegel in the next generation. Though I hardly realised it at the time – and I was there for every showing – the Howard Hawks retrospective season at the National Film Theatre in the early 1960s was a feat of rediscovery as well as organisation. The ...


James Wolcott: Updike should stay at home, 1 January 2009

The Widows of Eastwick 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 308 pp., £18.99, October 2008, 978 0 241 14427 5
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... collateral damage of those adulterous games of musical beds. In 1997 the phenomenally gifted David Foster Wallace caused a ruckus in the pages of the New York Observer when, between wallops at Updike’s Toward the End of Time (‘a novel so mind-bendingly clunky and self-indulgent that it’s hard to believe the author let it be published in this kind of ...

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