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Neurotic Health

Michael Shepherd, 17 December 1981

Becoming Psychiatrists 
by Donald Light.
Norton, 429 pp., £10.95, June 1981, 0 393 01168 2
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... them the departments of psychiatry in the medical schools. How this was effected is the subject of Donald Light’s book. Light is a medical sociologist who sets out to examine ‘what kinds of people choose to become psychiatrists, how their training experience alters their sense of illness, treatment and ...

For Ivor Gurney

Donald Davie, 3 March 1983

... thing standing (Red block of power, St Albans, Or Tewkesbury by Severn), Mask above meadows in Light that promised rain. A promising composer Stares at the stony mask And cannot pierce it. What Service is there like The making of a great Thing in stone? he asks, And aches with promise of Mask after mask, and veil On drifting veil of rain, And no reward for ...

Donald Duck gets a cuffing

J. Hoberman: Disney, Benjamin, Adorno, 24 July 2003

Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant-Garde 
by Esther Leslie.
Verso, 344 pp., £20, August 2002, 1 85984 612 2
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... been successfully co-opted and had perhaps always been a mixed blessing: ‘What surfaces in the light of the latest Disney films is actually already present in some older ones: the tendency to locate bestiality and violence quite comfortably as accompaniments of existence. This calls on an older and no less terrifying tradition; it was introduced by the ...

Bloom’s Bible

Donald Davie, 13 June 1991

The Book of J 
translated by David Rosenberg, interpreted by Harold Bloom.
Faber, 286 pp., £14.99, April 1991, 0 571 16111 1
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... by offering an alternative translation. It’s hard to explain this except as reflecting our light-mindedness about translation in general: our conviction that translation even at its best never attains to the status of imaginative re-creation. Translation, we think, is always a second-order activity; and accordingly it can be, even at its most ...

Old America

W.C. Spengemann, 7 January 1988

Look homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe 
by David Herbert Donald.
Bloomsbury, 579 pp., £16.95, April 1987, 0 7475 0004 5
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From this moment on: America in 1940 
by Jeffrey Hart.
Crown, 352 pp., $19.95, February 1987, 9780517557419
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... country through study and then begin to remember it as their own birthplace. Others, like David Donald and Jeffrey Hart, remember it first and then study it up in order to flesh out their memories with circumstantial detail. In either case, historiography is given the task that Wordsworth assigned to poetry: to reconcile the seemingly unrelated worlds of ...

Four Poems

Donald Davie, 21 March 1985

... no, what is it? mulberry? – bower at combe’s bottom, your Brook Cottage where the light sleeps so evenly in silence one would not say even in summer’s heat it pulses ... there you entertained George Oppen, along with Mary who survives him; of whom, and just there, you and I have talked not without malice while George Oppen lived. That we ...


Donald Davie, 2 February 1984

A World of Difference 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.95, June 1983, 0 7011 2693 0
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... he never lost touch with sensuous perception. In ‘Nude in a Fountain’ we read: Light perches, preening, on the handle of a pram And gasps on paths and runs along a rail And whitely, brightly in a soft diffusion Veils and unveils the naked figure, pale As marble in her stone and stilled confusion. In such lines, where the abstraction ...

Just how fast?

Donald MacKenzie: High-Frequency Trading, 7 March 2019

... second): sixty times faster than it was in 2011. In a nanosecond, the fastest possible signal – light in free space – travels just thirty centimetres, or roughly a foot. That’s the fundamental physical limit now shaping what we might call the infrastructure of financial capitalism. HFT’s closeness to that limit creates a situation in which the process ...

Lawful Charm

Donald Davie, 6 July 1995

Selected Poems 
by William Barnes, edited by Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 171 pp., £6.99, May 1994, 0 14 042379 6
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Selected Poems 
by William Barnes, read by Alan Chedzoy.
Canto, £6.99
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... but it’s certainly a possibility. What’s more, our own situation in 1995 surely throws some light. We’ve got used to seeing poems written in, or drawing on, Caribbean ‘rap’ as well as Scouse or South London vernacular, and so on. Are these ‘dialect-poetry’? Not as Barnes understood the matter. For him a dialect was something ...


Kathleen Jamie: Gannets, Whaups, Skuas, 7 August 2003

... have the beach to myself. When the head was at last free, I rolled the body with my foot. It was light and dense at once, still with much of its plumage, but the white breast was dirty and the black-tipped wings bedraggled. No doubt it was an Ailsa Craig gannet, because it was washed up on the shore on Arran. I left the body among the dried wrack and ...

In praise of manly piety

Margaret Anne Doody, 9 June 1994

The 18th-Century Hymn in England 
by Donald Davie.
Cambridge, 167 pp., £27.95, October 1993, 0 521 38168 1
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... Donald Davie is already known for – among many other things – his striking comments on the hymns of Watts and Wesley in A Gathered Church: The Literature of the English Dissenting Interest 1700-1930 (1978). Now he has devoted an entire book to the hymn in 18th-century England – or rather, as the title indicates, he is trying to define a specific genre or set of modes and tones that constitute ‘the 18th-century hymn ...

Where mine is at

Gordon Burn, 28 May 1992

Outerbridge Reach 
by Robert Stone.
Deutsch, 409 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 223 98774 3
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... A Flag for Sunrise (1981) tackles United States adventurism in Central America. Children of Light (1986) is about the dream factories of Hollywood. Perhaps what makes Stone ineligible for inclusion in the Wolfe canon is that, while his novels have the sheen of social realism, they are not ‘realistic’ in the sense of being the products of a steady ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Dissed, 2 June 2005

... with cans of spray paint. Cycling home from work one evening a few months ago, I stopped at a red light. A group of teenagers, some wearing hoodies, some with bikes, were hanging around on the corner. One of them turned, and looked me up and down. I nervously prepared to flee through the red light, even if it meant ...

At the Hayward

Peter Campbell: Dan Flavin, 23 February 2006

... units, each mounted with four fluorescent tubes. They form a glowing, waist-high wall of green light which blocks the way to the ramp leading to the upper level. Objects shown in this foyer, despite its considerable size, tend not to seem part of the rest of an exhibition. The ramp draws you on and you pass quickly (often too quickly) to what comes ...

Men at forty

Derek Mahon, 21 August 1980

Selected Poems 
by Donald Justice.
Anvil, 137 pp., £3.50, May 1980, 0 85646 058 3
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by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 80 pp., £2.95, April 1980, 0 85635 332 9
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... The first poem by Donald Justice I ever read was the much anthologised sestina, ‘Here in Katmandu’: We have climbed the mountain, There’s nothing more to do ... It seemed to me then, and seems to me now, a beautiful and mysterious object, resonant and yet resistant to paraphrase. It might be said that it is a poem of regret for the death of idealism, a poem about coming to terms with quotidian reality, and, therefore, in some sense about ‘the way we live now ...

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