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Ian Hamilton: Schmidt’s List, 4 March 1999

Lives of the Poets 
by Michael Schmidt.
Weidenfeld, 960 pp., £22, October 1998, 0 297 84014 2
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A Critical Difference: T.S. Eliot and John Middleton Murry in English Literary Criticism, 1919-28 
by David Goldie.
Oxford, 232 pp., £35, October 1998, 0 19 812379 5
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... confidence: he is forever shuttling between received opinion (received, mostly, from his hero, Donald Davie), and ill-balanced subjectivity. Admittedly, Johnson himself was unreliable, but with him we are usually more interested in the judge than we are in those he’s judging. Johnson is a companion we want to see more of; he’s crusty and he makes us ...


Mark Ford: Donald Justice, 16 November 2006

Collected Poems 
by Donald Justice.
Anvil, 289 pp., £15, June 2006, 0 85646 386 8
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... Donald Justice, who died in August 2004 at the age of 78, was one of the most subtle and enchanting American poets of his generation. In ‘Variations on a text by Vallejo’, a poem anticipating his own demise, but written some three decades before it, he pictured gravediggers burying him in Miami (his home town): And one of them put his blade into the earth To lift a few clods of dirt, the black marl of Miami, And scattered the dirt, and spat, Turning away abruptly, out of respect ...
The Restraint of Beasts 
by Magnus Mills.
Flamingo, 215 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 00 225720 3
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... of beasts was impossible.’ After McCrindle’s fence has been tightened, the company boss Donald sends the men on a job to a featureless area of Hereford and Worcester. Their days follow a pattern: they put up fences with numbing slowness, stop for cigarette breaks, eat, go to the pub and then retire to their dingy caravan. This procedure is ...

Boeotian Masters

Donald Davie, 5 November 1992

The Paperbark Tree: Selected Prose 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 360 pp., £18.95, September 1992, 0 85635 976 9
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... politically but far more broadly, in the Sixties. And I am not the first to notice that, in the light of such goings on, Pound’s testimony from half a century back shows up rather better than when Murray could confidently dismiss it in 1974. Pound was wrong – yes, we can all think so. But just where was he wrong? That’s a question that none of us ...


Donald Rayfield, 19 July 1984

Dostoevsky. Vol II: The Years of Ordeal 1850-1859 
by Joseph Frank.
Robson, 320 pp., £14.95, April 1984, 0 86051 242 8
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The Village of Stepanchikovo 
by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Ignat Avsey.
Angel, 255 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 946162 06 9
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... sources, including the memoirs of a Polish prisoner in Omsk, Tokarzewski, to shed a little new light, but he, too, has to fall back on the assumption that the House of the Dead in reality and fiction was identical. Dostoevsky’s letters after his release from prison are made to reveal every scrap they contain, so that we get a fuller idea of what induced ...

Other Poems and Other Poets

Donald Davie, 20 September 1984

Notes from New York, and Other Poems 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 64 pp., £4.50, March 1984, 0 19 211959 1
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The Cargo 
by Neil Rennie.
TNR Productions, 27 pp., January 1984
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Collected Poems 1943-1983 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 383 pp., £14.95, April 1984, 0 85635 498 8
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... he thought it was)... should this paradox unsettle us? Hardly: for such dark shadows in such amber light should be familiar to us from as far back as Golden lads and girls all must Like chimney-sweepers come to dust. Still, I’m not sure that other of the England poems earn their golden light of Eden as surely as do the ...

Forms and Inspirations

Vikram Seth, 29 September 1988

... the way poetic form and poetic inspiration work to search each other out. One of these poets was Donald Davie, the other Timothy Steele. Let me talk about Donald first. In the middle of my studies in Economics at Stanford University, I was given the chance to spend a year in the Creative Writing Program in the English ...

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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... delivered scenes of the American berserk. Either way it put me in mind of a passage early in Donald Antrim’s first novel, Elect Mr Robinson for a Better World: I keep seeing Jim’s face, lit red by tail lights, in the long moments before the lines snapped taut, while Bill Nixon tried and retried to start his fume-spewing, out-of-tune Celica. It was ...

South Britain

Rosalind Mitchison, 1 April 1982

The Economic History of Britain since 1700. Vol. 1: 1700-1860 
edited by Roderick Floud and Donald McCloskey.
Cambridge, 323 pp., £25, October 1981, 0 521 23166 3
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The Economic History of Britain since 1700. Vol. II: 1860 to the 1970s 
edited by Roderick Floud and Donald McCloskey.
Cambridge, 485 pp., £30, October 1981, 0 521 23167 1
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... but it is offered as a textbook for students of British Economic History, and gives an interesting light on what courses on British Economic History cover in most English universities. It will certainly be used in Economic History departments, and used heavily. It is intelligently geared to the needs and problems of students. The two volumes carry identical ...

What I Heard about Iraq

Eliot Weinberger: Watch and listen, 3 February 2005

... forces have not been rebuilt.’ On 11 September 2001, six hours after the attacks, I heard that Donald Rumsfeld said that it might be an opportunity to ‘hit’ Iraq. I heard that he said: ‘Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.’ I heard that Condoleezza Rice asked: ‘How do you capitalise on these opportunities?’ I heard that on 17 ...

Looking Up

Donald Davie, 15 July 1982

The Passages of Joy 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 93 pp., £4, June 1982, 0 571 11867 4
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The Occasions of Poetry 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 188 pp., £6.95, June 1982, 0 571 11733 3
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... much more about Hardy’s relations with his first wife, and have reconsidered his poems in that light – this, I’m afraid, is unscholarly. The most scholarly essay in The Occasions of Poetry is also the longest and the best, on Fulke Greville. Here not only is the learning impressive and well marshalled, but the critical intelligence is at full stretch ...


Donald Davie, 7 March 1985

The Letters of Hugh MacDiarmid 
edited by Alan Bold.
Hamish Hamilton, 910 pp., £20, August 1984, 0 241 11220 6
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Between Moon and Moon: Selected Letters of Robert Graves 1946-1972 
edited by Paul O’Prey.
Hutchinson, 323 pp., £14.95, November 1984, 9780091557508
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... timber that stokes the fire is beside the point: what matters is the fire, the heat of it and the light it throws. (Which is not to deny that in the case of poets better than either MacDiarmid or Graves we respect the soundness of the timber that is consumed to fire them.) A name that crops up in both sets of letters is that of John Wain. Wain in 1962 wrote ...

Scots wha hae gone to England

Donald Davie, 9 July 1992

Devolving English Literature 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 320 pp., £35, June 1992, 9780198112983
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Scottish Poetry 
edited by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 424 pp., £17.50, July 1992, 9780571154319
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... turns on how he reacts to this condition, once it is brought home to him. Graham’s attitude is light years away from those who, having discovered duplicities in language, are determined to root them out; or those others who, having discovered the duplicitousness, delightedly aggravate it. The better alternative, Graham profoundly says, is to reconstruct ...


Waldemar Januszczak: Charles Saatchi’s New Museum, 21 March 1985

... and was now clucking around the opening show wondering if perhaps the galvanised iron relief by Donald Judd wouldn’t have looked better over there, where the green lacquered one was. The two things that struck me most forcefully about him were his innocence – he had, after all, agreed to speak to me ‘off the record’ despite all the horrible ...

Davie’s Rap

Neil Corcoran, 25 January 1990

Under Briggflatts: A History of Poetry in Great Britain 1960-1988 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 261 pp., £18.95, October 1989, 0 85635 820 7
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by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 55 pp., £5.95, November 1989, 0 19 282680 8
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Possible Worlds 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 68 pp., £6.95, September 1989, 0 19 282660 3
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The boys who stole the funeral: A Novel Sequence 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 71 pp., £6.95, October 1989, 0 85635 845 2
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... One of the finest things in Donald Davie’s Under Briggflatts is a sustained, learned and densely implicative comparison of two poems about horses: Edwin Muir’s well-known, post-Apocalypse poem ‘The Horses’ and Austin Clarke’s much less familiar ‘Forget me not’, a poem written out of Clarke’s angry response to the Irish trade in horse meat in the 1950s ...

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