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Petting Cafés!

E.S. Turner: Wartime spivs and dodgers, 4 December 2003

An Underworld at War: Spivs, Deserters, Racketeers and Civilians in the Second World War 
by Donald Thomas.
Murray, 429 pp., £20, July 2003, 0 7195 5732 1
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... regulation or other, consciously or otherwise, or taking advantage of an illegality by others. Donald Thomas’s book reminds a reader that had he been a retired colonel living in Brighton in 1942, and invited an actress from London down for the weekend, he could have been smartly fined and threatened with imprisonment next time. The reason? The ...


Donald Davie, 5 May 1983

Later Poems 
by R.S. Thomas.
Macmillan, 224 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 333 34560 6
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Thomas Hardy Annual, No 1 
edited by Norman Page.
Macmillan, 205 pp., £20, March 1983, 0 333 32022 0
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Tess of the d’Urbervilles 
by Thomas Hardy, edited by Juliet Grindle and Simon Gatrell.
Oxford, 636 pp., £50, March 1983, 0 19 812495 3
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Hardy’s Love Poems 
by Thomas Hardy, edited by Carl Weber.
Macmillan, 253 pp., £3.95, February 1983, 0 333 34798 6
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The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy. Vol. I: Wessex Poems, Poems of the Past and the Present, Time’s Laughingstocks 
edited by Samuel Hynes.
Oxford, 403 pp., £19.50, February 1983, 0 19 812708 1
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... At the end of a recent and refreshingly untypical poem R.S. Thomas, recalling his sea-captain father, addresses him where he lies in his grave:               And I, can I accept your voyages are done; that there is no tide high enough to float you off this mean shoal of plastic and trash? We have heard something like this before, in more reverberant metre: But thrown upon this filthy modern tide And by its formless spawning fury wrecked ...

Just a smack at Grigson

Denis Donoghue, 7 March 1985

Montaigne’s Tower, and Other Poems 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 72 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 436 18806 6
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Collected Poems: 1963-1980 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 557 3
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The Faber Book of Reflective Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Faber, 238 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 571 13299 5
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 279 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 558 1
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 9780850315592
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Before the Romantics: An Anthology of the Enlightenment 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Salamander, 349 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 907540 59 7
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... and rancour. There is evidence that he enjoys walking, curlews, turtledoves, bullfinches, owls, Thomas Moore’s ‘Thee, Thee, Only Thee’ and much that France still offers. There are writers he likes, most of them dead: Ronsard, John Clare, William Barnes (‘love of whose poems seems to me a litmus paper of the genuine’), Auden (‘the greatest of my ...

Donald Davie and the English

Christopher Ricks, 22 May 1980

Trying to Explain 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 213 pp., £6.95, April 1980, 0 85635 343 4
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... fact of being everywhere a foreigner was probably an assistance to his native wit.’ And Donald Davie, who everywhere has his native wits about him, has he profited much from living abroad? In half-praise of George Steiner, Davie floats ‘a tradition of high-flying speculation about literature, which we costive islanders cannot afford not to profit ...

Prize Poems

Donald Davie, 1 July 1982

Arvon Foundation Poetry Competion: 1980 Anthology 
by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.
Kilnhurst Publishing Company, 173 pp., £3, April 1982, 9780950807805
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Burn this 
by Tom Disch.
Hutchinson, 63 pp., £7.50, April 1982, 0 09 146960 0
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... and John Whitworth; from Aidan Carl Mathews (another besides ‘Severances’); from Thomas Shapcott (who may be Australian – we aren’t told) and from Peter Bland (probably, by the same token, a New Zealander); and from U. A. Fanthorpe (two). One of the Fanthorpe poems gets, reasonably enough, the third prize of £500, Bland gets ...

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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... nostalgia need not imply a desire simply to flee the bewildering present, to go back home, as Thomas Wolfe put it, ‘to the escapes of Time and Memory’: the historian’s purpose in going home is to recover something left there, some knowledge or power or psychic condition which, brought back to the present, can help us all to feel more at home in this ...

Must Do Better

Donald MacKenzie: Why isn’t banking cheaper?, 5 May 2016

... without fanfare. As yet, few have picked up on an analysis by the New York University economist Thomas Philippon of the history of the unit cost of financial intermediation. The unit cost is a measure of the efficiency of the financial system, and Philippon tracks its level in the United States since 1884, the time of pens and paper ledgers, when a ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Dissed, 2 June 2005

... was Galloway’s observation that he met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times that Donald Rumsfeld did; ‘the difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and maps.’ As Ali G might ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Mobile phones, 10 July 2003

... Seely and set as verse. Most of the poems in Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld (Simon and Schuster, £8.99) are short enough to be sent by text message. Here’s ‘In the Red Sea’: The Red Sea begins and ends. And then there’s an area Just beyond the Red Sea, And it may very well be That people choose to do it ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Blogged Down, 24 January 2008

... as much sense as broadcasting Singin’ in the Rain on the wireless: you’d still get to hear Donald O’Connor singing ‘Make ’em Laugh’, but it’s not quite the same if you can’t see him walking along the piano keys, dancing with the headless dummy and running up the walls. But that hasn’t stopped Sarah Boxer, a former New York Times ...

Humming, Gurgling and Whistling

Donald MacKenzie, 11 December 1997

Engineering the Revolution: Arms and Enlightenment in France, 1763-1815 
by Ken Alder.
Princeton, 494 pp., £45, April 1997, 0 691 02671 8
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... In July 1785, Thomas Jefferson, then American Ambassador to France, paid a visit to the dungeon of the Château de Vincennes. Its three-metre-thick walls had previously imprisoned Diderot and the Marquis de Sade. Now, however, it housed the workshop of a gunsmith, Honoré Blanc, and a dozen assistants. As Jefferson watched, Blanc sorted into bins the pieces of 50 musket flintlocks: ‘tumblers, lock plates, frizzens, pans, cocks, sears, bridals, screws and springs ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: What’s your codename?, 23 June 2005

... the mid-1990s. The Pentagon has confirmed that the document is a forgery, but as Arkin wrote to Donald Rumsfeld on 17 March, ‘someone familiar with Defense Department classified reporting has forged this document and given it to the press in the hope that it would be reported as genuine. Such an action raises deeply troubling questions about the integrity ...

Hearing about Damnation

Donald Davie, 3 December 1981

Collected Poems 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 262 pp., £10, September 1981, 0 19 211941 9
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... Killed in War’, which seems to be a self-accusing revision of the early and inadequate Dylan Thomas imitation, ‘On the Death of a Child’, but is also in part a rewriting of Yeats, contending that the unjust killing of children requires for its comprehension a dimension beyond the humanistic. In Sad Ires (1975) there is the very powerful ‘Stations ...
The Restraint of Beasts 
by Magnus Mills.
Flamingo, 215 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 00 225720 3
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... was given a further boost by a rare, cryptic – and surprisingly ungainly – endorsement from Thomas Pynchon, who described Mills’s novel as a ‘demented, deadpan comic wonder’ with ‘the exuberant power of a magic word it might possibly be dangerous (like the title of a certain other Scottish tale) to speak out loud’. Later, a great deal of ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Where is the internet?, 4 August 2005

... The technology that made the network possible had been devised by Paul Baran in the US and Donald Davies in the UK, working independently of each other – the Newton and Leibniz of the information age. ‘Packet switching’ allows data to be broken up into units (‘packets’) of a manageable and standard size, which can then be sent separately ...

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