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Dead Man’s Coat

Peter Pomerantsev: Teffi, 2 February 2017

Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea 
by Teffi, translated by Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Anne Marie Jackson and Irina Steinberg.
Pushkin, 352 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 1 78227 169 7
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Rasputin and Other Ironies 
by Teffi, translated by Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Rose France and Anne Marie Jackson.
Pushkin, 224 pp., £8.99, May 2016, 978 1 78227 217 5
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Subtly Worded 
by Teffi, translated by Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Anne Marie Jackson, Natalia Wase, Clare Kitson and Irina Steinberg.
Pushkin, 304 pp., £12, June 2014, 978 1 78227 037 9
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... an infant son, but there’s no mention of this in her prose: the most the translator Robert Chandler has dug up is a letter from 1946, when she was 74, in which she tells her eldest daughter that had she stayed in the marriage ‘it would have been the end of her.’ This sort of silence on personal things is quite typical: she never mentioned the fact ...

A Lethal Fall

Barbara Everett: Larkin and Chandler, 11 May 2006

... in 1967, a book by the writer regarded by many as the American master of the form: Raymond Chandler’s The High Window. Larkin may well have retained not merely the title of this very sophisticated thriller but the form of its action. Chandler’s Los Angeles private eye, Philip Marlowe, is summoned out to Pasadena ...

Among the Antimacassars

Alison Light, 11 November 1999

Flush 
by Virginia Woolf, edited by Elizabeth Steele.
Blackwell, 123 pp., £50, December 1998, 0 631 17729 9
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Timbuktu 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 186 pp., £12.99, June 1999, 0 571 19197 5
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... agents at witchcraft trials, burnt alongside Protestants by Mary Tudor and alongside Catholics by Elizabeth I, roasted at country fairs and persecuted for sport, cats were often given short shrift in Britain. Ancient symbols of fertility, they were commonly deemed lascivious (the female cat was especially lecherous), but feline stand-offishness was the real ...

Why always Dorothea?

John Mullan: How caricature can be sharp perception, 5 May 2005

The One v. the Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel 
by Alex Woloch.
Princeton, 391 pp., £13.95, February 2005, 0 691 11314 9
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... the exasperating reality of these characters. Too wise to chat like amateurs about why they like Elizabeth Bennet, they measure the effects of successful characterisation in negative qualities: the selfishness of Rosamund Vincy, the priggishness of Stephen Dedalus. Woloch looks at the question of how living persons get ‘rendered into literary form’ from ...

Heart-Squasher

Julian Barnes: A Portrait of Lucian Freud, 5 December 2013

Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud 
by Martin Gayford.
Thames and Hudson, 248 pp., £12.95, March 2012, 978 0 500 28971 6
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Breakfast with Lucian: A Portrait of the Artist 
by Geordie Greig.
Cape, 260 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 224 09685 0
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... novelists: Kingsley Amis and Georges Simenon. When Amis’s second wife and fellow novelist, Elizabeth Jane Howard, saw him, at eleven o’clock on the morning he was due to lunch at Buckingham Palace, standing in the garden punishing an enormous whisky, she said, ‘Bunny, do you have to have a drink?’ He replied (and it was a reply that would have ...

Diary

Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett, 7 November 1985

... doorway gives all but the medical details. The poet and his lady, I like to believe, were the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton of the day, if not the Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, with knobs on. Centuries pass. La maison is up for rent. Appears out of nowhere, circa 1909, exactly as in the central London of our own day, an American ...

So Amused

Sarah Rigby: Fay Weldon, 11 July 2002

Auto da Fay 
by Fay Weldon.
Flamingo, 366 pp., £15.99, May 2002, 9780007109920
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... of famous names – encounters with Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Assia Wevill, George Barker and Elizabeth Smart are described, sometimes with an almost embarrassing degree of openness – it takes an effort of will to remember that what is described actually happened. This odd effect makes more sense if you see it as an attempt on Weldon’s part to ...

Fanfaronade

Will Self: James Ellroy, 2 December 2010

The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women 
by James Ellroy.
Heinemann, 203 pp., £16.99, September 2010, 978 0 434 02064 5
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... Ellroy’s dramatic arc flings him back into an earlier era. Like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler – to whom he is an obvious heir – Ellroy comes to the hardboiled school out of the raw life he seeks to fictionalise. But unlike theirs, Ellroy’s life – considered as the test-bed of his work – is absurdly over-determining. To have your mother ...

Nothing’s easy

Philip Horne, 26 November 1987

The Perpetual Orgy 
by Mario Vargas Llosa, translated by Helen Lane.
Faber, 240 pp., £9.95, July 1987, 0 571 14550 7
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Captain Pantoja and the Special Service 
by Mario Vargas Llosa, translated by Gregory Kolovakos and Ronald Christ.
Faber, 244 pp., £3.95, June 1987, 0 571 14818 2
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... lips tremble; and softly, effortlessly, their fingers intertwined.   ‘Catherine-Nicaise-Elizabeth Leroux, of Sassetot-la-Guerrière, for fifty-four years’ service at the same farm, a silver medal – worth twenty-five francs!’ Flaubert’s proto-cinematic montage crashes the two centres of interest against each other to vividly ambiguous ...

Art’ll fix it

John Bayley, 11 October 1990

The Penguin Book of Lies 
edited by Philip Kerr.
Viking, 543 pp., £15.99, October 1990, 0 670 82560 3
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... is the thing itself. It is the same with Kipling’s stories; and the secret was passed to Raymond Chandler, whose formalised detective, the most unreal of beings, is none the less soundly based on the creator’s fantasies about himself, which altogether transcend his ignorance of an actual criminal milieu. In this fantasy the reader knowingly conspires. A ...

Michael Gove recommends …

Robert Hanks: Dennis Wheatley, 20 January 2011

The Devil Is a Gentleman: The Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley 
by Phil Baker.
Dedalus, 699 pp., £25, October 2009, 978 1 903517 75 8
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... it was buried in the grounds of his Hampshire home – to mark the wedding of the young Princess Elizabeth. In this, he told future generations how the seeds of social destruction were being sown in his own time by the mass media and the spread of ‘the false, pernicious doctrine that “all men are equal”’, and urged his descendants to rebel against ...

Toxic Lozenges

Jenny Diski: Arsenic, 8 July 2010

The Arsenic Century: How Victorian Britain Was Poisoned at Home, Work and Play 
by James Whorton.
Oxford, 412 pp., £16.99, January 2010, 978 0 19 957470 4
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... Raymond Chandler writes in ‘The Simple Art of Murder’ (1950) that ‘the English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers.’ He’s specifically referring to crime novelists – the likes of Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie – in an attempt to wrest the detective story away from the English suburbs and towards the grittier (and far more romantic) novels written by himself and Dashiell Hammett ...

Gentlemen Did Not Dig

Rosemary Hill: 18th-Century Gap Years, 24 June 2010

The Society of Dilettanti: Archaeology and Identity in the British Enlightenment 
by Jason Kelly.
Yale, 366 pp., £40, January 2010, 978 0 300 15219 7
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... Revett was joined instead by the artist William Pars and a scholar, the epigraphist Richard Chandler, who had never been abroad. ‘Turned fresh out of Magdalen to a difficult and somewhat fatiguing voyage’, as one Dilettante put it, he nevertheless survived the experience. The published results found their way into the libraries of country houses and ...

The Cadaver Club

Iain Sinclair, 22 December 1994

Original Sin 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 426 pp., £14.99, October 1994, 0 571 17253 9
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Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 282 pp., £14.99, September 1994, 1 85619 507 4
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The Hidden Files: An Autobiography 
by Derek Raymond.
Warner, 342 pp., £5.99, December 1994, 0 7515 1184 6
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Not till the Red Fog Rises 
by Derek Raymond.
Little, Brown, 248 pp., £15.99, December 1994, 0 316 91014 7
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... Jonathan Meades (‘Robin behaved badly before anyone else did’), Ian Penman, John Williams, Elizabeth Young – they’ve all done him. And been stretchered back to the cab. A Cook tribute is the contemporary equivalent to the apprentice’s passing-out ceremony. In both cases, you’re likely to end up legless in a Clerkenwell dustbin. The great ...

Into the Underworld

Iain Sinclair: The Hackney Underworld, 22 January 2015

... sets, finessed by fashionable architects, are like parodies of facilities promised for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. And nobody but the owners can get at them. What could be more empowering than to sit looking at an immaculate rectangle of water, a three-dimensional David Hockney which will never be disturbed by a thrashing alien presence? Neighbours ...

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