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James Wood: The ‘TLS’, 27 June 2002

Critical Times: The History of the ‘Times Literary Supplement’ 
by Derwent May.
HarperCollins, 606 pp., £25, November 2001, 0 00 711449 4
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... had robustly little time for Conrad’s dense pessimism. Two years later, on Chekhov’s death, Francis Gribble magniloquently wavered on the fine point of the Russian’s stature: ‘he may or may not have been a man of genius.’ Too often, reviewing was an annex of manners. The triply-named bookman – Arthur Quiller-Couch, Arthur Clutton-Brock, John ...

Kitty still pines for his dearest Dub

Andrew O’Hagan: Gossip, 6 February 2014

Becoming a Londoner: A Diary 
by David Plante.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 1 4088 3975 1
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The Animals: Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 
edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 481 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 0 7011 8678 4
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... an expert commentator on vanity’s machinations: Auden said something disparaging about Samuel Beckett getting the Nobel Prize for Literature. Nikos said: ‘Who else is there?’ Auden shook his head so all the sagging wrinkles shook and said: ‘There’s me.’ At Kitaj and Sandra’s, we met a coroner, who said that there was nothing more beautiful ...

False Moderacy

T.J. Clark: Picasso and Modern British Art, 22 March 2012

Picasso and Modern British Art 
Tate Britain, 15 February 2012 to 15 July 2012Show More
Mondrian Nicholson: In Parallel 
Courtauld Gallery, 16 February 2012 to 20 May 2012Show More
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... for real. Wyndham Lewis is a good example of the first; Gorky and de Kooning of the second. Francis Bacon started, so the Tate show demonstrates, as a diligent – too diligent – student of the second kind, battling away at the enigma of Cubist space; he failed to solve it; and where he ended up is another matter.) The question remains why. What stood ...

Pay me for it

Helen Deutsch: Summoning Dr Johnson, 9 February 2012

Samuel Johnson: A Life 
by David Nokes.
Faber, 415 pp., £9.99, August 2010, 978 0 571 22636 8
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Selected Writings 
by Samuel Johnson, edited by Peter Martin.
Harvard, 503 pp., £16.95, May 2011, 978 0 674 06034 0
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The Brothers Boswell: A Novel 
by Philip Baruth.
Corvus, 336 pp., £7.99, January 2011, 978 1 84887 446 6
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The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D. 
by John Hawkins, edited by O.M. Brack.
Georgia, 554 pp., £53.50, August 2010, 978 0 8203 2995 6
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... sets up an echo chamber of affirmations of Johnson’s eternal appeal ranging from Ruskin to Beckett to Seamus Heaney to that American avatar of Johnson, Harold Bloom, who places Johnson’s literary criticism within the ‘ancient genre of wisdom writing’. Focusing on only a ‘portion of Johnson … the moralist and critic’ (though he could be ...

Who’ll be last?

Jenny Diski, 19 November 2015

... or settle for palliative care which at its best is a comfortable death without pain. What Francis Bacon called ‘a fair and easy passage’, which I used as the title of a TV play written and broadcast long ago. An announcement of forthcoming but more or less certain death by a public figure opens our eyes to death, the one that is coming to us ...

Excellent Enigmas

Christopher Reid, 24 January 1980

Lies and Secrets 
by John Fuller.
Secker, 70 pp., £3.50, October 1980, 0 436 16753 0
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by John Matthias.
Anvil, 125 pp., £3.25, October 1980, 0 85646 035 4
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Growing Up 
by Michael Horovitz.
Allison and Busby, 96 pp., £4.95, October 1980, 0 85031 232 9
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Report to the Working Party. Asylum. Otiose [preceded by] After 
by Anthony Barnett.
Nothing Doing, 121 pp., £4.80, August 1980, 0 901494 17 8
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... himself, and here he addresses a dead friend, whom he believes he has seen in a hotel corridor: ‘Francis, it was you yesterday, though I knew you were dead.’ The experience is offered both as an event that really happened, and as a dream occurring in the midst of        that brief deep And self-satisfied sleep Which is our charmed life – a ...

And then there was ‘Playtime’

Jonathan Coe: Vive Tati!, 9 December 1999

Jacques Tati 
by David Bellos.
Harvill, 382 pp., £25, October 1999, 1 86046 651 6
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... study of Tati which invokes Rilke, Cervantes, Cocteau, La Bruyère, Desnos, Eluard, Gogol, Beckett, Kafka and St Francis. ‘It’s not that these are inappropriate or misleading points of cultural reference in a serious attempt to explain the place and importance of M. Hulot,’ he explains. ‘It’s just that Tati ...

So long as you drub the foe

Geoffrey Best: Army-Society Relations, 11 May 2006

Military Identities: The Regimental System, The British Army and The British People c.1870-2000 
by David French.
Oxford, 404 pp., £45, July 2005, 0 19 925803 1
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... the life of the city. Brougham served with the same gun in a company of artillery as Playfair, and Francis Horner walked the streets with a musket, being a private in the Gentlemen Regiment. As for Sir Walter Scott, he became the life and soul of the Edinburgh troop of the Midlothian Yeomanry Cavalry.’ The Northern Athens was classier than most British ...

Karel Reisz Remembered

LRB Contributors, 12 December 2002

... has influenced more than one generation of British film-makers, and what he did for the stage – Beckett, Pinter, Tom Murphy, Terence Rattigan – has changed the game for several more to come. You might say the drama in Karel Reisz’s life existed at quite a deep level, but it also existed in his conversation. At tables, in cars, in foyers, on the ...

Uneasy Listening

Paul Laity: ‘Lord Haw-Haw’, 8 July 2004

Germany Calling: A Personal Biography of William Joyce, ‘Lord Haw-Haw’ 
by Mary Kenny.
New Island, 300 pp., £17.99, November 2003, 1 902602 78 1
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Lord Haw-Haw: The English Voice of Nazi Germany 
by Peter Martland.
National Archives, 309 pp., £19.99, March 2003, 1 903365 17 1
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... Italian model and towards the German one. According to Kenny, Joyce, along with his associate John Beckett, was responsible for making Mosley’s organisation more anti-semitic. Other office-holders became concerned that his speeches were so vitriolic they left potential supporters behind. He said repeatedly and obsessively that Jews were responsible for all ...


Denis Donoghue, 2 February 1984

Towards 2000 
by Raymond Williams.
Chatto, 273 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 9780701126858
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Writing in Society 
by Raymond Williams.
Verso, 268 pp., £18.50, December 1983, 0 86091 072 5
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Radical Earnestness: English Social Theory 1880-1980 
by Fred Inglis.
Martin Robertson, 253 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 85520 328 5
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... and Letters (1979), a big book of specific questions posed by Perry Anderson, Anthony Barnett and Francis Mulhern, members of the editorial committee of New Left Review; and of answers, rarely as specific or pointed, offered by Williams. The second section of Politics and Letters includes detailed criticism of The Long Revolution and Williams’s response to ...


Alan Sheridan, 2 July 1981

Teachers, Writers, Celebrities: The Intellectuals of Modern France 
by Régis Debray, translated by David Macey.
New Left Books, 251 pp., £11, May 1981, 0 86091 039 3
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... that has kept him off the air. Debray sees Althusser as some kind of incorruptible ascetic, a Beckett of ‘theoretical practice’. He himself is neither an Althusser nor a Clavel. But it is not clear which he would prefer to be. Since Debray wrote those lines, Althusser has strangled his wife and been interned in a mental hospital. Would more telephone ...

Bandini to Hackmuth

Christopher Tayler: John Fante, 21 September 2000

Ask the Dust 
by John Fante.
Rebel Inc, 198 pp., £6.99, September 1999, 0 86241 987 5
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Full of Life: A Biography of John Fante 
by Stephen Cooper.
Rebel Inc, 406 pp., £16.99, May 2000, 9781841950228
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... Towne came across Ask the Dust and took up Fante’s cause. He optioned the novel and persuaded Francis Ford Coppola to do the same for the book Fante was then working on, The Brotherhood of the Grape (1977). In 1978, the poet Charles Bukowski mentioned his debt to Fante in his novel Women; Bukowski’s publisher, John Martin of the Black Sparrow Press, set ...

Hourglass or Penny-Farthing?

Christopher Tayler: Damon Galgut, 31 July 2014

Arctic Summer 
by Damon Galgut.
Atlantic, 357 pp., £17.99, May 2014, 978 0 85789 718 3
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... rhythms of travel and memory supply all the pattern he needs, and the nods to Kafka, Faulkner and Beckett don’t look stiff. In the caustic accounts of hikers’ self-indulgent inwardness, and of the way backpackers float their idylls on a sea of poverty, he gets at themes dramatised in his earlier novels with, this time, no stagey debates. Arctic ...

About Myself

Liam McIlvanney: James Hogg, 18 November 2004

The Electric Shepherd: A Likeness of James Hogg 
by Karl Miller.
Faber, 401 pp., £25, August 2003, 0 571 21816 4
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Altrive Tales 
by James Hogg, edited by Gillian Hughes.
Edinburgh, 293 pp., £40, July 2003, 0 7486 1893 7
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... J.G. Lockhart, John Wilson, Walter Scott, William Maginn, Allan Cunningham, William Blackwood, Francis Jeffrey, Henry Cockburn – are evoked, not as ciphers for their works but as bullish personalities. What Miller values most in Hogg’s fiction – its ‘intentness on a real, visible, palpable, smellable Scotland’ – is triumphantly exhibited in ...

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