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Memories are made of this

Patricia Beer, 16 December 1993

Aren’t We Due a Royalty Statement? 
by Giles Gordon.
Chatto, 352 pp., £16.99, August 1993, 0 7011 6022 5
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Yesterday Came Suddenly 
by Francis King.
Constable, 336 pp., £16.95, September 1993, 9780094722200
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Excursions in the Real World 
by William Trevor.
Hutchinson, 201 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 0 09 177086 6
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... who ‘was smaller in stature’. Now I come to think of it, though, that might interest an alien. Francis King, in his autobiography Yesterday Came Suddenly, writes as straightforwardly as he has always done. Every so often in the course of his long career as a novelist critics have spoken of the detachment of his style, nearly all of them meaning it as ...


Christopher Ricks, 20 May 1982

My Sister and Myself: The Diaries of J.R. Ackerley 
edited by Francis King.
Hutchinson, 217 pp., £8.95, March 1982, 9780091470203
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... between Ackerley and his sister: about that only, since Nancy is granted no independent life. (Francis King does his best to supply her with one in his accommodating introduction.) Given that Ackerley could unquestionably write, his perverse refusal to make real the husband of Nancy, or her son, has to be evidence that it was his own flesh only that ...

On David King

Susannah Clapp, 21 June 2018

... drawings and paintings – and commissioned photographs. Some of the most powerful were by David King. He used to come blazing into the office with his huge black-and-white portraits, already measured up for size: no question, ever, of anything being cropped. One was of the writer Francis Wyndham, then in his sixties, in ...

The Slightest Sardine

James Wood: A literary dragnet, 20 May 2004

The Oxford English Literary History. Vol. XII: 1960-2000: The Last of England? 
by Randall Stevenson.
Oxford, 624 pp., £30, February 2004, 0 19 818423 9
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... read every book in the world. His head must be dizzy with the minor works of Julian Mitchell and Francis King and Brian Patten and Maureen Duffy. His sleep must have been poisoned for years by worries about properly dating Piers Paul Read’s A Married Man. It is, in fact, a disaster to fill a book like this with storms of names and endless ...

The Strange Case of Peter Vansittart

Martin Seymour-Smith, 6 March 1986

Aspects of Feeling 
by Peter Vansittart.
Peter Owen, 251 pp., £10.95, January 1986, 0 7206 0637 3
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... and writer for children, has been singled out for praise by critics as diverse as Philip Toynbee, Francis King, Angus Wilson and Andrew Sinclair. All feel that he lacks the large audience he deserves. Yet the curious reader, anxious to gain more information about this somewhat enigmatic writer, of undoubted power (and above all vision), may easily find ...

The King of Cats

Paul Durcan, 24 April 1997

... To Francis Stuart on his 95th Birthday You – on a Friday evening in Dublin At the curtain of the 20th century – Dare me to be a child again: ‘Imagine being Dostoevsky ... ’ (Pause) ‘Or a gnat.’ Lucky me To be sitting in the company of a dead man. How many years ago is it since you died? You have always been a cat but since your death A before-only-sniffed-at flexibility buzzes your fuzz Entitling you to enlighten me in the evolution of flight – To give me a gnat’s eye glimpse of the cosmos And of Russian fiction – the last word in death ...


E.S. Turner, 25 June 1987

The Golden Oriole: Childhood, Family and Friends in India 
by Raleigh Trevelyan.
Secker, 536 pp., £16.95, May 1987, 0 436 53403 7
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... to Chhokrapur. Chhatarpur was visited not only by the latest literary Trevelyan but by Francis King and Diana Petre, respectively literary executor and half-sister of Ackerley. Was this mass descent really a good idea? The whiff of scandal had subsided somewhat, but there was understandable apprehension as to how the visitors would be ...


Francis Spufford, 2 April 1987

Greyhound for Breakfast 
by James Kelman.
Secker, 230 pp., £10.95, March 1987, 0 436 23283 9
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Pauper, Brawler and Slanderer 
by Amos Tutuola.
Faber, 156 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 571 14714 3
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... diction. The first of the 47 fictions in James Kelman’s Greyhound for Breakfast finds old Francis on a park bench in Glasgow, menaced by vaguely circling winos trying to cadge a cigarette. It was downright fucking nonsensical. And yet it was the sort of incident you could credit. You were sitting down in an attempt to recover a certain equilibrium ...
... and let it all hang out so far you gotta pump air into it. Click. Click. Take infinity! … Crown King Thing. The aura bomb has been detonated. Our energy is continuous and immortal … And so on – when he hits this vein, Heathcote can keep it up indefinitely. But in his best work – The Speakers, and four of his plays – the whimsical gift of the gab is ...

At war

Iain McGilchrist, 25 January 1990

The Faber Book of Fevers and Frets 
edited by D.J. Enright.
Faber, 364 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 0 574 15095 1
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... too single, the dramatic images miss their mark. ‘What, into this?’ The words are those of the king of infinite space up against his nutshell, the ‘etherial spirit of man’ as Carlyle put it, up against ‘two or three feet of sorry tripe full of–’, the voice of whatever it is in us which in love, in religion and in ill health, sees itself as ...

Jousting for Peace

Thomas Penn: Henry VIII meets Francis I, 17 July 2014

The Field of Cloth of Gold 
by Glenn Richardson.
Yale, 288 pp., £35, November 2013, 978 0 300 14886 2
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... Trying​ to describe the spectacular summit meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I which took place in June 1520, contemporaries fell into a kind of stupor. It was the eighth wonder of the world, said one. Another thought the temporary palaces – erected at staggering expense for the sole purpose of a fortnight’s worth of jousts and junketing – outdid the ‘miracles of the Egyptian pyramids and the Roman amphitheatres ...

Pooh to London

Pat Rogers, 22 December 1983

The Other Side of the Fire 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 156 pp., £7.95, November 1983, 0 7156 1809 1
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London Tales 
edited by Julian Evans.
Hamish Hamilton, 309 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 241 11123 4
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by Maureen Duffy.
Methuen, 240 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 413 49350 4
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Good Friends, Just 
by Anne Leaton.
Chatto, 152 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2710 4
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... centres on a middle-aged Polish couple whose son has recently committed suicide. Jane Gardam and Francis King are chilling and precise enough in observation to carry off banal-looking themes; Gardam’s tale of imminent Oxbridge entrance and the comparison of A-level grades in leafy Wimbledon has a startling sub-text of myth and cosmic ...

Goodbye to the Comintern

Martin Kettle, 21 February 1991

About Turn. The Communist Party and the Outbreak of the Second World War: The Verbatim Record of the Central Committee Meetings 1939 
edited by Francis King and George Matthews.
Lawrence and Wishart, 318 pp., £34.95, November 1990, 9780853157267
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... and helplessness of leadership’. Most, however, fulfilled the role demanded of them by the demon king of this pantomime, Palme Dutt. Dutt dominates and controls these proceedings with a Catoesque monomania and a forensically inflexible vocabulary. As David Edgar has pointed out, Dutt is the one person in the whole drama who takes exactly the same line at the ...

Palmers Greenery

Susannah Clapp, 19 December 1985

by Jack Barbera and William McBrien.
Heinemann, 378 pp., £15, November 1985, 0 434 44105 8
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... allow friends to speak for themselves. What they have to say is far from fulsome. According to Francis King, she was ‘a great character’, but ‘not, emphatically, not a nice character’. Elisabeth Lutyens talks of her ‘childishly screaming for attention’. Stalwart chums resented her endless cadging of car rides – one proposed writing an ...


Paul Foot: The Buttocks Problem, 5 September 1996

... should drive a man to child abuse, so I am delighted to find the Burma excuse put to flight by Francis King, a school contemporary of Trench’s. He remembers Trench the schoolboy as ‘supercilious, capricious and cruel’ long before the Japanese ever laid a finger on him. Mark Peel describes the floggings at Shrewsbury as ‘a real outlet for ...

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