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Guerrilla into Criminal

Richard White: Jesse James

5 June 2003
Jesse JamesLast Rebel of the Civil War 
by T.J. Stiles.
Cape, 510 pp., £20, January 2003, 9780224069250
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... the hall, which was, except for the sink and the hole, indistinguishable from the lavatory. This is one thing I remember about the pub; the other thing I remember is that the pub was called the Jesse James. Someone told me it was named for James because his people came from there. But a lot of Americans came from there, and, since James’s father was a Baptist minister, it was not his Irish Catholic ...

On Douglas Crase

Matthew Bevis

25 November 2019
... The most interesting book of first poems in many years’, Richard Howard proclaimed in 1981. James Merrill, John Hollander and John Ashbery spoke in similarly emphatic terms, while Anthony Hecht saluted an ‘extraordinarily fine’ debut and Harold Bloom hailed the arrival of a great original ...
20 December 1990
... by a terrifying visitor with a mother complex; he then himself gets disturbingly caught up with her (she makes him hit her during sex); and he falls into the hands of the swaggering evil abuser Frank, whose punchline, before Jeffrey is horribly beaten, is: ‘You’re like me.’ That Jeffrey has struck Dorothy makes this plausible: we see him later weep with remorse at the memory, and it gives ...

Memories of Frank​ Kermode

Stefan Collini, Karl Miller, Adam Phillips, Jacqueline Rose, James​ Wood, Michael Wood and Wynne Godley

23 September 2010
... Stefan Collini writes: ‘Yes, I’d like that very much. That really would be something to look forward to.’ Frank was already weakened and wasted by throat cancer, but my suggestion that we go to watch some cricket at Fenner’s did seem genuinely to appeal to him. There wasn’t much to look forward to by this ...

Losers

Frank​ Kermode

5 September 1985
Family and Friends 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 187 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 224 02337 3
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... five novels goes, Anita Brookner has one basic theme, which she varies with considerable and increasing technical resource. All five books are quite short, and all have some of the qualities of what James called the beautiful and blest nouvelle, since they are intensive in plot and on the whole refuse the temptation to broaden into novels. This limitation, if that is the right word, is not at all the ...

Opera Mundi

Michael Neve

1 December 1983
Out of Order 
by Frank​ Johnson.
Robson, 256 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 86051 190 1
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Frank​ Johnson’s Election Year 
by Frank​ Johnson.
Robson, 192 pp., £6.95, October 1983, 0 86051 254 1
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Enthusiasms 
by Bernard Levin.
Cape, 264 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 224 02114 1
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Poem of the Year 
by Clive James.
Cape, 79 pp., £4.95, November 1983, 0 224 02961 4
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The Original Michael Frayn 
by Michael Frayn.
Salamander, 203 pp., £8.50, October 1983, 0 907540 32 5
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... as opera. The social history of opera is instructive in other ways – above all, in the way people talk and write about it. There seem to be two positions: a modest one, a way of liking opera, as Frank Johnson does, on the quiet, without shouting about it, and an orgiastic one, where one is cosmically-life-affirmingly-overwhelmed by it, as Bernard Levin is. What we are talking about when we talk ...
6 December 1979
The Ghost Writer 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 180 pp., £4.95
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... may contain a mistake, a mistake which is part of the subject-matter of Roth’s book. ‘Best novel yet’ implies a future of prosperous activity which may be barmecidal. The novelist-hero of Henry James’s story ‘The Middle Years’ is amused by the view that his latest novel is ‘the best thing he has done yet’: it ‘made such a grand avenue of the future’. This story is alluded to in ...
24 August 1995
Independence Day 
by Richard Ford.
Harvill, 451 pp., £14.99, July 1995, 1 86046 020 8
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... Richard Ford’s narrator, Frank Bascombe, quit serious writing to become a sports-writer. This was the making of Ford. It wasn’t until he became Bascombe, the sportswriter, that Ford turned himself into a major novelist. At odd ...

Stowaway Woodworm

Frank​ Kermode

22 June 1989
A History of the World in 10½ Chapters 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 320 pp., £10.95, June 1989, 0 224 02669 0
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... About a century ago Henry James remarked sadly that, unlike the French, the English novel was not discutable. It had no theory behind it. Its practitioners were largely unaware that ‘there is no limit’ to what the novelist ...

Short Cuts

James​ Francken: The Booker Prize shortlist

2 November 2000
... The Hiding Place – the 7-1 outsider and the only first novel on the list – is narrated by Dolores Gauci, a young girl whose Maltese father gambled away his Cardiff café on the day she was born. Frank Gauci is a weak, compulsive man who ignores the difficulties of his family and hides behind the pages of the Sporting Life. Azzopardi has a keen sense of the shame of poverty and the humiliation of ...

Modern Masters

Frank​ Kermode

24 May 1990
Where I fell to Earth: A Life in Four Places 
by Peter Conrad.
Chatto, 252 pp., £16, February 1990, 0 7011 3490 9
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May Week was in June 
by Clive James.
Cape, 249 pp., £12.95, June 1990, 0 224 02787 5
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... are exotic industry, autobiographical fluency and, to adapt what somebody once said about Ford Madox Ford, a desire to write well so strong that it shows. According to his own listing, this is James’s 24th book. So at 50, despite his relatively inauspicious start and his obvious determination to obey the master’s injunction and live all he can, he is only about seventeen titles behind his ...
8 May 1997
Beyond the Frontier: the Politics of a Failed Mission, Bulgaria 1944 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin/Stanford, 120 pp., £12.95, December 1996, 0 85036 457 4
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... It is this. If you find yourself in the back of an official Volga car, talking through an interpreter to a high military officer of a Warsaw Pact country, then watch it.’ On 31 May 1944, Major Frank Thompson, wearing the British uniform that should have protected him, was captured along with the Bulgarian Partisans to whom he was attached, near Likatova, north of Sofia, found guilty at a staged ...
18 June 1981
Henry James​ Letters. Vol. III: 1883-1895 
edited by Leon Edel.
Macmillan, 579 pp., £17.50, March 1981, 0 333 18046 1
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Culture and Conduct in the Novels of Henry James 
by Alwyn Berland.
Cambridge, 231 pp., £17.50, April 1981, 0 521 23343 7
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Literary Reviews and Essays, A London Life, The Reverberator, Italian Hours, The Sacred Fount, Watch and Ward 
by Henry James.
Columbus, 409 pp., £2.60, February 1981, 0 394 17098 9
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... Edith Wharton once asked Henry James why it was that his novels so curiously lacked real life. James’s private name for her was the ‘Angel of Devastation’, and the fact that she not only perpetrated this remark but went on to record it expressionlessly in her memoirs shows just what he meant ...

The Immortal Coil

Richard Barnett: Faraday’s Letters

21 March 2013
The Correspondence of Michael Faraday Vol. VI, 1860-67 
by Frank James.
IET, 919 pp., £85, December 2011, 978 0 86341 957 7
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... In the summer of 1831, James Woods, master of St John’s College, Cambridge, and Wordsworth’s former tutor, decided that his college should have a portrait of its most celebrated living alumnus. He commissioned Henry William ...

Sly Digs

Frank​ Kermode: E.M. Forster as Critic

25 September 2008
‘The Creator as Critic’ and Other Writings 
by E.M. Forster, edited by Jeffrey Heath.
Dundurn, 814 pp., £45, March 2008, 978 1 55002 522 4
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... to Beethoven outlasted his passion for Wagner and for the imaginary Vinteuil of Proust. He thought little of Mozart, saying he tinkled. Of his literary dislikes, the most striking is for Henry James, whom he misses few chances to disparage. His treatment of The Ambassadors in Aspects of the Novel is an obvious instance, but there are others, sometimes describable as sly digs, sometimes as pure ...

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