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Hobnobbing

Ian Hamilton, 1 October 1998

Osbert Sitwell 
by Philip Ziegler.
Chatto, 461 pp., £25, May 1998, 1 85619 646 1
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... liked to seem extravagant and was often generous to writers he believed in (Dylan Thomas and George Barker received welcome gifts from time to time), he usually looked for a return on his investments. He needed always to control his beneficiaries and when crossed in finance he could turn vindictive. (In this he resembled his father, mad Sir ...

The Court

Richard Eyre, 23 September 1993

The Long Distance Runner 
by Tony Richardson.
Faber, 277 pp., £17.50, September 1993, 0 571 16852 3
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... by today’s ‘whenwes’ are the early years of the English Stage Company, started in 1955 by George Devine and Tony Richardson, although the theatre enjoyed at least as luminous a period from 1904 to 1907 when Harley Granville-Barker was its artistic director. The Royal Court is the perfect size for a playhouse; it ...

Excusez-moi

Ian Hamilton, 1 October 1987

The Haw-Lantern 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 52 pp., £7.95, June 1987, 0 571 14780 1
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... elected, so it seemed to him, into the role of Seamus Heaney, poet. If this makes him sound like George Barker, it absolutely shouldn’t. What is attractive about Heaney’s response to his vocation is that he is never entirely happy that it is he who has been called: a childhood spent wondering how to avoid the priesthood had perhaps ill-prepared him ...

Terrible to be alive

Julian Symons, 5 December 1991

Randall Jarrell: A Literary Life 
by William Pritchard.
Farrar, Straus, 335 pp., $25, April 1990, 0 374 24677 7
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Randall Jarrell: Selected Poems 
edited by William Pritchard.
Farrar, Straus, 115 pp., $17.95, April 1990, 0 374 25867 8
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... Perhaps this clotted rhetoric a long way after Hart Crane is no worse than the windy rhetoric of George Barker, but it is more alien to British readers, and reminds us of Jarrell’s remark that most poets, even good ones, write badly most of the time. But this selection from the poems is exemplary, presenting the case for Jarrell as a poet at his best ...

In a Dry Place

Nicolas Tredell, 11 October 1990

On the Look-Out: A Partial Autobiography 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 234 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 85635 758 8
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In Two Minds: Guesses at Other Writers 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 296 pp., £18.95, September 1990, 0 85635 877 0
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... Patrick Kavanagh, who was to be approached ‘with a large whisky in one’s outstretched hand’; George Barker, first seen ‘wearing a check suit and cap, all very new, as if in the course of an attempt to prove that he was not a poet but a bookmaker’. But here too, he feels, as a poet, barely visible: the visible poets speak well of his work, but he ...

In the Graveyard of Verse

William Wootten: Vernon Watkins, 9 August 2001

The Collected Poems of Vernon Watkins 
Golgonooza, 495 pp., £16.95, October 2000, 0 903880 73 3Show More
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... of a poet who had inspired them by exhortation and example. With Dylan Thomas dead, it was left to George Barker, that other bad boy-genius of New Romanticism, to add a dash of tastelessness to the proceedings: How she must have horrified you there at the far side of the tennis net the coldblooded female who killed you with her first glance. What on ...
Anaïs Nin 
by Deirdre Bair.
Bloomsbury, 654 pp., £20, April 1995, 0 7475 2135 2
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Conversations with Anaïs Nin 
edited by Wendy Dubow.
Mississippi, 254 pp., $37.95, December 1994, 0 87805 719 6
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... encounters with Otto Rank, Antonin Artaud, Norman Bel Geddes (‘the P.T. Barnum of design’), George Barker and innumerable sub-luminaries of the literary world. Like Miller, many of them were supported financially by Nin, or more accurately, by her besotted husband Hugo, who on marrying Anaïs had the great good sense to become a banker rather than ...

Self-Positioning

Stefan Collini: The Movement, 25 June 2009

The Movement Reconsidered: Essays on Larkin, Amis, Gunn, Davie and Their Contemporaries 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 336 pp., £18.99, May 2009, 978 0 19 955825 4
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... that they weren’t gushing in the manner of the New Apocalyptics, such as Dylan Thomas and George Barker, was an important element in the cultural identity of these writers in the early and mid-1950s. The bony intellectualism of Empson’s poetry, in particular, encouraged a terse, argumentative idiom housed in tightly wrought formal structures ...

Stepchildren

Elspeth Barker, 9 April 1992

Stepsons 
by Robert Liddell.
Peter Owen, 228 pp., £14.95, February 1992, 0 7206 0853 8
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Farewell Sidonia 
by Erich Hackl.
Cape, 135 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 224 02901 0
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... She was expecting another child, who was to be a dashing war hero and heartbreaker called George. Economies must be practised, with an eye to George’s future. Stephen and Andrew no longer had cake for tea, Elsa lashed herself into furies over spilled jam. Depressing Scotticisms flew from her tongue: ‘Mony a ...

Invalided home

Dinah Birch, 21 October 1993

The Eye in the Door 
by Pat Barker.
Viking, 280 pp., £14.99, September 1993, 0 670 84414 4
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... Working-class memory generated Pat Barker’s writing. Her early fiction presented itself as a tribute to generations of suffering and survival in the industrial North-East of England. It seemed to fall into a ready-made tradition: ‘the grit, the humour, the reality of working-class life’, Virago burbled cheerfully about Union Street (1982 ...

Bumming and Booing

John Mullan: William Wordsworth, 5 April 2001

Wordsworth: A Life 
by Juliet Barker.
Viking, 971 pp., £25, October 2000, 9780670872138
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The Hidden Wordsworth 
by Kenneth Johnston.
Pimlico, 690 pp., £15, September 2000, 0 7126 6752 0
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Disowned by Memory: Wordsworth’s Poetry of the 1790s 
by David Bromwich.
Chicago, 186 pp., £9.50, April 2000, 0 226 07556 7
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... that is good,’ Robert Southey wrote (the declaration is emblazoned on the dust-jacket of Juliet Barker’s new Life). Yet any sense of this – of the subtle, elementary qualities of Wordsworth’s verse – is rarely apparent to those who study him, and rarely apparent in the throng of books and articles and theses that continue to be devoted to ...

Buckle Up!

Tim Barker: Oil Prices, 1 June 2017

Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices 
by Robert McNally.
Columbia, 300 pp., £27.95, January 2017, 978 0 231 17814 3
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... government is the CEO of Exxon,’ he said. McNally is an energy consultant, a former adviser to George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio, and a member of the National Petroleum Council. Crude Volatility would be a good title for a biography of Trump, but McNally’s book was written before the election and studiously avoids political ...

Well, was he?

A.N. Wilson, 20 June 1996

Bernard Shaw: The Ascent of the Superman 
by Sally Peters.
Yale, 328 pp., £18.95, April 1996, 0 300 06097 1
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... might seem analogous to an attempt to trace the importance of linguistic philosophy in the life of George VI; but the attempt of a clever person to make bricks without straw is never without interest, particularly since it is the very absence of evidence which Dr Peters finds so suspicious in the first instance. You might have thought that a more interesting ...

Karl Miller Remembered

Neal Ascherson, John Lanchester and Andrew O’Hagan, 23 October 2014

... which reached him and went down well. The first came when he and his wife Jane went to stay with George Barker, in Italy I think, and Barker exclaimed afterwards: ‘That boy! He’s got a tiger in his loins!’ Karl loved that. Who wouldn’t? His friends all got to hear about it. He laughed about it in a deprecating ...

In the field

Nigel Hamilton, 5 November 1981

Washington Despatches, 1941-45: Weekly Political Reports from the British Embassy 
edited by H.G. Nicholas.
Weidenfeld, 700 pp., £20, August 1981, 0 297 77920 6
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. II 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 850 pp., £15.95, September 1981, 0 11 630934 2
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Mars without Venus: A Study of Some Homosexual Generals 
by Frank Richardson.
William Blackwood, 188 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 9780851581484
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Soldiering on: An Unofficial Portrait of the British Army 
by Dennis Barker.
Deutsch, 236 pp., £8.50, October 1981, 0 233 97391 5
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A Breed of Heroes 
by Alan Judd.
Hodder, 288 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 340 26334 2
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War in Peace: An Analysis of Warfare Since 1945 
edited by Robert Thompson.
Orbis, 312 pp., £9.95, September 1981, 0 85613 341 8
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... the budding Berlin towards Moscow – which Berlin finally reached in 1945/6. But whether Sir George Weidenfeld has had the right idea in resurrecting his despatches, I doubt. No person, no issue is concentrated upon in depth, and the footnotes provide witless and inaccurate help (Desert Victory was not a film about O’Connor’s 1940-41 offensive, and ...

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