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Costa del Pym

Nicholas Spice, 4 July 1985

Crampton Hodnet 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 216 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 0 333 39129 2
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Foreign Land 
by Jonathan Raban.
Harvill, 352 pp., £9.50, June 1985, 0 00 222918 8
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Black Marina 
by Emma Tennant.
Faber, 157 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 9780571134670
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... Simon Beddoes; and Mr Cleveland, Anthea’s father, becomes infatuated with his pupil Barbara Bird, who is quite happy to return the sentiment so long as it does not entail kissing and ‘that sort of thing’. Francis Cleveland’s affair with Barbara is much the most important of the three, because it is potentially adulterous and threatens the ...

On Michael O’Brien

August Kleinzahler: Michael O’Brien, 16 February 2017

... Many of O’Brien’s poems could be characterised as pastoral. This is ‘East Branch’: a bird like two stones struck together (bird of reproof) through leaf-shimmer a moth-spot of white light sky washed an intense blue by yesterday’s rain, no vein of opal near the spring a red leaf-coloured frog the size of an ...

If my sister’s arches fall

Laura Jacobs: Agnes de Mille, 6 October 2016

Dance to the Piper 
by Agnes de Mille.
NYRB, 368 pp., £11.99, February 2016, 978 1 59017 908 6
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... The​ 1940s was the generative decade for American dance. George Balanchine, who was inching towards the founding of the New York City Ballet in 1948, produced eight works for other companies. Antony Tudor moved to New York from London in 1940 and quickly created two visions of psychosexual implosion, Pillar of Fire and Undertow ...

At the Rob Tufnell Gallery

August Kleinzahler: Christopher Logue, 5 November 2015

... 1960s, and in almost every instance a near or total disaster, he somehow made a success of it. Red Bird, commissioned by the BBC in 1959, features him reading his poems with the backing of the Tony Kinsey Quintet. It wasn’t a cakewalk. ‘I’m amazed,’ Kinsey was heard to remark to a band member, ‘he’s supposed to be fairly intelligent.’ ...

Diary

Peter Campbell: In the Park, 19 August 2004

... or so ago: not many birds have a penis, but the stifftail duck does – it can be longer than the bird itself and is not, it would seem, easy to manage. The penis of a relative of the ruddy duck – the Argentine lake duck (Oxyura vittata) is shaped like a corkscrew and, at almost half a metre long, is the largest of any ...

Flaubert’s Parrot

Julian Barnes, 18 August 1983

... crosses, a telephone number and the words AMBULANCE FLAUBERT. The writer as healer? I remembered George Sand’s matronly rebuke to her younger colleague. ‘You produce desolation,’ she wrote, ‘and I produce consolation.’ The Peugeot should have read AMBULANCE GEORGE SAND. At the Hôtel-Dieu I was admitted by a ...

Accidents of Priority

John Redmond, 22 August 1996

Can You Hear, Bird 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 128 pp., £9.95, February 1996, 9781857542240
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The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 
by Jorie Graham.
Carcanet, 220 pp., £12.95, March 1996, 1 85754 225 8
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Selected Poems 
by Barbara Guest.
Carcanet, 220 pp., £12.95, May 1996, 1 85754 158 8
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Selected Poems 1976-1996 
by George Szirtes.
Oxford, 126 pp., £9.99, March 1996, 0 19 283223 9
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Adam’s Dream 
by Peter McDonald.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £6.95, March 1996, 1 85224 333 3
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... psychoanalyst’s. In ‘The Problem of Anxiety’, one of the clearer poems in Can You Hear, Bird, Ashbery, with his Waspish reticence, asks the reader (perhaps the psychoanalyst part of himself) how he would represent himself given the opportunity: Suppose this poem were about you, would you put in the things I’ve carefully left out: descriptions ...

Whacks

D.A.N. Jones, 4 March 1982

The Works of Witter Bynner: Selected Letters 
edited by James Kraft.
Faber, 275 pp., £11, January 1982, 0 374 18504 2
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A Memoir of D.H. Lawrence: The Betrayal 
by G.H. Neville, edited by Carl Baron.
Cambridge, 208 pp., £18, January 1982, 0 521 24097 2
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... Two characters in pursuit of their author: such are George Neville and Witter Bynner, two chunks of raw material, anxious to tell the world about their cook. George Neville went to school with D.H. Lawrence and supposed himself the ‘original’ of George Saxton in The White Peacock: in his memoir he congratulates himself upon his useful contribution to Lawrence’s conception of true manliness ...

A Djinn speaks

Colm Tóibín: What about George Yeats?, 20 February 2003

Becoming GeorgeThe Life of Mrs W.B. Yeats 
by Ann Saddlemyer.
Oxford, 808 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 19 811232 7
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... Man and the Masks, Richard Ellmann wrote about 46 Palmerston Road in Rathmines in Dublin, where George Yeats lived between her husband’s death in 1939 and her own death almost thirty years later. Mrs Yeats lived, Ellmann wrote, among the dead poet’s papers. ‘There in the bookcases was his working library, often heavily annotated, and in cabinets and ...

I, Lowborn Cur

Colin Burrow: Literary Names, 22 November 2012

Literary Names: Personal Names in English Literature 
by Alastair Fowler.
Oxford, 283 pp., £19.99, September 2012, 978 0 19 959222 7
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... is an unusually rich source of names. According to Bond, the Sooty Tern is also known as the Egg Bird; Booby; Bubí; Hurricane Bird; Gaviota Oscura; Gaviota Monja; Oiseau Fou; Touaou. But when the keen birdwatcher Ian Fleming needed a name that sounded as ordinary as possible, he had to look no further than the title page ...

Happier Days

Rosalind Mitchison, 4 April 1991

Scottish Voices 1745-1960 
by T.C. Smout and Sydney Wood.
Collins, 334 pp., £16.95, August 1990, 0 00 215190 1
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... hooks on life in Scotland, mostly memoirs and mostly familiar to historians. Old friends include George Robertson, Joseph Mitchell, Thomas Somerville and Ramsay of Ochtertyre. The accounts are separated into themes, such as school, factory and mine, leisure, crime (though none of the memorialists claim active participation in this). The excerpts are long ...

Forged, Forger, Forget

Nicholas Spice: Peter Carey, 5 August 2010

Parrot and Olivier in America 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 451 pp., £18.99, February 2010, 978 0 571 25329 6
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... its title. Not many readers will get the allusion here to Tocqueville and Beaumont in America by George Wilson Pierson, published in 1938 and for a long time the standard account of the nine-month journey which Tocqueville undertook with his friend Gustave de Beaumont, ostensibly for the purpose of writing a report on the American prison system, but which ...

Obstacles

Penelope Fitzgerald, 4 July 1996

Edward Thomas: Selected Letters 
edited by R. George Thomas.
Oxford, 192 pp., £30, March 1996, 0 19 818562 6
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... with depression. But Edward Thomas was, and is, greatly loved. His scholarly biographer, George Thomas, irritated as he is by what he calls the ‘dithering’ of Edward Thomas’s early life, treats him not only with respect but with love. Thomas saw himself with bitter clarity. ‘I suppose one does get help to some extent by being ...

Signora Zabaggy

Michael Rose, 2 August 1984

All Visitors Ashore 
by C.K. Stead.
Harvill, 150 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 00 271009 9
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A Trick of the Light 
by Sebastian Faulks.
Bodley Head, 204 pp., £7.95, July 1984, 0 370 30589 2
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Dividing Lines 
by Victor Sage.
Chatto, 166 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 7011 2811 9
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... attempt at a taxing subject. The opening pages of A Trick of the Light give us Wyn Douglas, George Grillet, and London. Douglas, marginal urban man, a fixer, a reporter, an intriguer, scurries about the underside of the city with plans for the dispossessed. George Grillet, 25, Anglo-French, vacationing in England ...

Dipper

Jason Harding: George Moore, 21 September 2000

George Moore, 1852-1933 
by Adrian Frazier.
Yale, 604 pp., £29.95, May 2000, 0 300 08245 2
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... In February 1932, on the occasion of George Moore’s 80th birthday, a group of distinguished London literati published an encomium in the Times paying homage to ‘a master of English letters’. Today there are few critics who would find a place for him in a pantheon of English novelists – of his 16 novels and numerous short stories, only Esther Waters counts as a ‘Penguin Classic ...

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