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Secretly Sublime

Iain Sinclair: The Great Ian Penman, 19 March 1998

Vital Signs 
by Ian Penman.
Serpent’s Tail, 374 pp., £10.99, February 1998, 1 85242 523 7
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... from the start. Staring them in the face. I. Penman. A modest assertion, registered anonymity. George Gissing reborn on the cusp of punk. Penman was gifted with a Grub Street membership card at a time when Grub Street had been decommissioned. The slender ego of that single initial protected the man from any possibility of worldly success. Puffed up ...

Little England

Patrick Wright: The view through a bus window, 7 September 2006

Great British Bus Journeys: Travels through Unfamous Places 
by David McKie.
Atlantic, 359 pp., £16.99, March 2006, 1 84354 132 7
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... of the rhubarb for which the place was once well known, and we chug onwards to Wakefield, where George Gissing is not commemorated as fully as he might be – too ‘grim’, perhaps, and too heavily challenged, like many formerly industrial towns and all socialist novelists, for a happy ending. McKie’s purpose is not so much to deny that present-day ...

Unhappy Families

Angela Carter, 16 September 1982

The Beauties and Furies 
by Christina Stead.
Virago, 329 pp., £3.95, July 1982, 0 86068 175 0
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... image of a vampire and a lesbian party takes on the insanely heightened melodrama of a drawing by George Grosz, the effect is the thing, not the language that achieves it. But there is more to it than that. The way she finally writes is almost as if she were showing you by demonstration that style itself is a lie in action, that language is an elaborate ...

My Old, Sweet, Darling Mob

Iain Sinclair: Michael Moorcock, 30 November 2000

King of the City 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 421 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 684 86140 2
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Mother London 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 496 pp., £6.99, May 2000, 0 684 86141 0
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... Moorcock’s distemper remains, despite the viral assaults of life in a genetically-modified George W. Bush fiefdom (fevers, sweats, steroid-regimens), genially satiric rather than venomous and bile-secreting; he targets the virtual reality spooks of Lit-Lite. The fawn jackets. The suit-bags. The shaved sentences. English fiction (the creative reading ...

Savage Rush

David Trotter: The Tube, 21 October 2010

Underground Writing: The London Tube from George Gissing to Virginia Woolf 
by David Welsh.
Liverpool, 306 pp., £70, May 2010, 978 1 84631 223 6
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... to both. The same stretch of line had already worked its magic on two of the main characters in George Gissing’s The Odd Women (1893), who both get on the train, as Kate Croy was to do, at Sloane Square. Adopting ‘an intimate tone, though one that was quite conventional’, Everard Barfoot flirts with the safely married Monica Widdowson by ...

Bringing it home to Uncle Willie

Frank Kermode, 6 May 1982

Joseph Conrad: A Biography 
by Roger Tennant.
Sheldon Press, 276 pp., £12.50, January 1982, 0 85969 358 9
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Edward Garnett: A Life in Literature 
by George Jefferson.
Cape, 350 pp., £12.50, April 1982, 0 224 01488 9
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The Edwardian Novelists 
by John Batchelor.
Duckworth, 251 pp., £18, February 1982, 0 7156 1109 7
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The Uses of Obscurity: The Fiction of Early Modernism 
by Allon White.
Routledge, 190 pp., £12, August 1981, 0 7100 0751 5
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... in part from changes in the book trade at the beginning of the century. The three-decker novel, Gissing’s commodious rack, expired in the Nineties. In the upheaval that followed, old firms, bewildered by new needs, went out of business, and new ones appeared, ready to study and exploit a market now calling for shorter and cheaper books. They were no ...


John Bayley, 22 June 1989

The Essential Wyndham Lewis 
edited by Julian Symons.
Deutsch, 380 pp., £17.95, April 1989, 0 233 98376 7
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... to the liberal pieties of the status quo. So did Kipling, whom Beerbohm really feared and hated. Gissing gloated that Barrack Room Ballads showed the real right savagery that was about to burst on the world: and that too now seems a surprising judgment. Yeats is more plausible when he hailed Jarry’s Ubu Roi as evangelist of the Savage God who was to ...

All their dreaming’s done

James Francken: Janet Davey, 8 May 2003

English Correspondence 
by Janet Davey.
Chatto, 199 pp., £12.99, January 2003, 0 7011 7364 5
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... No one reads George Meredith any more. His novels are thought to be brainy and obscure, his difficulty is seen as suspect. In the four weeks ending 22 February, according to Nielsen BookScan, 1359 people in Britain bought a copy of Middlemarch; of the noteworthy novels published in the same decade, Hardy’s A Pair of Blue Eyes sold 182 copies; Meredith’s The Egoist sold nine ...

Good Girls and Bad Girls

Anita Brookner, 2 June 1983

by Deborah Moggach.
Cape, 236 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 224 02948 7
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The Banquet 
by Carolyn Slaughter.
Allen Lane, 191 pp., £6.95, May 1983, 0 7139 1574 9
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Binstead’s Safari 
by Rachel Ingalls.
Faber, 221 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 9780571130160
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In Good Faith 
by Edith Reveley.
Hodder, 267 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 340 32012 5
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by Monica Furlong.
Weidenfeld, 172 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 297 78231 2
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The Moons of Jupiter 
by Alice Munro.
Allen Lane, 233 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 7139 1549 8
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On the Stroll 
by Alix Kates Shulman.
Virago, 301 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 0 86068 364 8
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The Color Purple 
by Alice Walker.
Women’s Press, 244 pp., £3.95, March 1983, 0 7043 3905 6
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Mistral’s Daughter 
by Judith Krantz.
Sidgwick, 531 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 0 283 98987 4
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... been led to expect insights a little sharper than those on show here. This story of Margery and George Ince, living in Rome, where George is employed by some sort of multinational philanthropic and acronymic organisation, falls into the same painless slot as Nancy Mitford’s Don’t Tell Alfred. The story turns on the ...
The Children’s Book of Comic Verse 
edited by Christopher Logue.
Batsford, 160 pp., £3.95, March 1980, 0 7134 1528 2
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The Children’s Book of Funny Verse 
edited by Julia Watson.
Faber, 127 pp., £3.95, September 1980, 0 571 11467 9
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Bagthorpes v. the World 
by Helen Cresswell.
Faber, 192 pp., £4.50, September 1980, 0 571 11446 6
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The Robbers 
by Nina Bawden.
Gollancz, 144 pp., £3.95, September 1980, 0 575 02695 2
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... includes A.A. Milne’s ‘Disobedience’, the tale of James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree, who took great care of his mother, though he was only three. The mother, you will remember, disobeys James James’s order that she should not go down to the end of the town without consulting him. She never comes back. It is shrugged off very ...

Spurning at the High

Edward Pearce: A poet of Chartism, 6 November 2003

Ernest Jones, Chartism and the Romance of Politics 1819-69 
by Miles Taylor.
Oxford, 290 pp., £45, January 2003, 0 19 820729 8
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... a character who could be played on television by Rufus Sewell, but someone closer to the world of Gissing, to Edwin Reardon sweating away at the next three-decker novel. Jones had romantic ideas and high aspirations, but when he threw in his lot with radicalism, or more precisely with Chartism, he achieved a public identity and a certain fugitive ...

Flying the flag

Patrick Parrinder, 18 November 1993

The Modern British Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 512 pp., £20, October 1993, 0 436 20132 1
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After the War: The Novel and English Society since 1945 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 310 pp., £17.99, September 1993, 9780701137694
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... in his introduction, is that no modern English writer can ‘hold a candle’ to Dickens or George Eliot. Born in 1960, Taylor has now written two books on post-war English fiction – the first was A Vain Conceit (1989) – expounding the Victorian values that he first acquired (as he now tells us) when reading Dombey and Son in his father’s ...

Make the music mute

John Barrell, 9 July 1992

English Music 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 241 12501 4
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... sure about that); and then on to Samuel Palmer to Wuthering Heights to Ford Madox Brown to George Eliot to Whistler to Edwin Drood (I think) and to Wilkie Collins. The effect is like an unseen examination for Joint Honours in English Art and Literature, except that while Ackroyd trusts the ‘scholarly reader’ to recognise the literary gobbets, he ...

Taking it up again

Margaret Anne Doody, 21 March 1991

Henry James and Revision 
by Philip Horne.
Oxford, 373 pp., £40, December 1990, 0 19 812871 1
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... on this undertaking, and on James’s writing: there is a reference to Stevenson, and one to Gissing. Curiously, there is no reference to the author’s unsuccessful plays. His time as a failed dramatist may have convinced James of the need for passionate authorial control, of constant adverbial direction as to how sentences were said and heard. The ...

Successive Applications of Sticking-Plaster

Andrew Saint: The urban history of Britain, 1 November 2001

The Cambridge Urban History of Britain. Vol. III: 1840-1950 
edited by Martin Daunton.
Cambridge, 944 pp., £90, January 2001, 0 521 41707 4
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... easy. If you want to savour the everyday experience of Victorian London, why not go to Dickens, Gissing and Mayhew, or, for industrial towns during the Depression, Priestley and Orwell? Such authors are quoted here, but less copiously than they would once have been, no doubt because their readings are now often felt to be singular or distorted. The modern ...

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