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Red

Stephen Bann, 5 July 1984

Time in a Red Coat 
by George MackayBrown.
Chatto, 249 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 7011 2804 6
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Harland’s Half-Acre 
by David Malouf.
Chatto, 230 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 7011 2737 6
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The Border 
by Elaine Feinstein.
Hutchinson, 113 pp., £6.95, June 1984, 0 09 156320 8
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... more precise theory and practice of language than the on-going bustle of narrative will allow for. George Meredith, to take a good example, plays havoc with the expected sequence of events, expanding and contracting particular elements of the plot so that we can feel the sinews of narrative creaking and cracking under the strain. Then he turns round and ...

Getting on

Patricia Craig, 17 September 1987

The Golden Bird: Two Orkney Stories 
by George MackayBrown.
Murray, 226 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 7195 4385 1
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The Upper Hand 
by Stuart Hood.
Carcanet, 186 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 85635 719 7
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Dreams of Dead Women’s Handbags 
by Shena Mackay.
Heinemann, 160 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 434 44044 2
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... into the Gaedhaltacht areas of Donegal, out of apprehension about its Anglicising effect. George MackayBrown’s Orkney is an unfamiliar, off-shore locality in which everything seems a little richer through being both concentrated and chancy. How long can its distinctive character survive? It was endangered as ...

In Bloody Orkney

Robert Crawford: George MackayBrown, 22 February 2007

George MackayBrownThe Life 
by Maggie Fergusson.
Murray, 363 pp., £25, April 2006, 0 7195 5659 7
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The Collected Poems of George MackayBrown 
edited by Brian Murray.
Murray, 547 pp., £18.99, October 2006, 0 7195 6884 6
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... place acquire an undeflectable fascination. This is as true of Cavafy in Alexandria as it is of George MackayBrown in Orkney. Born in the Orcadian harbour town of Stromness in 1921, Brown was the youngest of six children. His father was a local postman, his mother an incomer from ...

Sydney’s Inferno

Jonathan Coe, 24 September 1992

The Last Magician 
by Janette Turner Hospital et al.
Virago, 352 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 1 85381 325 7
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Vinland 
by George MackayBrown.
Murray, 232 pp., £14.95, July 1992, 0 7195 5149 8
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... to consider the struggle of the individual in the face of supernatural forces, to address what George MackayBrown calls ‘the riddle of fate and freedom’, then you are best-off retreating into the distant past, as he has done in his fifth novel, Vinland. Here Brown has ...

What the doctor said

Edna Longley, 22 March 1990

A New Path to the Waterfall 
by Raymond Carver.
Collins Harvill, 158 pp., £11, September 1989, 0 00 271043 9
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Wolfwatching 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 55 pp., £8.99, September 1989, 0 571 14167 6
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Poems 1954-1987 
by Peter Redgrove.
Penguin, 228 pp., £5.99, August 1989, 0 14 058641 5
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The First Earthquake 
by Peter Redgrove.
Secker, 76 pp., £7.50, August 1989, 0 436 41006 0
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Mount Eagle 
by John Montague.
Bloodaxe, 75 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 1 85224 090 3
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The Wreck of the Archangel 
by George MackayBrown.
Murray, 116 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 7195 4750 4
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The Perfect Man 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Abacus, 96 pp., £3.99, November 1989, 0 349 10122 1
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... in the pantheons of our archipelago. This produces tacit conspiracies of specialisation. Thus George MackayBrown specialises in Feyness, Fiona Pitt-Kethley in Coarseness. Mackay Brown’s The Wreck of the Archangel may charm – Said stone to buttercup, ‘Dance till ...

Roaming the stations of the world

Patrick McGuinness: Seamus Heaney, 3 January 2002

Electric Light 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 81 pp., £8.99, March 2001, 0 571 20762 6
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Seamus Heaney in Conversation with Karl Miller 
Between the Lines, 112 pp., £9.50, July 2001, 0 9532841 7 4Show More
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... recently dead friends and poets (Ted Hughes, Zbigniew Herbert, Joseph Brodsky, Norman MacCaig and George MackayBrown) tend to be wide-ranging meditations on literature and language. In his criticism as well as his poetry, Heaney has always excelled at finding metaphors of process for the act of ...

Blessed, Beastly Place

Douglas Dunn, 5 March 1981

Precipitous City 
by Trevor Royle.
Mainstream, 210 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 906391 09 1
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RLS: A Life Study 
by Jenni Calder.
Hamish Hamilton, 362 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 241 10374 6
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Gillespie 
by J. MacDougall Hay.
Canongate, 450 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 903937 79 4
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Scottish Satirical Verse 
edited by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 236 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 85635 183 0
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Collected Poems 
by Robert Garioch.
Carcanet, 208 pp., £3.95, July 1980, 0 85635 316 7
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... he expanded and elucidated Virgil, his translation left nothing out. Royle is right to mention Sir George MacKenzie of Rosehaugh as ‘one of the few intellectual giants of his day’ – ‘that noble wit of Scotland’, as Dryden called him – but he might have told us that his Aretina (1660) was the first novel by a Scotsman (and he mght have mentioned Sir ...

Into the Dark

Kathleen Jamie: A Winter Solstice, 18 December 2003

... wind-honed archipelago. Many of them are inhabited. The islands are whale-shapes, as their poet George MackayBrown noted. Few trees impede the wind. Water, salt and fresh, in wide bays or lochs or channels, is always to hand, lightening and softening the land it encircles. The land is fertile, the people ...

Making sense

Denis Donoghue, 4 October 1984

A Wave 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 89 pp., £4.95, August 1984, 9780856355479
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Secret Narratives 
by Andrew Motion.
Salamander, 46 pp., £6, March 1983, 0 907540 29 5
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Liberty Tree 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 78 pp., £4, June 1983, 0 05 711302 5
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111 Poems 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 185 pp., £5.95, April 1983, 0 85635 457 0
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New and Selected Poems 
by James Michie.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2723 6
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By the Fisheries 
by Jeremy Reed.
Cape, 79 pp., £4, March 1984, 0 224 02154 0
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Voyages 
by George MackayBrown.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2736 8
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... to compare with Ashbery’s ‘Self-Portrait in an Convex Mirror’ and ‘Fantasia on “The Nut-Brown Maid” ’. The origin of ‘A Wave’ may be the passage about dreams in ‘Self-Portrait’: ‘They seemed strange because we couldn’t actually see them ... ’ As in ‘Self-Portrait’, Ashbery’s style is loose-limbed, musing, discursive unrhymed ...

Dialect with Army and Navy

David Wheatley: Douglas Dunn and Politovsky, 21 June 2001

The Donkey’s Ears: Politovsky’s Letters Home 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 176 pp., £7.99, May 2000, 0 571 20426 0
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The Year's Afternoon 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 81 pp., £7.99, October 2000, 0 571 20427 9
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... hangs over The Year’s Afternoon. ‘Three Poets’ elegises Norman MacCaig, Sorley MacLean and George MackayBrown, a list to which he has added Iain Crichton Smith in the dedication of One Hundred 20th-Century Scottish Poems (2000), a sampler from his earlier Faber anthology. Again the cheering conclusion: ‘Let ...

The Excursions

Andrew O’Hagan, 16 June 2011

... experience fighting against the kinds of common experience labelled ‘heritage’. There are brown signs directing you off the road to crucial destinations, but in Cumberland, for instance, the land itself is the naked truth, the thing that the heritage industry can’t quite bottle and label. There’s just this immensity, with the clouds scudding over ...

Should we say thank you?

Hugh Wilford: The Overrated Marshall Plan, 30 April 2009

The Most Noble Adventure: The Marshall Plan and the Reconstruction of Postwar Europe 
by Greg Behrman.
Aurum, 448 pp., £25, February 2008, 978 1 84513 326 9
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Winning the Peace: The Marshall Plan and America’s Coming of Age as a Superpower 
by Nicolaus Mills.
Wiley, 290 pp., £15.99, August 2008, 978 0 470 09755 7
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... for reconstructing Europe after the Second World War, named after the US secretary of state, George C. Marshall. Between April 1948, when President Truman signed it into law, and the end of 1951, the European Recovery Programme (ERP) poured more than $13 billion of aid into Western Europe – roughly equivalent to $550 billion as a share of current US ...

Diary

John Bayley: Serious Novels, 10 November 1994

... none the less patronisingly dismissed Jane Austen as ‘knowing no more of her process than the brown bird that sings on the orchard bough’, he forgot or ignored the fact that a highly skilled and instinctive artist may know very little about how his task came to be chosen, but a very great deal about how it was done. The process and impulse in these ...

Love in a Dark Time

Colm Tóibín: Oscar Wilde, 19 April 2001

The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde 
edited by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis.
Fourth Estate, 1270 pp., £35, November 2000, 1 85702 781 7
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... of Being Earnest was to open on 14 February. Wilde attended rehearsals, and was persuaded by George Alexander, the actor-manager, who was producing the play and performing in it, to drop the act in which Algernon is almost arrested for debt. This play, too, was a huge success, with both critics and audiences. ‘Oscar Wilde,’ the New York Times ...

A New Kind of Being

Jenny Turner: Angela Carter, 3 November 2016

The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography 
by Edmund Gordon.
Chatto, 544 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 7011 8755 2
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... but a modish early 1960s novel of beatnik shenanigans in the heightened kitchen-sink mode of Shena Mackay and Shelagh Delaney, only nastier. She based her characters on people she knew from her local pub, so closely that her publisher required a letter of comfort from the man who supplied the model for the novel’s charismatic villain (whom the novel ...

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