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Wallahs and Wallabies

Gilbert Phelps

8 May 1986
12 Edmondstone Street 
by David Malouf.
Chatto, 134 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 7011 3970 6
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The Shakespeare Wallah 
by Geoffrey Kendal and Clare Colvin.
Sidgwick, 186 pp., £12.95, March 1986, 0 283 99230 1
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Children of the Country: Coast to Coast across Africa 
by Joseph Hone.
Hamish Hamilton, 258 pp., £12.95, March 1986, 0 241 11742 9
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... On the face of it, autobiography and travel should be the simplest forms of literature to write: the facts are there, there is a life or a country to be crossed. Yet they have their own special difficulties of tone and approach, and of all forms they are perhaps the most subject to the fictionality of truth, while paradoxically demanding a core of inner truth if they are to become literature. Of these ...
14 September 1989
A Short Guide to the World Novel: From Myth to Modernism 
by Gilbert Phelps.
Routledge, 397 pp., £30, September 1988, 0 415 00765 8
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The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction 
by John Sutherland.
Longman, 696 pp., £35, March 1989, 0 582 49040 5
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The Haunted Study: A Social History of the English Novel 1875-1914 
by Peter Keating.
Secker, 533 pp., £30, September 1989, 0 436 23248 0
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... it would be necessary to read an infinity of novels.’ Such a wholesale reading of fiction takes on for many of us, as for Trollope, ‘a terrible aspect’. It doesn’t apparently, though, for GilbertPhelps, John Sutherland and Peter Keating, surveyors and encyclopedists of the form who in their respective fields have laboured with energetic exhaustiveness and not broken down. Each of these books ...

Walking on Eyeballs

E.S. Turner: The history of gout

7 January 1999
Gout: The Patrician Malady 
by Roy Porter and G.S. Rousseau.
Yale, 393 pp., £25, September 1998, 0 300 07386 0
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... be better struck off. The feet could be plunged in icy water or boiled horse dung, or even plunged into a fire burning in a hole in the ground (a method recommended by the sorely-tried slaver, Thomas Phelps, on the Barbary coast). The affected part could be scourged with a whip of nettles or painted with caustic; or tiny bonfires of moss could be started in strategic parts to drive the pain elsewhere ...

Outfoxing Hangman

Thomas Jones: David Mitchell

11 May 2006
Black Swan Green 
by David Mitchell.
Sceptre, 371 pp., £16.99, May 2006, 0 340 82279 1
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... play British bulldogs on the ice. In a couple of pages, ‘twenty or twenty-five of us boys, plus Dawn Madden’ are introduced to the reader in a bewildering welter of names: Dean Moran, Nick Yew, Gilbert Swinyard, Nicholas Briar, Floyd Chaceley, Neal Brose, Pete Redmarley, Ross Wilcox, Gary Drake, ‘Squelch’, Grant Burch, Philip Phelps, Lee Biggs, the Tookey brothers, Ant Little, Darren Croome ...

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