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Reach-Me-Down Romantic

Terry Eagleton: For and Against Orwell, 19 June 2003

George Orwell 
by Gordon Bowker.
Little, Brown, 495 pp., £20, May 2003, 0 316 86115 4
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Orwell: The Life 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 448 pp., £20, June 2003, 0 7011 6919 2
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Orwell: Life and Times 
by Scott Lucas.
Haus, 180 pp., £8.99, April 2003, 1 904341 33 0
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... novelist. As judicious (though not hopelessly balanced) accounts, the new biographies by Gordon Bowker and D.J. Taylor confirm what the law of averages might have led one to suspect: some of this is true, some of it questionable and the rest of it false. (Scott Lucas, by contrast, thinks almost all of it true.) Orwell was indeed ...

Lowry’s Planet

Michael Hofmann, 27 January 1994

Pursued by Furies: A life of Malcolm Lowry 
by Gordon Bowker.
HarperCollins, 672 pp., £25, October 1993, 0 00 215539 7
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The Collected Poetry of Malcolm Lowry 
edited by Kathleen Scherf.
British Columbia, 418 pp., £25, January 1992, 0 7748 0362 2
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... the model for ‘Mr Chips’ (I don’t know what that means in practical terms, but both Day and Bowker tell you so). A teacher remembers Lowry as ‘a rather shaggy, laconic boy, “a cat that walked by itself”’. His style was already emerging. To thank his mother for some cushions, he wrote: ‘The study now resembles the bibliothèque of an Armenian ...

Joyce and Company

Tim Parks: Joyce’s Home Life, 5 July 2012

James Joyce: A Biography 
by Gordon Bowker.
Phoenix, 608 pp., £14.99, March 2012, 978 0 7538 2860 1
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... conflicting needs and what part did the consequent tension play in his achievement as a writer? Gordon Bowker never frames these questions or discusses his intentions as a literary biographer. His account proceeds in linear fashion, most chapters covering a period of one or two years. Detail overwhelms reflection throughout, while the connection ...


Elizabeth Lowry: Malcolm Lowry, 1 November 2007

The Voyage That Never Ends: Malcolm Lowry in His Own Words 
edited by Michael Hofmann.
NYRB, 518 pp., £16.99, November 2007, 978 1 59017 235 3
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... the manuscript of the novel. This communication has rightly been described by Lowry’s biographer Gordon Bowker as ‘probably the most subtle and revealing letter ever written by an English author about his work’. Tracing the last day in the life of Geoffrey Firmin, the dipsomaniac British consul in Mexico, as he grapples with and succumbs to his ...

Paralysed by the Absence of Danger

Jeremy Harding: Spain, 1937, 24 September 2009

Letters from Barcelona: An American Woman in Revolution and Civil War 
edited by Gerd-Rainer Horn.
Palgrave, 209 pp., £50, February 2009, 978 0 230 52739 3
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War Is Beautiful: An American Ambulance Driver in the Spanish Civil War 
by James Neugass.
New Press, 314 pp., £16.99, November 2008, 978 1 59558 427 4
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We Saw Spain Die: Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War 
by Paul Preston.
Constable, 525 pp., £9.99, June 2009, 978 1 84529 946 0
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... the British Communist David Crook who did most of the spying on the Orwells – and, according to Gordon Bowker in his biography of Orwell, Crook went on to suggest that Eileen was having an affair with Kopp. The snakepit from which the Orrs scrambled when they left for France was deep and dangerous. Like many of their kind, they never quite put it ...

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