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A Bit of Ginger

Theo Tait: Gordon Burn

5 June 2008
Born Yesterday: The News as a Novel 
by Gordon Burn.
Faber, 214 pp., £15.99, April 2008, 978 0 571 19729 3
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... GordonBurn’s work takes place at a point where fact and fiction, public events and private lives, fame and death all meet. He began his career as a proponent of the non-fiction novel pioneered by Truman ...

Where mine is at

Gordon Burn

28 May 1992
Outerbridge Reach 
by Robert Stone.
Deutsch, 409 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 223 98774 3
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... When Robert Stone’s best-known novel, Dog Soldiers, was published in 1974, there was a small but significant overlap of material with The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe’s souped-up, superheated journalistic account of the beginnings of the counterculture, published six years earlier. The coincidence of material was in many ways inevitable. Stone had been part of the California bohemian ...

Howl

Adam Mars-Jones

21 September 1995
Fullalove 
by Gordon Burn.
Secker, 231 pp., £14.99, August 1995, 0 436 20059 7
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... on us as a magician forces a card – so that we can see how it feels to share it, if only for as long as it takes to read the hook. The same expectation holds good when a novelist proposes, as GordonBurn does in his new novel Fullalove, that not green cheese or God’s love but black pus – meaningless suffering, and an appetite for meaningless suffering – is the basic building-block of the ...
9 January 1992
John Cheever: The Journals 
Cape, 399 pp., £16.99, November 1991, 0 224 03244 5Show More
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... Journal-writing and diary-keeping are a kind of secret exhibitionism, the genteel equivalent of scrawling on lavatory walls. This seems to be the message of ‘Mene, Mene, Tekel, Up-harsin’, one of John Cheever’s loopy, luminescent, triumphant later stories. The narrator, returning to America after a long absence, enters a stall in the men’s room at Grand Central Station, and there, etched into ...

Lustmord

John Burnside: Fred and Rosemary West

10 December 1998
Happy like Murderers 
by Gordon Burn.
Faber, 390 pp., £17.99, September 1998, 0 571 19546 6
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... such crimes, part of the mechanism by which a society distances itself from the horror it discovers in its midst; the most common epithets for the perpetrators are ‘monster’ and ‘madman’. GordonBurn concerns himself for much of this book with Fred West’s everyday existence: his obsession with machines and pornography; his pride in owning the house in Cromwell Street and the countless ...

Wallflower

Anthony Quinn

29 August 1991
Varying Degrees of Hopelessness 
by Lucy Ellmann.
Hamish Hamilton, 184 pp., £13.99, July 1991, 0 241 13153 7
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Slide 
by James Buchan.
Heinemann, 135 pp., £12.99, June 1991, 0 434 07499 3
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Alma Cogan 
by Gordon Burn.
Secker, 210 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 0 436 20009 0
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... into the face,’ wrote John Updike in Self-Consciousness, a metaphor which gives a startling tilt to our assumptions about fame and its consequences. In a bravura feat of imaginative reconstruction GordonBurn has taken the idea of celebrity-as-affliction a step further and pursued one of its victims beyond the grave. Alma Cogan, ‘the girl with the laugh in her voice’, was Britain’s most popular ...

Fallen Women

Patricia Highsmith

21 June 1984
‘Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son’: The Story of Peter Sutcliffe 
by Gordon Burn.
Heinemann, 272 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 0 434 09827 2
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... GordonBurn gives us no comment of his own on the story he has to tell – just the facts: no speculation as to why Peter Sutcliffe behaved as he did, just the events, the family life, anecdotes that may or may ...
30 March 2016
You Could Do Something Amazing with Your Life [You Are Raoul Moat] 
by Andrew Hankinson.
Scribe, 204 pp., £12.99, February 2016, 978 1 922247 91 9
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... it is, murder was a theme not likely to darken and yellow with time.’ Since In Cold Blood, murderers have been a staple of the non-fiction novel, from Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song to GordonBurn’s horribly fascinating books about Peter Sutcliffe and Fred and Rosemary West. Andrew Hankinson’s new book dramatises the last days of Raoul Moat, the Newcastle bouncer and bodybuilder who ...
4 July 1985
... Allan Poe, ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ I were just cleaning up streets our kid. Just cleaning up streets. Peter Sutcliffe to his brother Carl: Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son by GordonBurn Ower t’ills o Bingley Stormclouds clap an drain, Like opened blood-black blisters Leakin pus an pain. Ail teems down like stair-rods, An swells canals an becks, An fills up studmarked ...

It makes yer head go

David Craig: James Kelman and Gordon​ Legge

18 February 1999
The Good Times 
by James Kelman.
Secker, 246 pp., £14.99, July 1998, 0 436 41215 2
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Near Neighbours 
by Gordon​ Legge.
Cape, 218 pp., £9.99, June 1998, 0 224 05120 2
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... the former prevails. The voice which chats and muses and reasons, and girns and deaves, and argues and contradicts itself throughout these stories, reaching us like the grumbling and bubbling of a burn flowing under grass or heather, is not a transcript of Glasgow speech, or not only that. It is an amazingly subtle vehicle for an intent brooding on the way we live, under the most usual ...

A Man with My Trouble

Colm Tóibín: Henry James leaves home

3 January 2008
The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1855-72: Volume I 
edited by Pierre Walker and Greg Zacharias.
Nebraska, 391 pp., £57, January 2007, 978 0 8032 2584 8
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The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1855-72: Volume II 
edited by Pierre Walker and Greg Zacharias.
Nebraska, 524 pp., £60, January 2007, 978 0 8032 2607 4
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... his wife. Henry James himself in later life made a number of bonfires in which he destroyed a great quantity of the letters he had received. He often added an instruction to the letters he wrote: ‘Burn this!’ To one correspondent, he wrote: ‘Burn my letter with fire or candle (if you have either! Otherwise, wade out into the sea with it and soak the ink out of it).’ In two of his stories ...
29 September 1988
Eliot’s New Life 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Oxford, 356 pp., £15, September 1988, 0 19 811727 2
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The Letters of T.S. Eliot 
edited by Valerie Eliot.
Faber, 618 pp., £25, September 1988, 0 571 13621 4
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The Poetics of Impersonality 
by Maud Ellmann.
Harvester, 207 pp., £32.50, January 1988, 0 7108 0463 6
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T.S. Eliot and the Philosophy of Criticism 
by Richard Shusterman.
Duckworth, 236 pp., £19.95, February 1988, 0 7156 2187 4
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‘The Men of 1914’: T.S. Eliot and Early Modernism 
by Erik Svarny.
Open University, 268 pp., £30, September 1988, 0 335 09019 2
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Eliot, Joyce and Company 
by Stanley Sultan.
Oxford, 326 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 19 504880 6
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The Savage and the City in the Work of T.S. Eliot 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 251 pp., £25, December 1987, 9780198128694
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T.S. Eliot: The Poems 
by Martin Scofield.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 521 30147 5
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... The idea that Eliot’s poetry was rooted in private aspects of his life has now been accepted,’ says Lyndall Gordon in the Foreword to her second volume of biographical rooting among these aspects. This acceptance, which she evidently approves, has undoubtedly occurred, as a root through the enormous heap of books ...

Dead Eyes and Blank Faces

John Henderson: Expression under Nero

2 April 1998
Dissidence and Literature under Nero: The Price of Rhetoricisation 
by Vasily Rudich.
Routledge, 408 pp., £50, March 1997, 0 415 09501 8
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... mania imperial Rome has always been hard to beat. On the one hand, there is the rogues’ gallery: doddery Claudius dribbling still down Derek Jacobi’s chin; blubbery Nero fiddling while the slums burn; and those women – impossibly sinister Livia, unimaginably (but let’s try) sexcrazed Messalina. On the other, reams of text from the Roman Empire, in Latin or Greek, written over three or four ...
8 September 2011
... t had one for 15 months. No government means none of the stuff all the other governments are doing: no cuts and no ‘austerity’ packages. In the absence of anyone with a mandate to slash and burn, Belgian public sector spending is puttering along much as it always was; hence the continuing growth of their economy. It turns out that from the economic point of view, in the current crisis, no ...

Prize Poems

Donald Davie

1 July 1982
Arvon Foundation Poetry Competion: 1980 Anthology 
by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.
Kilnhurst Publishing Company, 173 pp., £3, April 1982, 9780950807805
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Burn​ this 
by Tom Disch.
Hutchinson, 63 pp., £7.50, April 1982, 0 09 146960 0
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... Phyllis Koestenbaum, Barbara Moore, David MacSweeney (one out of two), Randall Garrison, Donald Stallybrass, Ellery Akers, Peter Abbs, John Hodgen, Andrew Motion, Edwin Drummond, Gregory Harrison, Gordon Mason and Robert Ballard, Isabel Nathaniel and Peter Didsbury, Anthony Edkins and Brian Cosgrove. Several get prizes, and in particular Andrew Motion gets the big one, £5,000, for a poem that either ...

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