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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 ...
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 the marble partition (‘it might have been a giallo antico, but then I noticed Paleozoic fossils beneath the high polish and guessed that the stone was madrepore,’ Cheever notes in an uncharacteristic piece of shake-it-for-the-world High Bellowesque omniscience), he finds not the spurting pricks and lewdnesses he was expecting, but ‘organised into panels, like the pages of a book’, passages that might have been lifted from the commonplace-books and journals of his neighbours in the well-heeled, well-lit suburbs of upstate New York ...

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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... Gordon Burn’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 Capote and Norman Mailer; his first book, Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son (1984), was a painstaking re-creation of the life of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper ...

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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... as long as it takes to read the hook. The same expectation holds good when a novelist proposes, as Gordon Burn 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 universe. The narrator is a journalist in his ...

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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... in its midst; the most common epithets for the perpetrators are ‘monster’ and ‘madman’. Gordon Burn 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 alterations he made to it; his apparent liking for dirt ...

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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... our assumptions about fame and its consequences. In a bravura feat of imaginative reconstruction Gordon Burn 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 chanteuse of the Fifties; she went into decline ...

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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... Gordon Burn 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 not be pertinent, the pubs and their atmosphere. And we go back, or rather from the beginning of the book we go forward – from Sutcliffe’s grandparents on both sides ...

Your mission is to get the gun

Theo Tait: Raoul Moat, 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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... have been a staple of the non-fiction novel, from Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song to Gordon Burn’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 in July 2010 shot his former partner, Samantha ...

The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper

Blake Morrison, 4 July 1985

... up streets. Peter Sutcliffe to his brother Carl: Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son by Gordon Burn 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 goalmouths, An bursts on mind like sex. Cos sex is ...

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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... 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 circumstances, in situations and states of mind that are always ...

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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... of Henry James’s father in 1882, his sister-in-law Catharine Walsh, better known as Aunt Kate, burned a large quantity of the family papers, including many letters between Henry James senior and 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 ...

Feast of St Thomas

Frank Kermode, 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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... 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 about the poet, now augmented by the centenary of his ...

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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... 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 centuries by pagan members of the senatorial élite, by their ...

Diary

David Craig: In the Barra Isles, 30 October 1997

... the buildings would have been cruck-framed and thatched, with a smoke-hole for the fire that burned in the middle of the floor. They could only just be distinguished now from the ruined stonework of barns, kilns and folds. Below these again stood a well-made wooden pen in which the new owners, the Barra Stockmen’s Association, clip their ...

The Non-Scenic Route to the Place We’re Going Anyway

John Lanchester: The Belgian Solution, 8 September 2011

... 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 government is better than any government – any existing ...

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