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Hard Man

Ian Hamilton

16 October 1980
Walk Don’t Walk The Camp From Scenes Like These 
by Gordon Williams.
Allison and Busby, 264 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 85031 309 0
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... GordonWilliams, formerly Gordon M. Williams: born 1934, educated at the John Neilson Institution in Paisley. Worked in Scotland as a farm labourer and newspaper reporter before undergoing National Service in Germany with the RAF. Has worked as ...

Brought to book

Gordon Williams

7 May 1981
Ronnie Biggs: His Own Story 
by Michael Joseph.
Sphere, 238 pp., £7.95, March 1981, 9780718119720
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A Sense of Freedom 
by Jimmy Boyle.
Pan, 264 pp., £1.25, September 1977, 0 330 25303 4
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... Train-robber Biggs and murderer Boyle present in their testaments a challenge to our moral reflexes. Both authors have appalling records: South Londoner Biggs with countless petty interviews, conspiracy to commit biography, and now brazen autobiography executed in ruthlessly-priced hard-back, plus indecent exposure on a Sex Pistols waxing: Glaswegian Boyle with an audaciously publicised apologia here ...

Chances are

Michael Wood

7 July 1983
O, How the wheel becomes it! 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 143 pp., £6.95, June 1983, 0 434 59925 5
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Brilliant Creatures 
by Clive James.
Cape, 303 pp., £7.95, July 1983, 0 224 02122 2
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Pomeroy 
by Gordon Williams.
Joseph, 233 pp., £7.95, June 1983, 0 7181 2259 3
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... and the jokes, is to have created characters who begin to be likeable, and who make and live with a decision worth pondering. Shadbold’s roulette and James’s chapter of accidents become poker in GordonWilliams’s lively novel Pomeroy. Up there in Dawson City, One-Eye Riley the mad gambler was asked: ‘Is it true you regard poker as a matter of life or death?’ He replied: ‘Hell, no, cards ...

Hard Labour

Frank Kermode: Marvell beneath the Notes

23 October 2003
The Poems of Andrew Marvell 
edited by Nigel Smith.
Longman, 468 pp., £50, January 2003, 0 582 07770 2
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... colonial’ resonance in ‘A Dialogue between the Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure’? You won’t find it unless you put it there. The most irritatingly intrusive comments come from a certain GordonWilliams, who sniffs out dirty and often dotty double meanings all over the place. I was surprised to find that the Mower poems are to be thought of not only as a group but as a sequence during which ...

Diary

Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows

7 October 1993
... Valentine Cunningham and he had been invited to the party because I’d quoted in my memoir a remark of his, in the TLS, about a subsequent book of mine: ‘There is even a case to be made for Giles Gordon being the only true inheritor of the late B.S. Johnson’s mantle as one of the serious Anglicises of French modes.’ Heady stuff. No British reviewer or critic would write like that now. Many ...
16 December 1993
Aren’t We Due a Royalty Statement? 
by Giles Gordon.
Chatto, 352 pp., £16.99, August 1993, 0 7011 6022 5
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Yesterday Came Suddenly 
by Francis King.
Constable, 336 pp., £16.95, September 1993, 9780094722200
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Excursions in the Real World 
by William Trevor.
Hutchinson, 201 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 0 09 177086 6
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... I was well into Giles Gordon’s Aren’t We Due a Royalty Statement? before I noticed that other readers were taking the book seriously, often to the point of denunciation. Up to then I had been assuming that it had set out to ...
24 February 1994
The Kenneth Williams​ Diaries 
edited by Russell Davies.
HarperCollins, 827 pp., £20, June 1993, 0 00 255023 7
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... Many people would say – there stands English comedy,’ David Frost is reported to have declaimed, as Frankie Howerd and Kenneth Williams stood side by side on his doorstep. Williams was unimpressed. ‘I thought to myself, “Then many people would be lacking in perception,” but shouted drunken goodbyes and reeled down the street into a taxi.’ What these two Titans of comedy ...

You’re only interested in Hitler, not me

Susan Pedersen: Shirley Williams

19 December 2013
Shirley WilliamsThe Biography 
by Mark Peel.
Biteback, 461 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 1 84954 604 1
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... Mark Peel organises his serviceable authorised biography of Shirley Williams around an ostensible conundrum. Why didn’t Williams achieve more politically? Why did the polarising, hectoring Margaret Thatcher, rather than the consensus-seeking, appealing Williams, become Britain’s first woman prime minister? This is a common ...

‘I love you, defiant witch!’

Michael Newton: Charles Williams

7 September 2016
Charles WilliamsThe Third Inkling 
by Grevel Lindop.
Oxford, 493 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 0 19 928415 3
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... poet-lecturers, W.H. Auden mentioned the moments of unanticipated connection: Or blessed encounter, full of joy Unscheduled on the Giesen Plan, With, here, an addict of Tolkien, There, a Charles Williams fan.If Auden were on the circuit now, he’d still find plenty of Tolkien addicts, but he’d go a long way before stumbling on a Charles Williams fan. Charles Williams influenced a swathe of mid ...

Pseud’s Corner

John Sutherland

17 July 1980
Duffy 
by Dan Kavanagh.
Cape, 181 pp., £4.95, July 1980, 0 224 01822 1
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Moscow Gold 
by John Salisbury.
Futura, 320 pp., £1.10, March 1980, 0 7088 1702 5
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The Middle Ground 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 297 77808 0
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The Boy Who Followed Ripley 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 292 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 434 33520 7
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... to conjecture, and it seems likely that Orwell needed some symbolic manumission in order to emancipate his writing self. One notes, in support of this, the prominence in the novels of heroes like Gordon Comstock who break with their stultifying families. And it is interesting, in the light of the works reviewed here, that Patricia Highsmith also seems to have been one of those who felt the need to ...

Jingoes

R.W. Johnson: Britain and South Africa since the Boer War

6 May 2004
The Lion and the Springbok: Britain and South Africa since the Boer War 
by Ronald Hyam and Peter Henshaw.
Cambridge, 379 pp., £45, May 2003, 0 521 82453 2
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... below). ‘If there is one thing on which all South Africans are agreed, it is . . . that racial blood mixture is an evil,’ Smuts warned when it was first suggested that Khama wished to marry Ruth Williams, a white woman. This was enough to panic the postwar Labour government, and when Churchill returned to power Smuts advised him that the Khama case was ‘full of dynamite’. The affair has come to ...

Soft Spur

A.W.B. Simpson

3 February 1983
What next in the Law 
by Lord Denning.
Butterworth, 352 pp., £9.95, July 1982, 0 406 17602 7
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... matters as the fate of the Pearson Commission Report on Civil Liability and Compensation for Personal Injury (1978), though I note with sadness, but without surprise, that no tears are shed for the Williams Committee Report on Obscenity and Film Censorship (1979), which was perhaps too liberal for Lord Denning’s taste. Much of the book, however, has little direct connection with the avowed aim of ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: On commemoration

6 March 2008
... cousins of ‘memory’, an almost mystical concept in these circumstances and crucial to any discussion as to why the world is caught up in a ‘global rush to commemorate atrocities’, as Paul Williams puts it in Memorial Museums (Berg, £19.99). There is no doubting the evidence. A non-exhaustive list at the beginning of the book includes 24 museums, sites or artefacts marking atrocities ...

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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... his disgust with Soviet Realpolitik was born in Spain, so was a faith in the goodness and resilience of the human spirit, which there is no reason to believe he ever entirely abandoned. For Raymond Williams, Establishment-bred leftists who finally revert to type can be seen as cases of what he calls in Culture and Society ‘negative identification’. The dissident offspring of the upper middle class ...

John McEnroe plus Anyone

Edward Said: Tennis

1 July 1999
The Right Set: The Faber Book of Tennis 
edited by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 327 pp., £12.99, June 1999, 0 571 19540 7
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... play with him and not totally disgrace yourself. Now try to imagine yourself today as you were in your twenties, facing Sampras or Philippoussis or Ivanisevic, or even Navratilova, Hingis or Venus Williams: can’t be done, no way at all even of being on the same court, much less hitting their balls back. Two decades ago, wooden rackets were replaced by high-tech instruments engineered to the utmost in ...

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