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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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... that common sense was socialism. As if all that were not enough, he thought Henry Miller was an outstanding novelist. As judicious (though not hopelessly balanced) accounts, the new biographies by GordonBowker 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 ...

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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... pugnacious. He was sent off to the Leys School, where one of his teachers was W.H. Balgarnie, 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 ...

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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... was belonging and not belonging to Ireland. Two questions arise: why did the young Joyce develop these conflicting needs and what part did the consequent tension play in his achievement as a writer? GordonBowker 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 ...

Tooloose-Lowrytrek

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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... to Jonathan Cape, composed in furious response to a standard request for cuts and revisions to the manuscript of the novel. This communication has rightly been described by Lowry’s biographer GordonBowker 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 ...

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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... own agents in order to forestall their [defection] or to cover their trail.’ Perhaps. Yet it was the British Communist David Crook who did most of the spying on the Orwells – and, according to GordonBowker 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 ...

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