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A Sort of Nobody

Michael Wood, 9 May 1996

Not Entitled: A Memoir 
by Frank Kermode.
HarperCollins, 263 pp., £18, May 1996, 0 00 255519 0
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... As many people have pointed out, the first of them probably being Kermode’s fierce friend Graham Hough, evil is not redeemed by scepticism but rather compounded, and we judge it to be evil by criteria which have nothing to do with belief. Yet a decent person bothered by old lies might well see the success of lying as the chief ethical issue, and ...

Gargoyles have their place

A.N. Wilson, 12 December 1996

Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton 
by Joseph Pearce.
Hodder, 522 pp., £25, November 1996, 0 340 67132 7
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... can write such leaden sentences as: ‘In the following decades the novels of Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene would epitomise the realism of 20th-century Catholic literature. In the meantime, Chesterton was content to let Baring and a handful of others practise the art of the Catholic novel while he concentrated on controversy.’ This makes it clear enough ...

Room Theory

Adam Mars-Jones: Joseph O’Neill, 25 September 2014

The Dog 
by Joseph O’Neill.
Fourth Estate, 241 pp., £16.99, July 2014, 978 0 00 727574 8
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... online photograph from a long-ago corporate softball event in Central Park he is misidentified as Graham Herold, so there’s at least one name that can be crossed off the list of possibles. Frustrated in his new post, as administrator for various funds of the plutocratic Batros family, he drafts emails of protest and reproach that he never sends. The locus ...

I want my wings

Andrew O’Hagan: The Last Tycoons, 3 March 2016

West of Eden: An American Place 
by Jean Stein.
Cape, 334 pp., £20, February 2016, 978 0 224 10246 9
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... there in Stein’s evocation of twisted men and violet evenings; and there’s a touch of Sheila Graham in the Garden of Allah, with Fitzgerald drunk on the floor. Kenneth Anger is deep in conversation with Nathanael West at the counter of Schwab’s drugstore, Joan Didion’s desert air is wafting in under the door, and Ben Hecht is taking notes. Stein has ...


Clair Wills: Plain Brian O’Nolan, 4 April 2019

The Collected Letters of Flann O’Brien 
edited by Maebh Long.
Dalkey Archive, 619 pp., £20, April 2018, 978 1 62897 183 5
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... He thought of himself as a popular novelist, writing for a well-educated but broad audience. Graham Greene was the reader for Longmans who recommended publication of At Swim-Two-Birds and O’Nolan was ambitious for a Greene-sized readership. He sent a copy of his first novel to the popular novelist Ethel Mannin and when, unsurprisingly, she criticised ...

Her Body or the Sea

Ian Patterson: Ann Quin, 21 June 2018

The Unmapped Country: Stories and Fragments 
by Ann Quin.
And Other Stories, 192 pp., £10, January 2018, 978 1 911508 14 4
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... vaguely reminiscent of Archie Rice in Tony Richardson’s film of The Entertainer as well as early Graham Greene. The style is distinctive in the way it wanders in and out of interiority, with private thought and public speech undifferentiated by punctuation or mise-en-page. The central character, the focalising consciousness of the novel, is the eponymous ...

Wasps and all

Philip Horne, 8 December 1988

A Chinese Summer 
by Mark Illis.
Bloomsbury, 135 pp., £11.95, October 1988, 0 7475 0257 9
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Three Uneasy Pieces 
by Patrick White.
Cape, 59 pp., £7.95, October 1988, 0 224 02594 5
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The Captain and the Enemy 
by Graham Greene.
Reinhardt, 189 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 1 871061 05 9
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View of Dawn in the Tropics 
by G. Cabrera Infante, translated by Suzanne Jill Levine.
Faber, 163 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 571 15186 8
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The House of Stairs 
by Barbara Vine.
Viking, 282 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 670 82414 3
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... even when it is not the most important thing.’ New importances are established in the cancer ward, where Simon talks to his neighbour, a man ‘like a skeleton with skin stretched over it’. The thin man mockingly volunteers that ‘I learnt a new word yesterday. Do you want to hear it? Etiolation. It’s my new word.’ ‘What does it ...

The Caregivers’ Disease

Paul Farmer, 21 May 2015

... Graham Greene​ ’s Journey without Maps is an account of a trek he made across West Africa in 1935. He started in Sierra Leone, then a British colony, crossed through a sliver of French Guinea, and then slogged across the Liberian jungle. The walk took an entire month. Not long after leaving French Guinea, Greene was almost felled by an unidentified fever ...

Open in a Scream

Colm Tóibín, 4 March 2021

Francis Bacon: Revelations 
by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan.
William Collins, 869 pp., £30, January, 978 0 00 729841 9
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... in the de Maistre studio-salon, I met other more or less important people, among them Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, Francis Bacon, as well as Douglas Cooper … I got to know Francis when he designed some furniture for my Eccleston Street flat. I like to remember his beautiful pansy-shaped face, sometimes with too much lipstick on it … In those days ...

Conrad and Prejudice

Craig Raine, 22 June 1989

Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays 1967-87 
by Chinua Achebe.
Heinemann, 130 pp., £10.95, January 1988, 0 435 91000 0
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... slightly anti-semitic”. I am reminded of that wise physician, Sir Adolph Abrahams, who, on his ward-rounds at Westminster, forbade medical students to utter the word “slightly”. “Either a woman is pregnant or not pregnant,” he would say. “She cannot be slightly pregnant, boy.” ’ I have two objections to this argument. First, Sir Adolph is ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1999, 20 January 2000

... that it was altogether too free-form. I rather wish it had been more so, and done on the lines of Graham Norton’s current TV show, so that the priest in charge could have said: ‘All sit ... but remain standing those who had any sort of fling with the deceased.’ 15 May. Finish reading A Pacifist’s War by Frances Partridge and start reading Stalingrad ...

Doomed to Sincerity

Germaine Greer: Rochester as New Man, 16 September 1999

The Works of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester 
edited by Harold Love.
Oxford, 712 pp., £95, April 1999, 0 19 818367 4
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... well aware of Wharton’s elegy, but they are not interested in the personage it describes. As the ward of Rochester’s mother, Wharton was brought up in the same house as the poet and, though she was twelve years younger, knew Rochester rather better than we or any other of the commentators on his life may be said to have done. In the months that followed ...

Brief Encounters

Andrew O’Hagan: Gielgud and Redgrave, 5 August 2004

Gielgud's Letters 
edited by Richard Mangan.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £20, March 2004, 0 297 82989 0
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Secret Dreams: A Biography of Michael Redgrave 
by Alan Strachan.
Weidenfeld, 484 pp., £25, April 2004, 0 297 60764 2
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... his famous parts – Antony in Antony and Cleopatra, Leo in The Go-Between, Carlyon in the film of Graham Greene’s The Man Within, the ventriloquist Maxwell Frere in Dead of Night, Jack Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest – tended to make a dark festival out of the business of being everything but the one thing specified. Trust is an actor’s ...

Bites from the Bearded Crocodile

G. Cabrera Infante, 4 June 1981

... praised by Dame Edith Sitwell (Ah those Sitwell siblings, meddling in things Cuban!) and Graham Greene and Tyrone Power. (Power wanted to write, produce and star in successive film versions of Carpentier’s Kingdom and Lost Steps but he lost the crown to a coronary.) Something peculiar happened with Carpentier and Cuba: he loved the island but the ...

Different Speeds, Same Furies

Perry Anderson: Powell v. Proust, 19 July 2018

Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 509 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 241 14383 4
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... to Britain, Martin Stannard produced a thousand pages on Evelyn Waugh, who died when he was 62; Graham Greene, who survived him by a quarter of a century, received two thousand from Norman Sherry. These are huge tomes. Even such a minuscule figure as Kingsley Amis has been encased in an obese 995 pages from Zachary Leader. Hilary Spurling’s Life of ...

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