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Out of the Gothic

Tom Shippey, 5 February 1987

Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction 
by Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove.
Gollancz, 511 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 575 03942 6
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by Greg Bear.
Gollancz, 504 pp., £10.95, October 1986, 0 575 03861 6
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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Four Parts 
by Douglas Adams.
Heinemann, 590 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 434 00920 2
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Humpty Dumpty in Oakland 
by Philip K. Dick.
Gollancz, 199 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 575 03875 6
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The Watcher 
by Jane Palmer.
Women’s Press, 177 pp., £2.50, September 1986, 0 7043 4038 0
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I, Vampire 
by Jody Scott.
Women’s Press, 206 pp., £2.50, September 1986, 0 7043 4036 4
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... surveyed, it is interesting to see how the Science Fiction currently available matches the theory. Greg Bear’s Eon has everything: a hollow asteroid, visitors from the future, from an alternate future, a giant scientific puzzle, stargates and aliens. Aldiss (who must have seen an advance copy) picks out from all this the book’s ‘genuine ...

Glittering Fiend

Ian Hamilton: John Berryman, 9 December 1999

Berryman's Shakespeare 
edited by John Haffenden.
Farrar, Straus, 396 pp., $35, February 1999, 0 374 11205 3
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John Berryman’s Personal Library: A Catalogue 
by Richard Kelly.
Lang, 433 pp., £39, March 1999, 0 8204 3998 3
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... another code-system that indicates which books carry annotations. Tides marked with a ‘C’ bear ‘direct commentary by Berryman on the book’s content’; books marked ‘W’ have ‘written comments by Berryman on his own life and work’; an ‘I’ signifies underlinings, marginal squiggles and checkmarks, endpapers bearing page references, and ...

Whalers v. Sealers

Nicholas Guyatt: Rebellion on the Tryal, 19 March 2015

Empire of Necessity: The Untold History of a Slave Rebellion in the Age of Liberty 
by Greg Grandin.
Oneworld, 360 pp., £25, May 2014, 978 1 78074 410 0
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... slave ship that had been captured off the coast of West Africa by a French privateer. Greg Grandin, whose new book recovers the Tryal rebellion and its literary afterlives, likes the image of a French Jacobin ship towing an English slave vessel towards the Spanish-American frontier. These ‘floating contradictions of the Age of ...

The Day a God Rode In

Claire Hall: Meetings with their Gods, 20 February 2020

The Realness of Things Past: Ancient Greece and Ontological History 
by Greg Anderson.
Oxford, 336 pp., £55, September 2018, 978 0 19 088664 6
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... wrong. Others have argued that to understand why Pisistratus’ deception worked, you have to bear in mind that it happened in pre-democratic times. Maybe Athenians were peculiarly gullible in those days, or had lived under tyranny for so long that, even if they secretly suspected they were being duped, they didn’t have much choice but to do ...


Tom Vanderbilt: The View from Above, 31 March 2005

... looking out of the window. ‘A century ago, nobody on Earth could have hoped to see this view,’ Greg Dicum says in Window Seat, his field-guide to the American Great Below, ‘and yet it’s yours – free – with every flight you take.’1 Perhaps the problem is legibility. ‘If you know what to look for,’ Dicum writes, ‘gazing out an airplane window ...

The Whole Bustle

Siobhan Kilfeather, 9 January 1992

The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing 
edited by Seamus Deane.
Field Day Publications/Faber, 4044 pp., £150, November 1991, 0 946755 20 5
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... too difficult has been left out. It seems insensitive to conclude the whole anthology with Greg Delanty, someone whose work is in the very early stages of development. Other sections were not bound to chronology and the poetry might have concluded with writing better able to bear the weight of the centuries. It is ...

Flitting About

Thomas Jones: Alan Furst, 14 December 2006

The Foreign Correspondent 
by Alan Furst.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £12.99, November 2006, 0 297 84829 1
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... decent heroes to get himself into trouble by doing the wrong thing out of naive good intentions is Greg Nilsen in Passage of Arms (1959), a middle-aged American businessman who agrees to help run guns into Indonesia to supply anti-Communist rebels. Ambler’s protagonists age at more or less the rate he does; his novels are all set at the time in which they ...


David Bromwich: The Establishment President, 13 May 2010

... vindication will come at the ballot-box in November. The results of off-year elections seem to bear out that hope. On 3 November last year, Bob McDonnell, a Republican, was elected governor of Virginia; on 19 January, a Republican who describes himself as independent, Scott Brown, won Ted Kennedy’s senate seat in Massachusetts. The scale of these ...

The Laying on of Hands

Alan Bennett, 7 June 2001

... and old-fashioned when it came to the prayer book, a large and loyal congregation seemed to bear this out. Used at his normal services to women predominating, today Father Jolliffe was not altogether surprised to find so many men turning up. Some of them had been close to Clive, obviously, but that apart, in his experience men needed less cajoling to ...

My god wears a durag

Ian Penman: Better than Beyoncé, 6 January 2022

Why Solange Matters 
by Stephanie Phillips.
Faber, 256 pp., £9.99, May 2021, 978 0 571 36898 3
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... security camera footage from inside the lift showed a shocked Jay-Z, a flustered bear of a bodyguard, Solange a kung-fu blur and the expressionless statue of Beyoncé. There was also a memorable photograph from the red carpet aftermath: a still shocked Jay-Z, a still seething Solange, and Queen Bey with the ghost of a tiny, inscrutable smile ...

The BBC on the Rack

James Butler, 19 March 2020

... further, over reporting on Ireland, industrial relations and the aftermath of the oil shock. Greg Dyke, when he was director-general, used it often, usually attributing it to Wheldon, most startlingly in his evidence to the Hutton Inquiry concerning Andrew Gilligan’s reporting on the Today programme of the Blair government’s ‘sexed-up’ Iraq ...

What are we telling the nation?

David Edgar: Thoughts about the BBC, 7 July 2005

Uncertain Vision: Birt, Dyke and the Reinvention of the BBC 
by Georgina Born.
Vintage, 352 pp., £10.99, August 2005, 0 09 942893 8
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Building Public Value: Renewing the BBC for a Digital World 
BBC, 135 pp.Show More
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... was self-imposed. But as Georgina Born makes clear in her definitive analysis of the John Birt and Greg Dyke eras, the consistent impetus came from government. It’s no surprise that Margaret Thatcher wanted to take on the BBC – if anything, the surprise is how long it took her. (In her first term, Thatcher’s main concern was with BBC coverage of Northern ...

Ready to Go Off

Jenny Turner, 18 February 2021

A Handful of Earth, a Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia Butler 
by Lynell George.
Angel City, 176 pp., $30, November 2020, 978 1 62640 063 4
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‘Kindred’, Fledgling’, Collected Stories’ 
by Octavia E. Butler, edited by Gerry Canavan and Nisi Shawl.
Library of America, 790 pp., $31.50, January 2021, 978 1 59853 675 1
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... the question it asks, though the bulk of the essay consists of interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate, Tricia Rose. The word is now much used when talking about the interest so many Black artists and musicians show in SF myths and machinery, from W.E.B. DuBois’s fictional writings through Sun Ra, Ishmael Reed, George Clinton, Janelle Monáe; but it ...

The Shock of the Pretty

James Meek: Seventy Hours with Don Draper, 9 April 2015

... and control, fornicate and impregnate promiscuously, sometimes violently; the women seek mates, bear children, tend the hearth and defer to the men. In the context of Sterling Cooper, as the 1960s begin, women have a limited number of possible roles. They may be wives at home; servants, specifically secretaries and typists in the workplace; single women ...

The Shoreham Gang

Seamus Perry: Samuel Palmer, 5 April 2012

Mysterious Wisdom: The Life and Work of Samuel Palmer 
by Rachel Campbell-Johnston.
Bloomsbury, 382 pp., £25, June 2011, 978 0 7475 9587 8
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... Burne-Jones) is a more languid affair, but it usefully brought Cecil’s own Romantic instincts to bear on a painter whose inspiration was often professedly literary, and although it is probably a little mannerly for most readers these days (‘Palmer loved to linger by pool and stream. A landscape, to be perfect, must have water in it, said he’), it still ...

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