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The Lie-World

James Wood: D.B.C. Pierre, 20 November 2003

Vernon God Little 
by D.B.C. Pierre.
Faber, 279 pp., £10.99, January 2003, 0 571 21642 0
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... the creation of a voice, that of a bitter, troubled but smart 15-year-old Texan schoolboy, Vernon Gregory Little. Vernon narrates the book, and hurls his spiked words right at us. At his best, Pierre captures a pathetic combination of defensive cynicism and pain. Vernon hates his stupid, materialistic mother, who spends most of the novel waiting longingly for ...

Types with Desires

Sarah Resnick: Jennifer Egan, 9 June 2022

The Candy House 
by Jennifer Egan.
Corsair, 334 pp., £20, April, 978 1 4721 5091 2
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... and hot apple tea at Veselka, Alfred explained his screaming project. Kristen’s enormous pale blue eyes blinked at him like the wide-open beaks of baby birds as she listened. She was 24, still in the adventure phase of her move to New York City to work for a graphic design firm. Alfred was almost 29.’ The description of the meal, the eyes like the ...

Old, Old, Old, Old, Old

John Kerrigan: Late Yeats, 3 March 2005

W.B. Yeats: A Life. Vol. II: The Arch-Poet 1915-39 
by Roy Foster.
Oxford, 822 pp., £16.99, March 2005, 0 19 280609 2
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... terms that resemble Yeats’s poems about Coole Park, the home of his patron and collaborator Lady Gregory: Great people lived and died in this house; Magistrates, colonels, members of Parliament, Captains and Governors, and long ago Men that had fought at Aughrim and the Boyne. Some that had gone on Government work To London or to India came home to die, Or ...

Promises, Promises

Erin Maglaque: The Love Plot, 21 April 2022

Love: A History in Five Fantasies 
by Barbara Rosenwein.
Polity, 220 pp., £20, October 2021, 978 1 5095 3183 7
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... Communities in the Early Middle Ages (2006) examined the emergence of groups – readers of Gregory the Great, or the elites at Merovingian courts – who shared a particular view of the emotions, focusing on the language they used to express their emotional expectations and values.Rosenwein was reacting against the dominant paradigm for understanding ...

Are women nicer than men?

Michael Wood, 21 February 1985

The Dark Hole Days 
by Una Woods.
Blackstaff, 127 pp., £3.50, December 1984, 0 85640 316 4
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Superior Women 
by Alice Adams.
Heinemann, 374 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 0 434 00631 9
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The Collected Stories 
by Frank Tuohy.
Macmillan, 410 pp., £12.95, December 1984, 0 333 38534 9
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The Apple in the Dark 
by Clarice Lispector, translated by Gregory Rabassa.
Virago, 361 pp., £10.95, January 1985, 0 86068 605 1
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Family Ties 
by Clarice Lispector and Giovanni Pontiero.
Carcanet, 140 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 0 85636 569 6
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... much to do with their material locations out there in the world. The ‘brilliant’, the ‘deep blue’ New England air and the irremediable Californian innocence that crop up so frequently in Superior Women really belong to literature or mythology rather than to the weather or any particular living Americans. Of course people and even the weather, as Wilde ...

Making sense

Denis Donoghue, 4 October 1984

A Wave 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 89 pp., £4.95, August 1984, 9780856355479
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Secret Narratives 
by Andrew Motion.
Salamander, 46 pp., £6, March 1983, 0 907540 29 5
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Liberty Tree 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 78 pp., £4, June 1983, 0 05 711302 5
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111 Poems 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 185 pp., £5.95, April 1983, 0 85635 457 0
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New and Selected Poems 
by James Michie.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2723 6
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By the Fisheries 
by Jeremy Reed.
Cape, 79 pp., £4, March 1984, 0 224 02154 0
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by George Mackay Brown.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2736 8
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... the juniper, the rudimentary dictionaries say, is an evergreen coniferous shrub or tree with hard blue berries, yielding an oil used in medicine as stimulant and diuretic. Add to that a discrimination of juniper-kinds, including the savin or Juniperius sabina, the genièvre, and the family of gymnosperm, not to speak of the Grimms’ tale of ‘The Juniper ...


Daniel Soar: Harry Mathews, 21 July 2005

My Life in CIA: A Chronicle of 1973 
by Harry Mathews.
Dalkey Archive, 203 pp., £8.99, July 2005, 1 56478 392 8
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... great names trip off the tongue: Jean-Noël Vuarnet, Sylviane Agacinski, Jim West, Mary McCarthy, Gregory Mazurovsky, Richard Foreman, Kate Manheim, Louis and Zuka Mittelberg, Bruno Marcenac, Michel Loriod, Maurice Roche), he now can see that all the high-flown references he had barely understood – to Barthes, Foucault, Derrida, Lacan – were no more than ...

That Impostor Known as the Buddha

Eliot Weinberger: Incarnations of the Buddha, 11 September 2014

From Stone to Flesh: A Short History of the Buddha 
by Donald S. Lopez Jr.
Chicago, 289 pp., £18, April 2013, 978 0 226 49320 6
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In Search of the Christian Buddha: How an Asian Sage Became a Medieval Saint 
by Donald S. Lopez Jr and Peggy McCracken.
Norton, 262 pp., £17.99, May 2014, 978 0 393 08915 8
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... In India, this figure was one god in a crowd of monkey gods and elephant-headed gods, blue men and women with four arms. Moreover, he existed only in abandoned temples and neglected statuary. Buddhism had vanished from India centuries before, and the native informants, the brahmans, merely knew the Buddha, if at all, from his later absorption into ...

Backlash Blues

John Lahr, 16 June 2016

What Happened, Miss Simone? A Biography 
by Alan Light.
Canongate, 309 pp., £20, March 2016, 978 1 78211 871 8
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... version of Gershwin’s ‘I Loves You, Porgy,’ released on her first 1958 album Little Girl Blue and in 1959 as her first hit single, in which she drills into the lyric to uncover a new seam of intimacy and anguish. ‘I love you … Porgy!’ she sings, her breathy voice cutting out the demotic ‘s’ of the song’s title, then taking a beat before ...


Michael Neve, 18 November 1982

Edie: An American Biography 
by Jean Stein and George Plimpton.
Cape, 455 pp., £9.95, October 1982, 0 224 02068 4
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Baby Driver: A Story About Myself 
by Jan Kerouac.
Deutsch, 208 pp., £7.95, August 1982, 0 233 97487 3
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... kill her father. She was already damaged by at least one primal scene, having walked into ‘the blue room’ at the ranch one day, and seen her father fucking a strange woman. Fuzzy: ‘You don’t know anything. You’re insane.’ Around this time, Edie became anorexic, and attended exclusive schools; but she, too, went into Silver Hill in the autumn of ...

Jigsaw Mummies

Tom Shippey: Pagan Britain, 6 November 2014

Pagan Britain 
by Ronald Hutton.
Yale, 480 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 300 19771 6
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The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria 
by Max Adams.
Head of Zeus, 450 pp., £25, August 2013, 978 1 78185 418 1
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... may think we know more than we do. We think we know that ‘Ancient Britons’ painted themselves blue with woad, that Celtic paganism involved nude female dancing, and that human sacrifice was carried out by the ubiquitous druids. Pliny reported the naked woad-stained processions of British women ‘at certain sacred rites’, and Tacitus gave a dramatic ...

Foiled by Pleasure

Matthew Bevis: Barrett Browning, 30 August 2018

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Selected Writings 
edited by Josie Billington and Philip Davis.
Oxford, 592 pp., £14.99, February 2018, 978 0 19 879763 0
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... occurs in an early poem which appears to be fretful about gratification. In her translation of St Gregory Nazianzen’s ‘Soul and Body’, she has the rhetorician pray for the right words, ones that ‘may flourish/Of which mine enemy would spoil me,/Using pleasurehood to foil me!’ But the poem’s own fondness for verbal flourishes isn’t easily ...
George Macaulay Trevelyan: A Memoir 
by Mary Moorman.
Hamish Hamilton, 253 pp., £9.95, April 1980, 0 241 10358 4
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Public and Private 
by Humphrey Trevelyan.
Hamish Hamilton, 208 pp., £8.95, February 1980, 0 241 10357 6
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... was a third-generation arriviste. His grandfather, Sir Charles Trevelyan, Trollope’s Sir Gregory Hardlines, pushed his way from nothing to the top of the Civil Service, marrying Macaulay’s sister on the way. His father pushed his way into high politics, marrying a cotton fortune on the way. G.M. Trevelyan himself was pushed into the Mastership of ...

I am Prince Mishkin

Mark Ford, 23 April 1987

‘Howl’: Original Draft Facsimile 
by Allen Ginsberg, edited by Barry Miles.
Viking, 194 pp., £16.95, February 1987, 0 670 81599 3
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White Shroud: Poems 1980-1985 
by Allen Ginsberg.
Viking, 89 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 670 81598 5
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... they all were. Ginsberg arrived at Columbia wanting to be a labour lawyer who would fight for blue-collar rights, but under the influence of Burroughs and Lucien Carr he soon began to see himself as a poète maudit and Nietzschean transgressor. Burroughs handed out reading-lists that included Gide, Rimbaud, Dostoevsky and Lautrèamont, and introduced into ...

The poet steamed

Iain Sinclair: Tom Raworth, 19 August 2004

Collected Poems 
by Tom Raworth.
Carcanet, 576 pp., £16.95, February 2003, 1 85754 624 5
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Removed for Further Study: The Poetry of Tom Raworth 
edited by Nate Dorward.
The Gig, 288 pp., £15, March 2003, 0 9685294 3 7
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... the 1950s’. Highlight the ‘survivor’ bit. The last poet left standing in the saloon. (Think Gregory Peck in Henry King’s The Gunfighter. Grave moustache succumbing to gravity.) Many myths surround the man, among enthusiasts, cultists and close readers, and this has always been one of them: Raworth is unwell but never incapacitated. The moustache may ...

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