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Dissecting the Body

Colm Tóibín: Ian McEwan, 26 April 2007

On Chesil Beach 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 166 pp., £12.99, April 2007, 978 0 224 08118 4
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... and I felt very depressed.’) Or Fermina Daza, in a darkened room in García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, announcing, ‘I have never been able to understand how that thing works,’ and then slowly realising all the magical tricks this little rubbery object could do when suitably inspired? (‘She grasped the animal under study without ...

Bloom’s Giant Forms

Mark Edmundson, 1 June 1989

Ruin the sacred truths: Poetry and Belief from the Bible to the Present 
by Harold Bloom.
Harvard, 204 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 674 78027 2
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Harold Bloom: Towards Historical Rhetorics 
by Peter de Bolla.
Routledge, 155 pp., £25, October 1988, 0 415 00899 9
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... One way to think of Harold Bloom is as a professor and scholar of Romantic poetry who has Romantic aspirations of his own. He writes in the passionate style of Emerson and Shelley, and he has a penchant like Blake’s for system-building. Bloom would subscribe to that poet’s declaration in Jerusalem that his business isn’t to reason and compare, but to create ...

I Love You Still

Russell Jacoby, 9 February 1995

Intellectuals in Exile: Refugee Scholars and the New School for Social Research 
by Claus-Dieter Krohn, translated by Rita Kimber and Robert Kimber.
Massachusetts, 255 pp., $15.95, July 1994, 0 87023 864 7
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... wrote Alfred Döblin as he steamed out of New York. ‘You were not very fond of me./But I love you still.’ Others laboured on projects that would see the light of day much later, Ernst Bloch’s Das Prinzip Hoffnung, written in the States, was published only in 1959. The classic work of the Frankfurt School, Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of ...

Insiderish

Colm Tóibín, 26 May 1994

Profane Friendship 
by Harold Brodkey.
Cape, 387 pp., £15.99, April 1994, 0 224 03775 7
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... One of the early chapters in Harold Brodkey’s first novel The Runaway Soul is entitled ‘The River’. The narrator, after his father’s death, returns to a landscape which he had known in early childhood. Some of the prose is plain and clear: ‘At the mouth of the stream, where it emptied into the inlet, under willows, lay a very large, ungainly river dinghy ...

Didn’t you just love O-lan?

Deborah Friedell: Pearl Buck, 22 July 2010

Burying the Bones: Pearl Buck’s Life in China 
by Hilary Spurling.
Profile, 340 pp., £15, April 2010, 978 1 86197 828 8
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... an example of the unassimilable foreignness of their lives to mine. An entire generation fell in love with Buck: they made her dozens of books international bestsellers and gave her the Nobel Prize. No writer was more often translated or, while she lived, more admired. No writer since Marco Polo has done more to shape how the West thinks about China. ‘What ...

Interpretation of Dreams

Harold James, 5 February 1981

Cosima Wagner’s Diaries. Vol. II: 1878-1883 
edited by Martin Gregor-Dellin and Dietrich Mack, translated by Geoffrey Skelton.
Collions, 1200 pp., £20, January 1981, 0 00 216189 3
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... from the bustle; they long for the seclusion of the villa Tribschen, their first secure refuge of love. At times the villa Wahnfried at Bayreuth looks like a second Tribschen. Cosima says that the world of Wahnfried is quite separate from the outside world; it has its own mysterious principles for the adulatory cult of Richard Wagner. A constant source of ...

Grandfather Emerson

Harold Bloom, 7 April 1994

Poetry and Pragmatism 
by Richard Poirier.
Faber, 228 pp., £20, November 1992, 0 571 16617 2
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... to do the one as the other. This makes that equality of power in farce, tragedy, narrative, or love-songs, a merit so incessant; that each reader is incredulous of the perception of other readers. Emerson catches the precise way in which Shakespeare’s difference in degree from all other writers becomes a difference in kind. ‘We are still out of ...

Lincoln, Illinois

William Fiennes, 6 March 1997

All the Days and Nights: The Collected Stories 
by William Maxwell.
Harvill, 415 pp., £10.99, January 1997, 1 86046 308 8
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So Long, See You Tomorrow 
by William Maxwell.
Harvill, 135 pp., £8.99, January 1997, 9781860463075
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... spent the night here in what the Michelin described as an ‘hôtel simple, mais confortable’. Harold and Barbara Rhodes make an identical journey in Maxwell’s 1961 novel The Chateau – Michelin now refers to the hotel as ‘simple mais assez confortable’. The Chateau is typical of Maxwell’s writing in its almost pathological reluctance to have ...

Baring his teeth

Peter Clarke, 25 June 1992

The Macmillans: The Story of a Dynasty 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Heinemann, 370 pp., £18.50, April 1992, 0 434 17502 1
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... Macmillan” has not been made prime minister,’ the chairman corrected her. ‘ “Mr Harold” has.’ Here, in a nutshell, is the theme of Richard Davenport-Hines’s book. Its early chapters form a heroic chronicle of upward social mobility. We first encounter an earlier Daniel Macmillan as a mid 18th-century crofter, scratching a living from ...

Beyond Everyday Life

Julian Symons, 5 March 1981

The Blaze of Noon 
by Rayner Heppenstall.
Allison and Busby, 166 pp., £6.50, July 1980, 0 85031 288 4
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... is what Rayner Heppenstall has looked for in fiction. In The Blaze of Noon the reality is love, as it is celebrated by a blind masseur and a girl named Sophie Madron: I touched her lips to stop her talking. And I lifted her to her feet until she was quiet and her eyes full of tears ... It was a love gentle and ...

Scrapbook

Edward Pearce, 26 July 1990

A Sparrow’s Flight: Memoirs 
by Lord Hailsham.
Collins, 463 pp., £17.50, July 1990, 0 00 215545 1
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... that morning was of German professional competence and decent seriousness and British self-love and exhibitionism. Not everyone has admired Lord Hailsham as he unquestionably admires himself. The tone is beautifully echoed in Hailsham’s account of his meeting with Khrushchev. ‘Khrushchev was a countryman to his fingertips. The only man I have met ...

Good Girls and Bad Girls

Anita Brookner, 2 June 1983

Porky 
by Deborah Moggach.
Cape, 236 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 224 02948 7
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The Banquet 
by Carolyn Slaughter.
Allen Lane, 191 pp., £6.95, May 1983, 0 7139 1574 9
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Binstead’s Safari 
by Rachel Ingalls.
Faber, 221 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 9780571130160
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In Good Faith 
by Edith Reveley.
Hodder, 267 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 340 32012 5
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Cousins 
by Monica Furlong.
Weidenfeld, 172 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 297 78231 2
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The Moons of Jupiter 
by Alice Munro.
Allen Lane, 233 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 7139 1549 8
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On the Stroll 
by Alix Kates Shulman.
Virago, 301 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 0 86068 364 8
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The Color Purple 
by Alice Walker.
Women’s Press, 244 pp., £3.95, March 1983, 0 7043 3905 6
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Mistral’s Daughter 
by Judith Krantz.
Sidgwick, 531 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 0 283 98987 4
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... On her travels, Porky, who is now quite affectless, meets a young Muslim who falls in love with her. They move into a flat in Earl’s Court, and, through indifference or self-destructiveness, she serves him a meal containing pork. Without the very careful setting – that wasteland between the A4 and the A30 – the story would lose much of its ...

Bad Character

Andrew O’Hagan: Saul Bellow, 21 May 2015

The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune, 1915-64 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 812 pp., £35, May 2015, 978 0 224 08467 3
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... loved me too. In principle he was not in favour of strong family bonds. Possibly he saw brotherly love as an opening for exploitation … he wished to be a man entirely of today.’ It was important for Maury to be in the money and he made a fortune more than once. He played the anti-intellectual (while secretly reading books), and when his brother won the ...

Supermac’s Apprenticeship

Ian Gilmour, 24 November 1988

Macmillan 1894-1956 
by Alistair Horne.
Macmillan, 537 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 333 27691 4
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... Harold Macmillan reversed the normal progression. Few young men are pompous; that comes later. Pomposity overtook Macmillan when he was still young; long before he was old he had shed all traces of it. The young are seldom boring; as a young man Harold Macmillan was a bore, and in time he became supremely entertaining ...

Attila the Hus

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 4 November 1982

Rules of the Game: Sir Oswald and Lady Cynthia Mosley 1896-1933 
by Nicholas Mosley.
Secker, 274 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 436 28849 4
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... as Nicholas Mosley puts it, ‘to represent the war generation – or himself.’ Mosley fell in love with Cimmie at the end of the following year, when they were both in Plymouth helping Nancy Astor in her campaign to become the first woman MP. There is no reason beyond the obvious ones – she was good-looking, Curzon’s daughter and had an unusual ...

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