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Modernism’s Future

Jon Whiteley, 18 March 1982

The Meanings of Modern Art 
by John Russell.
Thames and Hudson, 429 pp., £18, October 1981, 0 500 27248 4
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The Oxford Companion to 20th-Century Art 
edited by Harold Osborne.
Oxford, 656 pp., £19.50, November 1981, 0 19 866119 3
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Abstract Expressionism: The Formative Years 
by Robert Hobbs and Gail Levin.
Cornell, 137 pp., £17.50, November 1981, 0 8014 1365 6
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... while the title of the new companion, the Oxford Companion to 20th-Century Art, also edited by Harold Osborne, cautiously avoids the issue. Yet 90 per cent of the artists mentioned inside the recent book (although not, of course, 90 per cent of 20th-century artists) are the spiritual progeny of two or three French artists working at the turn of the ...

Looking back in anger

Hilary Mantel, 21 November 1991

Almost a Gentleman. An Autobiography: Vol. II 1955-66 
by John Osborne.
Faber, 273 pp., £14.99, November 1991, 0 571 16261 4
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... One of the more extraordinary revelations in A Better Class of Person, the first volume of John Osborne’s memoirs, was the fact that the author was proposed as the leading man in the 1948 film The Blue Lagoon. The teenage Osborne by his own account had a hollow chest and acne, and a loin cloth would not have shown these off to advantage; the opportunity to loll among the palms with Jean Simmons went to the Welsh actor Donald Houston ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Telly, 9 August 2001

... it’s not all like that. On 16 November 1973, Tynan read a ‘peevish and neurotic attack by John Osborne on Larry, the NT and (especially) me … He calls me a “disastrous influence” and an example of “intellectual spivvery” (a typical late Osborne phrase – vaguely venomous, unsupported by evidence)’. On 6 ...

Stalking Out

David Edgar: After John Osborne, 20 July 2006

John OsborneA Patriot for Us 
by John Heilpern.
Chatto, 528 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 7011 6780 7
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... From within a few weeks of its opening in May 1956, it’s been accepted that John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger ushered in a theatrical revolution. Launching both the Angry Young Man and kitchen-sink drama, the play is held to have had a devastating and irreversible impact on a postwar theatre scene dominated by winsome drawing-room comedies and witless country-house whodunnits ...

His Fucking Referendum

David Runciman: What Struck Cameron, 10 October 2019

For the Record 
by David Cameron.
William Collins, 732 pp., £25, September 2019, 978 0 00 823928 2
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... master’s ear. Things finally came to a head in 2016, when Gove went to see Cameron and George Osborne in Cameron’s Downing Street flat and told them that he was considering siding with the Brexiteers in the forthcoming referendum. He had yet to make up his mind finally but, as he explained, ‘If I do decide to opt for Brexit, I’ll make one ...

Boofy’s Bill

Alex Harvey, 18 September 1997

... partner because he was a homosexual. Berkeley had to deal with the two Cyrils – Black and Osborne – who were the Commons equivalents of Kilmuir and Dilhorne. Black was a Methodist lay preacher; Sir Cyril Osborne, a self-made businessman, informed the Commons that he had been ‘brought up as a Victorian by a very ...

Coalition Monsters

Colin Kidd, 6 March 2014

In It Together: The Inside Story of the Coalition Government 
by Matthew D’Ancona.
Penguin, 414 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 670 91993 2
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... by the miners’ strike. In the February election the voters returned an uncertain decision: Harold Wilson’s Labour Party took 301 seats on 11.7 million votes, Heath’s Tories got 297 seats on 11.9 million votes, and the Liberals led by Jeremy Thorpe found that their six million votes translated into 14 seats. The Liberals’ mini-revival suggested a ...

What Works Doesn’t Work

Ross McKibbin: Politics without Ideas, 11 September 2008

... In 1964, Harold Wilson described the record of the (outgoing) Conservative government as ‘13 wasted years’. If the present Parliament lasts its full term – as seems likely – the electorate will be asked to pass judgment on 13 years of Labour rule. Voters today seem to have the same view of Labour as Wilson had of the Tories all those years ago ...

A Toast at the Trocadero

Terry Eagleton: D.J. Taylor, 18 February 2016

The Prose Factory: Literary Life in England since 1918 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 501 pp., £25, January 2016, 978 0 7011 8613 5
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... of A Clockwork Orange. The book is crammed with intriguing chunks of information. We learn that Harold Monro, who established the Poetry Bookshop shortly before the First World War, was a twice-married homosexual of Scottish ancestry whose family owned a private lunatic asylum. Of the writers who made their literary debuts in the interwar era, well over a ...

Stick to the Latin

R.W. Johnson, 23 January 1997

Enoch Powell 
by Robert Shepherd.
Hutchinson, 564 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 09 179208 8
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... Powell, white with passion, pointed out that ‘Judas was paid. I am making a sacrifice.’ Harold Wilson, a clever judge of such things, felt Benn had been routed by Powell in 1970 and, when the chance of gaining Powell’s support in 1974 emerged, had many private meetings with him in the toilets of the House of Commons. In the end he even adjusted ...

Et in Alhambra ego

D.A.N. Jones, 5 June 1986

Agate: A Biography 
by James Harding.
Methuen, 238 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 413 58090 3
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Subsequent Performances 
by Jonathan Miller.
Faber, 253 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 571 13133 6
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... he perceived as a genuine talent.’ Curiously enough, Agate also ‘nurtured the talent’ of Harold Hobson, who was to be the powerful reviewer of the Sunday Times when Tynan was on the Observer. According to James Harding, Hobson unknowingly benefited from Agate’s personal problems. The proprietor of the Sunday Times had heard a story about Agate ...

Home Office Rules

William Davies, 3 November 2016

... vulnerable children, elderly people plagued by rowdy teenagers on their estates, the victims of Harold Shipman (whose suicide apparently tempted David Blunkett to ‘open a bottle’). Often, these people are defenceless because they are powerless, and they are powerless because they are poor, less well educated and culturally marginalised. And yet they are ...

It’s Our Turn

Rory Scothorne: Where the North Begins, 4 August 2022

The Northern Question: A History of a Divided Country 
by Tom Hazeldine.
Verso, 290 pp., £11.99, September 2021, 978 1 78663 409 2
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... cent of women were unemployed compared to 3 per cent in Luton; in Lancashire in the late 1950s, Harold Macmillan’s efforts to maintain the price of sterling finally turned cotton into a net import; in the North as a whole from 1979 onwards, inflation and union power were conquered at the cost of industry’s often terminal decline. The preoccupation of ...

History and Hats

D.A.N. Jones, 23 January 1986

The Lover 
by Marguerite Duras, translated by Barbara Bray.
Collins, 123 pp., £7.95, November 1985, 0 00 222946 3
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Stones of the Wall 
by Dai Houying, translated by Frances Wood.
Joseph, 310 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 7181 2588 6
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White Noise 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 326 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 330 29109 2
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... pair, failing to make any conclusion of a courtship on a park bench, and it was denounced by John Osborne for being pointless. Days Spent in the Trees was about a greedy, possessive mother doting on her son – but what was Duras driving at? Harold Hobson found an abstract idea in it, the idea of ‘indulgence’, and other ...

Hm, hm and that was all

Rosemary Hill: Queen Mary, 6 December 2018

The Quest for Queen Mary 
by James Pope-Hennessy, edited by Hugo Vickers.
Zuleika, 335 pp., £25, September 2018, 978 1 9997770 3 6
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... once accompanied the ageing queen empress to distribute Christmas presents around the estate at Osborne. Handing over one parcel she told the queen it contained a rug. ‘A rug,’ the queen replied, ‘is something one stands on. It can be called a plaid or a shawl, or even a wrap, but not a rug.’ This monologue continued for some time, while the tenant ...

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