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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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... different attributions for some of the poems they published as by Rochester can be found in their copy-text, a manuscript now in the Beinecke Library at Yale. As Rochester’s most recent editor, HaroldLove, points out, ‘the very earliest collections, in manuscript and print, were directed at connoisseurs of the pornographic and the profane’; it was Rochester’s fate to have stick to him all ...

Vita Longa

Mary-Kay Wilmers

1 December 1983
Vita: The Life of V. Sackville-West 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Weidenfeld, 430 pp., £12.50, September 1983, 0 297 78306 8
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... Contemplating a worn piece of green velvet on her dressing table, I felt my whole being dissolve in love. I have never ceased to love her from that moment.’ The person who said that was known as Christopher St John, though her real name was Christabel Marshall. We know how she felt about the object of her passion, Vita Sackville ...

Short Cuts

Jenny Diski: Fragrant Antonia Fraser

25 February 2010
... their friends and relatives. It’s called vanity publishing, but it’s not very different from Antonia Fraser, say, going through her own diaries written daily during her 33-year relationship with Harold Pinter, and editing them with a few linking comments into a book published by Weidenfeld (£20). Obviously, there’s the matter of fame. Her publisher will not have charged Fraser a fee to have her ...

An American Genius

Patrick Parrinder

21 November 1991
The Runaway Soul 
by Harold​ Brodkey.
Cape, 835 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 224 03001 9
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... is only the most overweight first novel of all time. A sort of Midwestern version of Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself’, its 800 pages of first-person narrative are formless, plotless and graceless. Harold Brodkey, who began his career in the New Yorker in the Fifties, has been slowly maturing not a well-tempered masterpiece but the garrulous, profligate self-celebrations of a precocious adolescent who ...
3 October 1985
Mr Palomar 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 118 pp., £8.50, September 1985, 0 436 08275 6
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Parrot’s Perch 
by Michel Rio, translated by Leigh Hafrey.
Dent, 88 pp., £7.95, September 1985, 0 460 04669 1
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Light Years 
by Maggie Gee.
Faber, 350 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 571 13604 4
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... rich foods to speak to him: ‘he would like the duck and hare pâtés, from their platters, to show they prefer him to the others ... No, nothing vibrates ... Perhaps, for all the sincerity of his love of galantines, galantines do not love him.’ An albino gorilla, lost in his biological loneliness, hugs a rubber tire as if he knew what a symbol was. This, Palomar thinks, is how we seek to escape ...

Ambitions

Robert Blake

18 December 1980
Harold​ Nicolson: A Biography: Vol. 1, 1886-1929 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 429 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 7011 2520 9
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Harold​ Nicolson Diaries 1930-1964 
by Stanley Olson.
Collins, 436 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 00 216304 7
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... Harold Nicolson was a diarist of genius who would have loved to make a success of public life or literature. He was an able but not outstanding diplomat who retired at 43, a journalist and broadcaster of ...
26 October 1989
Dick Crossman: A Portrait 
by Tam Dalyell.
Weidenfeld, 253 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 297 79670 4
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... by colleagues and rivals, as part of some complex conspiracy. Mind you, Crossman’s attitude to these perceived conspiracies was cheerful, even benign. Unlike that other supreme conspiracy theorist, Harold Wilson, Dick didn’t brood about them endlessly or allow his obsession to corrode everything that he did. Above all, he remained to the end of his life a top-class WEA lecturer, dedicated to the ...

On Top of Everything

Thomas Jones: Byron

16 September 1999
Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fame 
by Benita Eisler.
Hamish Hamilton, 835 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 241 13260 6
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... would adjust his social persona accordingly’. The result was a mass of contradictory behaviour. He would revile Caroline Lamb to those of his friends who didn’t like her, while swearing undying love in his letters to her. The extraordinary lengths to which he went to suit his behaviour and manner to his environment meant that nobody, himself included, had a very clear sense of who he was. One ...
16 March 1989
Stories in an Almost Classical Mode 
by Harold​ Brodkey.
Knopf, 596 pp., $24.95, September 1988, 0 394 50699 5
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... Harold Brodkey, whose debut collection of stories, First Love and Other Sorrows, was greeted with well-deserved acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic when it appeared in1958, has produced a hefty new collection: Stories in an Almost Classical Mode. During the ...

Protocol and Pink Slippers

Harold​ Strachan: Story

12 December 2002
... looks appealingly at me. I cross my heart with my manacled hands and he gestures to W/O Van Vuurwapen to unlock me, although he clearly hates it. It occurs to me that it may just for now spoil his love of life, even love for these beauteous sisters of cakehood. We take our seats at the table and the kids fetch a couple of high stools from the kitchen. They don’t speak, because they haven’t been ...

The Death of a Poet

Penelope Fitzgerald: Charlotte Mew

23 May 2002
... Penelope Fitzgerald wrote ‘The Death of a Poet’ in 1980 or 1981, intending it to form part of a group portrait of the writers published by Harold Monro’s Poetry Bookshop in Bloomsbury. In the event, however, she wrote a biography of Charlotte Mew, Charlotte Mew and Her Friends, which was published, and reviewed in the LRB in 1984 – and ...

Christian v. Cannibal

Michael Rogin: Norman Mailer and American history

1 April 1999
The American Century 
by Harold​ Evans.
Cape, 710 pp., £40, November 1998, 0 224 05217 9
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The Time of Our Time 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 1286 pp., £25, September 1998, 0 316 64571 0
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... only did the American people ‘grow rich and expand their domestic freedoms. They sustained Western civilisation by acts of courage, generosity and vision unparalleled in the history of man.’ So Harold Evans introduces his lavishly illustrated ‘popular political history’ of ‘the American century’, written to educate American immigrants like himself about the ‘nature of their heritage ...

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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... being both fascinated and repelled? (‘The only thing I could think of was turkey neck and turkey gizzards 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 ...

The Virgin

David Plante

3 April 1986
... opened it and shut it, again and again, like a little talking mouth between whose lips saliva expanded and contracted. The mouth said to him: maybe it’s not your fault, maybe Elizabeth made love with someone while you were away and got a disease and gave it to you. I’d forgive her, he thought. I really would forgive her. Supposing the stain were the discharge of an infectious disease, if ...

Death in Greece

Marilyn Butler

17 September 1981
Byron’s Letter and Journals. Vol. XI: For Freedom’s Battle 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 243 pp., £11.50, April 1981, 0 7195 3792 4
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Byron: The Complete Poetical Works 
edited by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 464 pp., £35, October 1980, 0 19 811890 2
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Red Shelley 
by Paul Foot.
Sidgwick, 293 pp., £12.95, May 1981, 0 283 98679 4
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Ugo Foscolo, Poet of Exile 
by Glauco Cambon.
Princeton, 360 pp., £15, September 1980, 0 691 06424 5
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... edition of the poems is proceeding expeditiously: the three volumes to date include all the poems written before Byron left England in 1816, and Volume II has the whole of the masterpiece Childe Harold, including Cantos III and IV, which were written in exile in 1816 and 1818. The difference this makes can be seen from Marchand. In addition to the Journals which Byron kept intermittently, he has ...

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