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Soldier, Sailor, Poacher

E.S. Turner, 3 October 1985

Great Britons: 20th-Century Lives 
by Harold Oxbury.
Oxford, 371 pp., £14.95, September 1985, 0 19 211599 5
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The Oxford Book of Military Anecdotes 
edited by Max Hastings.
Oxford, 514 pp., £9.50, October 1985, 0 19 214107 4
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The Long Affray: The Poaching Wars in Britain 
by Harry Hopkins.
Secker, 344 pp., £12.95, August 1985, 9780436201028
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... The first private to win a field-marshal’s baton, Sir William Robertson, is missing. Billy Smart, the circus proprietor, is in, though not Sir Alan Cobham, whose private air force introduced millions to flying, or Sir Donald Wolfit. Tom Webster, the sports cartoonist, gains his niche, but not ‘Beachcomber’. Enough of that; the game is too easy to ...

The Cattle-Prod Election

David Runciman: The Point of the Polls, 5 June 2008

... the last election he was able to follow all the way through was the one four years earlier, when Harry Truman beat Thomas Dewey (no relation) in one of the great upsets in US presidential history. This was the election that is remembered for the photo of a triumphant Truman holding up an edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune announcing that Dewey had beaten ...

Red makes wrong

Mark Ford: Harry Mathews, 20 March 2003

The Human Country: New and Collected Stories 
by Harry Mathews.
Dalkey Archive, 186 pp., £10.99, October 2002, 1 56478 321 9
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The Case of the Persevering Maltese: Collected Essays 
by Harry Mathews.
Dalkey Archive, 290 pp., £10.99, April 2003, 1 56478 288 3
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... OuLiPian author is a rat who himself builds the maze from which he sets out to escape.’ Harry Mathews is the only American member of the OuLiPo, to which he was introduced by Georges Perec in 1972. He soon invented what came to be known as ‘Mathews’s algorithm’, a formula for arranging material based on the principle of permutation first ...

Redeemable Bad Guy

Ian Hamilton: Rabbit and Zooey, 2 April 1998

Toward the End of Time 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 334 pp., £16.99, February 1998, 0 241 13862 0
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Golf Dreams 
by John Updike.
Penguin, 224 pp., £6.99, February 1998, 0 14 026156 7
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... as we know him from his highly civilised and sociable non-fiction persona, is not at all like Harry Angstrom. (There is, of course, the golf, but Harry doesn’t really like golf, or gets to like it less and less. He’s in the golf club for its small-town social clout and for the chances it affords him for sizing up ...

Blowing Cigarette Smoke at Greenfly

E.S. Turner: The Beastliness of Saki, 24 August 2000

The Unrest-Cure and Other Beastly Tales 
by Saki.
Prion, 297 pp., £8.99, May 2000, 9781853753701
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... or being hurled with one’s twin from a cliff to see who would reach the bottom first (Captain Harry Graham). Saki, though, was often on the child’s side; he recognised, too, that children loved tales of grown-ups meeting horrible ends. Will Self writes of the ‘pagan unease’ introduced by Saki into the tedium of those weekend country-house parties in ...

Give Pot a Chance

Roy Porter, 8 June 1995

Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine 
by Lester Grinspoon, edited by James Bakalar.
Yale, 184 pp., £7.95, April 1995, 0 300 05994 9
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... with cannabis. As an illegal substance with unsavoury associations, it is the last thing any smart, careerist researcher would dream of testing, even were permission granted. Nor would it hold attractions for pharmaceutical companies since, as a plant growing freely worldwide, it would be impossible to patent. Hence, Grinspoon and Bakalar ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: Reagan and Rambo, 3 October 1985

... of it, he gurgled: ‘Make my day!’ But comparisons between his style and that of Dirty Harry are daily discouraged by a pained, overworked White House press office. The apotheosis of all this (‘Where’s the Rest of Me?’ ‘Let’s Win This One for the Gipper!’) came, Rogin believes, in 1981. ‘To confirm the President’s faith in the power ...

All I Can Stand

Thomas Powers: Joseph Mitchell, 18 June 2015

Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Thomas Kunkel.
Random House, 384 pp., £22.50, April 2015, 978 0 375 50890 5
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... in the manner of James Joyce whom Mitchell admired above all other moderns; a life and times of a smart and funny woman who hung out with New Yorker writers and married one of them; a big personality piece about an Italian carter named Joe Cantalupo who was a fixture of the Fulton Fish Market, subject of some of Mitchell’s best writing. Mitchell took all ...

Francis and Vanessa

Peter Campbell, 15 March 1984

Francis Bacon 
by Michel Leiris, translated by John Weightman.
Phaidon, 271 pp., £50, September 1983, 0 7148 2218 3
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Vanessa Bell 
by Frances Spalding.
Weidenfeld, 399 pp., £12.95, August 1983, 0 297 78162 6
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The Omega Workshops 
by Judith Collins.
Secker, 310 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 436 10562 4
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The Omega Workshops 1913-1919: Decorative Arts of Bloomsbury 
Crafts Council, 96 pp., £6.95, March 1984, 0 903798 72 7Show More
The Omega Workshops: Alliance and Enmity in English Art 1911-1920 
Anthony d’Offay Gallery, 80 pp., £4.95, February 1984, 0 947564 00 4Show More
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... Taylor’s novel The Wedding Group, published in 1968, there is a grand old painter called Harry Bretton. He is modelled, I would guess, on Eric Gill, for the Life, and Stanley Spencer, for the Work. Musing by the studio window, he considers his place in history: Turner was the greatest English painter, and was safely dead, did not encroach or suggest ...

Diary

Andrew O’Hagan: Grief and the Cameras, 3 December 2009

... one of the dead soldiers. They were standing outside the local bookshop, where The Last Veteran: Harry Patch and the Legacy of War was featured prominently, next to Leona: Dreams, a book of photographs of the singer who won The X Factor a few years ago. ‘It’s hard to know what to say on national television,’ one of the boys said. ‘It’s just such a ...

What most I love I bite

Matthew Bevis: Stevie Smith, 28 July 2016

The Collected Poems and Drawings of Stevie Smith 
edited by Will May.
Faber, 806 pp., £35, October 2015, 978 0 571 31130 9
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... her. So in my time I have picked up a good many facts, Rather more than the people do who wear smart hats And I do not deceive because I am rather simple too And although I collect facts I do not always know what they amount to. This is so delightfully fast that one is wary of slowing it down. If you do, though, you start to sense just how quick-witted the ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... which vanquishes Condon and DeLillo while leaving spare capacity for the imagination. And here is Harry Hubbard, his outwardly insipid narrator. Hubbard is a white-collar type of CIA man, a ‘ghost’ writer of planted texts, who is vicariously thrilled by the knowledge that he is working with ruthless men. He meets his ‘other half’ of the Agency, Dix ...

Life and Work

Philip Horne, 8 May 1986

Falling apart 
by Nicholas Salaman.
Secker, 190 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 436 44087 3
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Memoirs of Many in One 
by Alex Xenophon Demirjian Gray, edited by Patrick White.
Cape, 192 pp., £8.95, April 1986, 0 224 02371 3
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Free Agents 
by Max Apple.
Faber, 197 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 571 13852 7
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... be aware is that of the Australian Peter Carey’s very comparable Bliss (1981), whose ad-man hero Harry Joy revives at the start after being clinically dead for nine minutes, and returns, winded, to his former way of life, deprived of his former breezy ‘optimism’, even suspecting that he is still dead and now in Hell. It is not just in the cracking-up and ...

Lucky Brrm

John Sutherland, 12 March 1992

Brrm! Brrm! 
by Clive James.
Cape, 160 pp., £12.99, November 1991, 0 224 03226 7
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Saint Maybe 
by Anne Tyler.
Chatto, 337 pp., £14.99, October 1991, 0 7011 3787 8
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Faustine 
by Emma Tennant.
Faber, 140 pp., £12.99, March 1992, 9780571142637
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... Ian himself does not want to be noticed – or at least not by the kind of woman Anne Tyler is, a smart writer of books. The Accidental Tourist is built round an analogous idea – a travel writer who hates travelling, and whose guides supply a kind of damage control system for those forced into it against their wishes. Ian, we may say, is the accidental hero ...

Gielgud’s Achievements

Alan Bennett, 20 December 1979

An Actor and his Time 
by John Gielgud.
Sidgwick, 253 pp., £8.95
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... nor his enterprise. He has come a long way. As a juvenile his ‘ambition was to be frightfully smart and West End, wear beautifully-cut suits lounging on sofas in French-window comedies’. Fifty years later ‘I was asked to put suppositories up my bottom under the bedclothes and play a scene in the lavatory which I confess I found somewhat ...

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