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Bye-bye, NY

Ange Mlinko: Harry Mathews’s Fever Dream, 18 March 2021

Collected Poems: 1946-2016 
by Harry Mathews.
Sand Paper Press, 288 pp., $28, February 2020, 978 0 9843312 8 4
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... When​ Harry Mathews died in Key West in 2017, just shy of his 87th birthday, he was remembered as the first American member of Oulipo, the expatriate author of several experimental novels: The Conversions (1962), Tlooth (1966), The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium (1975), Cigarettes (1987), The Journalist (1994) and My Life in CIA (2005 ...


Julian Loose, 25 June 1992

Crystal Rooms 
by Melvyn Bragg.
Hodder, 342 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 0 340 56409 1
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... a rent-boy party in a West End hotel. But lechery is transformed to Platonic love at the sight of Harry, a beguiling 11-year-old. In the best tradition of orphans lost in the metropolis, Harry has been abandoned in Leicester Square on the instructions of his wicked aunt, and has promptly fallen into the hands of an updated ...

Jewish Blood

Michael Church, 7 February 1985

Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince 
by Budd Schulberg.
Penguin, 500 pp., £4.95, September 1984, 0 14 006769 8
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Baku to Baker Street: The Memoirs of Flora Solomon 
by Barnet Litvinoff.
Collins, 230 pp., £11.95, June 1984, 0 00 217094 9
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Wilfrid Israel: German Jewry’s Secret Ambassador 
by Naomi Shepherd.
Weidenfeld, 286 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 297 78308 4
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The Smiths of Moscow: A Story of Britons Abroad 
by Harvey Pitcher.
Swallow House Books, 176 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 905265 01 7
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Family Secrets 
by David Leitch.
Heinemann, 242 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 434 41345 3
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... stones which he must tear away to make a hole big enough to crawl through. There is a Greta Garbo stone (he once pelted her with ripe figs), and stones called Gary Cooper, Freddie March and Sylvia Sidney, but one of the biggest and loosest goes by the name of Clara Bow. Vulgar, gum-chewing, and with a comically nasal Brooklyn accent, the It Girl flashed ...

A Sequence from ‘Camera Obscura’

Robin Robertson, 22 August 1996

... a fire inside that burned. The follies– lit exhibits – stand here on the hillin their white stone; the Castle glows.And the streets are bright blurs of sodiumand pearl: the drawn tracery of headlampssmeared in long exposure. For miles westthe city stretches,laid with vapour trails and ghosts.To the east, the folding sea has drownedthe girning of the ...

Fill it with fish

Helen Cooper: The trail of the Grail, 6 June 2002

Parzival and the Stone from Heaven: A Grail Romance Retold for Our Time 
by Lindsay Clarke.
HarperCollins, 239 pp., £14.99, September 2001, 0 00 710813 3
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Merlin and the Grail: ‘Joseph of Arimathea’, ‘Merlin’, ‘Perceval’ The Trilogy of Arthurian Romances Attributed to Robert de Boron 
translated by Nigel Bryant.
Boydell and Brewer, 172 pp., £30, May 2001, 0 85991 616 2
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Le Livre du Graal. Tome I: ‘Joseph D’Arimathie’, ‘Merlin’, ‘Les Premiers Faits du Roi Arthur’ 
edited by Daniel Poirion and Philippe Walter.
Gallimard, 1993 pp., £50.95, April 2001, 2 07 011342 6
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... it is an end in itself, as it is not for that other object of infinite search, the philosopher’s stone. Alchemists at least knew what they wanted, how to set about looking for it, and what it would do once it had been discovered. The writers of Grail romances often barely knew what their knights were to look for, or how they should reach it, let alone what ...

Right as pie

Paul Foot, 24 October 1991

Tom Mann, 1856-1941: The Challenges of Labour 
by Chushichi Tsuzuki.
Oxford, 288 pp., £35, July 1991, 0 19 820217 2
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... him in Melbourne, he was in the middle of the most ferocious agitation, which laid the foundation stone for strong trade-unionism in Australia for the rest of this century. During all his long life, Tom Mann travelled ceaselessly, especially in the old Commonwealth – from South Africa, where, rather to the distaste of the ‘mature’ labour movement ...

In Letchworth

Gillian Darley: Pevsner's Hertfordshire, 2 January 2020

... studios on the site of the former Leavesden aerodrome at Abbots Langley – they’re now home to Harry Potter World. How can knobbly Knebworth House, which looks as though it’s built of papier-mâché, compete? In 1843 Edward Bulwer-Lytton had the Tudor manor house remodelled – in Pevsner’s words – as a ‘romantic paraphrase of the Gothic ...


David Bromwich: This was Orson Welles, 3 June 2004

Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life 
by Peter Conrad.
Faber, 384 pp., £20, September 2003, 0 571 20978 5
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... analysis of the hero: the camera would delve like a shovel or coax as a sculptor chips a block of stone to find the lurking image. He had been instructed in the value of deep focus by his cameraman, Gregg Toland, whose name he placed beside his own on the last card of the closing credits. Citizen Kane was talked of before it appeared, and admired by those who ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Princess Di and Laura Palmer, 22 January 2004

... intimidatingly smart – is called in to investigate. He is assisted by the local sheriff, Harry S. Truman (as Cooper tells his Dictaphone, ‘shouldn’t be too hard to remember that’). It doesn’t take long for the scab of small-town wholesomeness to be picked off, revealing the perversity festering underneath. (The show’s credits are a minor ...

Young Wystan

Ian Hamilton, 8 September 1994

Juvenilia: Poems 1922-28 
by W.H. Auden, edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Faber, 263 pp., £25, July 1994, 0 571 17140 0
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... merely knowable. Auden’s nursery library was also stocked with Beatrix Potter, Edward Lear and Harry Graham. And George had a passion for Norse legends, believing as he did that the Audens could themselves be traced back to the land of Thor: ‘In my father’s library, scientific books stood side by side with works of poetry and fiction, and it never ...


Elizabeth Lowry: Doris Lessing, 22 March 2001

Doris Lessing: A Biography 
by Carole Klein.
Duckworth, 283 pp., £18.99, March 2000, 0 7156 2951 4
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Ben, in the World 
by Doris Lessing.
Flamingo, 178 pp., £6.99, April 2001, 0 00 655229 3
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... are all here – Doris Tayler’s birth in Kermanshah, followed by the arrival of her brother Harry; the family’s relocation first to Tehran and then to Rhodesia; their adoption of coy pet names (Doris became ‘Tigger’, which she hated); Tigger’s tedious marriage to Frank Wisdom in the gin-soaked suburbs of Salisbury and her growing involvement ...

Glad to Go

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 6 March 1997

Death in the Victorian Family 
by Pat Jalland.
Oxford, 464 pp., £25, November 1996, 0 19 820188 5
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... to her, wiped away his tears with her hand, ‘and tried in every way to comfort him’. Lawrence Stone has argued that the frequency with which children died in earlier periods meant that parents had less emotional investment in each one, but Jalland’s subjects do not appear to have been governed by this affective economy. The early Victorians, she ...


Mike Selvey, 7 February 1985

... turnover so that we don’t get too bored. The most effective way of doing this is to overturn the stone of excellence in the hope of finding creeply-crawlies beneath. I mention all that because it will not have escaped attention that Ian Botham’s house was first-footed by the boys in blue over the New Year, that he and his wife were taken into custody and ...

There’s Daddy

Michael Wood, 13 February 1992

Flying in to Love 
by D.M. Thomas.
Bloomsbury, 262 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 7475 1129 2
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directed by Oliver Stone.
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... history and a context. But this is not the sort of answer we get from either D.M. Thomas or Oliver Stone. Their suggestion is simpler. There is no paranoia, or paranoia is everywhere. For Thomas, this means anything goes (‘since fiction is a kind of dream, and history is a kind of dream, and this is both’). For Stone, it ...


Thomas Karshan: John Updike, 31 March 2005

by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 321 pp., £17.99, February 2005, 9780241143087
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... everything and everyone fit into place – the traditional role of the epic writer. His alter ego Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom thinks about this while driving home in Rabbit, Run (1960): ‘He thinks, My Valley, my home … Every corner locks against a remembered corner in his mind; every crevice, every irregularity in the paint clicks against a nick already ...

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