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I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters, 24 January 2013

Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... John Updike, Saul Bellow, Gore Vidal, J.D. Salinger, Joseph Heller, the recently retired Philip Roth), whose ghostly father and bearded Neptune disturbing the liquor cabinet deep into the night was Ernest Hemingway. Even those least influenced by Hemingway’s style couldn’t fail to register the impact of his hold on America’s consciousness: he ...

Post-Paranoid

Michael Wood: Underworld by Don Delillo, 5 February 1998

Underworld 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 832 pp., £10, February 1998, 0 330 36995 4
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... Between secrets and waste? DeLillo’s novel, like recent novels by John Updike and Philip Roth with more openly ironic and regretful titles (The Lilies of the Field , American Pastoral ), confronts and re-creates American history. The very word ‘history’ keeps flashing through Underworld as if it were an omen or a mantra. The differences ...

Gorgon in Furs

D.D. Guttenplan: Paula Fox, 12 December 2002

Borrowed Finery: A Memoir 
by Paula Fox.
Flamingo, 256 pp., £12, August 2002, 0 00 713724 9
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... Characters is ‘obviously superior to any novel by Fox’s contemporaries John Updike, Philip Roth and Saul Bellow’. My own reservations lie not with the superlatives, but with the implicit grounds for comparison. If Fox is, in Franzen’s phrase, ‘inarguably great’ – and I believe she is – it isn’t because, for example, she does a better job ...

The Reviewer’s Song

Andrew O’Hagan: Mailer’s Last Punch, 7 November 2013

Norman Mailer: A Double Life 
by J. Michael Lennon.
Simon and Schuster, 947 pp., £30, November 2013, 978 1 84737 672 5
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... nipped in there. Halfway down the corridor, I was looking for a john and who do I see but Philip Roth. “Hey, Philip, what you doin’ here?” “Oh, I had to pee,” Roth said. “Happens to me all the time,” I said. “You just have to pee.” The previous week I went to see my daughter in Brooklyn and I couldn’t ...

Wannabe Pervert

Sam Thompson: Howard Jacobson, 25 September 2008

The Act of Love 
by Howard Jacobson.
Cape, 308 pp., £17.99, September 2008, 978 0 224 08609 7
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... or you are nothing when you choose submission to your wife’s caprice as your vocation. You are Henry James’s novelist on whom nothing dare be lost.’ Felix is not actually writing a novel, but evidently the novel we are reading is the one he isn’t writing, since his sex life, and Marisa’s, are ‘a salacious fiction I wrote in imitation of all the ...

At Tate Britain

Anne Wagner: Hepworth, 27 August 2015

... in her St Ives studio. At the start, we find Hepworth and the other carvers of her generation – Henry Moore, Ursula Edgcumbe, John Skeaping – making common cause with a slightly older cohort, Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill, Gaudier-Brzeska, Elsie Henderson, Alan Durst. In works produced both before and after World War One, they began to remake the look and feel ...

Carry on writing

Stephen Bann, 15 March 1984

The Two of Us 
by John Braine.
Methuen, 183 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 413 51280 0
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An Open Prison 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 192 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 575 03380 0
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Havannah 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 263 pp., £9.95, February 1984, 0 241 11175 7
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Sunrising 
by David Cook.
Secker, 248 pp., £8.50, February 1984, 0 436 10674 4
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Memoirs of an Anti-Semite 
by Gregor von Rezzori, translated by Joachim Neugroschel.
Picador, 282 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 330 28325 1
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It’s me, Eddie 
by Edward Limonov, translated by S.L. Campbell.
Picador, 264 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 330 28329 4
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The Anatomy Lesson 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 291 pp., £8.95, February 1984, 0 224 02960 6
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... a kind of subversive solidarity with the tradition of confessional literature which began with Henry Miller. Edward Limonov is now living in Paris. Perhaps his next work will be a Nouveau Roman. It would be easy to think of this review simply as a prolegomenon to Philip Roth’s new novel, The Anatomy Lesson. This ...

Kitty still pines for his dearest Dub

Andrew O’Hagan: Gossip, 6 February 2014

Becoming a Londoner: A Diary 
by David Plante.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 1 4088 3975 1
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The Animals: Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 
edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 481 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 0 7011 8678 4
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... special. He is 28 years old when he comes to London from the US (a little younger than his beloved Henry James) and meets the love of his life, a unique Greek called Nikos Stangos. The boys were fascinated by Bloomsbury – the books, the people, the scarves, the gossip – which led them to venerate Stephen Spender as one of its last links. Squeezed into a ...

The Unstoppable Upward

James Wolcott: ‘The Life of Saul Bellow’, 24 January 2019

The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife, 1965-2005 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 864 pp., £35, November 2018, 978 0 224 10188 2
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... in the New York Times, ‘Jewish writers – Bernard Malamud, J.D. Salinger, Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, inter alia – have emerged as a dominant movement in our literature. Herzog, in several senses, is the great pay-off book of that movement. It is a masterpiece, the first the movement has produced.’ Herzog not only had critics whirling their ...

Caretaker/Pallbearer

James Wolcott: Updike should stay at home, 1 January 2009

The Widows of Eastwick 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 308 pp., £18.99, October 2008, 978 0 241 14427 5
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... Wallace is no longer with us, but two of the Great Male Narcissists he cited, Updike and Philip Roth, are still displaying their self-absorbency and depriving tender young empaths of valuable column inches. With an almost audible sigh, Updike concedes that the pups have a point. ‘He or she may feel, as the grey-haired scribes of the day continue to take ...

Wounds

Stephen Fender, 23 June 1988

Hemingway 
by Kenneth Lynn.
Simon and Schuster, 702 pp., £16, September 1987, 0 671 65482 9
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The Faces of Hemingway: Intimate Portraits of Ernest Hemingway by those who knew him 
by Denis Brian.
Grafton, 356 pp., £14.95, May 1988, 0 246 13326 0
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... it, is not ‘a haunted Nick Adams, or a crippled Jake Barnes, or a hollowed-out Frederic Henry, but an overbearing know-it-all named Ernest Hemingway’. Max Eastman said Hemingway had false hair on his chest. Gertrude Stein, in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, called his courage into question. Of course, there was a lot to debunk ...

Breeds of New Yorker

Christine Smallwood: ‘The Group’ Revisited, 11 February 2010

A Fortunate Age 
by Joanna Smith Rakoff.
Scribner, 399 pp., $26, April 2009, 978 1 4165 9077 4
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The Group 
by Mary McCarthy.
Virago, 448 pp., £7.99, December 2009, 978 1 84408 593 4
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... only the place where comedy ends: it is also the place where tragedy begins. The wedding of Lil Roth, the opening act of Joanna Smith Rakoff’s A Fortunate Age, is followed by a lame attempt at spousal murder-by-scissors, a brief stay in a Manhattan mental institution, and Lil’s freak death after a bad case of flu. Lil hadn’t even planned to get ...

On Luljeta Lleshanaku

Michael Hofmann: Luljeta Lleshanaku, 4 April 2019

... Negative Space (Bloodaxe, £12). Earlier Lleshanaku poems were done by the pioneering Henry Israeli and perhaps a dozen other translators. The new book is translated by Ani Gjika, an Albanian-born American poet, who is ideally placed to traffic between the land of her birth and her adopted homeland, the way Charles Simic has done since the 1960s ...

Double Act

Adam Smyth: ‘A Humument’, 11 October 2012

A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel 
by Tom Phillips.
Thames and Hudson, 392 pp., £14.95, May 2012, 978 0 500 29043 9
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... Samuel Beckett; Chris Morris in Blue Jam; and perhaps most vividly of all, Vivian Stanshall in Sir Henry at Rawlinson End. In fact, A Humument is a novel of quotation: not only in the sense that all of its words were written first by Mallock (although not, as Eric Morecambe said of the notes in his piano playing, necessarily in the right order); but ...

Fine Art for 39 Cents

Marjorie Garber: Tupperising America, 13 April 2000

Tupperware: The Promise of Plastic in 1950s America 
by Alison Clarke.
Smithsonian, 241 pp., £15.95, November 1999, 1 56098 827 4
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... art: ‘plastic art’, ‘plastic merit’ and ‘plastic beauty’ were high compliments. Henry James, describing an aesthete, notes that ‘his appreciation ... was based partly on his fine sense of the plastic.’ Yet a hundred years after Baudelaire the figurative meaning of ‘plastic’ had fallen; it was now nearly synonymous with words like ...

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