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Hard Man

Ian Hamilton, 16 October 1980

Walk Don’t Walk The Camp From Scenes Like These 
by Gordon Williams.
Allison and Busby, 264 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 85031 309 0
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... Gordon Williams, formerly Gordon M. Williams: born 1934, educated at the John Neilson Institution in Paisley. Worked in Scotland as a farm labourer and newspaper reporter before undergoing National Service in Germany with the RAF. Has worked as a novelist for 16 years, based mainly in Soho but with a spell of rural isolation on the edge of Dartmoor ...

Just what are those teeth for?

Ian Hamilton, 24 April 1997

... there seems to be some Toytown farce in progress. What, for instance, would Gore make of Christine Hamilton? What would he make of Martin Bell? Too British to be true, the pair of them, in very different ways. It was a relief to learn that several of Vidal’s hours here have been spent discussing Montaigne (so he said) with Michael Foot. Sadly, when Vidal ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Poets Laureate, 7 January 1999

... rejoicing at the death of his predecessor’. Even Day Lewis’s admiring editor and close friend, Ian Parsons, when he was putting together a Collected Poems, shrank from reprinting the poet’s Laureate offerings. He called these works ‘banal when they were not embarrassingly disingenuous’. And this, over the centuries, has been the way of things with ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Two weeks in Australia, 6 October 1983

... it could be argued that the Aussies bring it on themselves, with their Barry McKenzies, their Ian Chappells, their self-parodying Foster ads, and so on. And there is the accent: for some reason more readily mimickable than any of our own regional twangs. Theories about the Australian accent are just as snooty as theories about Australia. Some say that it ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: At Lord’s , 15 September 1983

... three key games had been lost to the same team: Somerset. Somerset’s captain for the week was Ian Botham, who still remembers what those ties looked like when the gents of the pavilion silently (and with near-hatred) acknowledged his two ducks against Australia in 1981. Marylebone’s week of torment had begun with the semi-final of the Nat West Cup. It ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Locating the G-Spot, 5 August 1982

... In America, when conversation stalls, your host will usually fall back on Current Talking Points. There are, you soon learn, two types of CTP. The first is to do with what he thinks is on your mind; the second with what is actually on his. Last week, the obvious ‘topic’ for a visiting Britisher was the Palace break-in – an event I had read about, though briefly, on the flight over ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Self-Exposure at the Football Terrace, 2 September 1982

... Here are some quotations from my week’s reading – see if you can place them, or at any rate make a guess at where they might be from. 1. ‘I cannot exaggerate my seriousness about the trivialities of life, lack of know-how, nervousness, shyness – coupled, though of course it is hard to judge how effectively, with masks designed to hide my deficiencies ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: New New Grub Street, 3 February 1983

... Frank Kermode’s review of the new Gissing biography (page 9) brings to mind a project which I have long thought someone ought to tackle: a fearless update of New Grub Street. The job wouldn’t be too taxing – indeed, in many cases, it would be all too easy to attach contemporary names to Gissing’s sunken literary types: his principled dullards as well as his sleek chancers ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Sport Poetry, 23 January 1986

... Today, Live Soccer returns to ‘our screens’ after a six-month haggle between TV and the Football League. It’s Charlton versus West Ham in the Cup and we are being exhorted to look out for West Ham’s new ‘goal-machine’, the Scottish striker McAvennie: ‘Now you’ll be able to see him for yourself,’ the papers say – an oddish line for journalists to take, I would have thought, but there we are ...

Bugger me blue

Ian Hamilton, 22 October 1992

The Selected Letters of Philip Larkin 
edited by Anthony Thwaite.
Faber, 759 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 571 15197 3
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... bit of good’) and Anthony Powell, aka ‘the horse-face dwarf’. There is even a ‘Hi, Ian’: he calls me ‘the Kerensky of poetry’. Not too bad, I thought at first. Alas, though, the book’s editor advises me that Larkin almost certainly meant to say Dzerzhinsky, or somebody – some murderer – like that. He had probably misread a ...

One for the road

Ian Hamilton, 21 March 1991

Memoirs 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 346 pp., £16.99, March 1991, 0 09 174533 0
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... Kingsley Amis has a reputation for not liking other people, but – these so-called Memoirs might seem to permit us to enquire – does anyone, could anyone, like him? Is Kingers himself, at the end of the day, the sort of bloke you’d want to run into at – well, at the end of the day, at the club, or the pub, or at some crappy dinner party? On the face of it, no thank you ...

Being there

Ian Hamilton, 7 October 1993

Up at Oxford 
by Ved Mehta.
Murray, 432 pp., £17.99, September 1993, 0 7195 5287 7
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... When Ved Mehta enrolled as an undergraduate at Balliol in 1956, he thought he had arrived in heaven. He was at ‘the holiest of holy places’. For three years he would be dwelling ‘among the world’s liveliest minds, in one of the most beautiful spots on the planet’. As a child in India and as an adolescent studying in the United States, he had been told, by his father, his teachers, by the books he read, that Oxford for the British was ‘like the Hardwar of the Hindus, the Mecca of the Muslims, the Golden Temple of the Sikhs ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Who will blow it?, 22 May 1997

... Saturday’s FA Cup Final has been billed as something of a connoisseur’s delight. The question being asked is not so much ‘Who will win?’ as ‘Who will blow it?’ Which of the two contestants will jettison a handsome half-time lead or snatch an ingenious own goal in the last minute? Which of them will come out of it more poignantly? Chelsea and Middlesbrough have this season been the soccer aesthete’s dream teams: bristling with Italo-Brazilian flair but inconsistent, full of attacking wizardry but suspect in defence ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Whoop, whoop, terrain, 29 April 1999

... Fucking shit! It’s fictitious. Everything is fictitious!’ So said the pilot in charge of AeroPeru Flight 603 from Lima to Santiago. The date was 2 October 1996 and within a few moments Flight 603 would crash into the sea. When he spoke the pilot had just realised that he might shortly die. It had suddenly become clear to him that none of his cockpit instruments was working properly ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: A Hoax within a Hoax, 15 November 1984

... Years ago, when I was serving as an anonymous hack on the Times Literary Supplement, one of my duties was to pen sprightly paragraphs for a weekly books column. The idea was to mop up publications which were not considered worth full-scale reviews but which nonetheless had to be ‘covered’ by a journal of record such as ours. Things like: A Dictionary of Spy Writers or The Balladeers’ Handbook or Henry Williamson: My Friend ...

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