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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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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: 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: 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 ...

The Comic Strip

Ian Hamilton, 3 September 1981

... Raymond’s Revuebar is usually thought of as Soho’s superior strip club. It stages not mere skin shows but Festivals of Erotica, it sells Dunhill or Lambert and Butler cigarettes, and it gets itself listed in the daily papers under Theatres. Svens and Ottos have no need to look shifty when they sidle into Raymond’s. This is no quick stop-off for provincial wankers ...

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 ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: It's a size thing, 19 September 1985

... In the current issue of a magazine called The Face there is an article on Norman Mailer’s recent visit to this country. He was here, it seems, to promote Tough guys don’t dance, his latest novel: he did some ‘major’ TV interviews, a bit of radio, and – towards the end of his stint – he called a press conference in order to complain about the low quality of the reviews he had been getting ...

Smileyfication

Ian Hamilton, 20 March 1980

Smiley’s People 
by John le Carré.
Hodder, 327 pp., £5.95, February 1980, 0 340 24704 5
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... The thing about John le Carré used to be that he was a brilliantly ingenious spyhack but couldn’t really write; and one way of getting back at him for being rich and famous was to mock at his almost lovably transparent wish to have this judgment changed. He had said one or two testy things about the arrogance of highbrow critics, their unwillingness to see quality in the so-called lower genres, and he would regularly pepper his spy books with quotations, literary references, browfurrowing Germanic aphorisms and the like ...

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: 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 ...

Cinders

Ian Hamilton, 21 October 1982

Women Working: Prostitution Now 
by Eileen McLeod.
Croom Helm, 177 pp., £6.95, August 1982, 0 7099 1717 1
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An English Madam: The Life and Work of Cynthia Payne 
by Paul Bailey.
Cape, 166 pp., £7.50, October 1982, 0 224 02037 4
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All the Girls 
by Martin O’Brien.
Macmillan, 268 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 333 31099 3
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... To me it’s just a job. They get on, they get off and get dressed and that’s it.’ Thus Sharon of Birmingham, one of several matter-of-fact working girls interviewed by Eileen McLeod for her study of Prostitution Now. Most of McLeod’s interviewees would go along with Sharon’s view of her vocation. Here’s Carol: ‘When they give me the money I say “Look then get on with it I haven’t got all day,” and they say “I hope you’re not going to rush me,” and I say “Look cock, you’ve got a certain amount of time here I don’t expect you to be in and out in two minutes, but I don’t expect you to spend two hours here”; they say “Fair enough ...

Phil the Lark

Ian Hamilton, 13 October 1988

Collected Poems 
by Philip Larkin, edited by Anthony Thwaite.
Faber/Marvell Press, 330 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 571 15196 5
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... Philip Larkin, we are told, left instructions in his will that certain of his writings had to be destroyed, unread. His executors obeyed: the word is that several of the poet’s notebooks, or journals, are now ashes. Did Larkin expect to be so obeyed? Or did he imagine that perhaps someone, somehow, might take a peek at the material before it reached the flames? And if such a thought did cross his mind, why didn’t he destroy the stuff himself? He must have known that, by not doing so, he was bequeathing at least the possibility of a dilemma ...

Dogface

Ian Hamilton, 28 September 1989

Wartime: Understanding and Behaviour in the Second World War 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 330 pp., £15, September 1989, 0 19 503797 9
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War like a Wasp: The Lost Decade of the Forties 
by Andrew Sinclair.
Hamish Hamilton, 312 pp., £17.95, October 1989, 0 241 12531 6
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... In a 1982 essay called ‘My War’ Paul Fussell described how – at the age of 20 – he became a full-time ironist: one who, by means of his experience in combat, had learned to perceive ‘some great gulf, half-comic and half-tragic, between what one expects and what one finds’. And in his book The Great War and Modern Memory, the soldier poets and memoirists who featured most prominently were those who had found themselves stranded in that same ‘great gulf’, learning firsthand how wrong they had been in their imaginings of what awaited them in France ...

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