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Smocks

Rosemary Hill, 5 December 1991

Gertrude Jekyll 
by Sally Festing.
Viking, 323 pp., £17.99, October 1991, 0 670 82788 6
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People’s Parks 
by Hazel Conway.
Cambridge, 287 pp., £49.50, August 1991, 0 521 39070 2
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The History of Garden Design: The Western Tradition from the Renaissance to the Present Day 
edited by Monique Mosser and Georges Teyssot.
Thames and Hudson, 543 pp., £45, May 1991, 0 500 01511 2
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... who withdrew into a secluded world of romance in the house and garden she created at Munstead Wood. Yet such extremes of public and private life were essential elements in what might be called the Arts and Crafts temperament: a mixture of idealism, sentimental fantasy and Victorian middle-class confidence. Morris and Jekyll were life-long participants in ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Inside Man’, ‘V for Vendetta’ , 11 May 2006

Inside Man 
directed by Spike Lee.
March 2006
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V for Vendetta 
directed by James McTeigue.
March 2006
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... a version of Orwell’s Big Brother represented by a large-screen image of John Hurt impersonating Ian McKellen impersonating Hitler, and when the good guy sees himself as a reincarnation of a Catholic conspirator from four hundred years back, you have to think there is some distance between actuality and whatever is going on in this story. There are plenty of ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Skyfall’, 22 November 2012

Skyfall 
directed by Sam Mendes.
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... talk of the real thing. Here at last was the mean, lethal, almost banter-free figure we thought Ian Fleming had invented, the ruthless, funless fellow we imagined we had always wanted. He had a licence to kill but his real licence was his angry work ethic. He was going to get the job done and nothing would distract him. He looked more like Robert Shaw, the ...

Memories of New Zealand

Peter Campbell, 1 December 2011

... dark, muddy green of the native vegetation; the low, dense covering of ngaio and rangiora, lance wood and manuka, was a reminder of how the land had looked when first settled. As the farmland became unprofitable or unmanageable, gorse, broom and blackberry took over. There was much light and much wind. In summer gorse fires threw up dense billowing columns ...

Whose Body?

Charles Glass: ‘Operation Mincemeat’, 22 July 2010

Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story that Changed the Course of World War Two 
by Ben Macintyre.
Bloomsbury, 400 pp., £16.99, January 2010, 978 0 7475 9868 8
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... a cameo role as an air-force officer who questions the wisdom of the scheme. In the meantime, Ian Colvin, a journalist whose investigation into the wartime coup had prompted Montagu to come out first with his authorised version, published The Unknown Courier. So the tale has been told before, but Ben Macintyre has done a more thorough and readable job of ...

Bobby-Dazzling

Ian Sansom, 17 July 1997

W.H. Auden: Prose 1926-38, Essays and Reviews and Travel Books in Prose and Verse 
edited by Edward Mendelson.
Faber, 836 pp., £40, March 1997, 0 571 17899 5
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... To make this fort assume The furniture of home; Lest we should see where we are, Lost in a haunted wood, Children afraid of the night Who have never been happy or good. In places the language has been worn smooth: the alternative of ‘not to ... but to’ rubbed down to the old-fashioned one-word, ‘Lest’ – a ‘Victorian echo’, Brodsky notes, whose ...

Fame

Ian Hamilton, 2 July 1981

Charles Charming’s Challenges on the Pathway to the Throne 
by Clive James.
Cape, 103 pp., £4.95, June 1981, 0 224 01954 6
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... school play: The night arrived and he was pretty good. Hands clasped behind, he greeted Birnam Wood. ‘Have you come far?’                 he asked in Royal fashion But Banquo’s spectre most aroused his passion. ‘How long,’         he queried,                 ‘Have you been a ghost?’ Mild, affectionate ...

Marshy Margins

Frank Kermode, 1 August 1996

The True Story of the Novel 
by Margaret Anne Doody.
Rutgers, 580 pp., $44.95, May 1996, 0 8135 2168 8
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... which we have many fine Greek and Latin examples, we choose to think of it as having started when Ian Watt said it did in The Rise of the Novel. Since Watt’s book is among the handful of postwar critical books that can comfortably be called classics of a genre that boasts very few, one sees that Doody is aiming high. She scornfully rejects the notion that ...

In the Company of Confreres

Terry Eagleton: ‘Modern British Fiction’, 12 December 2002

On Modern British Fiction 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 328 pp., £14.99, October 2002, 0 19 924932 6
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... ill and like getting old, who prefer winter to summer and autumn to spring’. These Babes in the Wood crave the rainy, stained and soggy. Yet the later Murdoch was a hard-line Tory, who may well have been liberal in her aesthetics but was hardly so in her politics. She had right-wing views on most topics, and lambasted the work of Derrida while having only ...

Dishonoured

Michael Wood, 5 May 1983

The Rapes of Lucretia: A Myth and Its Transformation 
by Ian Donaldson.
Oxford, 203 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 19 812638 7
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The Rape of Clarissa 
by Terry Eagleton.
Blackwell, 109 pp., £10, September 1982, 0 631 13031 4
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Samuel Richardson: A Man of Letters 
by Carol Houlihan Flynn.
Princeton, 342 pp., £17.70, May 1982, 0 691 06506 3
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... Is that what heroines have to do? This is perhaps the most troubling of the questions canvassed in Ian Donaldson’s cool and lucid tracing of what his subtitle calls ‘a myth and its transformations’. The book, which looks at paintings and works of philosophy as well as works of literature, is interested in the relations between ‘art and argument’. At ...

Provincialism

Denis Donoghue: Karlin’s collection of Victorian verse, 4 June 1998

The Penguin Book of Victorian Verse 
edited by Danny Karlin.
Allen Lane, 851 pp., £25, October 1997, 9780713990492
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... whole. His major precursors are Quiller-Couch, Yeats, Auden, George MacBeth, Christopher Ricks and Ian Fletcher. I don’t intend a Shopper’s Guide, but I’ll start with two small complaints. Unlike Fletcher, Karlin doesn’t give explanatory notes, except for a few dialect words and phrases in foreign languages. Reading Davidson’s ‘Thirty Bob a ...

Diary

Judith Baker and Ian Hacking: Walking in the Andes, 10 September 2009

... of porridge of mixed grains as a school lunch. There is a rota for the children to bring sticks of wood to cook the porridge, for there is no wood in the village: this is the peña. Families collect dead bromeliads from the jungle to use for cooking fuel – these are epiphytes, plants that live in trees, abundantly. (Some ...

Ceaseless Anythings

James Wood: Robert Stone, 1 October 1998

Damascus Gate 
by Robert Stone.
Picador, 500 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 37058 8
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... Government and who have infiltrated the Zionist networks: Jan Zimmer, a Polish immigrant, and Ian Fotheringill, a Scottish chef and former SAS member. Lucas discovers this menace almost too late, and is nearly killed. The novel ends in a thrillerish shoot-out along underground tunnels. When it is all over, Lucas flies back to New York, clearer-eyed about ...

The Lie-World

James Wood: D.B.C. Pierre, 20 November 2003

Vernon God Little 
by D.B.C. Pierre.
Faber, 279 pp., £10.99, January 2003, 0 571 21642 0
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... is that novels without much plot tend to languish. Suddenly everything should be shorter, even Ian McEwan. More troubling was Professor Carey’s opinion that Nick Hornby’s How to Be Good is ‘a very impressive novel of ideas’, just the kind of thing the Booker should favour. Ah, that would explain the exclusion of Coetzee’s novel of ...

Conversations with Myself

Michael Wood: Fernando Pessoa, 19 July 2018

The Book of Disquiet 
by Fernando Pessoa, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Serpent’s Tail, 413 pp., £9.99, August 2018, 978 1 78125 864 4
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... translated into English four times in one year: in 1991, by Margaret Jull Costa, Alfred MacAdam, Ian Watson and Richard Zenith. The last of these texts started out as The Book of Disquietude, but the longer word was soon dropped. As Jull Costa says, desassossego can be rendered as ‘unease/disquiet/unrest/turmoil/anxiety’. The prefix ...

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