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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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... of personal history and the pretty stuff on the public record. Let’s take the spirit of J. Michael Lennon’s ‘double life’ of Norman Mailer and offer that doubleness back as subjective criticism. Mailer, after all, gave us the non-fiction novel, Lennon gives us the pseudo-objective biography, so why ...

Diary

Paul Foot: Awaiting the Truth about Hanratty, 11 December 1997

... were warm, gentle, determined people, unlikely parents of a man who had been convicted of shooting Michael Gregsten dead in a lay-by off the A6, raping his girlfriend Valerie Storie and then shooting her, leaving her for dead before driving off in the couple’s car. Among the guests at the wake were Jean Justice, who told me he was a (rather elderly) law ...

Welcome Home

Sukhdev Sandhu: Memories of Michael X, 4 February 1999

Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multiracial Britain 
by Mike Phillips and Trevor Phillips.
HarperCollins, 422 pp., £16.99, May 1998, 0 00 255909 9
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... exposed as a social impostor – his daughter went to the sister school of the one attended by Michael Portillo – were as much about class as they were about race. It’s a pity, therefore, that the unifying ‘we’ with which the authors underscore their book prevents the potentially divisive issue of class from being fully explored. How much does an ...

An Ordinary Woman

Alan Bennett, 16 July 2020

... twelve. And he’s only fifteen now but you wouldn’t know.He said, ‘Are you sure?’I said, ‘Michael. It’s a spot, love, that’s all it is,’ and I got him some stuff to put on.He gets his trousers up sharp.He said, ‘Don’t tell Dad.’‘Why should I tell Dad? Why should I tell Dad anything?’‘And don’t tell our Maureen.’‘As if,’ I ...

The Jump-out Boys

J. Robert Lennon: The Drug-Bust that Wasn’t, 3 August 2006

Tulia: Race, Cocaine and Corruption in a Small Texas Town 
by Nate Blakeslee.
PublicAffairs, 450 pp., £15.99, September 2005, 9781586482190
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... the supposed drug deals took place. Most puzzling, however, was the arrest of Freddie Brookins Jr. The son of a hard-working pillar of the black community, Freddie was quiet, plain-spoken and studious, and had excelled in athletics, basketball and football. He was ambitious, and rejected, Nate Blakeslee writes, the ‘gangster culture so many of his peers ...

Purple Days

Mark Ford, 12 May 1994

The Pugilist at Rest 
by Thom Jones.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 571 17134 6
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The Sorrow of War 
by Bao Ninh, translated by Frank Palmos.
Secker, 217 pp., £8.99, January 1994, 0 436 31042 2
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A Good Scent from Strange Mountain 
by Robert Olen Butler.
Minerva, 249 pp., £5.99, November 1993, 0 7493 9767 5
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Out of the Sixties: Storytelling and the Vietnam Generation 
by David Wyatt.
Cambridge, 230 pp., £35, February 1994, 9780521441513
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... other people first – in the years since the war than actually died in battle. In Dispatches, Michael Herr describes meeting an ocean-eyed Lurp (a former member of a Long Range Patrol) who, between tours, would stick a hunting rifle out of the window of his parents’ home and draw aim on passing cars and people: ‘It used to put my folks real ...

Haunted by Kindnesses

Michael Wood: The Project of Sanity, 21 April 2005

Going Sane 
by Adam Phillips.
Hamish Hamilton, 245 pp., £14.99, February 2005, 0 241 14209 1
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... us outgrow too well; the madness of adolescence, ‘just a face we are going through’, as John Lennon once said; the madness of love, where the only sanity would be a proper respect for our folly and an attempt not to do harm; autism; schizophrenia; depression; and our failure to find any sanity in our hunger for money (‘money gives people an appetite ...

There’s a porpoise close behind us

Michael Dobson, 13 November 1997

The Origins of English Nonsense 
by Noel Malcolm.
HarperCollins, 329 pp., £18, May 1997, 0 00 255827 0
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... have been used in such contexts before – the walrus is one of them. From Talfourd Carroll to Lennon and McCartney, people seem to think alike about this sublimely irrelevant creature: today the proprietors of Sea World in California even make a walrus perform a role in a mock-gothic playlet (complete with a paternal ghost out of Hamlet), the most bizarre ...

So Ordinary, So Glamorous

Thomas Jones: Eternal Bowie, 5 April 2012

Starman: David Bowie, the Definitive Biography 
by Paul Trynka.
Sphere, 440 pp., £9.99, March 2012, 978 0 7515 4293 6
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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s 
by Peter Doggett.
Bodley Head, 424 pp., £20, September 2011, 978 1 84792 144 4
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... across: much of Hunky Dory consists of pastiches of Bowie’s musical heroes of the 1960s – John Lennon, Syd Barrett, Anthony Newley, Bob Dylan, the Velvet Underground. Which would make Ziggy Stardust the beautiful butterfly that emerged from the chrysalis. Paul Trynka begins his biography with a description of Bowie’s performance of ...

When students ruled the earth

D.A.N. Jones, 17 March 1988

1968: A Student Generation in Revolt 
by Ronald Fraser.
Chatto, 370 pp., £14.95, January 1988, 0 7011 2913 1
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Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties 
by Tariq Ali.
Collins, 280 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 9780002177795
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Sixty-Eight: The Year of the Barricades 
by David Caute.
Hamish Hamilton, 464 pp., £14.95, January 1988, 0 241 12174 4
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Nineteen Sixty-Eight: A Personal Report 
by Hans Koning.
Unwin Hyman, 196 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 9780044401858
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... a seat on Lambeth Council. I had worked for two magazines considered left-wing – Tribune, under Michael Foot, and the New Statesman, under Paul Johnson. It was a different world. In those distant days, Harold Wilson was the Prime Minister. He was being assailed by ‘left-wingers’, people like me, for being too subservient to the United States ...

Sex’n’Love

Blake Morrison, 21 February 1991

The Chatto Book of Love Poetry 
edited by John Fuller.
Chatto, 374 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 7011 3453 4
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The Faber Book of Blue Verse 
edited by John Whitworth.
Faber, 305 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 571 14095 5
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Self-Portrait with a Slide 
by Hugo Williams.
Oxford, 62 pp., £5.95, June 1990, 0 19 282744 8
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The Virago Book of Love Poetry 
edited by Wendy Mulford.
Virago, 288 pp., £6.99, November 1990, 1 85381 030 4
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Erotica: An Anthology of Women’s Writing 
edited by Margaret Reynolds, foreword by Jeanette Winterson .
Pandora, 362 pp., £19.99, November 1990, 9780044406723
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Daddy, Daddy 
by Paul Durcan.
Blackstaff, 185 pp., £5.95, August 1990, 0 85640 446 2
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... without the other. Those who have both will find that, among contemporaries, Christopher Reid and Michael Hofmann are classified as love poets but Craig Raine and Tony Harrison as blue versifiers. Only a few poets make both, including Seamus Heaney, who has two poems unworthy of him in the Whitworth (one about unfreezing a vaginal pump, one about a ...

Retro-Selfies

Iain Sinclair: Ferlinghetti, 17 December 2015

I Greet You at the Beginning of a Great Career: The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, 1955–97 
edited by Bill Morgan.
City Lights, 284 pp., £11.83, July 2015, 978 0 87286 678 2
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Writing across the Landscape: Travel Journals 1960-2010 
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, edited by Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson.
Liveright, 464 pp., £22.99, October 2015, 978 1 63149 001 9
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... the meaning of nakedness, anticipated by a decade or so the Ginsberg party trick that shocked John Lennon and George Harrison at the dawn of Swinging London. When I interviewed one of the Six Gallery poets, Michael McClure, in 2011, he recalled earlier episodes of Dionysian frenzy with Gerd Stern and a thrash of ‘belly ...

Emotional Sushi

Ian Sansom: Tony, Nick and Simon, 9 August 2001

One for My Baby 
by Tony Parsons.
HarperCollins, 330 pp., £15.99, July 2001, 0 00 226182 0
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How to Be Good 
by Nick Hornby.
Viking, 256 pp., £16.99, May 2001, 0 670 88823 0
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Little Green Man 
by Simon Armitage.
Viking, 246 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 0 670 89442 7
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... for My Baby is called Alfie (Parsons seems to be paying homage to characters played by Michael Caine). Alfie’s wife is called Rose. Rose dies on him. She was working in Hong Kong. In Man and Boy Harry’s misfortune led him to reassess his relationship with his young son and his parents and to fall in love with a woman who had a young daughter of ...

The Politics of Translation

Marina Warner: Translate this!, 11 October 2018

This Little Art 
by Kate Briggs.
Fitzcarraldo, 365 pp., £12.99, September 2017, 978 1 910695 45 6
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Translation as Transhumance 
by Mireille Gansel, translated by Ros Schwartz.
Les Fugitives, 150 pp., £10, November 2017, 978 0 9930093 3 4
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Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto 
by Mark Polizzotti.
MIT, 168 pp., £17.99, May 2018, 978 0 262 03799 0
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The 100 Best Novels in Translation 
by Boyd Tonkin.
Galileo, 304 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 903385 67 8
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The Work of Literary Translation 
by Clive Scott.
Cambridge, 285 pp., £75, June 2018, 978 1 108 42682 4
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... traducers or traitors, ghosts or parrots, or helpmeets, but writers in their own write (as John Lennon put it). The longstanding ideal of the good translator’s self-effacement behind the towering original fails to take full measure of their vital role in recognising their parity with the author: ‘It takes respect for one’s own work,’ Polizzotti ...

Thatcher’s Artists

Peter Wollen, 30 October 1997

Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection 
by Norman Rosenthal.
Thames and Hudson, 222 pp., £29.95, September 1997, 0 500 23752 2
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... And then, to go on in a slighdy different vein, doesn’t Goldsmith’s = CalArts and doesn’t Michael Craig Martin = Michael Asher, and therefore isn’t it only to be expected that Sensation = Helter Skelter and/or Scene of the Crime, to cite the two definitive exhibitions of new Los Angeles art. This is not to ...

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