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What the hell’s that creep up to?

Thomas Jones: J. Robert Lennon, 21 November 2013

Familiar 
by J. Robert Lennon.
Serpent’s Tail, 205 pp., £11.99, August 2013, 978 1 84668 947 5
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... Something remarkable happens in the opening pages of J. Robert Lennon’s seventh novel. Elisa Brown is driving home to Reevesport, in upstate New York, from Madison, Wisconsin, where her son is buried. She makes the journey once a year, by herself, in her beaten up old Honda with its smell of dog (her husband’s, from before they were married, now dead) and cracked windscreen ...

Edited by Somerset Maugham

Wyatt Mason: Bedtime stories for adults, 17 March 2005

Pieces for the Left Hand: 100 Anecdotes 
by J. Robert Lennon.
Granta, 213 pp., £10, March 2005, 1 86207 740 1
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... that is excessive and much that is reasonable in the early novels of the young American writer J. Robert Lennon. At 34, Lennon, already the author of four novels, plots his books with a rigour and restraint uncharacteristic of writers of his generation. Whereas his immediate contemporaries Dave Eggers, Colson Whitehead ...

Steaming like a Pie

Theo Tait: ‘Going Postal’, 4 December 2003

Mailman 
by J. Robert Lennon.
Granta, 483 pp., £15.99, October 2003, 1 86207 625 1
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... a cartoon version of what Philip Roth called ‘the indigenous American berserk’. The hero of J. Robert Lennon’s fourth novel is a postal carrier, a loner in late middle age, moderately disgruntled, deranged to an uncertain extent – raising concerns that he will storm his place of work with a shotgun before the novel is through. But Albert ...

Tears in the Café Select

Christopher Prendergast, 9 March 1995

Paris Interzone: Richard Wright, Lolita, Boris Vian and Others on the Left Bank 1946-1960 
by James Campbell.
Secker, 305 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 436 20106 2
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Foreign Correspondent: Paris in the Sixties 
by Peter Lennon.
Picador, 220 pp., £16.99, April 1994, 0 330 31911 6
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The Good Ship Venus: The Erotic Voyage of the Olympia Press 
by John de St Jorre.
Hutchinson, 332 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 09 177874 3
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... Paris figures in the titles of both James Campbell’s and Peter Lennon’s books, but this is a restricted, specialised Paris. Campbell takes us into something called the ‘Interzone’ (the term is odd, and troublesome), inhabited by assorted exiles, misfits and drop-outs during the Fifties and late Forties. Lennon’s jaunty impressionistic book takes us into the Sixties, with an account of his experiences as a young journalist writing, sporadically, for the Guardian, while, in the intervals, getting caught up in all kinds of adventures (best of all an improbable encounter, in the company of Samuel Beckett, with Peter O’Toole ...

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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... 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 can’t I ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Tayler: King Charles the Martyr, 21 February 2019

... verse, and, according to a website about Afghan hounds, once owned the cave in which Robert the Bruce hid out. I’d just confirmed that A.J.A. Symons’s The Quest for Corvo was packed with neo-Jacobites when my acquaintance popped up online with further information about the annual Mass. ‘I should ...

History’s Revenges

Peter Clarke, 5 March 1981

The Illustrated Dictionary of British History 
edited by Arthur Marwick.
Thames and Hudson, 319 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 500 25072 3
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Who’s Who in Modern History, 1860-1980 
by Alan Palmer.
Weidenfeld, 332 pp., £8.50, October 1980, 0 297 77642 8
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... xxii, 1-2). We are well clear of Adam Smith by now, and still going strong, but the next hop, to Robert Lowe, marks the turn for home. For Lowe is introduced as a radical Utilitarian administrator (see Utilitarianism). Utilitarianism naturally leads us to Jeremy Bentham, and Bentham equally naturally back to Utilitarianism. This makes no difference ...

Diary

Naomi Shepherd: Israel’s longing for normality, 3 February 2005

... and replacing the nationalist agenda with the world view of the European New Left (think of John Lennon)’. Their targets included Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, who were criticised for peopling their work with neurotic characters; leading artists, for following cosmopolitan fashion; educationalists, for the decline in the teaching of the Bible, the Talmud and ...

Wallflower

Anthony Quinn, 29 August 1991

Varying Degrees of Hopelessness 
by Lucy Ellmann.
Hamish Hamilton, 184 pp., £13.99, July 1991, 0 241 13153 7
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Slide 
by James Buchan.
Heinemann, 135 pp., £12.99, June 1991, 0 434 07499 3
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Alma Cogan 
by Gordon Burn.
Secker, 210 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 0 436 20009 0
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... and into bed. Crushed, Isabel transfers her affections to the more diffident American lecturer, Robert, and dithers prissily around him until he succumbs – unfortunately to Pol, again. There is nothing rivalrous in any of this, merely a contrast of tactics. Pol is the brazen adventurer to Isabel’s cloistered romantic, and treats men with a disdain that ...

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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... Marooned in the ‘painful but glorious days’ of his past, he rather resembles the characters of Robert Olen Butler’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of short stories, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain: all of these concern South Vietnamese immigrants who have settled, for the most part happily, in Louisiana, yet who hark constantly back to their ...

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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... space had once been a community art venture called King Ubu, operated by the Black Mountain poet Robert Duncan and his collagist partner Jess Collins. Duncan, removing his clothes at the conclusion of his verse play Faust Foutu, in order to demonstrate the meaning of nakedness, anticipated by a decade or so the Ginsberg party trick that shocked John ...

Punk-U-Like

Dave Haslam, 20 July 1995

The Black Album 
by Hanif Kureishi.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, March 1995, 0 571 15086 1
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The Faber Book of Pop 
edited by Hanif Kureishi and Jon Savage.
Faber, 813 pp., £16.99, May 1995, 0 571 16992 9
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... and down Carnaby Street; fashion-following funkateers in London clubland in 1982 are celebrated in Robert Elms’s grand explication of a scene that amounted to no more than a bunch of people wandering around with no socks, espadrilles and holes torn in the knees of their jeans. Most ludicrous Londonism of all is a 1972 claim about George Best: ‘Though he ...

In Transit

Geoff Dyer: Garry Winogrand, 20 June 2013

... pools of unexpected calm. But he wasn’t simply a New York photographer-novelist. Convinced that Robert Frank had missed out on the real story of America in the 1950s – the story of the suburbs – he made his way across the country, and his travels put him in an entirely different relation to photographic and physical space. He left New York for ...

Arty Party

Hal Foster: From the ‘society of spectacle’ to the ‘society of extras’, 4 December 2003

Relational Aesthetics 
by Nicolas Bourriaud, translated by Matthew Copeland.
Les Presses du réel, 128 pp., €9, March 2002, 2 84066 060 1
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Postproduction 
by Nicolas Bourriaud, translated by Jeanine Herman.
Lukas and Sternberg, 88 pp., $19, October 2001, 0 9711193 0 9
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Interviews: Volume I 
by Hans Ulrich Obrist.
Charta, 967 pp., $60, June 2003, 9788881584314
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... platforms, some dotted with information about a famous person from the past (Erasmus Darwin or Robert McNamara), as though a documentary script were in the making or a history seminar had just finished. Or, finally, a kiosk cobbled together from plastic and plywood, and filled, like a homemade study-shrine, with images and texts devoted to a particular ...

Diary

Jonathan Lethem: My Marvel Years, 15 April 2004

... Picasso had, after 1950, become Adolf Wölfli, or John Ford had ended up as John Cassavetes. Or if Robert Crumb had turned into his obsessive mad-genius brother, Charles Crumb. If thisweredrawn byKirby inthe 1970sit wouldbe a massivegleaminghystericallyhyperarticulatedpsychedelicedifice ...

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