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Total Secret

Norman MacCaig

21 January 1982
Neil M. Gunn: A Highland Life 
by F.R. Hart and J.B. Pick.
Murray, 314 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 7195 3856 4
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... into the grotesque hurly-burly of politics was his sympathy for the suffering underdog. There was absolutely nothing in him of the political careerist climbing up the greasy ladder towards a floodlit job in the Cabinet and tea with the Queen. He was far too independent for that, even when the independence worked against his best interests. When, after a number of books that drew something less than ...


Andrew Saint: The Jubilee Line Extension

20 January 2000
... is what the architecture of the Jubilee Line Extension, conceived three years after Kings Cross, is about. The salvationist strand to design on the Underground is nothing new. It goes back to Frank Pick, the Yorkshire puritan and businessman who imposed modern aesthetics and a measure of uniformity on the maze of private lines brought together in 1933 as London Transport. Pick also did a great deal ...
22 November 1990
... After five years of beavering away in isolation and complete obscurity, it is tremendously exciting to pick up a nationally distributed newspaper or magazine and read a review of one’s own book. This has been my happy situation for the last two weeks, during which time most quality newspapers have ...

It Got Eaten

Peter Godfrey-Smith: Fodor v. Darwin

8 July 2010
What Darwin Got Wrong 
by Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini.
Profile, 262 pp., £20, February 2010, 978 1 84668 219 3
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... theory in the LRB,* and he has now published What Darwin Got Wrong, along with Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini. Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini believe that they can replicate Chomsky’s demolition job on Skinner because ‘Skinner’s account of learning and Darwin’s account of evolution are identical in all but name.’ As we shall see, ‘identical’ is quite a stretch, but there is a real ...


John Sutherland: Conrad’s letters

4 December 2003
The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. VI: 1917-19 
edited by Laurence Davies, Frederick R. Karl and Owen Knowles.
Cambridge, 570 pp., £80, December 2002, 0 521 56195 7
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... like to come for lunch on Saturday, if that suits you, or by the 4.30 p.m. train? Get your ticket for Wye because at the moment our motor-car is at the coachbuilder’s and it will be difficult to pick you up from Ashford Station. Send us a line at once – or perhaps a wire. My wife thanks you for the gift from Holland. It no longer exists – because it was so good. Yours truly J.C. A note ...

Straw Ghosts

Nicholas Humphrey

2 October 1980
This house is haunted: An Investigation of the Enfield Poltergeist 
by Guy Lyon Playfair.
Souvenir, 288 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 285 62443 1
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Science and the Supernatural 
by John Taylor.
Temple Smith, 180 pp., £7.50, June 1980, 0 85117 191 5
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... laid out a row of potted cactuses on the kitchen floor, writes ‘I am Fred’ in black sticky-tape on the bathroom door. In the old days if an offended spirit meddled with the cutlery it would pick out a dagger and wave it before the glazed eyes of the Thane of Cawdor, but now it takes a tea-spoon from the dresser and bends it before the camera of a reporter from the Daily Mirror. Still, if ...


Alan Bennett: What I Did in 2015

7 January 2016
... it catch anything or even seemingly take much interest in what’s going on in the water, and it’s so still that though quite a few walkers go across the packhorse bridge very few of them actually pick it out. An untidy Dickensian-looking bird, like a half-folded grey umbrella, if disturbed it unhurriedly takes off, sailing languidly upstream towards the waterfall, never quite knowing what to do ...
29 September 1988
Eliot’s New Life 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Oxford, 356 pp., £15, September 1988, 0 19 811727 2
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The Letters of T.S. Eliot 
edited by Valerie Eliot.
Faber, 618 pp., £25, September 1988, 0 571 13621 4
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The Poetics of Impersonality 
by Maud Ellmann.
Harvester, 207 pp., £32.50, January 1988, 0 7108 0463 6
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T.S. Eliot and the Philosophy of Criticism 
by Richard Shusterman.
Duckworth, 236 pp., £19.95, February 1988, 0 7156 2187 4
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‘The Men of 1914’: T.S. Eliot and Early Modernism 
by Erik Svarny.
Open University, 268 pp., £30, September 1988, 0 335 09019 2
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Eliot, Joyce and Company 
by Stanley Sultan.
Oxford, 326 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 19 504880 6
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The Savage and the City in the Work of T.S. Eliot 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 251 pp., £25, December 1987, 9780198128694
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T.S. Eliot: The Poems 
by Martin Scofield.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 521 30147 5
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... song of the hermit-thrush, tells Eleanor Hinkley that he is not sure whether some birds he sees are sparrows, for he knows nothing about ornithology). He certainly had to decide between a steady job as an academic philosopher, probably at Harvard, and a rougher career in London, where he would have to support his poetry by lecturing, reviewing, and to the dismay of his mother, school-teaching ...
19 February 2004
John Clare: A Biography 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 650 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 330 37106 1
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‘I Am’: The Selected Poetry of John Clare 
edited by Jonathan Bate.
Farrar, Straus, 318 pp., $17, November 2003, 0 374 52869 1
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John Clare, Politics and Poetry 
by Alan Vardy.
Palgrave, 221 pp., £45, October 2003, 0 333 96617 1
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John Clare Vol. V: Poems of the Middle Period 1822-37 
edited by Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 822 pp., £105, January 2003, 0 19 812386 8
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... to chew their cuds behind But all is level cold & dull & osier swamps with water full The blasted bareness, the ‘cold achill’, ‘cold & dull’ and repeated ‘acold’ elsewhere in the poem pick up ‘Tom’s acold’ on the heath with Lear and the Fool, while the earlier image of ‘dithering’ thistles that ‘crowd the lane’ alludes to the violent disturbances of the early 1830s, when ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1998

21 January 1999
... is made about the attempted family suicide and the hooliganism that follows I notice that he does not even raise his eyes from his papers, behaviour of this nature being presumably what his job has led him to expect. Yorkshire, 15 March. Having seen there was a Bronze Age stone circle (more accurately the remains of a barrow) at Yockenthwaite I look at the map and see what I take to be a ...

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