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Stephen Fender

23 June 1988
by Kenneth Lynn.
Simon and Schuster, 702 pp., £16, September 1987, 0 671 65482 9
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The Faces of Hemingway: Intimate Portraits of Ernest Hemingway by those who knew him 
by Denis Brian.
Grafton, 356 pp., £14.95, May 1988, 0 246 13326 0
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... his parents and killed them off in various fictional displacements. Mark Twain did it too. So did J.D. Salinger and Philip Roth. Popular American fiction is full of adolescent crises: of good-bad boys running away from home, escaping one form of captivity only to wind up in another as suitable cases for treatment. It is not only in Hemingway’s war ...


John Sutherland

15 September 1988
The Secret Life of Wilkie Collins 
by William Clarke.
Allison and Busby, 239 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 0 85031 960 9
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Wilkie Collins: Women, Property and Propriety 
by Philip O’Neill.
Macmillan, 238 pp., £27.50, September 1988, 9780333421994
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... to preserve their secrets. They will fight impertinent biographers through the courts (like J.D. Salinger). They will (like T.S. Eliot or Jack London) set up vigilant estates to stand like pyramids over the author’s reputation and defy any tomb-robbing researcher. They will themselves incinerate mountains of correspondence (as did Dickens) or ...


Julian Barnes: Burning Letters

7 July 1988
... to dispel the unease: it rather increases it. When writers complain about biography, when – as J.D. Salinger did with Ian Hamilton – they take every legal step to prevent themselves being written about, when they destroy their own manuscripts, ask for their letters to be returned or better still burnt, it’s usually concluded that they have ...

Nicely! Nicely!

Jenny Turner

13 May 1993
Operation Shylock 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 398 pp., £14.99, March 1993, 0 224 03009 4
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... it. Thus, as often happens with US fiction (remember the rumours that Thomas Pynchon was really J.D. Salinger under another name?), attention is deflected away from the substantive matter of the novel, and onto various gee-whizz discussions of supposedly Post-Modernist authorial behaviour – the adult version of the Phew-It-Was-Only-A-Dream-Or-Was-It ...

The Amazing …

Jonathan Lethem: My Spidey

6 June 2002
directed by Sam Raimi.
May 2002
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... Other. Spider-Man’s official creator, Stan Lee (typically, for his generation of showmen, a de-Judaicised ‘Stanley Lieber’), has boasted: ‘Spider-Man’s costume covers every inch of his body . . . any reader, of any race’ – if not gender – ‘in any part of the world, can imagine himself under that costume.’ But, quite satisfyingly, Parker ...

Goodbye Moon

Andrew O’Hagan: Me and the Moon

25 February 2010
The Book of the Moon 
by Rick Stroud.
Doubleday, 368 pp., £16.99, May 2009, 978 0 385 61386 6
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Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon 
by Craig Nelson.
John Murray, 404 pp., £18.99, June 2009, 978 0 7195 6948 7
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Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon 
by Buzz Aldrin and Ken Abraham.
Bloomsbury, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2009, 978 1 4088 0402 5
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... as well call cosmic extremes. He went silent, became absent, allegedly working but never seen, the J.D. Salinger of the US space programme. The race for the Moon was fuelled by a terrifying combustion of scientific know-how and political paranoia. But the rocket engineers’ sense of how to articulate awe, how to inhabit teatime-news psychology, how to ...
18 May 2000
Franz Liszt. Vol. III: The Final Years, 1861-86 
by Alan Walker.
Faber, 594 pp., £45, February 1998, 0 571 19034 0
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The Romantic Generation 
by Charles Rosen.
HarperCollins, 720 pp., £14.99, March 1999, 0 00 255712 6
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Franz Liszt: Selected Letters 
edited by Adrian Williams.
Oxford, 1063 pp., £70, January 1999, 0 19 816688 5
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... a specifically musical issue. I also want to know how writers like Racine, Heine, Lorca and even J.D. Salinger could have renounced linguistic virtuosity. After writing Phèdre, the last of the secular plays, Racine renounced the alexandrine in order to become Louis XIV’s historiographer. Heine gave up writing lyric poetry in order to write ...


Kevin Kopelson: Confessions of a Plagiarist

22 May 2008
... I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that all such confessions are deceptive. To quote J.D. Salinger (lines I’ve already included in more than one publication): A confessional passage has probably never been written that didn’t stink a little bit of the writer’s pride in having given up his pride. The thing to listen for, every ...

Comedy is murder

Thomas Powers: Joseph Heller

8 March 2012
Just One Catch: The Passionate Life of Joseph Heller 
by Tracy Daugherty.
Robson, 548 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 1 84954 172 5
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Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller was Dad and Life was a Catch-22 
by Erica Heller.
Vintage, 272 pp., £8.99, October 2011, 978 0 09 957008 0
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... pieces about one-book authors, a cautionary roster of the silent that included Margaret Mitchell, J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee and Ralph Ellison. Heller’s history reflected theirs – the dreams of youth and years of literary apprenticeship, a period of obsessed scribbling, enthusiasm from a publisher, a ripple of applause from the fraternity of ...

Weirdo Possible Genius Child

Daniel Soar: Max Porter

23 May 2019
by Max Porter.
Faber, 213 pp., £12.99, March 2019, 978 0 571 34028 6
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... this isn’t an ordinary story. The fantasy of the missing child is a thing built from fear, prejudice, half-forgotten fairy tales and the woeful background drone of the radio news. As a ‘nice lady’ at one point says, trying to put this local horror into perspective, a child goes missing somewhere in this country every three minutes – a figure which ...

I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters

24 January 2013
Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... of Great White Males (Styron, Norman Mailer, James Jones, John Updike, Saul Bellow, Gore Vidal, J.D. Salinger, Joseph Heller, the recently retired Philip Roth), whose ghostly father and bearded Neptune disturbing the liquor cabinet deep into the night was Ernest Hemingway. Even those least influenced by Hemingway’s style couldn’t fail to register ...

The Unstoppable Upward

James Wolcott: ‘The Life of Saul Bellow’

24 January 2019
The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife, 1965-2005 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 864 pp., £35, November 2018, 978 0 224 10188 2
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... in a diplomatic pouch, in marked contrast to Atlas’s snorty exasperations. He endeavours to be judiciously fair. But although Leader has avoided Atlas’s egregious attitudinising, he runs afoul of several hazards that bog him and the impatient reader (me, pumping the accelerator) in extensive tracts of whichy thickets. Leader might have profited from ...

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