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J.I.M. Stewart, 2 February 1984

Soor Hearts 
by Robert Alan Jamieson.
Paul Harris, 166 pp., £6.95, January 1984, 0 86228 072 9
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The Life and Loves of a She-Devil 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 240 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 9780340332283
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Cathedral 
by Raymond Carver.
Collins, 230 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 0 00 222790 8
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The Cannibal Galaxy 
by Cynthia Ozick.
Secker, 162 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 436 35483 7
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The Collected Works of Jane Bowles 
introduced by Truman Capote.
Peter Owen, 476 pp., £10.95, January 1984, 0 7206 0613 6
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Let it come down 
by Paul Bowles.
Peter Owen, 318 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 0 7206 0614 4
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... An inexpert but frequently impressive first novel, Soor Hearts is set in Shetland in the early years of this century. Magnus Doull, having sailed before the mast for ten years, returns to the fishing village from which he had fled under suspicion of having murdered Thomas Pole. Nearly everyone believes him guilty, since the two young men had been seen to quarrel ...

Blood Relations

J.I.M. Stewart, 1 December 1983

Diversity and Depth in Fiction: Selected Critical Writings of Angus Wilson 
edited by Kerry McSweeny.
Secker, 303 pp., £15, August 1983, 0 436 57610 4
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... All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ The second part, at least, of Tolstoy’s celebrated dictum is borne out by Angus Wilson’s fiction, which deals largely in families, and this with a rich diversity through a long series of books. Sir Angus shuffles the cards brilliantly, but Unhappy Families remains the name of the pack ...

Sahib and Son

J.I.M. Stewart, 22 December 1983

‘Oh Beloved Kids’: Rudyard Kipling’s Letters to his Children 
edited by Elliot Gilbert.
Weidenfeld, 225 pp., £10.95, October 1983, 0 297 78296 7
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... The dust-jacket of this book reproduces a snapshot of Kipling squatted on the deck of a Union Castle ship while reading or telling a story to a group of absorbed small children clustered around him. In the book itself there is record of a contrasting occasion. On board a P – O ship bound for Egypt, he writes to his daughter Elsie, who is just seventeen, and to his son John, 18 months younger: I haven’t found anybody interesting yet ...

Clues

J.I.M. Stewart, 5 May 1983

A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie 
by Robert Barnard.
Collins, 203 pp., £7.95, April 1980, 0 00 216190 7
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The Agatha Christie Hour 
by Agatha Christie.
Collins, 190 pp., £6.50, September 1982, 0 00 231331 6
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The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes 
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Allen Lane, 1122 pp., £7.95, August 1981, 0 7139 1444 0
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The Quest for Sherlock Holmes 
by Owen Dudley Edwards.
Mainstream, 380 pp., £12.50, November 1982, 0 906391 15 6
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The Unknown Conan Doyle: Essays on Photography 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 128 pp., £8.50, November 1982, 0 436 13302 4
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The Unknown Conan Doyle: Uncollected Stories 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 456 pp., £8.95, November 1982, 0 436 13301 6
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The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie 
by Charles Osborne.
Collins, 256 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 0 00 216462 0
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... In the opening chapter of A Study in Scarlet Dr Watson is introduced to Sherlock Holmes. Holmes says, ‘How are you?’ and adds: ‘You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.’ Watson asks in astonishment: ‘How on earth did you know that?’ and Holmes, ‘chuckling to himself’, answers: ‘Never mind.’ In the following chapter the two men observe through a window ‘a stalwart, plainly dressed individual’ walking down the street with a letter in his hand ...

Midges

J.I.M. Stewart, 15 September 1983

M.R. James: An Informal Portrait 
by Michael Cox.
Oxford, 268 pp., £14.50, June 1983, 0 19 211765 3
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... For M.R. James it is Eton and King’s that are gardens – incomparable gardens which are, however, precisely made for thus exclaiming about as one sits in their created shade. With the exclamation itself nobody need quarrel. It is as applicable to the material fabric as to much in the life and spirit of these magnificent royal foundations. But James wasn’t much of a man for falling to the labour Kipling knows gardens require: ‘grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives ...

Other Selves

John Bayley, 29 October 1987

How I Grew 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 0 297 79170 2
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Myself and Michael Innes 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 575 04104 8
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... for whom the distance of the past lends enchantment, or at least the appearance of it. With J.I.M. Stewart we are on more familiar English ground, sharing in the jests and gambits of youth and young manhood. The effect is as modest as it is delightful, neither an adjective to be readily applied to Mary McCarthy’s reminiscences. Impossible to imagine her ...

Carry on writing

Stephen Bann, 15 March 1984

The Two of Us 
by John Braine.
Methuen, 183 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 413 51280 0
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An Open Prison 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 192 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 575 03380 0
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Havannah 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 263 pp., £9.95, February 1984, 0 241 11175 7
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Sunrising 
by David Cook.
Secker, 248 pp., £8.50, February 1984, 0 436 10674 4
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Memoirs of an Anti-Semite 
by Gregor von Rezzori, translated by Joachim Neugroschel.
Picador, 282 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 330 28325 1
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It’s me, Eddie 
by Edward Limonov, translated by S.L. Campbell.
Picador, 264 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 330 28329 4
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The Anatomy Lesson 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 291 pp., £8.95, February 1984, 0 224 02960 6
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... diverse and subtle forms of narrative articulation. Certainly this is what occurs whenever J.I.M. Stewart joyously resumes the hateful harness. Indeed, I doubt whether there are many novelists now writing in English who are his superior in sheer narrative strategy. John Braine’s The Two of Us chugs along episodically until it ...

Spicy

Nicholas Spice, 15 March 1984

The Fetishist, and Other Stories 
by Michel Tournier, translated by Barbara Wright.
Collins, 220 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 00 221440 7
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My Aunt Christina, and Other Stories 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 207 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 0 575 03256 1
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Mr Bedford and the Muses 
by Gail Godwin.
Heinemann, 229 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 434 29751 8
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Alexandra Freed 
by Lisa Zeidner.
Cape, 288 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 0 224 02158 3
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The Coffin Tree 
by Wendy Law-Yone.
Cape, 195 pp., £8.50, January 1984, 0 224 02963 0
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... the short story from being short.’ ‘A Return to the Glens’ is the strongest story in J.I.M. Stewart’s collection My Aunt Christina. Andrew Pringle, a retired barrister and widower, on a walking tour in Scotland, revisits the scene of an early love affair. He pictures to himself the possibility of a lasting reunion with Elspeth, whom he had abandoned ...

Mythic Elements

Stephen Bann, 30 December 1982

Queen of Stones 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 160 pp., £6.95, November 1982, 0 224 02601 1
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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 
by William Kotzwinkle, based on a screenplay by Melissa Mathison.
Arthur Barker, 246 pp., £6.95, November 1982, 0 213 16848 0
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Tales of Afghanistan 
by Amina Shah.
Octagon Press, 128 pp., £6.50, November 1982, 0 900860 94 4
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The Masque of St Eadmundsburg 
by Humphrey Morrison.
Blond and Briggs, 228 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 85634 127 4
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A Villa in France 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 575 03103 4
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Collected Stories: Vol. III 
by Sean O’Faolain.
Constable, 422 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 09 463920 5
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Work Suspended and Other Stories 
by Evelyn Waugh.
Penguin, 318 pp., £2.75, November 1982, 0 14 006518 0
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... intelligence and originality in its young author. There is nothing remotely Paterian about J.I.M. Stewart’s A Villa in France, despite the fact that the anti-hero is a sexually ambiguous, Oxford-educated aesthete. If a 19th-century paternity exists for this novel, it is surely in the mannered accomplishments of George Meredith, who is credited in ...

Short is sweet

Christopher Ricks, 3 February 1983

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs 
edited by J.A. Simpson.
Oxford, 256 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 19 866131 2
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A World of Proverbs 
by Patricia Houghton.
Blandford, 152 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 0 7137 1114 0
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... centuries. There is the sceptical curtailing of a proverb: ‘All’s fair in ...’ (J.I.M. Stewart, 1972), ‘Caesar’s wife and that sort of thing’ (Dorothy Sayers, 1930), ‘Faint heart – he mused over the proverb’ (Gissing, 1899), ‘But obedience – We all know the adage’ (Grant, 1847), ‘What is got over his back is spent – you wot ...

Pious Girls and Swearing Fathers

Patricia Craig, 1 June 1989

English Children and their Magazines 1751-1945 
by Kirsten Drotner.
Yale, 272 pp., £16.95, January 1988, 0 300 04010 5
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Frank Richards: The Chap behind the Chums 
by Mary Cadogan.
Viking, 258 pp., £14.95, October 1988, 0 670 81946 8
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A History of Children’s Book Illustration 
by Joyce Irene Whalley and Tessa Rose Chester.
Murray/Victoria and Albert Museum, 268 pp., £35, April 1988, 0 7195 4584 6
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Manchester Polytechnic Library of Children’s Books 1840-1939: ‘From Morality to Adventure’ 
by W.H. Shercliff.
Bracken Books/Studio Editions, 203 pp., £25, September 1988, 0 901276 18 9
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Children’s Modern First Editions: Their Value to Collectors 
by Joseph Connolly.
Macdonald, 336 pp., £17.95, October 1988, 0 356 15741 5
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... and illustrations by Nina K. Brisley, are another matter. There’s a very funny story by J.I.M. Stewart in which an elderly connoisseur of boys’ books gets himself suspected of a rather less innocuous addiction. Not that it makes much difference when the truth comes out: in most people’s minds, an adult interest in the trappings of childhood counts as a ...

I am a severed head

Colin Burrow: Iris Murdoch’s Incompatibilities, 11 August 2016

‘The Sea, the Sea’; ‘A Severed Head’ 
by Iris Murdoch.
Everyman, 680 pp., £14.99, March 2016, 978 1 84159 370 8
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... that surprisingly donnish genre (the English tutor at Christ Church in the 1950s and 1960s, J.I.M. Stewart, wrote detective fiction as Michael Innes, and Edmund Crispin took his pseudonym from one of his novels) could be regarded as Murdoch without the metaphysics. But of course Murdoch without the metaphysics would not quite be Murdoch. Her chief contribution ...

Making and Breaking in Shakespeare’s Romances

Barbara Everett: The Late Plays, 22 March 2007

... inside them. This can localise itself startlingly. A good novelist and literary critic, J.I.M. Stewart, described Leontes as so exact an analysis of civilised anxiety as to verge on a case-study of paranoia. The same edge and depth can attend the most minor players, and often the dingiest among them: Boult, the brothel-servant, who speaks out with all the ...

Reasons for Liking Tolkien

Jenny Turner: The Hobbit Habit, 15 November 2001

... and Shippey has turned up this, from a campus novel called A Memorial Service by J.I.M. Stewart:‘A sad case,’ [the Regius Professor] concluded unexpectedly.‘Timbermill’s, you mean?’‘Yes, indeed. A notable scholar, it seems. Unchallenged in his field. But he ran off the rails somehow, and produced a long mad book – a kind of apocalyptic ...

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