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Thomas Jones: Blurbs and puffs

20 July 2006
... willingness to give a junior colleague a leg-up is surpassed only by that of Salman Rushdie, J.M. Coetzee and Thomas Pynchon. There’s clearly a connection between reclusiveness and readiness to puff, even if Rushdie’s withdrawal from the public eye was neither voluntary nor permanent. Maybe it’s simply a question of having plenty of time on ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Project Nim’, ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’

8 September 2011
Project Nim 
directed by James Marsh.
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Rise of the Planet of the Apes 
directed by Rupert Wyatt.
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... showing in London at the same time is presumably an accident of distribution. That the two works, James Marsh’s Project Nim and Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, should resemble each other so closely begins to look like a message or a clue, a movieworld sign that we actually are rethinking our relation to other animals. You’ll see how eerie ...


Michael Wood: Chinese Whispers

8 August 2013
edited by Adam Thirlwell.
Portobello, 380 pp., £20, August 2013, 978 1 84627 537 1
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... differences, or specificities that really can be lost. There are comic differences too, as when J.M. Coetzee, by the small shift from the word ‘private’ to the world ‘privy’, makes clear a lavatory joke that Kierkegaard was only distantly hinting at. But the kind of trail found in the following sequence is more common, and is very close to the ...

Great Male Narcissist

Christopher Tayler: Sigrid Nunez

1 August 2019
Mitz: The Marmoset of Bloomsbury 
by Sigrid Nunez.
Soft Skull, 172 pp., £12.50, August 2019, 978 1 59376 582 8
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The Friend 
by Sigrid Nunez.
Virago, 213 pp., £8.99, February 2019, 978 0 349 01281 0
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... explored in a short book called Mitz (1998), reissued this month by Soft Skull. This took as its jumping-off point the fact that Leonard Woolf once had a marmoset of that name, acquired from his friend Victor Rothschild in 1934. In the novel, Rothschild sees an ailing monkey chained up outside a junk shop, feels sorry for it, buys it and tries to pass it off ...

High Punctuation

Christopher Ricks

14 May 1992
But I digress: The Exploitation of Parentheses in English Printed Verse 
by John Lennard.
Oxford, 324 pp., £35, November 1991, 0 19 811247 5
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... parenthesis in a speech by Pearle to suggest a pearl within an oyster; and in the novel Foe (1986) J.M. Coetzee wrote of storytelling: ‘Teasing and braiding can, like any craft, be learned. But as to determining which episodes hold promise (as oysters hold pearls), it is not without justice that this art is called divining.’Lennard:I asked Dr ...

All about Me

Kevin Kopelson: Don Bachardy

8 April 2015
by Don Bachardy.
Glitterati, 368 pp., £45, October 2014, 978 0 9913419 2 4
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... of growth.’ Like, you know, whatever.) Or can Bachardy be said to have what the non-gay writer J.M. Coetzee considered a late style? (‘Late style, to me,’ Coetzee once wrote, ‘starts with an ideal of a simple, subdued, unornamented language and a concentration on questions of real import, even questions of ...

Hourglass or Penny-Farthing?

Christopher Tayler: Damon Galgut

30 July 2014
Arctic Summer 
by Damon Galgut.
Atlantic, 357 pp., £17.99, May 2014, 978 0 85789 718 3
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... of these.’) In Aspects of the Novel (1927), Forster was similarly uncowed by the shadow of Henry James, taking swipes at James’s disciple Percy Lubbock and implying that it was silly to get hung up on doctrines of ‘economy and architecture’. You could arrange a story in the shape of an hourglass, as Forster said ...


D.A.N. Jones

23 May 1985
Secret Villages 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 170 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 0 571 13443 2
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Miss Peabody’s Inheritance 
by Elizabeth Jolley.
Viking, 157 pp., £7.95, April 1985, 0 670 47952 7
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Mr Scobie’s Riddle 
by Elizabeth Jolley.
Penguin, 226 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 14 007490 2
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The Modern Common Wind 
by Don Bloch.
Heinemann, 234 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 0 434 07551 5
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by Denis Johnson.
Chatto, 221 pp., £9.50, May 1985, 0 7011 2935 2
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... and John Buchan), but books from white-settler territory, by such authors as Athol Fugard or J.M. Coetzee, seem to present them as permanently morose, deformed in body and soul, to be pitied from a great height. I exaggerate, but Donald Bloch’s morbid novel supports my exaggeration. The narrator keeps making hyper-critical remarks about ‘we ...
6 February 1986
Jackdaw Cake: ‘An Autobiography’ 
by Norman Lewis.
Hamish Hamilton, 214 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 241 11689 9
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... or I’ll nail your other foot to the ground.’ Or the ritual chant about the man jumping from a burning building when his friends have promised to catch him: ‘And he jumped. And he broke his firkin neck. I ain’t laughed so much since my old mother caught her tits in the mangle.’ (This ancient ...


Elizabeth Lowry: Binyavanga Wainaina

23 February 2012
One Day I Will Write about This Place 
by Binyavanga Wainaina.
Granta, 256 pp., £15.99, November 2011, 978 1 84708 021 9
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... Binyavanga tries desperately to imitate the ontological certainty of his older brother Jimmy, who has just announced that he is thirsty: Thirst is … is … a sucking absence, a little mouthing fish out of the water. It moves you from the everywhere nowhereness of air … Other people have a word world, and in their word world, words like thirsty ...

Because He’s Worth It

David Simpson: Young Werther

13 September 2012
The Sufferings of Young Werther 
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Stanley Corngold.
Norton, 151 pp., £16.99, January 2012, 978 0 393 07938 8
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... their last meeting before Werther’s gruesome end. It takes 12 hours for him to die. Corngold (as J.M. Coetzee has pointed out in a review of the book) misses the theme of secondariness in the Ossian scene by printing Macpherson’s ‘original’ English (itself a notorious forgery and recognised as such from its first appearance) rather than trying to ...

V-2 into Space

Adam Mars-Jones: Michael Chabon

2 March 2017
by Michael Chabon.
HarperCollins, 448 pp., £18.99, January 2017, 978 0 00 754891 0
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... Roth would never recover from this syndrome, this affliction of the desk-bound and lionised, and J.M. Coetzee too showed signs of becoming a chronic case. Now Michael Chabon has produced Moonglow, supposedly based on conversations from 1989 between a writer called Michael Chabon and his dying grandfather, an engineer for whom space travel in general and ...

A Use for the Stones

Jacqueline Rose: On Being Nadine Gordimer

20 April 2006
Get a Life 
by Nadine Gordimer.
Bloomsbury, 187 pp., £16.99, November 2005, 0 7475 8175 4
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... of the new South Africa are those that will decide the destiny of the planet. For Gordimer, unlike J.M. Coetzee, South Africa is still the centre of the world. In Get a Life, Aids and globalisation seize their mainly black victims. Gordimer has always been read predominantly by whites, her grandeur – the Nobel Prize she won in 1991 – viewed by black ...

Yearning for the ‘Utile’

Frank Kermode: Snobbery and John Carey

23 June 2005
What Good Are the Arts? 
by John Carey.
Faber, 286 pp., £12.99, June 2005, 0 571 22602 7
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... the selfish misconception of ‘high art’ fostered by such insidious propagandists as Adorno, Benjamin and Geoffrey Hartman of Yale. It is fair to add that what really infuriates Carey is the coexistence in our world of a class that can afford the already heavily subsidised seats at Covent Garden and the myriad fellow humans who live on $2 a day. In so far ...

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