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They never married

Ian Hamilton, 10 May 1990

The Dictionary of National Biography: 1981-1985 
edited by Lord Blake and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 518 pp., £40, March 1990, 0 19 865210 0
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... it might have been: Ned Sherrin on Caryl Brahms, for example, or Hugh Johnson on his publisher, James Mitchell: ‘The World Atlas of Wines,’ Johnson writes, ‘became the most discussed and most imitated reference book of the Seventies among rival publishers. By the end of the decade it had sold one million ...

Diary

Jacob Beaver: Harold Beaver, 3 April 2003

... corner and ‘tune in’ to more rarefied conversation. I saw him do this myself. We were in the Atlas Mountains. My father was 54; I was 19, and clueless. To me, the Moroccans in their peaked jellabas seemed like slightly sinister hobbits. I was alternately gruff and dangerously insouciant, but my father had been here the year before and knew how to treat ...

Darkness and so on and on

Adam Mars-Jones: Kate Atkinson, 6 June 2013

Life after Life 
by Kate Atkinson.
Doubleday, 477 pp., £18.99, March 2013, 978 0 385 61867 0
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... A novel is a bicycle, and readers must pedal. The recent film version of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas gave a vivid demonstration, almost a bullet-point presentation, of how differently narrative works in the two media. The book presents the reader with a number of openings, which break off without explanation. Readers who persevere (and there are many who ...

What sort of traitors?

Neal Ascherson, 7 February 1980

The Climate of Treason 
by Andrew Boyle.
Hutchinson, 504 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 9780091393403
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... It wasn’t so much that he flushed out Professor Blunt: smart fellows about Cambridge and St James’s seem to have known all about Blunt for years. It was – first – that Boyle opened out the whole American dimension of the affair, through the FBI/CIA files and the secret chronicles of James Jesus Angleton – that ...

Cold-Shouldered

James Wood: John Carey, 8 March 2001

Pure Pleasure: A Guide to the 20th Century’s Most Enjoyable Books 
by John Carey.
Faber, 173 pp., £6.99, September 2000, 0 571 20448 1
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... who said horrible things about the plebeian Joyce, and about the girls who worked at Woolworths; James Kelman acted like a barbarian at the Booker dinner, and so on. Most of these commentators imagine themselves to be writing a form of intellectual history when they are only pouring gossip into fancy goblets at London book parties. They experience apparently ...

Uneasy Guest

Hermione Lee: Coetzee in London, 11 July 2002

Youth 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Secker, 169 pp., £14.99, May 2002, 0 436 20582 3
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... model himself on. He is attracted to writers who have made themselves at home in England: Conrad, James, Pound, above all Eliot, whose protective disguise and horror of ‘spilling mere emotion onto the page’ he emulates. The writers he most admires are all style and no confession, like Ford or Beckett. But his own attempt at aesthetic self-construction ...

No scene could be worse

Stephanie Burt: Adrienne Rich, 9 February 2012

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-10 
by Adrienne Rich.
Norton, 89 pp., £19.99, February 2011, 978 0 393 07967 8
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A Human Eye: Essays on Art in Society 1997-2008 
by Adrienne Rich.
Norton, 180 pp., £11.99, July 2010, 978 0 393 33830 0
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... instead she complements it with the moral lessons that must, for her, stay close at hand. Thus An Atlas of the Difficult World (1991) shows a landscape romantically observed – ‘What I love here/is old ranches, leaning seaward, lowroofed spreads between rocks … the eucalyptus avenue leading/to the wrecked homestead, the fogwreathed heavy-chested ...

Elegant Extracts

Leah Price: Anthologies, 3 February 2000

The Oxford Book of English Verse 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 690 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 19 214182 1
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The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume One 
edited by M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt.
Norton, 2974 pp., £22.50, December 1999, 0 393 97487 1
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The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume Two 
edited by M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt.
Norton, 2963 pp., £22.50, February 2000, 9780393974911
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The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume One 
edited by David Damrosch.
Longman, 2963 pp., $53, July 1999, 0 321 01173 2
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The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume Two 
edited by David Damrosch.
Longman, 2982 pp., $53, July 1999, 0 321 01174 0
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Night & Horses & The Desert: An Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature 
edited by Robert Irwin.
Allen Lane, 480 pp., £25, September 1999, 0 7139 9153 4
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News that Stays News: The 20th Century in Poems 
edited by Simon Rae.
Faber, 189 pp., £9.99, October 1999, 0 571 20060 5
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Time’s Tidings: Greeting the 21st Century 
by Carol Ann Duffy.
Anvil, 157 pp., £7.95, November 1999, 0 85646 313 2
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Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the 20th Century in Poetry 
edited by Peter Forbes.
Penguin, 640 pp., £12.99, February 1999, 9780140588996
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... entire, and enough editorial apparatus to fill a dozen critical monographs with a glossary and an atlas thrown in. There are appendices geographical, cosmographical, bibliographical and ecclesiographical, not to mention historical outlines, political timelines, a chart explaining decimal currency, and a tabulated taxonomy of the peerage. More to the ...

Strange, Angry Objects

Owen Hatherley: The Brutalist Decades, 17 November 2016

A3: Threads and Connections 
by Peter Ahrends.
Right Angle, 128 pp., £18, December 2015, 978 0 9532848 9 4
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Raw Concrete: The Beauty of Brutalism 
by Barnabas Calder.
Heinemann, 416 pp., £25, April 2016, 978 0 434 02244 1
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Space, Hope and Brutalism: English Architecture 1945-75 
by Elain Harwood.
Yale, 512 pp., £60, September 2015, 978 0 300 20446 9
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Concrete Concept: Brutalist Buildings around the World 
by Christopher Beanland.
Frances Lincoln, 192 pp., £18, February 2016, 978 0 7112 3764 3
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This Brutal World 
by Peter Chadwick.
Phaidon, 224 pp., £29.95, April 2016, 978 0 7148 7108 0
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Modern Forms: A Subjective Atlas of 20th-Century Architecture 
by Nicolas Grospierre.
Prestel, 224 pp., £29.99, February 2016, 978 3 7913 8229 6
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Modernist Estates: The Buildings and the People Who Live in Them 
by Stefi Orazi.
Frances Lincoln, 192 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 0 7112 3675 2
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Architecture an Inspiration 
by Ivor Smith.
Troubador, 224 pp., £24.95, November 2014, 978 1 78462 069 1
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... brackish and personal way, elements of the classical tradition (their Economist Building in St James’s was a well-crafted, contextual work for an establishment client), it was all over for Banham – it was a betrayal, after which he went to look elsewhere for his architecture autre. The nearest​ that any of the Brutalist revival volumes published in ...

Wide-Angled

Linda Colley: Global History, 26 September 2013

The French Revolution in Global Perspective 
edited by Suzanne Desan, Lynn Hunt and William Max Nelson.
Cornell, 240 pp., £16.50, April 2013, 978 0 8014 7868 0
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... his position in geographical space, he reasoned, required not a single map, but access to a global atlas, one that would allow him to ‘see what London and the adjacent parts are in the kingdom; what the kingdom is in Europe, and what Europe is in the universe’. Much the same, he thought, applied to history. ‘Particular histories represent to you, what ...

Priapus Knight

Marilyn Butler, 18 March 1982

The Arrogant Connoisseur: Richard Payne Knight 1751-1824 
edited by Michael Clarke and Nicholas Penny.
Manchester, 189 pp., £30, February 1982, 0 7190 0871 9
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... By the mid-l780s Knight moved in the liberal, not to say liberated Whig circles that had Charles James Fox as a hero, and ancient Athens as an inspiration. Knight’s first literary attempt was to describe a tour of Sicily in 1777. He hired two artists to accompany him, and briefed them to make meticulous drawings of the archaeological sites. His commentary ...

Glimpsed in the Glare

Michael Neill: Shakespeare in 1606, 17 December 2015

1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear 
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 423 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 0 571 23578 0
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... imperative of Greenblatt’s opening sentence: ‘Let us imagine that Shakespeare … ’ James Shapiro has no truck with such surmise. Though he too is plagued by the biographer’s hankering to enter the playwright’s mind – ‘to know … what his political views were, whom he loved, how good a father, husband and friend he was, what he did with ...

The Most Beautiful Icicle

Inigo Thomas: Apollo 11, 15 August 2019

Reaching for the Moon: A Short History of the Space Race 
by Roger D. Launius.
Yale, 256 pp., £20, July 2019, 978 0 300 23046 8
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The Moon: A History for the Future 
by Oliver Morton.
Economist Books, 334 pp., £20, May 2019, 978 1 78816 254 8
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... sense of precision, and his reticence. No one has said that Armstrong was garrulous, but in James Hansen’s biography, First Man, as well as in the film made of the book starring Ryan Gosling and in the recent documentary Armstrong, he comes across as a man of understated wit. Asked to describe what had been a near-death experience, Armstrong merely ...

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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... the maelstrom of London life, which Cath undertakes in the company of two admirable young friends, James and Boy William. Cast adrift in the capital, these three innocents move from milieu to milieu as rapidly as one of Dickens’s protagonists. To call both them and the types they run up against ‘Dickensian’ is indeed to acknowledge David Cook’s ...

Dirty Linen

Patrick O’Brian, 4 August 1994

Mr Bligh’s Bad Language: Passion, Power and Theatre on the ‘Bounty’ 
by Greg Dening.
Canto, 445 pp., £7.95, April 1994, 0 521 46718 7
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Admiral Satan: The Life and Campaigns of Suffren 
by Roderick Cavaliero.
Tauris, 312 pp., £29.95, May 1994, 9781850436867
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... even masts, and with captured cordage. This authority did not come from his being a nobleman – James Cook had as much or more, and his father was a farm labourer. It was rather a matter of size, spiritual size, vast stores of animal spirits and eagerness for battle, great professional ability, even physical bulk – he ate far, far too much and he was ...

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