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The ‘Private Eye’ Story: The First 21 Years 
by Patrick Marnham.
Private Eye/Deutsch, 232 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 233 97509 8
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One for the Road: Further Letters of Denis Thatcher 
by Richard Ingrams and John Wells.
Private Eye/Deutsch, 80 pp., £2.50, October 1982, 9780233975115
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Sir James Goldsmith: The Man and the Myth 
by Geoffrey Wansell.
Fontana, 222 pp., £1.95, April 1982, 0 00 636503 5
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... ridiculous, and ultimately fictional. Ingrams to this day keeps a life-size cut-out figure of Sir James in his office – an appropriate touch, since the main result of the case (officially an expensive score-draw) was to turn Goldsmith into Goldenballs, the plump businessman into the cardboard villain. Geoffrey Wansell usefully restores a third dimension to ...

Diners-out

E.S. Turner, 3 July 1986

Augustus Hare: Victorian Gentleman 
by Malcolm Barnes.
Allen and Unwin, 240 pp., £20, May 1986, 9780049201002
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Midway on the Waves 
by James Lees-Milne.
Faber, 248 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 571 13723 7
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... all-seeing eye, Augustus seems to have sensed that God was a gentleman, for according to Malcolm Barnes’s biography, he asked: ‘Does God look through the keyhole?’ It has to be said that as an author and gentleman Hare would certainly have relished some fulsome adulation: instead of which he was accused, on the strength of his six-volume ...

I myself detest all Modern Art

Anne Diebel: Scofield Thayer, 9 April 2015

The Tortured Life of Scofield Thayer 
by James Dempsey.
Florida, 240 pp., £32.50, February 2014, 978 0 8130 4926 7
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... partly because he did so little to promote himself. Before he took over the Dial, he wrote James Joyce a cheque for $700; it came to Joyce from his publisher with a note that read: ‘Please don’t imagine that America is full of rich young men of that kind!’ Thayer wasn’t modest, but he was discreet, especially compared to the most prominent New ...

The Great NBA Disaster

John Sutherland, 19 October 1995

... ground of American bookselling is occupied by three nation-wide chains: Crown, Waldenbooks and Barnes and Noble. America also has well-developed mail-order book-clubs (something that the NBA, with its special concern for high-street bookshops, successfully inhibited in 20th-century Britain). American book prices are not, to the browser’s ...

Irishtown

D.A.N. Jones, 1 November 1984

Ironweed 
by William Kennedy.
Viking, 227 pp., £7.95, September 1984, 0 670 40176 5
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In Custody 
by Anita Desai.
Heinemann, 204 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 9780434186358
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Flaubert’s Parrot 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 190 pp., £8.50, October 1984, 0 241 11374 1
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... unfamiliar. William Kennedy’s Ironweed is about Albany, capital of the State of New York. Julian Barnes writes about the France of Gustave Flaubert, as discussed in an irrational, pedantic manner by a British admirer of Flaubert’s work. Anita Desai, daughter of a German mother and a Bengali father, writes about the world of Indian poets, a very male (not ...

Looking back

John Sutherland, 22 May 1980

Metroland 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 176 pp., £4.95, March 1980, 0 224 01762 4
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The Bleeding Heart 
by Marilyn French.
Deutsch, 412 pp., £6.50, May 1980, 9780233972343
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Creator 
by Jeremy Leven.
Hutchinson, 544 pp., £6.95, April 1980, 0 09 141250 1
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... in the face of the permissive Sixties, Humanae Vitae and the abolition of National Service. Julian Barnes’s very much à la mode Metroland is divided into three sections: I Metroland (1963), II Paris (1968), III Metroland (1977). Current fashions apart, the narrative circuit is familiar from Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying: both novels record a young ...

Mon cher Monsieur

Julian Barnes: Prove your Frenchness, 22 April 2021

Letters to Camondo 
by Edmund de Waal.
Chatto, 182 pp., £14.99, April, 978 1 78474 431 1
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The House of Fragile Things: Jewish Art Collectors and the Fall of France 
by James McAuley.
Yale, 301 pp., £25, March, 978 0 300 23337 7
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... in 1911 and since 1936 the Musée Nissim de Camondo. This is the same opening-point chosen by James McAuley for The House of Fragile Things. Both books also end in the same way: by tracing the fate of Renoir’s famous if winsome 1880 portrait of the eight-year-old Irène Cahen d’Anvers, who was later to marry Moïse de Camondo. The two writers tell ...

Summarising Oneself

Julian Barnes: Degas’s Vanity, 19 November 2020

The Letters of Edgar Degas 
edited by Theodore Reff.
Wildenstein Plattner Institute, 1464 pp., £150, June, 978 0 9988175 1 4
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... on ‘funded property’ at 53 Marine Parade with his wife, Charlotte; his 27-year-old nephew, James; and three servants. Less conventionally, he also lived with seven Degas paintings. In 1876 he bought four ballet pictures from the London branch of the Paris dealer Durand-Ruel, quickly followed by two more plus a picture then called Figures in a French ...

Fraynwaves

Hugh Barnes, 2 May 1985

Towards the End of the Morning 
by Michael Frayn.
Harvill, 255 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 00 221822 4
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Sweet Dreams 
by Michael Frayn.
Harvill, 223 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 00 221884 4
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The Fall of Kelvin Walker 
by Alasdair Gray.
Canongate, 144 pp., £7.95, March 1985, 9780862410728
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Lean Tales 
by James Kelman, Agnes Owens and Alasdair Gray.
Cape, 286 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 224 02262 8
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Stones for Ibarra 
by Harriet Doerr.
Deutsch, 214 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 9780233977522
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Family Dancing 
by David Leavitt.
Viking, 206 pp., £8.95, March 1985, 0 670 80263 8
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The Whitbread Stories: One 
by Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson.
Hamish Hamilton, 184 pp., £4.95, April 1985, 0 241 11544 2
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... As the train trundles out of Glasgow Central, homesickness descends. Gray’s hero speaks for James Kelman and Agnes Owens – the collection’s other contributors – and for all writing north of the border ferociously indifferent to England and its literary culture: ‘I do not love Glasgow much, I sometimes actively hate it but I am at home here. In ...

Return of the Native

Hugh Barnes, 7 March 1985

The Final Passage 
by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 205 pp., £8.95, February 1985, 0 571 13437 8
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Merle, and Other Stories 
by Paule Marshall.
Virago, 210 pp., £9.95, February 1985, 0 86068 665 5
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Heaven and Earth 
by Frederic Raphael.
Cape, 310 pp., £8.95, February 1985, 0 224 02294 6
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The Tenth Man 
by Graham Greene.
Bodley Head, 157 pp., £6.95, March 1985, 9780370308319
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... she discovered Thackeray, Dickens and Fielding, and, later, black writers (Paul Laurence Dunbar, James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston) who informed her own experience and that of ‘the Race’. But more important to the young Marshall than the testimonies of the page were the stories she heard in the kitchen of her brownstone ...

At the Fondation Louis Vuitton

Julian Barnes: The Shchukin Collection , 19 January 2017

... statistics at the lower end: no Bonnards, one Vuillard, one Braque, one Burne-Jones tapestry, one James Paterson, one Auguste Herbin, two Frank Brangwyns, two Charles Guerins. That makes me feel better. It would be unbearable if, with all that money, a collector had entirely faultless taste. Though he did admit that the Burne-Jones was ‘a youthful ...

Pseud’s Corner

John Sutherland, 17 July 1980

Duffy 
by Dan Kavanagh.
Cape, 181 pp., £4.95, July 1980, 0 224 01822 1
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Moscow Gold 
by John Salisbury.
Futura, 320 pp., £1.10, March 1980, 0 7088 1702 5
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The Middle Ground 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 297 77808 0
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The Boy Who Followed Ripley 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 292 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 434 33520 7
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... to succeed in the small and still male-dominated enclave of SF, the talented woman who writes as James Tiptree Jr was obliged to keep her femininity a close secret.) In the 20th century, genre, or ‘category’, fiction has often enforced pseudonymy for the commercial reason that the author’s name must chime harmoniously with the product. Thus, in the ...

Squealing to Survive

John Lahr: Clancy was here, 19 July 2018

Black Sunset: Hollywood Sex, Lies, Glamour, Betrayal and Raging Egos 
by Clancy Sigal.
Icon, 352 pp., £12.99, May 2018, 978 1 78578 439 2
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The London Lover: My Weekend that Lasted Thirty Years 
by Clancy Sigal.
Bloomsbury, 274 pp., £20, May 2018, 978 1 4088 8580 2
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... growing youth audience. Right,’ he says, only to drop the bomb that he rejected as clients both James Dean and Elvis Presley. His prose is acrylic – swift and vivid. Clients are ‘mutts’, the editor of the Hollywood Reporter is a ‘mobbed-up blackmailer’, a ‘night-crawling crud’. Underneath the pyrotechnical display – Clancy enjoys juicing up ...

Wounds

Stephen Fender, 23 June 1988

Hemingway 
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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... which, as Kenneth Lynn cogently expresses it, is not ‘a haunted Nick Adams, or a crippled Jake Barnes, or a hollowed-out Frederic Henry, but an overbearing know-it-all named Ernest Hemingway’. Max Eastman said Hemingway had false hair on his chest. Gertrude Stein, in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, called his courage into question. Of course, there ...

Behind the Gas Lamp

Julian Barnes: Félix Fénéon, 4 October 2007

Novels in Three Lines 
by Félix Fénéon, translated by Luc Sante.
NYRB, 171 pp., £7.99, August 2007, 978 1 59017 230 8
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... the press’s traditional heartless sensationalism? Though they could, of course, be both. Clive James once cruelly rebuked an Observer subeditor who had sought to sharpen his prose style and improve his jokes with the remark, ‘Listen, if I wrote like that I’d be you.’ Félix Fénéon might be the perfect counter-example: the sub who wrote better than ...

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