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Fairyland

Bruce Bawer

2 May 1985
Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald 
by James Mellow.
Souvenir, 569 pp., £15.95, February 1985, 0 285 65001 7
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Home before Dark: A Personal Memoir of John Cheever 
by Susan Cheever.
Weidenfeld, 243 pp., £10.95, January 1985, 0 297 78376 9
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... American literary scholar (in the past decade or so, he has not only collected Fitzgerald’s letters, screenplays, notebooks and minor stories, but written Brobdingnagian lives of John O’Hara and James Gould Cozzens), produced a sloppy, simple-minded, adoring doorstop of a biography entitled Some Sort of Epic Grandeur. André Le Vot, a French scholar, followed in 1983 with a graceful English ...

Baudelairean

Mary Hawthorne: The Luck of Walker Evans

5 February 2004
Walker Evans 
by James Mellow.
Perseus, 654 pp., £15.99, February 2002, 1 903985 13 7
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... or remembering at all, to fail to discern it altogether. By the late 1950s, Evans was hovering on extinction. A decade-long resuscitation began with the 1960 reissue of his collaborative effort with James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, which galvanised a new generation of social idealists and photographers. Then came the reissue of his book American Photography in 1962; a MoMA exhibition, in 1966 ...

Perfuming the Money Issue

James​ Wood: ‘The Portrait of a Lady’

11 October 2012
Portrait of a Novel: Henry James​ and the Making of an American Masterpiece 
by Michael Gorra.
Norton, 385 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 0 87140 408 4
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... Henry James was foul about Far from the Madding Crowd when it appeared in 1874. He was a young writer, ambitious, seething, silkily aggressive. There was ground to be cleared, and residents had to be deported ...

Her Haunted Heart

John Lahr: Billie Holiday

20 December 2018
Lady Sings the Blues 
by Billie Holiday.
Penguin, 179 pp., £9.99, November 2018, 978 0 241 35129 1
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... 18, and quickly became America’s first fully fledged jazz singer, blazing her way to fame with a trail of songs, some of which she co-wrote: ‘Don’t Explain’, ‘Strange Fruit’, ‘Fine and Mellow’, ‘God Bless the Child Who’s Got His Own’. Blighted in almost every other way, she had the luck of talent. ‘I never heard her hit a bad note that was off by even a 16th of a tone,’ Artie ...
7 November 1985
London Reviews 
edited by Nicholas Spice.
Chatto, 222 pp., £5.95, October 1985, 0 7011 2988 3
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The New Review Anthology 
edited by Ian Hamilton.
Heinemann, 320 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 31330 0
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Night and Day 
edited by Christopher Hawtree, by Graham Greene.
Chatto, 277 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 07 011296 7
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Lilliput goes to war 
edited by Kaye Webb.
Hutchinson, 288 pp., £10.95, September 1985, 9780091617608
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Penguin New Writing: 1940-1950 
edited by John Lehmann and Roy Fuller.
Penguin, 496 pp., September 1985, 0 14 007484 8
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... the extended critical pieces that the other literary papers would not commission even as disguised book reviews. The verse is of a high standard. We see poems that helped establish the reputations of James Fenton and Craig Raine; poems by Heaney and Lowell; and Peter Porter’s ‘An Australian Garden’, which counts among his best things. Of the short stories, ‘Solid Geometry’ is a reminder that ...
5 May 1988
... from the very beginning. In 1965, he praised in forthright terms a pamphlet of mine, published in Belfast as part of a series that included Seamus Deane, Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, Stewart Parker, James Simmons, and several other Northern Irish poets whose voices were beginning to raise themselves in the mid-Sixties. To hear John Carey now, almost a quarter of a century later, go farther still along ...

What’s Happening in the Engine-Room

Penelope Fitzgerald: Poor John Lehmann

7 January 1999
John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure 
by Adrian Wright.
Duckworth, 308 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 7156 2871 2
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... my education in poetry began, the first image that comes to mind is that of my father’s library at the old family home of Fieldhead on the Thames. It is an autumn or winter evening after tea, for James the butler has been in to draw the blinds and close the curtains, and my father is reading under a green-shaded lamp. He has said a good deal already – the little boy who wants to be like his ...

Mr Trendy Sicko

James​ Wolcott

23 May 2019
White 
by Brett Easton Ellis.
Picador, 261 pp., £16.99, May, 978 1 5290 1239 2
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... Unfortunately, his best-known script is notorious for all the wrong reasons: The Canyons, directed by Paul Schrader, a Hollywood thriller pairing the improbable team of Lindsay Lohan and porn stud James Deen. Deen acquitted himself quite well, giving a more convincing, noirish performance than Lohan, whose tardiness and wayward lurches were chronicled in an on-set report by Stephen Rodrick for the ...

Enemies For Ever

James​ Wolcott: ‘Making It’

17 May 2017
Making It 
by Norman Podhoretz.
NYRB, 368 pp., £13.98, May 2017, 978 1 68137 080 4
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... godfather of neoconservatism) and the cultural observer Robert Warshow, whose essays on the movie Western and gangster films would become anthology classics and whose personal mystique resembled James Agee’s without the all-night jags. When Warshow asks Podhoretz out to lunch, ‘I felt as a girl with a secret infatuation must feel when the boy she’s been mooning over asks her for a date ...

Diary

John Bayley: Serious Novels

10 November 1994
... Bildungsroman series about a young man growing up in Oxford – a trifle ironical in view of Amis’s strongly-expressed disdain for Wain’s mode and temper of writing. Both novels join in a mood of mellow retrospection. Earlier Amises displayed the young or not so young man, the Stanley who suffers from Women, or the seducer of a Girl like You, in the guise of a rogue who knows he’s a rogue and ...
1 May 1980
Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur 
by Ernest Samuels.
Harvard, 477 pp., £9.50, June 1979, 0 674 06775 4
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Being Bernard Berenson 
by Meryle Secrest.
Weidenfeld, 473 pp., £8.50, January 1980, 0 297 77564 2
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... delicately halted its narrative in 1903-4, with Berenson and his wife Mary returned from a head-hunting trip to the United States, where the big-game of major-league millionaires – Peter Widener, James G. Johnson, Samuel Kress – had leapt to profit from his publicised expertise. This was sometimes prompted by motives of undisguised envy and covetousness amongst themselves. On learning of BB’s ...

Brideshead Revered

David Cannadine

17 March 1983
The Country House 
by James​ Lees-Milne.
Oxford, 110 pp., £4.50, November 1982, 0 19 214139 2
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English Country Houses and Landed Estates 
by Heather Clemenson.
Croom Helm, 244 pp., £15.95, July 1982, 0 85664 987 2
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The Last Country Houses 
by Clive Aslet.
Yale, 344 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 300 02904 7
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... One of the many contradictory qualities of the British,’ James Lees-Milne rightly notes in his attractive if angry anthology in piam memoriam Bladesover, ‘is to revere, and even lament, the things they are in the process of destroying.’ You cannot, he seems ...

On the Window Ledge of the Union

Colin Kidd: Loyalism v. Unionism

7 February 2013
Belfast 400: People, Place and History 
edited by S.J. Connolly.
Liverpool, 392 pp., £14.95, November 2012, 978 1 84631 634 0
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Ulster since 1600: Politics, Economy and Society 
edited by Liam Kennedy and Philip Ollerenshaw.
Oxford, 355 pp., £35, November 2012, 978 0 19 958311 9
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The Plantation of Ulster: Ideology and Practice 
edited by Eamonn O Ciardha and Micheál O Siochrú.
Manchester, 269 pp., £70, October 2012, 978 0 7190 8608 3
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The End of Ulster Loyalism? 
by Peter Shirlow.
Manchester, 230 pp., £16.99, May 2012, 978 0 7190 8476 8
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... For God’s sake bring me a large Scotch. What a bloody awful country.’ Visiting Northern Ireland as home secretary in 1970, Reginald Maudling, whose mellow moderation verged on a slothful desire for an easy life, was understandably exasperated by the Ulster problem – but no more so than a long line of politicians, before and since. Churchill – not ...

Escaping the curssed orange

Norma Clarke: Jane Barker

5 April 2001
Jane Barker, Exile: A Literary Career 1675-1725 
by Kathryn King.
Oxford, 263 pp., £40, September 2000, 0 19 818702 5
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... the Glorious Revolution which brought William of Orange – the ‘curssed orange’ – to the British throne was the second major misfortune of her life. (Her brother’s death was the first.) When James II fled to France in 1688 she followed his court into exile in St Germaine-en-Laye, just outside Paris. She wasn’t an aristocrat like those other royalists Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle ...

Making them think

J.I.M. Stewart

18 September 1986
G.K. Chesterton 
by Michael Ffinch.
Weidenfeld, 369 pp., £16, June 1986, 0 297 78858 2
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... are unlikely much to affect our estimate of On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, but they are capital fun. And fun is very important to Chesterton, who would heartily have endorsed James Joyce’s in risu Veritas. ‘The stars are funny,’ we learn from an essay in All Things Considered, ‘because they give birth to life, and life gives birth to fun.’ If you have, let us say, a ...

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