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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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... 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 translation of his stately, sensitive and painstakingly ...

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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... 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, of subway photographs he’d taken in the 1930s and ...

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. Thomas Hardy, with his knobbly rusticities and merry peasants, would not do. In the Nation, James complained that the novel had a ‘fatal lack of magic’, and was written in a ‘verbose and redundant style … Everything human in the book strikes us as factious and insubstantial; the only things we believe in are the sheep and the dogs ...

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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... 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 Shaw said on another occasion. ‘She had a remarkable ...
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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... 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 TNR played host to Ian McEwan when he was still regarded ...

Anglo-Irish Occasions

Seamus Heaney, 5 May 1988

... 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 that road of praise is consequently all the more ...

Diary

John Bayley: Serious Novels, 10 November 1994

... 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 stylishly shows the reader just how complacent about himself ...

Mr Trendy Sicko

James Wolcott, 23 May 2019

White 
by Brett Easton Ellis.
Picador, 261 pp., £16.99, May 2019, 978 1 5290 1239 2
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... 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 New York Times magazine titled ‘Here Is What Happens When ...

Enemies For Ever

James Wolcott: ‘Making It’, 18 May 2017

Making It 
by Norman Podhoretz.
NYRB, 368 pp., £13.98, May 2017, 978 1 68137 080 4
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... 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.’ It was a compact beehive of brain industry and Podhoretz ...

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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... 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 father, the sheltered child who doesn’t need to know the ...

Berenson’s Elixir

Simon Schama, 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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... 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 descent on Widener’s optimistically attributed collection ...

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 to be saying, have conservation without destruction, or a stay of execution without a sentence ...

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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... 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 so easily depicted as a faint-heart – lamented in the ...

Facts Schmacts

John Sutherland, 16 February 1989

The Facts: A Novelist’s Autobiography 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 328 pp., £12.95, February 1989, 0 224 02593 7
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... into truth-telling. The Facts is no kvetch. If anything it’s surprisingly (suspiciously) mellow. Especially in the early sections, it recalls Woody Allen’s over-tenderised Radio Days. And it is certainly not a transcript of what goes on between Roth and his therapist. It is the least bannable of any book he has written. No organisation of ...

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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... 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 theory about man, and if you can only prove it by talking ...

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