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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 ...

What a Mother

Mary-Kay Wilmers: Marianne Moore and Her Mother, 3 December 2015

Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore 
by Linda Leavell.
Farrar, Straus, 455 pp., $18, September 2014, 978 0 374 53494 3
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... Marianne Moore​ was born in her mother’s childhood bedroom; grown up, she lived with her mother – most often shared her bed – until her mother died. She was then 59 and her mother 85; she lived another 25 years and died in 1972 a happy spinster, a famous poet and a grande dame.Mary Warner Moore – the mother in question – had scarcely had a mother, which must be to the point ...

Lying doggo

Christopher Reid, 14 June 1990

Becoming a poet 
by David Kalstone, edited by Robert Hemenway.
Hogarth, 299 pp., £20, May 1990, 0 7012 0900 3
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... attend even his scrupulous and sympathetic discussion of Bishop and her friendships with Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell. The author died before the project was finished, so that Becoming a poet must itself remain in a state of becoming, cruelly unfulfilled. The text we have here is partly the result of posthumous editorial work by Robert ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Inside Man’, ‘V for Vendetta’ , 11 May 2006

Inside Man 
directed by Spike Lee.
March 2006
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V for Vendetta 
directed by James McTeigue.
March 2006
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... blow up another building.’ Or try again where Guy Fawkes failed. This was the scheme of Alan Moore’s ‘V for Vendetta’ series, which ran in Warrior magazine in the 1980s, although Moore, best known for the Watchmen comics, explained that the idea belonged to his co-author and illustrator David Lloyd. ‘We ...

Renaissance

Patricia Craig, 2 March 1989

Fictions of the Irish Literary Revival: A Changling Art 
by John Wilson Foster.
Gill and Macmillan, 407 pp., £30, November 1987, 0 8156 2374 7
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... was an odd pig and I do not think that his like will be there again’) comes the irreverent James Stephens – irreverent, as Foster says, towards revival high-mindedness and po-faced antiquarianism. Stephens’s work is characterised by an inspired frivolity, and even when it comes chock-full of gods and fairies, the author’s bent for social ...

Charmed Quarantine

James Wood, 21 March 1996

Soul Says: On Recent Poetry 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 266 pp., £15.95, June 1995, 0 674 82146 7
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The Breaking of Style: Hopkins, Heaney, Graham 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 100 pp., £18.95, January 1996, 0 674 08121 8
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The Given and the Made: Strategies of Poetic Redefinition 
by Helen Vendler.
Faber, 137 pp., £7.99, April 1995, 0 571 17078 1
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... not want to obstruct her predictions. For Jarrell, these poets were his contemporaries – Lowell, Moore, Bishop, Berryman and Stevens. When Jarrell writes that he is living in a time of great poetry, it is as if he is not merely describing but claiming something. Vendler’s belief in her contemporaries – that, as she has put it, ‘American poetry remains ...

Bang-Bang, Kiss-Kiss

Christian Lorentzen: Bond, 3 December 2015

Spectre 
directed by Sam Mendes.
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The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters 
edited by Fergus Fleming.
Bloomsbury, 391 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6547 7
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Ian Fleming: A Personal Memoir 
by Robert Harling.
Robson, 372 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 84 95493 65 1
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... About​ two thirds of the way into Spectre, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is tied to a chair in the desert crater headquarters of Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), the head of Spectre and by coincidence both the son and the murderer of a man who took the young Bond under his wing. Oberhauser is operating a contraption that threatens to deprive Bond of his facial recognition abilities by driving a pair of pins into the sides of his skull – a painful operation in its initial stages, as indicated by Craig’s grimacing and an uncontained scream ...

Full of Glory

John Mullan: The Inklings, 19 November 2015

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings 
by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski.
Farrar, Straus, 644 pp., £11.20, June 2015, 978 0 374 15409 7
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... whose performances he sought, and how much was written by him. The obvious parallel is with James Macpherson, initially the editor of Fragments of Ancient Poetry Collected in the Highlands of Scotland and eventually the fabricator of Ossian’s epic poetry, which he ‘translated’ out of Gaelic into portentous English sort of verse. Tolkien was like a ...

Bringing it home to Uncle Willie

Frank Kermode, 6 May 1982

Joseph Conrad: A Biography 
by Roger Tennant.
Sheldon Press, 276 pp., £12.50, January 1982, 0 85969 358 9
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Edward Garnett: A Life in Literature 
by George Jefferson.
Cape, 350 pp., £12.50, April 1982, 0 224 01488 9
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The Edwardian Novelists 
by John Batchelor.
Duckworth, 251 pp., £18, February 1982, 0 7156 1109 7
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The Uses of Obscurity: The Fiction of Early Modernism 
by Allon White.
Routledge, 190 pp., £12, August 1981, 0 7100 0751 5
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... different ways: one of them is simply to juxtapose the popular novels of the day with Henry James’s Prefaces, then in progress. Another is to recall Conrad’s hatred of the public, and all the talk of new techniques, of an ideal novel that might, as Flaubert had wished, be ‘about’ nothing at all, which would not please Uncle Willie. Among ...

Vote for the Beast!

Ian Gilmour: The Tory Leadership, 20 October 2005

... who had been an outstanding chancellor of the exchequer. Even failures at the Treasury, such as James Callaghan, sometimes become party leaders, and a highly successful chancellor like Clarke should have been in an overwhelmingly strong position for the job. This was particularly so as there was no other clearly suitable candidate. Nevertheless, Europhobia ...

Evil Days

Ian Hamilton, 23 July 1992

The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligentsia 
by John Carey.
Faber, 246 pp., £14.99, July 1992, 0 571 16273 8
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... When Henry James’s play, Guy Domville, was booed off the London stage, the embarrassed author remarked that at least some of the audience was clapping. These approvers were powerless to out-clamour the ‘hoots and jeers and catcalls of the roughs’, whose roars were ‘like those of a cage of beasts at some infernal zoo’, but for James they represented ‘the forces of civilisation ...

At the British Museum

James Davidson: Persia’s ‘Forgotten Empire’, 22 September 2005

... the sharpest of edges, cut like a jewel. It is not exactly ‘truth to materials’ as Henry Moore would understand it, but perhaps as Eric Gill might understand it: there is truth, that is, to what stone is capable of in human hands, to its hardness, its cleanness, its neatness when worked by chisel, abrasive and buff, truth to sculpting, to the ...

Squealing

Ian Buruma, 13 May 1993

Gower: The Autobiography 
by David Gower and Martin Johnson.
Collins Willow, 256 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 00 218413 3
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... But then neither is the squealing of toffs when they feel put upon. Only the other day, Charles Moore (Eton, Cambridge, Spectator, Telegraph) compared Old Etonians to persecuted Jews. Both the pulling and the squealing point to a society in distress, to a sense of national claustrophobia, to a place where too many closed doors promote envy instead of ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Who’s Afraid of the Library of America?, 19 June 2008

... smack of rows over royalties and copyright: no Ernest Hemingway, no Emily Dickinson, no Marianne Moore.) Some have even argued that the brief has been stretched too far. Wilson’s canonisation came after those of Charles Brockden Brown, H.P. Lovecraft, James Weldon Johnson, George Kaufman, William Bartram and Theodore ...

Fiction and E.M. Forster

Frank Kermode: At the Cost of Life, 10 May 2007

... of fiction.’ This remark probably arose from his habitual disrespect for, or worry about, Henry James. The Ambassadors is given more attention in Aspects of the Novel than any other novel, except possibly Gide’s Les Faux-Monnayeurs, though the intention is in neither case to praise or to admire; and the Commonplace Book contains mildly disparaging remarks ...

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