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Utopian about the Present

Christopher Turner: The Brutalist Ethic, 4 July 2019

Alison and Peter Smithson 
by Mark Crinson.
Historic England, 150 pp., £30, June 2018, 978 1 84802 352 9
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Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing 
by John Boughton.
Verso, 330 pp., £9.99, April 2019, 978 1 78478 740 0
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... may occur more frequently than elsewhere.”’ Robin Hood Gardens​ coincided with what John Boughton describes as a ‘golden age of council house building’, but in Municipal Dreams he doesn’t include it in his ‘pantheon’, ‘despite the affection in which it is held by the architectural great and good’. Richard Rogers compared Robin ...

He Tasks Me

Mark Ford: Marilynne Robinson, 9 October 2008

by Marilynne Robinson.
Virago, 325 pp., £16.99, September 2008, 978 1 84408 549 1
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... of Frost’s rival definitions of the idea of home. The home in question is that of the Boughton family. The Reverend Robert Boughton, readers of Gilead will remember, was the best friend of the Reverend John Ames, the narrator of that novel, which is written in the form of a ...

Putting Religion in Its Place

Colm Tóibín: Marilynne Robinson, 23 October 2014

by Marilynne Robinson.
Virago, 261 pp., £16.99, October 2014, 978 1 84408 880 5
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... books concentrate fiercely, and indeed lovingly, on just two households, that of the Reverend John Ames, and his lifelong friend the Reverend Robert Boughton, with flashbacks in Lila into the eponymous heroine’s life before she came to Gilead and married Ames and had a son with him. Gilead takes a strand from ...

At Tate Britain

Julian Bell: Van Gogh, 1 August 2019

... the ‘deeper thinkers’ of the 1870s, carrying forward the social conscience of Dickens, while John Everett Millais, no less than his French homonym, possessed a manner affectingly and ‘personally intimate’.In chasing the works that Van Gogh looked at in London, the Tate exhibition takes us on some journeys in taste. It is easy enough to be stirred by ...

How to Twist a Knife

Colin Burrow: Wolf Hall, 30 April 2009

Wolf Hall 
by Hilary Mantel.
Fourth Estate, 653 pp., April 2009, 978 0 00 723018 1
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... sources and give them life within her fiction is quite exceptional. The Protestant martyrologist John Foxe relates in sketchy detail, with much acknowledgment that his sources are imperfect, the burning of the Lollard Joan Boughton at Smithfield in 1494. ‘The night following that she was burnt,’ Foxe says, ‘the most ...

How the sanity of poets can be edited away

Arnold Rattenbury: The Sanity of Ivor Gurney, 14 October 1999

‘Severn and Somme’ and ‘War’s Embers’ 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 152 pp., £7.95, September 1997, 1 85754 348 3
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80 Poems or So 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by George Walter and R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 148 pp., £9.95, January 1997, 1 85754 344 0
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... scattered collections – made by Marion Scott, the Gurney family, Ivor’s Gloucester friend John Haines, Vaughan Williams and others – into a central archive. The process continued after Finzi’s death in 1956. Neither Gurney nor Scott had bothered much about dates and the habit of confusion grew by amalgamation. Blunden, returning manuscripts ...

Je suis bizarre

Sarah LeFanu: Gwen John, 6 September 2001

Gwen JohnA Life 
by Sue Roe.
Chatto, 364 pp., £25, June 2001, 0 7011 6695 9
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... The self-portrait by Gwen John hanging in the National Portrait Gallery was painted in 1899 or 1900. She is dressed in the formal costume of the period: a tight-waisted blouse with leg-of-mutton sleeves and a big black bow at the neck. Her hair is tied back and her hands are on her hips. She is slightly turned away from us, so only one hand is visible ...

An Attic Full of Sermons

Tessa Hadley: Marilynne Robinson, 21 April 2005

by Marilynne Robinson.
Virago, 282 pp., £14.99, April 2005, 1 84408 147 8
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... by the Congregationalist minister of just such a small, left-behind community, in Iowa in 1956. John Ames is in his seventies, married to a much younger second wife, Lila, and with a seven-year-old son; the novel is written in the form of a letter for the boy to read when he is an adult. Ames adds to the letter day by day; alongside stories out of the past ...

Beyond the Cringe

John Barrell: British Art, 2 June 2016

Art in Britain 1660-1815 
by David Solkin.
Yale, 367 pp., £55, October 2015, 978 0 300 21556 4
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... for its ‘gentleness and refinement’. On the other hand, the fact that so many portraits by John Opie ‘are thoroughly dull, if not frankly bad’, was owed to the fact that as the son of a carpenter ‘he had no elegance in his make-up, but was commissioned to do portraits of fashionable persons.’ Remarkable for its range as Waterhouse’s book ...

Charm with Menaces

Colin Burrow: ‘The Mirror and the Light’, 19 March 2020

The Mirror and the Light 
by Hilary Mantel.
Fourth Estate, 883 pp., £25, March 2020, 978 0 00 748099 9
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... haze, and he finds himself wrapped in the climate of his childhood.’ The smell of Father John Forest being burned in May 1538 makes him recall the (fictional) episode, originally rehearsed in Wolf Hall, in which the ‘what – eight years old?’ (in Wolf Hall ‘nine or so’) Cromwell witnesses the burning of the Lollard Joan ...

Last Night Fever

David Cannadine: The Proms, 6 September 2007

... hour. The following year, there was an all-British programme: Vaughan Williams, Ireland, Delius, Boughton and Walton, before Sargent concluded the programme with Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture and Serenade for Strings, followed by ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and the Sea Songs. For this 1948 final Prom, some Promenaders queued for more than twenty hours so as ...

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