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Carry on writing

Stephen Bann, 15 March 1984

The Two of Us 
by John Braine.
Methuen, 183 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 413 51280 0
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An Open Prison 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 192 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 575 03380 0
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Havannah 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 263 pp., £9.95, February 1984, 0 241 11175 7
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Sunrising 
by David Cook.
Secker, 248 pp., £8.50, February 1984, 0 436 10674 4
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Memoirs of an Anti-Semite 
by Gregor von Rezzori, translated by Joachim Neugroschel.
Picador, 282 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 330 28325 1
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It’s me, Eddie 
by Edward Limonov, translated by S.L. Campbell.
Picador, 264 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 330 28329 4
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The Anatomy Lesson 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 291 pp., £8.95, February 1984, 0 224 02960 6
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... he crosses out the word ‘harness’. Over on this side of the Channel, the native-born author John Braine chooses for his epigraph a snatch of neo-Romantic whimsy from the lyrics of the group Supertramp: Just as long as there’s two of us, just as long as there’s two of us I’ll carry on. Mutatis mutandis, here is the same, rather deprecatory ...

What is this Bernard?

Christopher Hitchens, 10 January 1991

Good and Faithful Servant: The Unauthorised Biography of Bernard Ingham 
by Robert Harris.
Faber, 202 pp., £14.99, December 1990, 0 571 16108 1
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... port, Chilean wine and so forth. One of the number could never get enough of the joke. This was John Braine, whose special party-trick was the skipping of ironic bits. When he said that England these days was run by the trade unions and the pansies, he meant it. When he went on about treason and the intellectuals there was grim, literal relish in his ...

At the Gay Hussar

John Sutherland, 20 August 1981

One and Last Love 
by John Braine.
Eyre Methuen, 175 pp., £6.50, June 1981, 0 413 47990 0
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Sweetsir 
by Helen Yglesias.
Hodder, 332 pp., £6.95, August 1981, 9780340270424
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On the Yankee Station 
by William Boyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 184 pp., £7.95, July 1981, 0 241 10426 2
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Byzantium endures 
by Michael Moorcock.
Secker, 404 pp., £6.95, June 1981, 0 436 28458 8
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Heavy Sand 
by Anatoli Rybakov, translated by Harold Shuckman.
Allen Lane, 380 pp., £7.95, June 1981, 0 7139 1343 6
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... At some point it must have crossed Braine’s mind to call his latest novel ‘Love at the Top’. The hero is Tim Harnforth, a 56-year-old best-selling novelist and man of letters. Originally from the West Riding, he is now one of the gens du monde, ‘a high-flyer, a metropolitan man’, literary-lioning it in London ...

Americans

Stephen Fender, 2 July 1981

The Life of John O’Hara 
by Frank MacShane.
Cape, 274 pp., £10, March 1981, 9780224018852
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... Silas Lapham down to Dreiser’s Frank Cowperwood (of The Financier and The Titan) and John O’Hara’s Alfred Eaton (From the Terrace), have been studied in their native habitat. The question is: why has fiction in this vein been commonly ignored by academic formulators of the tradition in American literature? Or why, to come down to ...

The Moronic Inferno

Martin Amis, 1 April 1982

The Dean’s December 
by Saul Bellow.
Secker, 312 pp., £7.95, March 1982, 0 436 03952 4
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... and Pig Bodine (where the effect is slangy, jivey, cartoonish); at the other end of the scale, John Braine offers us Tom Metfield, Jack Royston, Jane Framsby (can these people really exist, in our minds or anywhere else, with such leadenly humdrum, such dead names?). Saul Bellow’s inventions are Dickensian in their resonance and relish. But they ...

Snarling

Frank Kermode: Angry Young Men, 28 November 2002

The Angry Young Men: A Literary Comedy of the 1950s 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Allen Lane, 244 pp., £18.99, September 2002, 0 7139 9532 7
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... when the whole company of Angry Young Men was assembled. Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin and John Wain knew one another at Oxford, but had little to do with autodidacts like Colin Wilson, John Osborne and Alan Sillitoe – this last name less often mentioned in this context than might have been expected, doubtless ...

A Turn of Events

Frank Kermode, 14 November 1996

Reality and Dreams 
by Muriel Spark.
Constable, 160 pp., £14.95, September 1996, 0 09 469670 5
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... and Chester Kallman, Graham Greene, Allen Tate, Louis MacNeiec, Tennessee Williams, Noel Coward, John Braine, Mary McCarthy ... (a shade slyly, Mrs Spark, after all a director in her own way, may here be self-indulgently thinking of some of her own old pals). He meditates the great turn of the times that may be upon us, and dreads God’s dreams ...

Unmuscular Legs

E.S. Turner, 22 August 1996

The Dictionary of National Biography 1986-1990 
edited by C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 607 pp., £50, June 1996, 0 19 865212 7
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... the ‘gunpowder plot’ and literary impostor (a category not yet extinct). In the latest volume John Stone-house appears as politician and confidence trickster, but Harold Philby is dubbed Soviet agent rather than traitor and Klaus Fuchs gets by as theoretical physicist. Other less controversial occupations include entrepreneur, man of letters, geologist ...

Against it

Ross McKibbin, 24 February 1994

For the Sake of Argument 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Verso, 353 pp., £19.95, May 1993, 0 86091 435 6
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... to know. He is often very funny. There are hilarious set-pieces at the expense of, for example, John Braine and Paul Johnson. For the Sake of Argument is not an easy book to précis. There are eight parts and 72 essays, the allocation of which is somewhat random. Most of the pieces in ‘Rogues’ Gallery’, for instance, could go equally well ...

Journos de nos jours

Anthony Howard, 8 March 1990

Alan Moorehead 
by Tom Pocock.
Bodley Head, 311 pp., £16.95, February 1990, 0 370 31261 9
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Loyalties: A Son’s Memoir 
by Carl Bernstein.
Macmillan, 254 pp., £15.95, January 1990, 0 333 52135 8
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Downstart 
by Brian Inglis.
Chatto, 298 pp., £15.95, January 1990, 0 7011 3390 2
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... his contribution was, though he can be sharp enough at times – writing, for instance, of John Braine: ‘His copy was boring; so, on his visits to deliver it, was he.’ He appears to have been the impresario of most of the bright new talent that was assembled – a formidable roll-call including such names as Bernard Levin, Katharine ...

Going Native

A.N. Wilson: Theroux’s portait of Naipaul, 13 May 1999

Sir Vidia’s Shadow: A Friendship across Five Continents 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 376 pp., £17.99, December 1998, 0 241 14046 3
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... smiles which the author cannot have intended. Kingsley Amis used to quote a novel by his friend John Braine (it sounded too good to be true and I never found it in Braine’s oeuvre) in which a woman says to the hero as they lie together, naked in the afternoon: ‘It isn’t bloody fair’ (or words to this ...

Don’t worry about the pronouns

Michael Wood: Iris Murdoch’s First Novel, 3 January 2019

Under the Net 
by Iris Murdoch.
Vintage, 432 pp., £9.99, July 2019, 978 1 78487 518 3
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... such books as Lucky Jim, Hurry on Down and even Room at the Top’ – novels by Kingsley Amis, John Wain and John Braine, which appeared in 1954, 1953 and 1957 respectively. But Bradbury also tells us – he is writing in 1962 – that he finds this positioning ‘rather curious’, chiefly because of ‘the curious ...

Seeing Stars

Alan Bennett: Film actors, 3 January 2002

... star, but which applied to literature too, the success of J.B. Priestley and, at a later date, John Braine evinced by their brisk departure from their Bradford birthplace. In this respect the Brontë Sisters (Mam had seen the films, though she’d not read the books) were thought to be tragic figures, not on account of their bleak upbringing or their ...

A Cure for Arthritis and Other Tales

Alan Bennett, 2 November 2000

... who have kicked over the traces and made good Down South. The novelist and ex-Bingley librarian John Braine of Room at the Top fame will later come into the same category. The only writer she does read with any regularity, though, has nothing to do with the North at all. This is Beverley Nichols, of whose column in Woman’s Own she is a devoted ...

Diary

John Sutherland: My Grandmother the Thief, 21 August 2003

... tripe she borrowed. My copies of Hemingway’s Fiesta, Warwick Deeping’s Sorrell and Son and John Braine’s Room at the Top (a first edition) have the faint purple imprint of Fincham’s rubber stamp on their flyleaf. These did not go into the Essex ditches. I also toyed with keeping Forever Amber (recalling it as being ‘hot’), but let it go. I ...

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