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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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by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 263 pp., £9.95, February 1984, 0 241 11175 7
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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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... to an already considerable cavalcade of novels.* Then he crosses out the word ‘hateful’. And then he crosses out the word ‘harness’. Over on this side of the Channel, the native-born author JohnBraine 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 ...

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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... Encounter. And so the afternoon wore on agreeably enough, with daring satirical calls for South African port, Chilean wine and so forth. One of the number could never get enough of the joke. This was JohnBraine, 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 ...

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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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 ...


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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... Auden and Day-Lewis – were only once in the same room together; and there can have been but few occasions 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 ...
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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... to the accidental humour and freakish poetry of life. Thomas Pynchon uses names like Oedipa Maas and Pig Bodine (where the effect is slangy, jivey, cartoonish); at the other end of the scale, JohnBraine 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 ...

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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... for less redundant company and wishes some of his old friends were alive to visit him: Wystan Auden and Chester Kallman, Graham Greene, Allen Tate, Louis MacNeiec, Tennessee Williams, Noel Coward, JohnBraine, 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 ...


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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... runs a long history of close social observation in American fiction. Even businessmen, from W.D.Howell’s 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 ...

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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... Hitchens knows lots of well-known persons – many of them individuals who the reader would also like to know. He is often very funny. There are hilarious set-pieces at the expense of, for example, JohnBraine 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 ...

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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... Theroux makes it clear that even prostitutes make love to him for motives of sheer pleasure, produces smiles which the author cannot have intended. Kingsley Amis used to quote a novel by his friend JohnBraine (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 ...
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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by Brian Inglis.
Chatto, 298 pp., £15.95, January 1990, 0 7011 3390 2
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... to liberate it still further. His characteristic reticence prevents him from making it clear how sizeable his contribution was, though he can be sharp enough at times – writing, for instance, of JohnBraine: ‘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 ...
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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... like buffoon, quack, martyr, poisoner, pretender, pedestrian, visitor of the monasteries, betrayer of 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 ...

Seeing Stars

Alan Bennett: Film actors

3 January 2002
... too. ‘Making good’ meant getting out, as you would have to do if you were going to be a film star, but which applied to literature too, the success of J.B. Priestley and, at a later date, JohnBraine 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 ...

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, 978 1 78487 518 3
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... on its publication it ‘was hailed as part of the “angry” movement and closely associated with such books as Lucky Jim, Hurry on Down and even Room at the Top’ – novels by Kingsley Amis, John Wain and JohnBraine, 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 ...
2 November 2000
... up the scale a bit, the Brontë sisters, whom she has never actually read, but thinks of as local girls who have kicked over the traces and made good Down South. The novelist and ex-Bingley librarian JohnBraine 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 ...


John​ Sutherland: My Grandmother the Thief

21 August 2003
... mission. Many of the books my grandmother stole from Fincham’s were quite different from the romantic tripe she borrowed. My copies of Hemingway’s Fiesta, Warwick Deeping’s Sorrell and Son and JohnBraine’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 ...

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