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Wife Overboard

John Sutherland: Thackeray

20 January 2000
Thackeray 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 494 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 7011 6231 7
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... two volumes of the letters in 1994, after Ray’s death. With Gordon Haight and Edgar Johnson, Ray belonged to the heroic age of American Victorianists. Travel, good fortune, daunting labour and many decades were necessary for the completion of their tasks. Ray’s biography is founded on a set of prominently declared theses. The first was that ...
14 December 1995
Shadows of the Future: H.G. Wells, Science Fiction and Prophecy 
by Patrick Parrinder.
Liverpool, 170 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 85323 439 6
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The History of Mr Wells 
by Michael Foot.
Doubleday, 318 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 385 40366 6
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A Modern Utopia 
by H.G. Wells, edited by Krishan Kumar.
Everyman, 271 pp., £5.99, November 1994, 0 460 87498 5
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... he opted for schemes that make us shudder today.’ At the same time as Coren’s assault, John Carey in The Intellectuals and the Masses branded Wells an inveterate despiser of the common man. All in all, 1992 was a bad year for the Wellsian cause. Coren’s book was dealt with in this paper by Patrick Parrinder (8 April 1993). Parenthetically ...

Big Head

John Sutherland

23 April 1987
Thackeray’s Universe: Shifting Worlds of Imagination and Reality 
by Catherine Peters.
Faber, 292 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 0 571 14711 9
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... it’s the old story in nice new Faber covers. In essence, Peters aims to do for the life what John Carey did for the works with his applauded Thackeray, Prodigal Genius (1977): that is to say: re-tread familiar ground with brisk, commonsensical illumination. This she does well. Thackeray’s Universe is attractively written and profits the reader ...

Forged, Forger, Forget

Nicholas Spice: Peter Carey

5 August 2010
Parrot and Olivier in America 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 451 pp., £18.99, February 2010, 978 0 571 25329 6
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... travels in America in 1831, the other a picaresque romance about an Englishman called John Larrit (known as Parrot for his talent as a mimic) who is suddenly and brutally torn from an idyllic childhood as the son of an itinerant printer in late 18th-century Devon and transported to Australia, where he grows up to become a topographical artist and ...

Cold Feet

Frank Kermode

22 July 1993
Essays on Renaissance Literature. Vol. I: Donne and the New Philosophy 
by William Empson, edited by John Haffenden.
Cambridge, 296 pp., £35, March 1993, 0 521 44043 2
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William Empson: The Critical Achievement 
edited by Chistopher Norris and Nigel Mapp.
Cambridge, 319 pp., £35, March 1993, 0 521 35386 6
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... of an eccentric view of Donne. To understand that view, here documented in full and supported by John Haffenden’s conscientious and adulatory commentary, one point at least is essential. Empson found it all but impossible to believe that any intelligent and honest person could be a Christian. A lot of his work is devoted to showing that even writers who ...

The Lie-World

James Wood: D.B.C. Pierre

20 November 2003
Vernon God Little 
by D.B.C. Pierre.
Faber, 279 pp., £10.99, January 2003, 0 571 21642 0
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... Neither prize-winner, under the new regime, has been a crowd-displeaser, nor a crowd-puzzler. John Carey, a serious man except when he is writing literary journalism, chaired this year’s jury, and announced that he was in favour of ‘widening what might be looked on as the Booker’s scope’. He and his judges had, he thought, a preference for ...

Brave as hell

John Kerrigan

21 June 1984
Enderby’s Dark Lady, or No End to Enderby 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 160 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 09 156050 0
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Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Modern Edition 
edited by A.L. Rowse.
Macmillan, 311 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 333 36386 8
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... eyed askance or turned askew. Like Dedalus in the Irish National Library, trying to impress A.E., John Eglinton and Mr Best with his theory of Hamlet, the narrator of Nothing Like the Sun throws in lots of local colour, freely kitsched with quasi-Elizabethan compounds and archaic turns of phrase. Moreover, following Dedalus’s example in Ulysses, Burgess ...
12 September 1991
The Tax Inspector 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 279 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 571 16297 5
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The Second Bridegroom 
by Rodney Hall.
Faber, 214 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 9780571164820
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... Both of these Australian novels describe circles. Carey, forsaking the confident historical sweep of Oscar and Lucinda and Illywhacker to focus once again on the horrors of modern suburbia, traces the vicious circles of a family history in which successive generations are debilitated by a legacy of abuse. Rodney Hall tells of a convict at large in New South Wales in 1838, caught up in larger, even more powerful cycles of captivity and exploitation, until he finds temporary sanctuary with an Aboriginal tribe and becomes ‘the very centre of their circle ...

Bunnymooning

Philip French

6 June 1996
The Fatal Englishman: Three Short Lives 
by Sebastian Faulks.
Hutchinson, 309 pp., £16.99, April 1996, 0 09 179211 8
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... This idea of Wolfenden as a wash-out and the squanderer of a prodigious talent persuaded John Carey, one of his Oxford contemporaries, to find him ‘the least interesting’ of Faulks’s subjects. Not only does Carey challenge Faulks’s claim that ‘in some minor way he represented a generation’: he ...
5 February 1987
Jane Austen 
by Tony Tanner.
Macmillan, 291 pp., £20, November 1986, 0 333 32317 3
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... are in real sympathy, and can thus complement one another. In a celebrated inaugural lecture, John Carey suggested nonetheless that the process had gone too far, and that even giants like Empson and C.S. Lewis could be guilty in this way of serious distortions of a text: he instanced a bravura passage in The Allegory of Love on Spenser’s ‘Bower ...

Beastliness

John Mullan: Eric Griffiths

23 May 2019
If Not Critical 
by Eric Griffiths, edited by Freya Johnston.
Oxford, 248 pp., £25, March 2018, 978 0 19 880529 8
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The Printed Voice of Victorian Poetry 
by Eric Griffiths.
Oxford, 351 pp., £55, July 2018, 978 0 19 882701 6
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... describe the intricate working of literary texts, was largely contained in his lectures. Now Freya Johnston, one of his former students, has edited a collection of ten of them, selected from ‘hundreds’. As she explains in her introduction, this was possible because Griffiths, unlike many lecturers, never extemporised, but scripted every word of his ...

In the Gasworks

David Wheatley

18 May 2000
To Ireland, I 
by Paul Muldoon.
Oxford, 150 pp., £19.99, March 2000, 0 19 818475 1
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Bandanna 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 64 pp., £7.99, February 1999, 0 571 19762 0
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The Birds 
translated by Paul Muldoon, by Richard Martin.
Gallery Press, 80 pp., £13.95, July 1999, 1 85235 245 0
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Reading Paul Muldoon 
by Clair Wills.
Bloodaxe, 222 pp., £10.95, October 1998, 1 85224 348 1
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... Irwin is cited in Paul Muldoon’s To Ireland, I for a neighbourly dispute he was having with one John O’Donovan. ‘He says I am his enemy,’ Irwin wrote, ‘and watch him through the thickness of the wall which divides our houses. One of us must leave. I have a houseful of books; he has an umbrella and a revolver.’ Seasoned readers of Muldoon know all ...

Hard Labour

Frank Kermode: Marvell beneath the Notes

23 October 2003
The Poems of Andrew Marvell 
edited by Nigel Smith.
Longman, 468 pp., £50, January 2003, 0 582 07770 2
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... has now disappeared to be replaced by another, this time by the succeeding general editors, John Barnard and Paul Hammond. They claim fidelity to Bateson except where he has come to seem fallible. For instance, he insisted on modernising spelling and punctuation; but why modernise Browning, and why meddle with Marvell’s punctuation, which is important ...
6 March 1997
D.H. Lawrence: Triumph To Exile 1912-22 
by Mark Kinkead-Weekes.
Cambridge, 943 pp., £25, August 1996, 0 521 25420 5
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... overdue attention. Lawrence’s enemies still deny his comedy, which was often self-deprecating. John Carey, who wants all writers to be nice (ideally, as decent as Arnold Bennett), wrote a book about the nastiness of various modern writers called The Intellectuals and the Masses. In it Lawrence is scolded for his ‘fascism’, his ecstasies of ...

Damaged Beasts

James Wood: Peter Carey’s ‘Theft’

8 June 2006
Theft: A Love Story 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 269 pp., £16.99, June 2006, 0 571 23147 0
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... in a Stanley Fishy way has simply asserted his right to authenticate? Floreat emptor. Or as Peter Carey ends his new novel, ‘How do you know how much to pay if you don’t know what it’s worth?’ Theft: A Love Story, is about just such issues of authenticity and fraudulence in the international art world. As he did in his last novel, My Life as a ...

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