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Well, was he?

A.N. Wilson, 20 June 1996

Bernard Shaw: The Ascent of the Superman 
by Sally Peters.
Yale, 328 pp., £18.95, April 1996, 0 300 06097 1
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... Wilde himself – that she makes the occasional mistake. For instance, there is no evidence that John Gray was ever Wilde’s lover, or that his disagreable domestic companion Raffalovich was ever (whatever this would be) a ‘Dominican monk’. The National Gallery in London is cheerfully muddled with the National Portrait Gallery. The familiar Gospel ...

Unpranked Lyre

John Mullan: The Laziness of Thomas Gray, 13 December 2001

Thomas GrayA Life 
by Robert Mack.
Yale, 718 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 300 08499 4
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... It is said that, the night before the capture of Quebec from the French in 1759, General Wolfe read Gray’s Elegy aloud to his officers as they crossed the St Lawrence River. ‘I would rather have been the author of that piece than beat the French tomorrow,’ he is supposed to have said. Presumably his men didn’t suddenly start to worry that they were being led into combat by some absurd literary connoisseur ...

Diary

Frank Kermode: Being a critic, 27 May 1999

... got their first chance in that pub. A few of the celebrants are, or have been, English dons – John Fuller, Simon Gray, Dan Jacobson; but even they arrived by what might be called the bohemian route. There are of course other ways in; anybody can see how much space the dons occupy in the respectable papers and ...

Wolfing it

Angela Carter, 23 July 1987

Honey from a Weed: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia 
by Patience Gray.
Prospect, 374 pp., £17.50, November 1986, 0 907325 30 0
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A Table in Provence: Classic Recipes from the South of France 
collected and illustrated by Leslie Forbes.
Webb and Bower/Joseph, 160 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 86350 130 3
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The Joyce of Cooking: Food and Drink from James Joyce’s Dublin 
by Alison Armstrong, foreword by Anthony Burgess.
Station Hill Press, 252 pp., $18.95, December 1986, 0 930794 85 0
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... book in 1960, as part of my trousseau. It was called Plats du Jour, or Foreign Food by Patience Gray and Primrose Boyd, a Penguin paperback with a seductive pink jacket depicting a large family at table – evidently not a British family, for its members, shirt-sleeved, aproned, some of them children, were uncorking bottles, slicing bread, eagerly tucking ...

Nae new ideas, nae worries!

Jonathan Coe: Alasdair Gray, 20 November 2008

Old Men in Love: John Tunnock’s Posthumous Papers 
by Alasdair Gray.
Bloomsbury, 311 pp., £20, October 2007, 978 0 7475 9353 9
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Alasdair GrayA Secretary’s Biography 
by Rodge Glass.
Bloomsbury, 341 pp., £25, September 2008, 978 0 7475 9015 6
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... to impose a form, in other words, on the chaos of the work and the life. In the case of Alasdair Gray (who is, in any case, already his own critic and his own biographer), the extent of that chaos is daunting. As Rodge Glass’s book reminds us, besides writing the novels for which he is famous, Gray has been an ...

Gargoyles have their place

A.N. Wilson, 12 December 1996

Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton 
by Joseph Pearce.
Hodder, 522 pp., £25, November 1996, 0 340 67132 7
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... with the ‘time of old sin’ – whether a fantastical Alma-Tadema-ish Ancient Rome, or a John Addington Symonds Athens, where pederasty was not merely permissible but praiseworthy – drifted, for those who survived their heady youth of Baudelaire and absinthe, into the Aesthetes’ religion, in which chalices and smoke played their part. ...

Oh my oh my oh my

John Lanchester, 12 September 1991

Mao II 
by Don DeLillo.
Cape, 239 pp., £13.99, September 1991, 9780224031523
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Introducing Don DeLillo 
edited by Frank Lentricchia.
Duke, 221 pp., £28, September 1991, 0 8223 1135 6
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... with the wonderfully satisfying, wonderfully interesting fiction he has made of his life. Bill Gray, the central character of Mao II, Don DeLillo’s tenth novel, is one of these Pynchon/Salinger recluses: the mysterious power of the image of the writer-cum-herrnit is one of the book’s main concerns. ‘When a writer refuses to show his face,’ ...

Ruck in the Carpet

Glen Newey: Political Morality, 9 July 2009

Philosophy and Real Politics 
by Raymond Geuss.
Princeton, 116 pp., £11.95, October 2008, 978 0 691 13788 9
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... of grandiose theory. The new book’s jacket image, a striking black and white photo by John Sadovy, shows a young man almost literally biting the dust. Only after turning the book over to look at the back does one notice his presumed killer, reloading his rifle. This example already poses questions beyond the ken of liberal orthodoxy. The dead ...

The Staidness of Trousers

E.S. Turner, 6 June 1996

A Peculiar Man: A Life of George Moore 
by Tony Gray.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 344 pp., £20, April 1996, 1 85619 578 3
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... among the Dublin epithets collected by his fellow writer Susan Mitchell and here passed on by Tony Gray. Manet thought Moore’s face had the look of a broken egg-yolk, and his first portrait of the author ‘was described by the critics as like that of a drowned man, taken out of the water’. Sickert’s portrait was likened to ‘an intoxicated mummy, a ...

In the Long Cool Hour

Amia Srinivasan: Pragmatic Naturalism, 6 December 2012

The Ethical Project 
by Philip Kitcher.
Harvard, 422 pp., £36.95, November 2011, 978 0 674 06144 6
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... now only of brains, hard-wired through natural selection to serve the interests of selfish genes. John Gray declares that morality is a ‘myth’ obscuring the fact that our existence has ‘no more meaning than the life of a slime mould’. David Brooks, author of the bestselling pop-science Bildungsroman The Social Animal, explains that his fictional ...

Passive/Aggressive

John Ashbery, 21 January 2016

... out hitting the sun, get me some peas … You’re going tomorrow, ribald headache misjudged, gray drunkard. Lost vagrants unfold scrolls of pity. I don’t care how big his cock is, I’d … Oh, hullo, Marge. Shredded any cumulus yesterday? A sinister joy overtakes us. Everybody has a body, that’s why they’re called everybody. The affluent strapped ...

Am I right to be angry?

Malcolm Bull: Superfluous Men, 2 August 2018

Age of Anger: A History of the Present 
by Pankaj Mishra.
Penguin, 416 pp., £9.99, February 2018, 978 0 14 198408 7
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... forth the optimistic spirit of the revolution’. However, the transposition means that unlike John Gray (with whom he otherwise has much in common), Mishra can follow a straight line from the Counter-Enlightenment, tracing the legacy of Rousseau from the German Romantics, through the European nationalists and anarchists of the 19th century, to their ...

Man-Eating Philosophers

Will Self: David Cronenberg, 17 June 2015

Consumed 
by David Cronenberg.
Fourth Estate, 288 pp., £18.99, October 2014, 978 0 00 729915 7
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... about the screen-mediation of reality. In his philosophic commonplace book Straw Dogs (2002), John Gray propounded a new theory of consciousness: ‘In evolutionary prehistory consciousness emerged as a side-effect of language. Today it is a by-product of the media.’ Cronenberg is one of a burgeoning group of artists who are attempting to describe ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: ‘Parallel Lives’, 2 April 2020

... within marriage’.The private lives considered are those of Jane Welsh and Thomas Carlyle; Effie Gray and John Ruskin; Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill; Catherine Hogarth and Charles Dickens; George Eliot and George Henry Lewes. This is the form in which Rose presents the ...

Heliotrope

John Sutherland, 3 December 1992

Robert Louis Stevenson: Dreams of Exile 
by Ian Bell.
Mainstream, 295 pp., £14.99, November 1992, 1 85158 457 9
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... how right any sane person is to get out and stay out: ‘There is no special loveliness in that gray country, with its rainy, sea-beat archipelago; its fields of dark mountains; its unsightly places, black with coal; its treeless, sour, unfriendly-looking cornlands; its quaint, gray, castled city, where the bells clash of ...

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