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Elaine Showalter and English Showalter: The first black female novelist?, 18 August 2005

In Search of Hannah Crafts: Critical Essays on ‘The Bondwoman’s Narrative’ 
edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr and Hollis Robbins.
Basic Books, 458 pp., £17.50, January 2005, 0 465 02708 3
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... was the story of a woman’s life as a house slave on the North Carolina plantation of John Hill Wheeler, her escape to New Jersey in 1857, and her composition of an autobiographical fiction incorporating ‘elements of the many sentimental sagas she had evidently borrowed from Mr Wheeler’s shelf’. Although ‘replete with the heavy-handed ...

When Pigs Ruled the Earth

James Secord: A prehistoric apocalypse, 1 April 2004

When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time 
by Michael Benton.
Thames and Hudson, 336 pp., £16.95, March 2003, 9780500051160
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... was first displayed to the public in the late Georgian and early Victorian London theatre. In John Martin’s apocalyptic paintings of prehistoric life from the 1830s, gruesome monsters tear at one another in the slime. They appeared as mezzotints at the front of popular geological books, and in a folio work on the bones of sea-dragons by Thomas ...

A.E. Housman and Biography

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 22 November 1979

A.E. Housman 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Routledge, 304 pp., £9.75
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... A.E. Housman: A Divided Life is more like one, but it is not quite one; of Norman Marlow and Maude Hawkins I say nothing. The most satisfying book about Housman is A.S.F. Gow’s Housman: A Sketch but, as Mr Graves says, its aims are limited, since it is mainly concerned with Housman’s scholarship. Mr Graves’s book takes us through Housman’s life, stage ...

I gained the ledge

Laura Jacobs: ‘Appalachian Spring’, 24 January 2019

Aaron Copland’s ‘Appalachian Spring’ 
by Annegret Fauser.
Oxford, 144 pp., £10.99, November 2017, 978 0 19 064687 5
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... can embody the ideas and ideals, even the ideologies, of its moment of composition. Erick Hawkins as the Husbandman (1944) The dance was given its final title only a month before its premiere, after Graham read Hart Crane’s epic poem ‘The Bridge’ – ‘O Appalachian Spring! I gained the ledge;/Steep, inaccessible smile that eastward ...

King of Razz

Alfred Appel Jr: Homage to Fats Waller, 9 May 2002

... choruses, before the band enters, consist of full-throttle solos by his star sidemen, Coleman Hawkins on tenor sax and Rex Stewart on cornet, as though their deep, manly voices – their figurative brass – would distract listeners from the ensemble’s complicity and literal support of the song’s demeaning lyrics, sung by Katherine Handy ...

Phut-Phut

James Wood: The ‘TLS’, 27 June 2002

Critical Times: The History of the ‘Times Literary Supplement’ 
by Derwent May.
HarperCollins, 606 pp., £25, November 2001, 0 00 711449 4
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... was an annex of manners. The triply-named bookman – Arthur Quiller-Couch, Arthur Clutton-Brock, John Cann Bailey – fumed or fawned for seven hundred inconsequential words and then retired to his club, where he could doze amid a cloudy consensus. At times intellectual life was more strenuous than that. May quotes from the diary of ...

Howl

Adam Mars-Jones, 21 September 1995

Fullalove 
by Gordon Burn.
Secker, 231 pp., £14.99, August 1995, 0 436 20059 7
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... thought I’d been drinking.’ The Amis style, though, doesn’t altogether fit its new context. John Self would gorge himself on emetic burgers but he wouldn’t analyse his own motives for cholesterol abuse, as Miller does: ‘I knew the stuff I was cramming into my body was crap, but I also knew there was something seductive and pleasure-giving about it ...

Educating the Utopians

Jonathan Parry: Parliament’s Hour, 18 April 2019

The Oxford Handbook of Modern British Political History, 1800-2000 
edited by David Brown, Robert Crowcroft and Gordon Pentland.
Oxford, 626 pp., £95, April 2018, 978 0 19 871489 7
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... untrustworthy nature of all politicians. It still seems probable that the likes of Steve Baker and John Redwood will vote against the agreement even if doing so destroys the government and the Brexit cause. Perhaps they seek a satisfying martyrdom as the only pure and incorruptible Brexiteers – the Robespierre and Saint-Just of our revolution.Third, what the ...

Mother Country

Catherine Hall: The Hostile Environment, 23 January 2020

The Windrush Betrayal: Exposing the Hostile Environment 
by Amelia Gentleman.
Guardian Faber, 336 pp., £18.99, September 2019, 978 1 78335 184 8
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Homecoming: Voices of the Windrush Generation 
by Colin Grant.
Cape, 320 pp., £18.99, October 2019, 978 1 78733 105 1
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Hostile Environment: How Immigrants Become Scapegoats 
by Maya Goodfellow.
Verso, 272 pp., £12.99, November 2019, 978 1 78873 336 6
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... press, Parliament and public for the first time since emancipation. Eyre’s critics were led by John Stuart Mill, his supporters by the likes of Carlyle and Ruskin. But the issue for Mill and liberal opinion was the legality of the punitive actions, not the source of the protest, which was the social, political and economic oppression of the majority black ...

Who is Stewart Home?

Iain Sinclair, 23 June 1994

... unit, set square to the prevailing on-shore winds. The occupier, New York-born to a childhood in John Cheever commuting country, now reinvented as a Vietnam-vintage Irish citizen, removes all the offending oil paintings from the wall: jewelled landscapes in oil; lively, naive renderings of the headland on which the cottages have been built. Expressionist ...

Brideshead and the Tower Blocks

Patrick Wright, 2 June 1988

Home: A Short History of an Idea 
by Witold Rybczynski.
Heinemann, 256 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 434 14292 1
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... A fondly remembered place of white raspberries, fountains and rounds of halma played with Nanny Hawkins, the country house can hardly be expected to survive in a modern world where, even before the Army came along and turned its landscaped valley into an assault course, one traditional building after another was being razed to make way for ‘blocks of ...

Scoop after Scoop

Ian Jack: Chapman Pincher’s Scoops, 4 June 2014

Dangerous to Know: A Life 
by Chapman Pincher.
Biteback, 386 pp., £20, February 2014, 978 1 84954 651 5
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... has lasted ever since. But in his warm evocation of this boyhood, the kind you might imagine a John Buchan hero to have had, there is also (and not for the last time) a utilitarian chill. Aged 13, he allows himself to be seduced by the household’s part-time maid, aged 16, whom he finds in his bedroom in an inviting posture. Never one to waste an ...

Jungle Joys

Alfred Appel Jr: Wa-Wa-Wa with the Duke, 5 September 2002

... mainly of blacks (including Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins and Cab Calloway). Unlike his friend Léger, who merely adapted ethnological textbook drawings for his ‘primitive’ stage designs, Brancusi had finally internalised it all, had become an African, if you will, at the age of 62 – a tribe of one, free ...

Neutered Valentines

David Bromwich: James Agee, 7 September 2006

‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’, ‘A Death in the Family’, Shorter Fiction 
by James Agee.
Library of America, 818 pp., $35, October 2005, 1 931082 81 2
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Film Writing and Selected Journalism 
by James Agee.
Library of America, 748 pp., $40, October 2005, 1 931082 82 0
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Brooklyn Is 
by James Agee.
Fordham, 64 pp., $16.95, October 2005, 0 8232 2492 9
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... the Sierra Madre, and a friendly profile of its director in Life, led to an invitation to work for John Huston. He wrote an adaptation of Stephen Crane’s story ‘The Blue Hotel’, which Huston did not use but liked enough to give him another project, The African Queen. Later Agee collaborated with Charles Laughton on the screenplay of Davis Grubb’s ...

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