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Caretaker/Pallbearer

James Wolcott: Updike should stay at home

1 January 2009
The Widows of Eastwick 
by John​ Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 308 pp., £18.99, October 2008, 978 0 241 14427 5
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... John Updike’s unfailing geniality and fluent industry appear to get on a fair number of nerves, of which he’s slyly aware. (Is there anything he isn’t slyly aware of? That foxy grin conceals volumes ...

In the dark

Philip Horne

1 December 1983
The Life of Alfred Hitchcock: The Dark Side of Genius 
by Donald Spoto.
Collins, 594 pp., £12.95, May 1983, 0 00 216352 7
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Howard Hawks, Storyteller 
by Gerald Mast.
Oxford, 406 pp., £16.50, June 1983, 0 19 503091 5
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... was aware that his morbid representations made him vulnerable to misrepresentation: ‘A lot of people think I’m a monster.’ The biography he authorised and checked – Hitch by his friend John Russell Taylor – appeared two years before his death on 29 April 1980 to contradict this idea, and, for all its blandness and sparseness of reference, brought much information to light. Its blurb ...

No more pretty face

Philip Horne

8 March 1990
Emotion Pictures: Reflections on the Cinema 
by Wim Wenders, translated by Sean Whiteside and Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 148 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 0 571 15271 6
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Scorsese on Scorsese 
by Martin Scorsese, edited by David Thompson and Ian Christie.
Faber, 178 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 9780571141036
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... self-importance’. In the title essay Wenders deplores the incapacity of modern audiences, indulged and debased by the hollow consumerist ethic such criticism reflects, to appreciate the beauty of John Ford’s Westerns; he is pained by ‘the increasingly indignant audiences who consistently show that the future belongs to the very worst Z-movies, to the pictures that block off your vision and to ...

Comedy is murder

Thomas Powers: Joseph Heller

8 March 2012
Just One Catch: The Passionate Life of Joseph Heller 
by Tracy Daugherty.
Robson, 548 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 1 84954 172 5
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Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller was Dad and Life was a Catch-22 
by Erica Heller.
Vintage, 272 pp., £8.99, October 2011, 978 0 09 957008 0
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... in 1948, the year he published his early stories, to figure out what he wanted his first book to say. It was the success of the competition that brought him up short. First had come The Gallery, JohnHorne Burns’s novel about the Allied occupation of Naples, which Heller admired. That gave him pause. Then Norman Mailer’s huge war novel, The Naked and the Dead, stopped him cold. Heller ...

Maids

Philip Horne

1 April 1983
The Slow Train to Milan 
by Lisa St Aubin de Teran.
Cape, 254 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 224 02077 3
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Holy Pictures 
by Clare Boylan.
Hamish Hamilton, 201 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 241 10926 4
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Pilgermann 
by Russell Hoban.
Cape, 240 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 224 02072 2
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September Castle: A Tale of Love 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 261 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 85634 123 1
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The Watcher 
by Charles Maclean.
Allen Lane, 343 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 7139 1559 5
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The Little Drummer Girl 
by John​ le Carré.
Hodder, 433 pp., £8.95, March 1983, 0 340 32847 9
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... who sometimes can’t remember if they have paid a bill or left a note for the milkman, may be unpleasantly affected by Charles Maclean’s workmanship in plotting such horror out of forgetfulness. John Le Carré’s new book, The Little Drummer Girl, has an unhappy English actress with radical leanings recruited as an agent by the Israeli intelligence service in order to infiltrate a Palestinian ...
14 September 1989
A Short Guide to the World Novel: From Myth to Modernism 
by Gilbert Phelps.
Routledge, 397 pp., £30, September 1988, 0 415 00765 8
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The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction 
by John​ Sutherland.
Longman, 696 pp., £35, March 1989, 0 582 49040 5
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The Haunted Study: A Social History of the English Novel 1875-1914 
by Peter Keating.
Secker, 533 pp., £30, September 1989, 0 436 23248 0
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... necessary to read an infinity of novels.’ Such a wholesale reading of fiction takes on for many of us, as for Trollope, ‘a terrible aspect’. It doesn’t apparently, though, for Gilbert Phelps, John Sutherland and Peter Keating, surveyors and encyclopedists of the form who in their respective fields have laboured with energetic exhaustiveness and not broken down. Each of these books feels as if ...

Ranklings

Philip Horne

30 August 1990
Henry James and Edith Wharton: Letters 1900-1915 
edited by Lyall Powers.
Weidenfeld, 412 pp., £25, May 1990, 9780297810605
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... A Backward Glance, still admiring, recalls a relaxed, bantering figure at his ease amid the friendly, mostly American group made up by herself, Walter Berry, Howard Sturgis, Morton Fullerton, John Hugh Smith, Percy Lubbock and a few other initiates. She emphasises the man’s ‘quality of fun’, and her James is ‘the laughing, chaffing, jubilant yet malicious James’, not ‘the grave ...
21 July 1983
A Nail on the Head 
by Clare Boylan.
Hamish Hamilton, 135 pp., £7.95, July 1983, 0 241 11001 7
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New Stories 8: An Arts Council Anthology 
edited by Karl Miller.
Hutchinson, 227 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 9780091523800
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The Handyman 
by Penelope Mortimer.
Allen Lane, 199 pp., £6.95, May 1983, 0 7139 1364 9
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Open the Door 
by Rosemary Manning.
Cape, 180 pp., £7.95, June 1983, 0 224 02112 5
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A Boy’s Own Story 
by Edmund White.
Picador, 218 pp., £2.50, July 1983, 0 330 28151 8
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... first affectedly gloomy and terse, the second too cleverly vivacious. The most valuable juxtaposition pairs two longish stories set in Scotland, David Craig’s ‘Jason and the Green Woman’ and John Murray’s ‘The Señor and the Celtic Cross’, which operate quite different ironies about the limits of civilised society. The latter story, told in a tormented parodic mélange of styles ...

Doughy

John​ Sutherland: Conrad’s letters

4 December 2003
The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. VI: 1917-19 
edited by Laurence Davies, Frederick R. Karl and Owen Knowles.
Cambridge, 570 pp., £80, December 2002, 0 521 56195 7
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... academic purposes. It would, of course, be possible to publish as a companion a traditional book which could draw superstructurally on the digital resource. A model that comes to mind is Philip Horne’s ingenious Henry James: A Life in Letters (1999). A thirty-volume set of letters, even for the Master, is not on, so Horne sifted through James’s manuscript remains and printed a run of ...
5 March 2015
The Yellow Peril: Dr Fu Manchu & the Rise of Chinaphobia 
by Christopher Frayling.
Thames and Hudson, 360 pp., £24.95, October 2014, 978 0 500 25207 9
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... took off decisively in the 19th century, it became plausible for the first time to propagate the myth of China’s epochal stagnation. During the Great Exhibition of 1851, Charles Dickens and Richard Horne wrote a piece for Household Words that contrasted the wonders of the Crystal Palace with the quaintness of an accompanying display of artefacts from China at a gallery in Hyde Park Place. ‘It is ...

Hoylake

Peter Clarke

30 March 1989
Selwyn Lloyd 
by D.K. Thorpe.
Cape, 516 pp., £18, February 1989, 0 224 02828 6
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... Grandfather was John Wesley Lloyd, son of the Rev. John Lloyd from Llanidloes; after an education at Kingswood School, entry to which was restricted to the sons of Methodist ministers, he became a dentist and moved to Liverpool. His own son, also John ...

How They Brought the Good News

Colin Kidd: Britain’s Napoleonic Wars

20 November 2014
In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 739 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 571 26952 5
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... The more we think we know about a period, the more preconceptions we have. In the case of the Napoleonic Wars, a patriotic mythology fixated on the achievements of Nelson, Wellington and Sir John Moore at Corunna tends to filter out fear and uncertainty in favour of a seemingly inevitable procession of victories. As Jenny Uglow stresses in her gripping account of Britain during the Napoleonic ...
1 August 1985
Immoral Memories 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Herbert Marshall.
Peter Owen, 292 pp., £20, June 1985, 0 7206 0650 0
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A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema: 1930-1980 
by Robert Ray.
Princeton, 409 pp., £48.50, June 1985, 0 691 04727 8
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Suspects 
by David Thomson.
Secker, 274 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 436 52014 1
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Cahiers du Cinéma. Vol. I: The 1950s. Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave 
edited by Jim Hillier.
Routledge with the British Film Institute, 312 pp., £16.95, March 1985, 0 7100 9620 8
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... narrator, are preoccupied, when reality makes demands of them, with their desire for ‘the melting life of fiction’. They see themselves as living in films, like Death Wish fan Bernard Goetz, or John W. Hinckley Jr thinking himself akin to Travis Bickle, the Taxi Driver: here Travis Bickle is the narrator’s son, and Thomson’s chapter on him acutely treats the ambiguous end of Scorsese’s ...
13 November 1997
The Origins of English Nonsense 
by Noel Malcolm.
HarperCollins, 329 pp., £18, May 1997, 0 00 255827 0
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... nonsense poetry, which literary historians have erroneously considered a solely 19th-century phenomenon, can be traced directly to this milieu, in fact directly to a single poem, published by Sir John Hoskyns (a former terrae filius at Oxford and author of mock-orations at the Middle Temple, where he was ‘Clerk of the Council to the Prince d’Amour’ for Christmas 1597). This is the set of ...

Tunnel Visions

Philip Horne

4 August 1988
The Tunnel 
by Ernesto Sabato, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.
Cape, 138 pp., £10.95, June 1988, 0 224 02578 3
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Pilgrims Way 
by Abdulrazak Gurnah.
Cape, 232 pp., £11.95, June 1988, 0 224 02562 7
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States of Emergency 
by André Brink.
Faber, 248 pp., £9.95, May 1988, 0 571 15118 3
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Moonrise, Moonset 
by Tadeusz Konwicki, translated by Richard Lourie.
Faber, 344 pp., £11.95, May 1988, 0 571 13609 5
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... is vitiatingly conscious that many of his lines track too worn a groove, but banks on the protection of ‘Notes towards ... ’, on disarming criticism by pre-emptive apology. But in the words of John Wayne, ‘Sorry doesn’t get it done.’ Thus he writes, ‘(This really has the makings of a Mills & Boon)’ – but lets it stand. He inserts a footnote in a scene between Philip and his rival ...

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