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New Mortality

John Harvey, 5 November 1981

The Hotel New Hampshire 
by John Irving.
Cape, 401 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 224 01961 9
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The Villa Golitsyn 
by Piers Paul Read.
Secker, 193 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 436 40968 2
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Funeral Games 
by Mary Renault.
Murray, 257 pp., £6.95, November 1981, 0 7195 3883 1
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The Cupboard 
by Rose Tremain.
Macdonald, 251 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 03 540476 0
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... surprised in we can’t guess what macabre rite of love. Whether or not this shot helped inspire John Irving’s The Hotel New Hampshire one doesn’t know; Irving, author of The World according to Garp, already had his own surreal interest in bears, as in his early novel Setting Free the Bears. At all events, a girl ...

Ceaseless Anythings

James Wood: Robert Stone, 1 October 1998

Damascus Gate 
by Robert Stone.
Picador, 500 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 37058 8
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... American realism, once a belief, is now an idle liberty. Writers such as Robert Stone, Joan Didion, John Irving and even Don DeLillo, are praised for their ‘realism’, for the solidity of their plots, the patience of their characterisation, the capillary spread of their social portraits, the leverage of their political insight ...

Austward Ho

Patrick Parrinder, 18 May 1989

Moon Palace 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 307 pp., £11.99, April 1989, 0 571 15404 2
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Prisoner’s Dilemma 
by Richard Powers.
Weidenfeld, 348 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 297 79482 5
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A Prayer for Owen Meany 
by John Irving.
Bloomsbury, 543 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 7475 0334 6
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... the most portentous of modern American events is so heavy-handed. Though the dénouement of John Irving’s new novel also involves a westward journey – this time to Phoenix, Arizona – the main narrative, as in his earlier books, is set in a small town in New Hampshire. In A Prayer for Owen Meany, the Gravesend Academy, where the narrator’s ...

Short Cuts

Adam Shatz: The Short Career of Amy Bishop, 11 March 2010

... her mind Bishop knew things weren’t that rosy. She was also a novelist – the second cousin of John Irving, she often boasted – and in her three novels (so far unpublished) she was less confident of her prospects. The heroine of the most recent, Amazon Fever, is a female scientist at an Alabama university who is burdened by guilt over the death of ...


Frank Kermode: John Updike, 21 January 1999

Beck at Bay: A Quasi-Novel 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 241 pp., £16.99, January 1999, 0 241 14027 7
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... That John Updike has a Trollopian fidelity to his characters is evident from the four books of the Rabbit series; this new book is the third of a sequence about the New York Jewish novelist Henry Bech. As it carries him into his seventies it may be that this is the last of Bech, as Rabbit at Rest was presumably the last of Rabbit, but as long as the real author is alive, fertile and motile, one cannot be sure ...


Marc Weissman: Mysteries of the Russian Mind, 18 April 1985

... through to the country’s bookshops four years ago the notorious World according to Garp by John Irving. The result was a letter to Literaturnaya Gazeta by an enraged ‘intellectual’ who had bought the book for his teenage daughter. He intended it to help his daughter in her English studies, but instead found himself bombarded with all sorts of ...


Theo Tait: Tom Wolfe’s Bloody Awful Novel, 6 January 2005

I am Charlotte Simmons 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 676 pp., £20, November 2004, 0 224 07486 5
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... appear effete and irrelevant’. Over the years, a lot of these effete and irrelevant artists – John Updike, Norman Mailer, Jonathan Franzen – have launched tirades against him. The most concise comes from John Irving, commenting red-faced and furious on live TV: ‘Wolfe’s problem is, he can’t bleeping ...


Julian Loose, 30 January 1992

The Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Alfred Birnbaum.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 241 13144 8
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... novels and six volumes of collected short stories, he is an industrious translator of the likes of John Irving, Raymond Carver, Tim O’Brien and Scott Fitzgerald. Once the owner of a jazz bar who only had time to write in the small hours, he is now such a cult figure that there are even translations of his novels, complete with Japanese notes, aimed ...

Death among the Barbours

Christopher Tayler: Donna Tartt, 19 December 2013

The Goldfinch 
by Donna Tartt.
Little, Brown, 771 pp., £20, October 2013, 978 1 4087 0494 3
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... business than it was when Tartt was starting out: I’d back her in a race to become the next John Irving but wouldn’t feel so confident if Theo had to square off against the likes of Katniss ...

Jack and Leo

John Sutherland, 27 July 1989

The Letters of Jack London 
edited by Earle Labor, Robert Leitz and Milo Shepard.
Stanford, 1657 pp., $139.50, October 1988, 0 8047 1227 1
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by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 572 pp., £16.95, May 1988, 0 241 12190 6
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... than The Book of Jack London was needed. In 1934, Charmian was approached by a young biographer, Irving Stone, who had just produced his popular biography of Van Gogh, Lust for Life. Charmian liked Stone’s technicolour vision of the tormented painter and gave the go-ahead.’ Stone took as his title what Jack had provisionally called his unwritten ...

Likeable People

John Sutherland, 15 May 1980

Book Society 
by Graham Watson.
Deutsch, 164 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 233 97160 2
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The Publishers Association Annual Report 1979-80 
73 pp.Show More
Private Presses and Publishing in England since 1945 
by H.E. Bellamy.
Clive Bingley, 168 pp., £15, March 1980, 0 85157 297 9
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... been weightier objections to literary agents than that they are merely low and intrusive. In his Irving to Irving (1974), Charles Madison credits them with a major part of the responsibility for the present fallen state of the American publishing industry. (Madison’s book traces a completed cycle from Washington ...

Exit Humbug

David Edgar: Theatrical Families, 1 January 2009

A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and Their Remarkable Families 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 620 pp., £25, September 2008, 978 0 7011 7987 8
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... the stage. Her performance as Portia in The Merchant of Venice drew her to the attention of Henry Irving, an emerging actor-manager who fired his current Ophelia and cast Terry in her place. From then on, in Britain and increasingly in North America, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry became the undisputed first couple of the ...

The Mothering of Montgomery

John Keegan, 2 July 1981

Monty: The Making of a General, 1887-1942 
by Nigel Hamilton.
Hamish Hamilton, 871 pp., £12, June 1981, 0 241 10583 8
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The War between the Generals: Inside the Allied High Command 
by David Irving.
Allen Lane, 446 pp., £9.95, June 1981, 0 7139 1344 4
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... the Alamein dinner, to which I looked forward with keener and keener anticipation. Indeed, like John Osborne waiting for Max Miller to come on stage in whatever provincial repertory theatre it was that he had sought him out, I found that I began to laugh before the Field-Marshal rose to speak and that while he was speaking I was reduced to tears by the ...

Inside Hitler

J.P. Stern, 16 February 1984

Adolf Hitler: The Medical Diaries. The Private Diaries of Dr Theo Morell 
edited by David Irving.
Sidgwick, 309 pp., £10.95, May 1983, 0 283 98981 5
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... of a translation of the medical records kept by Hitler’s physician, Dr Theodor Morell, and of Mr Irving’s extensive commentaries on those records. Morell, a fashionable Berlin GP specialising in venereal diseases, became the Führer’s personal doctor at Christmas 1936. The elevation, which took place during a visit to Hitler’s retreat on the ...

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 ...

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