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One for Uncle

John Bayley, 5 April 1990

Robert Graves: The Years with Laura 1926-1940 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Weidenfeld, 380 pp., £25, March 1990, 0 297 79672 0
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... bears out pretty well the sense implicit in her lightning sketch. Richard Perceval is the son of John, Robert’s youngest brother, who was also snubbed, patronised and cold-shouldered. Richard Perceval has written excellent studies, admirably researched, of A.E. Housman and of the Powys brothers, but now is the time to strike a blow for father and get ...

Damsons and Custard

Paul Laity: Documentary cinema’s unsung poet, 3 March 2005

Humphrey Jennings 
by Kevin Jackson.
Picador, 448 pp., £30, October 2004, 0 330 35438 8
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... exactly the same thing.’ In 1934, Jennings, a young artist and intellectual about town, joined John Grierson’s GPO Film Unit on a freelance basis, mainly, it seems, because he was hard up. He went on to become Britain’s most admired wartime documentary film-maker, and although his is far from a household name, his critical reputation has for decades ...

Black and White Life

Mark Greif: Ralph Ellison, 1 November 2007

Ralph Ellison: A Biography 
by Arnold Rampersad.
Knopf, 657 pp., $35, April 2007, 978 0 375 40827 4
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... of Ellison which are useful in quite different ways. Five years ago, the young scholar Lawrence Jackson published Ralph Ellison: Emergence of Genius. It was in effect the first real biography, and not much noticed, though it was a compelling portrait. Jackson chose as his subject-matter only Ellison’s history up to the ...

Everybody wants a Rembrandt

Nicholas Penny, 17 March 1983

The Rare Art Traditions 
by Joseph Alsop.
Thames and Hudson, 691 pp., £30, November 1982, 0 500 23359 4
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... powerful contribution to the excellent Zeitgeist exhibition in Berlin. He could well be the new Jackson Pollock. The emphasis is on Schnabel’s personality (‘angry’ – but what about?), his image (‘half-Courbet, half-apeman’), his career (he was ‘deliberately’ overlooked), and on the big money backing him. There is the conversion (‘I was ...

Gisgo and his Enemies

John Bayley, 13 February 1992

The Age of Battles: The Quest for Decisive Warfare from Breitenfeld to Waterloo 
by Russell Weigley.
Indiana, 608 pp., £22.50, June 1991, 0 253 36380 2
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... none the less, in full view. The Union generals presumably felt equally confident when they saw Jackson’s corps manoeuvring in the open before the battle of Chancellorsville, and paid no attention until Jackson suddenly hit them at one end of the battlefield and achieved a crushing local superiority. The Russians tried ...

Writing Absurdity

Adam Shatz: Chester Himes, 25 April 2018

Chester B. Himes: A Biography 
by Lawrence P. Jackson.
Norton, 606 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 393 06389 9
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... sentence for armed robbery. Himes had already seen his share of troubles but, as Lawrence Jackson writes in his impressive biography, they ‘did not inspire him’ the way that ‘stumbling through the gore of two cell block tiers’ worth of burned-alive men’ did. After the fire, Himes began to write fiction on a typewriter he had bought with his ...

Mysterian

Jackson Lears: On Chomsky, 3 May 2017

Why Only Us: Language and Evolution 
by Robert Berwick and Noam Chomsky.
MIT, 215 pp., £18.95, February 2016, 978 0 262 03424 1
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Because We Say So 
by Noam Chomsky.
Penguin, 199 pp., £9.99, August 2016, 978 0 241 97248 9
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What Kind of Creatures Are We? 
by Noam Chomsky.
Columbia, 167 pp., £17, January 2016, 978 0 231 17596 8
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Who Rules the World? 
by Noam Chomsky.
Hamish Hamilton, 307 pp., £18.99, May 2016, 978 0 241 18943 6
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Chomsky: Ideas and Ideals 
by Neil Smith and Nicholas Allott.
Cambridge, 461 pp., £18.99, January 2016, 978 1 107 44267 2
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... have been inferences based on intuitions, in particular the intuition that certain sentences (‘John speaks fluently English’), though understandable, are nonetheless ‘in some way bad’, as Neil Smith and Nicholas Allott put it in their study of Chomsky, and that the ability to sense this badness is innate. Another piece of evidence for innateness, on ...

When Chicago Went Classical

Andrew Saint: A serial killer and the World’s Fair, 1 April 2004

Devil in the White City 
by Erik Larson.
Bantam, 496 pp., £7.99, April 2004, 0 553 81353 6
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... contender is Chicago 1893. After more than a century, the gleaming White City on the fairway at Jackson Park lingers in the American mind. Its image launched the international ‘city beautiful’ movement and transformed Washington. It has bequeathed its bright nickname to a Tube station and its shabby surroundings in West London. The most strapping of its ...

Bloodbaths

John Sutherland, 21 April 1988

Misery 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 320 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 340 39070 0
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The Tommyknockers 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 563 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 340 39069 7
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Touch 
by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 245 pp., £10.95, February 1988, 9780670816545
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Sideswipe 
by Charles Willeford.
Gollancz, 293 pp., £10.95, March 1988, 0 575 04197 8
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Ratking 
by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 282 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 571 15147 7
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... reminds us, there is worse literary company than Lovecraft, Leiber, Bloch, Matheson and Jackson. ‘I could, for example, be an “important” writer like Joseph Heller and publish a novel every seven years or so, or a “brilliant” writer like John Gardner and write obscure books for bright academics who eat ...

The Waugh between the Diaries

Ian Hamilton, 5 December 1985

The Diaries of Auberon Waugh: A Turbulent Decade 1976-1985 
edited by Anna Galli-Pahlavi.
Private Eye/Deutsch, 207 pp., £4.95, September 1985, 0 233 97811 9
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... left in England, Waugh would say: he can tell the exact figure by checking the sales of books by John Betjeman and P.G. Wodehouse, or by the turn-out for a West End revival of The Pirates of Penzance. And, out of town, there are still a few pockets of decency and calm; there are still a few country churches where the priest uses the word ‘God’ more often ...

Diary

Anne Enright: The Monsters of #MeToo, 24 October 2019

... back on stage a year later and complained he had lost ‘$35 million in an hour’. The journalist John Hockenberry was fired from New York Public Radio when old allegations of workplace bullying were suddenly deemed sufficient. This happened just before an article about his sexual behaviour was published. He is one of the few men who have attempted to write ...

Hi, Louise!

Stephanie Burt: Frank O’Hara, 20 July 2000

In Memory of My Feelings: Frank O’Hara and American Art 
by Russell Ferguson.
California, 160 pp., £24.50, October 1999, 0 520 22243 1
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The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets 
by David Lehman.
Anchor, 448 pp., $16.95, November 1999, 0 385 49533 1
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Frank O’Hara: Poet among Painters 
by Marjorie Perloff.
Chicago, 266 pp., £13.50, March 1998, 0 226 66059 1
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... in the middle, and you may get what looks like a Post-It note to a friend, or versified notes on a Jackson Pollock painting, a James Dean movie or ‘the music of Adolphe Deutsch’. You may also get one of many enticing, informal, secretly-complex poems that sound like nobody else ever has: How can you start hating me when I’m so comfortable in your ...

In the City

Peter Campbell: Public sculpture, 22 May 2003

... Philip Ward-Jackson’s Public Sculpture of the City of London* is the seventh volume of Public Sculpture of Britain. It does for public sculpture (but not sculpture inside churches or galleries) what Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner do for the buildings the sculpture is on (or near) in The Buildings of England volume on The City of London ...

Lauraphobia

Jenny Turner, 10 March 1994

In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding 
by Deborah Baker.
Hamish Hamilton, 462 pp., £25, October 1993, 9780241128343
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... jumped straight on a train to Nashville, there to meet with her friends-and-collaborators-to-be. John Crowe Ransom, then a key member of the Fugitive group, tells the story of what happened next. Undoubtedly we were rather absurd in the way we received Laura at Nashville – prim, formidable and stiff. What she came for was human companionship of the most ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: Reagan and Rambo, 3 October 1985

... came, Rogin believes, in 1981. ‘To confirm the President’s faith in the power of film, John Hinckley, imitating the plot of the movie Taxi Driver, deliberately shot the President on the day of the Academy Awards.’ It so fell out that Reagan had already recorded a breezy, upbeat salute to the audience at the Oscar ceremony: ‘the television ...

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