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Year One

John Lloyd, 30 January 1992

Boris Yeltsin 
by John Morrison.
Penguin, 303 pp., £8.99, November 1991, 0 14 017062 6
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The August Coup: The Truth and its Lessons 
by Mikhail Gorbachev.
HarperCollins, 127 pp., £13.99, October 1991, 9780002550444
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The future belongs to freedom 
by Eduard Shevardnadze.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 256 pp., £15, September 1991, 1 85619 105 2
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Bear-Hunting with the Politburo 
by A. Craig Copetas.
Simon and Schuster, 271 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 671 70313 7
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The Accidental Proletariat: Workers, Politics and Crisis in Gorbachev’s Russia 
by Walter Connor.
Princeton, 374 pp., £25, November 1991, 0 691 07787 8
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... because the tensions and problems are simply too great for anyone. This is in part the theme of John Morrison’s efficient and often thoughtful biography, which sets out to show that, contrary to the view held (at least until recently) by many observers and politicians in the West, Yeltsin is ‘squarely in the democrats’ camp’. He reminds us ...

Boxes of Tissues

Hilary Mantel, 6 March 1997

As If 
by Blake Morrison.
Granta, 245 pp., £14.99, February 1997, 1 86207 003 2
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... Blake Morrison begins his account of the murder of James Bulger with a delicate diversion into the story of the Children’s Crusade. The year 1212: at Saint-Denis, a boy of 12 begins to preach. He has received word from God that it is the mission of Christian children to free the Holy Land from the infidel. He draws crowds, draws followers: boys and girls swarm from street and field ...
The Movement: English Poetry and Fiction of the 1950s 
by Blake Morrison.
Oxford, 326 pp., £8.50, May 1980, 9780192122100
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The Oxford Book of Contemporary Verse 1945-1980 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 299 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 19 214108 2
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... It seemed to be happening only yesterday, but Blake Morrison was born in 1950, and for him the Movement is something you have to work on in a library. So it suddenly comes to seem rather remote, as deep in the past as those files of the Spectator where he found the famous pieces by J.D. Scott and Anthony Hartley, or the scripts of John Wain’s Third Programme magazine First Reading, or copies of the Reading limited editions of Wain and Amis ...

Singing the Blues

Noël Annan, 22 April 1993

A History of Cambridge University. Vol. IV: 1870-1990 
by Christopher Brooke.
Cambridge, 652 pp., £50, December 1992, 9780521343503
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... different requirements for entry, and boys and girls spent their days travelling for interviews. John Morrison, the tutor of Trinity, tried to get the colleges to agree to a uniform procedure, but Armitage of Queen’s and Pratt of Christ’s fought him until the establishment of UCCA forced Cambridge to take its head out of the sand. Another reason was ...

Drink it, don’t eat it or smoke it

Mike Jay: De Quincey, 13 May 2010

The English Opium-Eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey 
by Robert Morrison.
Weidenfeld, 462 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 297 85279 7
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... either: after a decade of false starts, it was among the first pieces he published. Robert Morrison observes that another of his trademark habits, riding on the top of carriages rather than inside, became a vogue among the dashing ‘Oxford sparks’ of his day; but opium-eating didn’t apparently hold similar thrills for the dandy culture. What was ...

The Style It Takes

Mark Ford: John Cale, 16 September 1999

What’s Welsh for Zen? The Autobiography of John Cale 
by Victor Bockris.
Bloomsbury, 272 pp., £20, January 1999, 0 7475 3668 6
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... although it seems no live recordings survive from their heyday – that is, before Lou Reed kicked John Cale out of the band, ending three years of almost symbiotic closeness. John Cale was born in the small Welsh coal town of Garnant, between Swansea and Carmarthen, in 1942. His father was a miner; his mother had worked in ...

The New Narrative

John Kerrigan, 16 February 1984

The Oxford Book of Narrative Verse 
edited by Iona Opie and Peter Opie.
Oxford, 407 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 19 214131 7
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Time’s Oriel 
by Kevin Crossley-Holland.
Hutchinson, 61 pp., £4.95, August 1983, 0 09 153291 4
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On Gender and Writing 
edited by Michelene Wandor.
Pandora, 166 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 86358 021 1
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Stone, Paper, Knife 
by Marge Piercy.
Pandora, 144 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 9780863580222
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The Achievement of Ted Hughes 
edited by Keith Sagar.
Manchester, 377 pp., £27.50, March 1983, 0 7190 0939 1
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Ted Hughes and Paul Muldoon 
Faber, £6.95, June 1983, 0 571 13090 9Show More
River 
by Ted Hughes and Peter Keen.
Faber, 128 pp., £10, September 1983, 0 571 13088 7
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Quoof 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 64 pp., £4, September 1983, 0 571 13117 4
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... of story is deliberately excluded from consideration.’ It’s a well-timed question, with Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion’s advocacy of narrative in The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry being so widely and respectfully read, and well-directed too, since it clarifies what’s confused in the Penguin introduction by the editors’ simultaneous ...

Raven’s Odyssey

D.A.N. Jones, 19 July 1984

Swallow 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 312 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 0 575 03446 7
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First Among Equals 
by Jeffrey Archer.
Hodder, 446 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 340 35266 3
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Morning Star 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 264 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 9780856341380
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... future careers for them, not intended to mirror reality. For instance, his fictional ‘Peter Morrison’, the decent Conservative MP, has nothing to do with the real-life Peter Morrison MP but was inspired by boyhood memories of the real-life James Prior. The fictional ‘Peter ...

Digging up the Ancestors

R.W. Johnson, 14 November 1996

Hugh Gaitskell 
by Brian Brivati.
Cohen, 492 pp., £25, September 1996, 1 86066 073 8
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... Michael Foot or Neil Kinnock as candidates for the pantheon and some of the devotion to the late John Smith derives, no doubt, from a desperate endeavour to find a leader of note somewhere. Hence this book. ‘Hugh Gaitskell was the grandfather of Tony Blair’s revolution, the original Labour moderniser,’ the blurb begins. With Labour under Blair ...

Diary

Blake Morrison: On the Independent on Sunday , 27 May 1993

... air, and whose voice reminded me for some reason of the first person ever to give me a job, John Gross. One of Stephen’s favourite words was ‘collegiate’, and this seemed to be his model for the paper: it would be run by a few chaps who liked tossing around ideas with other chaps, and would be read by chaps in JCRs rather than JCBs. Over breakfast ...

Labouring

Blake Morrison, 1 April 1982

Continuous 
by Tony Harrison.
Rex Collings, £3.95, November 1982, 0 86036 159 4
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The Oresteia 
by Aeschylus, translated by Tony Harrison.
Rex Collings, 120 pp., £3.50, November 1981, 0 86036 178 0
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US Martial 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, £75, November 1981, 0 906427 29 0
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A Kumquat for John Keats 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, £75, November 1981, 0 906427 31 2
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... wants more and more and more new men in her He finally finishes Anna Karenina. A Kumquat for John Keats, meanwhile, is Thribbish, repetitive (much about Harrison’s being 42) and strains both rhyme and reason: and if John Keats had only lived to be, because of extra years, in need like me, at 42 he’d help me ...

Four Poems

Tom Paulin, 23 May 1985

... in class and the kids feel righteous – righteous but cosy. A Walk to Pubble Shrub Gardens for John and Tina McClelland This fawn plastic box contains my archive, a ghat of paper I set single words on like a loyal wife who must turn to ash and bone out of love. It’s the grist, I lie to them, for a curt essay on the Girondins whom of course I condemn ...

Sex’n’Love

Blake Morrison, 21 February 1991

The Chatto Book of Love Poetry 
edited by John Fuller.
Chatto, 374 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 7011 3453 4
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The Faber Book of Blue Verse 
edited by John Whitworth.
Faber, 305 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 571 14095 5
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Self-Portrait with a Slide 
by Hugo Williams.
Oxford, 62 pp., £5.95, June 1990, 0 19 282744 8
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The Virago Book of Love Poetry 
edited by Wendy Mulford.
Virago, 288 pp., £6.99, November 1990, 1 85381 030 4
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Erotica: An Anthology of Women’s Writing 
edited by Margaret Reynolds, foreword by Jeanette Winterson .
Pandora, 362 pp., £19.99, November 1990, 9780044406723
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Daddy, Daddy 
by Paul Durcan.
Blackstaff, 185 pp., £5.95, August 1990, 0 85640 446 2
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... to do without ‘misogynist satire, self-congratulation, smut’. He has left these to the other John, whose anthology is bold, noisy, rude, aggressive and full of itself, all of which things love can be, too, given half a chance. Neither editor is taking any chances, though. Fuller’s book, which has a long and elegant introductory essay, is an ...

Every three years

Blake Morrison, 3 March 1988

Fifty Poems 
by Ian Hamilton.
Faber, 51 pp., £4.95, January 1988, 0 571 14920 0
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A Various Art 
edited by Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville.
Carcanet, 377 pp., £12.95, December 1987, 0 85635 698 0
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Between Leaps: Poems 1972-1985 
by Brad Leithauser.
Oxford, 81 pp., £5.95, September 1987, 0 19 282089 3
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Eldorado 
by William Scammell.
Peterloo, 71 pp., £4.50, October 1987, 0 905291 88 3
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Disbelief 
by John Ash.
Carcanet, 127 pp., £6.95, September 1987, 0 85635 695 6
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The Automatic Oracle 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 72 pp., £4.95, November 1987, 0 19 282088 5
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Voice-over 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 64 pp., £5.95, February 1988, 0 7011 3313 9
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... Gross (three years on) 41; Jouissance by William Scammell (two years) 38; Disbelief by John Ash (three years) 55; Ken Smith’s Wormwood, a collection of poems written during a spell as a writer in residence in Wormwood Scrubs (one year), 30. The justification for such work-rates, beyond the economics of scraping a living and the PR requirement of ...

Tropical Storms

Blake Morrison, 6 September 1984

Poems of Science 
edited by John Heath-Stubbs and Phillips Salman.
Penguin, 328 pp., £4.95, June 1984, 0 14 042317 6
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The Kingfisher 
by Amy Clampitt.
Faber, 92 pp., £4, April 1984, 0 571 13269 3
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The Ice Factory 
by Philip Gross.
Faber, 62 pp., £3.95, June 1984, 0 571 13217 0
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Venus and the Rain 
by Medbh McGuckian.
Oxford, 57 pp., £4.50, June 1984, 0 19 211962 1
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Saying hello at the station 
by Selima Hill.
Chatto, 48 pp., £2.95, June 1984, 0 7011 2788 0
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Dreaming Frankenstein and Collected Poems 
by Liz Lochhead.
Polygon, 159 pp., £2.95, May 1984, 0 904919 80 3
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News for Babylon: The Chatto Book of West Indian-British Poetry 
edited by James Berry.
Chatto, 212 pp., £4.95, June 1984, 9780701127978
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Human Rites: Selected Poems 1970-1982 
by E.A. Markham.
Anvil, 127 pp., £7.95, May 1984, 0 85646 112 1
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Midsummer 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 79 pp., £3.95, July 1984, 0 571 13180 8
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... verse (from Anon on the structure of the cosmos – ‘as appel the eorthe is round’ – to John Updike on cosmic gall), is therefore fighting a lost battle. The editors make out a brave case for the similarity of poet and scientist (‘the starting-point for both of their activities is the imagination’), dispute old distinctions between ...

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