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Why couldn’t she be fun?

Lavinia Greenlaw: Nico gets her own back, 24 February 2022

You Are Beautiful and You Are Alone: The Biography of Nico 
by Jennifer Otter Bickerdike.
Faber, 512 pp., £20, July 2021, 978 0 571 35001 8
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... and wearing heavier versions of beatnik black. Bob Dylan steered her away from torch songs, Jim Morrison told her to learn an instrument and write her own songs, and Ornette Coleman helped her to find her way of playing the harmonium.Her relationships with a series of rock stars are the subject of titillation and myth. She records them, and her feelings, in ...

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 ...

The Great NBA Disaster

John Sutherland, 19 October 1995

... In 1851 the trade referred its dispute to a tribunal headed by the author and judge Lord John Campbell. His decision was delivered on 19 May 1852 and published in its entirety by the triumphant Times. Campbell came down uncompromisingly for free trade. The Regulations, they said, were indefensible, and contrary to the freedom which ought to prevail ...

Maximum Embarrassment

David Marquand, 7 May 1987

Nye Bevan and the Mirage of British Socialism 
by John Campbell.
Weidenfeld, 430 pp., £15.95, March 1987, 0 297 78998 8
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The Political Diary of Hugh Dalton: 1918-40, 1945-60 
edited by Ben Pimlott.
Cape, 752 pp., £40, January 1987, 0 224 01912 0
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... to office in the following decade, than some of their old opponents from the right. But, as John Campbell makes clear in this marvellously lucid and moving reassessment of the political career of Aneurin Bevan, the similarities with the Thirties were only skin-deep. This time, the schisms did touch the core of party purpose. Though Left and Right both ...

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 ...

Motherly Protuberances

Blake Morrison: Simon Okotie, 9 September 2021

After Absalon 
by Simon Okotie.
Salt, 159 pp., £9.99, January 2020, 978 1 78463 166 6
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... arranged,’ Virginia Woolf wrote, disparaging the kind of fiction associated with Arnold Bennett, John Galsworthy and H.G. Wells. It’s a proposition that might appeal to Simon Okotie. But before deciding whether it has merit he would want to see whether an apparently symmetrical arrangement of gig-lamps might not, on close examination, prove ever so ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Ken or Boris?, 10 April 2008

... its general election prospects – the Conservatives may not be too keen to win. In 1934 Herbert Morrison, as leader of London County Council, consciously set out to run the city well to prove the viability of Labour as a party of government. Does Boris Johnson look like the man to do that for the Tories? Cameron might well feel that there is more profit in ...

It wasn’t the Oval

Blake Morrison: Michael Frayn, 7 October 2010

My Father’s Fortune: A Life 
by Michael Frayn.
Faber, 255 pp., £16.99, September 2010, 978 0 571 27058 3
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... like J.R. Ackerley’s father, or a conman like Tobias Wolff’s, or a bullying drunk like John Burnside’s, or a cold fish with a secret past like Germaine Greer’s, but a man with a hearing disability who tried to do the best by his family and whose one attempt at corporal punishment – a boot up his son’s backside – didn’t connect. With so ...

We possess all things

Pamela Crossley: The Macartney Embassy, 18 August 2022

The Perils of Interpreting: The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire 
by Henrietta Harrison.
Princeton, 341 pp., £25, January, 978 0 691 22545 6
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... Her account supplements the existing European language scholarship on the Macartney saga by John Cranmer-Byng, Alain Peyrefitte, James Hevia, John Watt and others, redirecting our attention to those who did the real work of communicating. The Chinese world order (or ‘tributary system’) that Macartney sought to ...

Self-Positioning

Stefan Collini: The Movement, 25 June 2009

The Movement Reconsidered: Essays on Larkin, Amis, Gunn, Davie and Their Contemporaries 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 336 pp., £18.99, May 2009, 978 0 19 955825 4
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... volume contained work by eight poets: Robert Conquest, D.J. Enright, Kingsley Amis, Donald Davie, John Holloway, Elizabeth Jennings, Philip Larkin and John Wain, to which list Conquest’s volume added the name of Thom Gunn. Insofar as there has ever been agreement on the matter, the Movement has been taken to consist of ...

He don’t mean any harm

John Bayley, 28 June 1990

A.A. Milne: His Life 
by Ann Thwaite.
Faber, 554 pp., £17.50, June 1990, 0 571 13888 8
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... flower face for which the cloche hat was designed (see Shepard’s illustration to ‘James James Morrison Morrison’), and they were very much in love. And so, to outward appearances, they remained. Did Kenneth Grahame, who also supported a fairly enigmatic marriage, write The Wind in the Willows for his little boy as a result? Milne turned it into ...

Short Cuts

Matthew Beaumont: The route to Tyburn Tree, 20 June 2013

... that have been deposited at Cumberland Gate. In a poem written for a BBC documentary in 1968, John Betjeman described the site as a place of martyrdom ‘trodden by unheeding feet’. The ‘greatest crime’ of all, he continued, standing on the roof of Marble Arch and speaking in the voice of a genteel, if irritable prophet, is ‘the martyrdom of ...

Against Bare Bottoms

Simon Morrison: Prokofiev’s Diaries, 21 March 2013

Diaries 1924-33: Prodigal Son 
by Sergey Prokofiev, translated by Anthony Phillips.
Faber, 1125 pp., £30, November 2012, 978 0 571 23405 9
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... and works impressed him: Honegger’s Pacific 231, Ravel’s The Child and the Enchanted Objects, John Alden Carpenter’s Skyscrapers. He felt he could outmodernise them, but misfired with his opera The Fiery Angel, which concerns demonic possession in Renaissance Cologne. Between the first and second drafts, it became the noisiest opera ever written ...

Shoulder-Shrugging

Julian Critchley, 11 December 1997

Dear Bill: Bill Deedes Reports 
by W.F. Deedes.
Macmillan, 396 pp., £20, October 1997, 0 333 71386 9
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... with Harold Macmillan. I thought him the most influential of Tory backbenchers, more so than Major Morrison, the bucolic chairman of the 1922 Committee, or buffoons like Gerald Nabarro. After the ‘Night of the Long Knives’, when Macmillan was panicked by a typical Rab Butler indiscretion into sacking the dead wood in his Cabinet, Deedes was brought in to ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... poetry makes nothing happen, then the poetry anthology has no such self-effacing qualms. Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion knew this, as did the predecessor they were tussling with, A. Alvarez’s The New Poetry (which was tussling with its predecessor, Robert Conquest’s New Lines). ‘This anthology,’ they wrote in their preface to the Penguin Book of ...

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