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Michael Wood, 4 April 1996

Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids 
by Kenzaburo Oë, translated by Paul St John Mackintosh and Maki Sugiyama.
Boyars, 189 pp., £14.95, May 1995, 0 7145 2997 4
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A Personal Matter 
by Kenzaburo Oë, translated by John Nathan.
Picador, 165 pp., £5.99, January 1996, 0 330 34435 8
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Hiroshima Notes 
by Kenzaburo Oë, translated by David Swain and Toshi Yonezawa.
Boyars, 192 pp., £14.95, August 1995, 0 7145 3007 7
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... Perhaps all books are messages from other times and places, even the ones written yesterday and just down the road. But these three works by Kenzaburo Oë, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994, have an unusual flavour of missives cast into the sea long ago, only now arriving on our island beach. Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids was published in Japan in 1958, and is now translated for the first time ...

What the hell happened?

Alexander Star: Philip Roth, 4 February 1999

I Married a Communist 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 323 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 224 05258 6
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... of Roth’s intricately arranged performances. As in American Pastoral, his familiar alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman, presents himself as an observer rather than a participant. At the beginning of the novel, he is living alone in the Berkshire woods, where he enjoys a visit from his old high-school English teacher, Murray Ringold. As the 90-year-old Murray ...

Man-Eating Philosophers

Will Self: David Cronenberg, 17 June 2015

Consumed 
by David Cronenberg.
Fourth Estate, 288 pp., £18.99, October 2014, 978 0 00 729915 7
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... about the screen-mediation of reality. In his philosophic commonplace book Straw Dogs (2002), John Gray propounded a new theory of consciousness: ‘In evolutionary prehistory consciousness emerged as a side-effect of language. Today it is a by-product of the media.’ Cronenberg is one of a burgeoning group of artists who are attempting to describe what ...

Carry on writing

Stephen Bann, 15 March 1984

The Two of Us 
by John Braine.
Methuen, 183 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 413 51280 0
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An Open Prison 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 192 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 575 03380 0
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Havannah 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 263 pp., £9.95, February 1984, 0 241 11175 7
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Sunrising 
by David Cook.
Secker, 248 pp., £8.50, February 1984, 0 436 10674 4
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Memoirs of an Anti-Semite 
by Gregor von Rezzori, translated by Joachim Neugroschel.
Picador, 282 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 330 28325 1
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It’s me, Eddie 
by Edward Limonov, translated by S.L. Campbell.
Picador, 264 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 330 28329 4
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The Anatomy Lesson 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 291 pp., £8.95, February 1984, 0 224 02960 6
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... he crosses out the word ‘harness’. Over on this side of the Channel, the native-born author John Braine chooses for his epigraph a snatch of neo-Romantic whimsy from the lyrics of the group Supertramp: Just as long as there’s two of us, just as long as there’s two of us I’ll carry on. Mutatis mutandis, here is the same, rather deprecatory ...

Z/R

John Banville: Exit Zuckerman, 4 October 2007

Exit Ghost 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 292 pp., £16.99, October 2007, 978 0 224 08173 3
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... used vociferously to demand, who will analyse the analysts, if not the artist? Philip Roth, like John Updike, is a survivor from the glory days of the heavyweights, the Hemingways and the Faulkners and the Bellows. His first book, the story collection Goodbye, Columbus, published in 1959, won the National Book Award, a notable achievement for a tyro in his ...

In the Egosphere

Adam Mars-Jones: The Plot against Roth, 23 January 2014

Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books 
by Claudia Roth Pierpont.
Cape, 353 pp., £25, January 2014, 978 0 224 09903 5
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... he does say so, but then (this being the structural trick of the book) he enlists his character Nathan Zuckerman to play devil’s advocate and make the opposite case. Zuckerman’s argument is that Maggie was the best creative-writing teacher anyone could have, and someone who forced him to stop taking people at face value. To neutralise Maggie’s ...

A Girl’s Best Friend

Thomas Jones: Tobias Hill, 21 August 2003

The Cryptographer 
by Tobias Hill.
Faber, 263 pp., £12, August 2003, 0 571 21836 9
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... points and a fourth hanging from one of the rubies. It was commissioned as a shoulder-clasp by John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, ‘years before his murder’ in 1467, and passed through various hands, including those of Elizabeth I – she can be seen wearing the jewel in the ‘Ermine Portrait’ that hangs in Hatfield House – until it was finally ...

Facts Schmacts

John Sutherland, 16 February 1989

The Facts: A Novelist’s Autobiography 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 328 pp., £12.95, February 1989, 0 224 02593 7
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... he does tell entirely straight. Framing the (strangely brief) autobiography is an exchange with Nathan Zuckerman – the hero and sometimes the narrator of the Eighties trilogy. Roth’s letter requesting his alter ego’s imprimatur forms a preface to The Facts. Roth explains how he came to write it. Its quest for ‘original prefictionalised ...

Nicely! Nicely!

Jenny Turner, 13 May 1993

Operation Shylock 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 398 pp., £14.99, March 1993, 0 224 03009 4
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... computer games. Unlike most of Philip Roth’s recent novels, Operation Shylock does not feature Nathan Zuckerman, the celebrity-writer persona Roth adopted for his fiction from The Ghost Writer (1979) to The Counterlife (1987). Instead, Operation Shylock stars Philip Roth. Only there are two of them. One is Roth the famous and universally admired writer who ...

Dangerously Amiable

Nathan Perl-Rosenthal: Lafayette Reconsidered, 16 February 2017

The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered 
by Laura Auricchio.
Vintage, 432 pp., £11.99, August 2015, 978 0 307 38745 5
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... Revolution or its principles, and the feeling was mirrored on the other side of the ocean. John Adams told James Madison in 1798 that ‘there was not a single principle the same in the American and French Revolutions.’ Even Jefferson, one of the great American admirers of France, had lost his enthusiasm for its revolution. Many influential modern ...

Hot Dogs

Malcolm Bull, 14 June 1990

Mine eyes have seen the glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America 
by Randall Balmer.
Oxford, 246 pp., $19.95, September 1989, 0 19 505117 3
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In God’s Country: Travels in the Bible Belt, USA 
by Douglas Kennedy.
Unwin Hyman, 240 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 0 04 440423 9
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The Divine Supermarket 
by Malise Ruthven.
Chatto, 336 pp., £14.95, August 1989, 0 7011 3151 9
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The Democratisation of American Christianity 
by Nathan Hatch.
Yale, 312 pp., £22.50, November 1989, 0 300 44470 2
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Religion and 20th-Century American Intellectual Life 
edited by Michael Lacey.
Cambridge/Woodrow Wilson Centre for Scholars, 214 pp., £27.50, November 1989, 0 521 37560 6
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New Religions and the Theological Imagination in America 
by Mary Farrell Bednarowski.
Indiana, 175 pp., $25, November 1989, 0 253 31137 3
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... of popular preaching in the Methodist, Christian, Baptist, Mormon and Afro-American Churches, Nathan Hatch argues that the Second Great Awakening did not effect a consolidation, but a shift from ‘classical republican values to those of vulgar democracy and entrepreneurial individualism’. Hatch’s thesis is perhaps best exemplified by the Baptist ...

Confounding Malthus

Roy Porter, 21 December 1989

Health and the Rise of Civilisation 
by Mark Nathan Cohen.
Yale, 285 pp., £22.50, October 1989, 0 300 04006 7
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Nutrition and Economic Development in the 18th-Century Habsburg Monarchy: An Anthropomorphic History 
by John Komlos.
Princeton, 325 pp., $45, November 1989, 0 691 04257 8
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... To put it bluntly, have things been getting better or worse? It is not the least virtue of Mark Nathan Cohen’s revaluation of the ‘diseases of civilisation’ question that he does not push a simple solution. He offers a qualified pessimism about the past, and a question-mark for the future. Cultural anthropology and economic history have generally told ...

The Hero Brush

Edmund Gordon: Colum McCann, 12 September 2013

TransAtlantic 
by Colum McCann.
Bloomsbury, 298 pp., £18.99, May 2013, 978 1 4088 2937 0
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... our time’, Aleksandar Hemon as ‘quite frankly, the greatest writer of our generation’, and Nathan Englander as ‘quite simply, one of the very best we have’. He has called Emma Donoghue ‘one of the great literary ventriloquists’ and John Boyne ‘one of the great craftsmen in contemporary literature’. Gerard ...

Hamas’s Chances

Nathan Thrall, 20 August 2014

... quiescent Palestinian leadership in Ramallah and disrupt the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that John Kerry had launched in the same month as Sisi’s coup. But Hamas felt too vulnerable, especially because of Sisi’s potential role in any new conflict between Gaza and Israel, to take this route. It was sure that the peace talks would fail on their own. The ...

Frazzle

Michael Wood: Chinese Whispers, 8 August 2013

Multiples 
edited by Adam Thirlwell.
Portobello, 380 pp., £20, August 2013, 978 1 84627 537 1
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... story ‘The Animal in the Synagogue’ with the words: ‘Look away, look away, look away.’ John Wray and Nathan Englander in English and Alejandro Zambra in Spanish all have a phrase about the impossibility of getting rid of the creature – and I’m guessing that Etgar Keret has something similar in ...

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