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Tribal Lays

D.J. Enright, 7 May 1981

The Hill Station 
by J.G. Farrell.
Weidenfeld, 238 pp., £6.50, April 1981, 0 297 77922 2
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... compared with J.G. Farrell’s previous three novels, The Hill Station (as its editor, John Spurling, decided to call it) might be termed ‘light’, but only in that the writing is less dense, less effortful in the reading, than is the case with the Irish Troubles and, more markedly, with The Singapore Grip. Jane Austen comes to mind, and ...

Fictbites

Peter Campbell, 18 May 1989

Any Old Iron 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 339 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 09 173842 3
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The Ragged End 
by John Spurling.
Weidenfeld, 313 pp., £11.95, April 1989, 0 297 79505 8
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Higher Ground 
by Caryl Phillips.
Viking, 224 pp., £11.95, April 1989, 0 670 82620 0
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The Flint Bed 
by Christopher Burns.
Secker, 185 pp., £10.95, April 1989, 0 436 09788 5
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Stark 
by Ben Elton.
Joseph, 453 pp., £13.95, March 1989, 0 7181 3302 1
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... after all, interesting in their own right. The plot sometimes creaks, though no more loudly than John Spurling’s The Ragged End or Ben Elton’s eco-farce Stark. These books try for the global range and include by reference and implication huge volumes of contemporary history. Stories which bring in two world wars or the coming ...

The Misery of Not Painting like others

Peter Campbell, 13 April 2000

The Unknown Matisse: Man of the North, 1869-1908 
by Hilary Spurling.
Penguin, 480 pp., £12.99, April 2000, 0 14 017604 7
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Matisse: Father and Son 
by John Russell.
Abrams, 416 pp., £25, May 1999, 0 8109 4378 6
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Ruthless Hedonism: The American Reception of Matisse 
by John O’Brien.
Chicago, 284 pp., £31.50, April 1999, 0 226 61626 6
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Matisse and Picasso 
by Yve-Alain Bois.
Flammarion, 272 pp., £35, February 1999, 2 08 013548 1
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... linked to the tradition which had nurtured him. Now that we have the first volume of Hilary Spurling’s biography, however, it is much easier to look back beyond the white-bearded maker of images of luxuriousness to the wild-man-of-art shown in the self-portrait of 1906 and to be reminded that – as one soon learns from the letters he wrote to his son ...

Didn’t you just love O-lan?

Deborah Friedell: Pearl Buck, 22 July 2010

Burying the Bones: Pearl Buck’s Life in China 
by Hilary Spurling.
Profile, 340 pp., £15, April 2010, 978 1 86197 828 8
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... the West thinks about China. ‘What Dickens had done for London’s 19th-century poor,’ Hilary Spurling writes in her new biography, ‘Pearl Buck did for the working people of 20th-century China,’ with American affinity for the Chinese swelling just as Japan invaded the mainland. It didn’t last, of course, any more than Buck’s literary reputation ...

Paul and Penny

Julian Symons, 25 October 1990

Paul Scott: A Life 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hutchinson, 429 pp., £16.99, October 1990, 0 09 173984 5
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Paul Scott’s Raj 
by Robin Moore.
Heinemann, 246 pp., £18.50, October 1990, 0 434 47588 2
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... migraine. The friends naturally tended to blame her. Penny, in an unpublished manuscript of which Spurling makes considerable use, says they were ‘two people estranged from one another ... sitting in a silence that bordered on enmity’. He never attacked his wife or children physically, but they were terrified of the constant sneer on his face when he ...

Different Speeds, Same Furies

Perry Anderson: Powell v. Proust, 19 July 2018

Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 509 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 241 14383 4
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... figure as Kingsley Amis has been encased in an obese 995 pages from Zachary Leader. Hilary Spurling’s Life of Anthony Powell breaks with this pattern. The longest-lived of all significant novelists of the last century, his 94 years are covered in fewer than 450 pages of text. In part, that’s because she confines the final quarter of his life ...

His Peach Stone

Christopher Tayler: J.G. Farrell, 2 December 2010

J.G. Farrell in His Own Words: Selected Letters and Diaries 
edited by Lavinia Greacen.
Cork, 464 pp., €19.95, September 2010, 978 1 85918 476 9
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... and old-fashioned time indicators such as ‘presently’ (lifted, according to his friend John Spurling, from Richard Hughes). And he renders his characters’ inner voices oddly, sometimes putting thoughts in quotation marks, sometimes using free indirect style and sometimes forgetting which of the two he’s doing. From time to time this makes ...

Sonata for Second Fiddle

Penelope Fitzgerald, 7 October 1982

A Half of Two Lives: A Personal Memoir 
by Alison Waley.
Weidenfeld, 326 pp., £10.95, September 1982, 0 297 78156 1
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... with precision. Sincerity should be the same thing as clarity, but isn’t. Fortunately Hilary Spurling has provided an introduction to this book which is an excellent short study in its own right, and explains who everyone was and, as far as tact allows, what happened. She points out, for example, that Alison had no idea of the nature of Beryl’s disease ...

Every Rusty Hint

Ian Sansom: Anthony Powell, 21 October 2004

Anthony Powell: A Life 
by Michael Barber.
Duckworth, 338 pp., £20, July 2004, 0 7156 3049 0
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... novels, and the four volumes of memoirs, and the three volumes of journals, and the biography of John Aubrey, and the collected reviews and criticism. Anthony Dymoke Powell was born in Westminster on 21 December 1905 – a wintry rather than a Christmas baby. ‘It was because he was Welsh,’ Barber teases, ‘that Powell pronounced his name to rhyme with ...

Time Unfolded

Perry Anderson: Powell v. the World, 2 August 2018

... than any tariff. But A Dance is not, of course, simply or as such a comic novel. Years ago Hilary Spurling described it best, in terms Cao would have grasped immediately. ‘The whole sequence unfolds in both real and fictional time like a Chinese scroll painting, a vast canvas streaked with violence and perturbation, suffused with humour, at once passionate ...

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