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Avoid the Orient

Colm Tóibín: The Ghastly Paul Bowles, 4 January 2007

Paul Bowles: A Life 
by Virginia Spencer Carr.
Peter Owen, 431 pp., £19.95, July 2005, 0 7206 1254 3
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... A piece of ass is two bucks and the swimming is great in the summer.’ In the early 1960s, John Hopkins, a graduate of Princeton, kept diaries of his visits to Paul and Jane Bowles: ‘Their intimacy is more fraternal than sexual. They live in separate apartments, one above the other, and communicate by a squeaking mauve toy telephone.’ Jane fell in ...

The Wildest, Highest Places

David Craig, 17 July 1997

John Muir: His Life and Letters and Other Writings 
edited by Terry Gifford.
Baton Wicks, 912 pp., £20, November 1996, 1 898573 07 7
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... When John Muir, the son of an emigrant from East Lothian to southern Wisconsin, was 16, in 1855, his father lowered him daily down a well shaft on their new farm at Hickory Hill. John cut with chisel and hammer through fine-grained sandstone until he struck ‘a fine, hearty gush of water ...

Pity the monsters

Richard Altick, 18 December 1980

The Elephant Man 
by Bernard Pomerance.
Faber, 71 pp., £2.25, June 1980, 0 571 11569 1
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The Elephant Man: the Book of the Film 
by Joy Kuhn.
Virgin, 90 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 9780907080091
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The Elephant Man 
by Christine Sparks.
Futura, 272 pp., £1.25, August 1980, 0 7088 1942 7
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The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences 
by Frederick Treves.
Star, 126 pp., £95, August 1980, 0 352 30747 1
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The Elephant Man and Other Freaks 
by Sian Richards.
Futura, 197 pp., £1.25, October 1980, 0 7088 1927 3
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The True History of the Elephant Man 
by Michael Howell and Peter Ford.
Allison and Busby, 190 pp., £6.95, March 1980, 0 85031 353 8
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... dress suit. It might almost be mistaken for the dénouement of an early Sherlock Holmes story: Dr John H. Watson describing the scene in an East End police station when Holmes literally unmasks the man with an old scar running across his face from eye to chin which turned up his lip into a perpetual grimace, a ‘crippled wretch of hideous aspect’ who hid ...

Emotional Sushi

Ian Sansom: Tony, Nick and Simon, 9 August 2001

One for My Baby 
by Tony Parsons.
HarperCollins, 330 pp., £15.99, July 2001, 0 00 226182 0
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How to Be Good 
by Nick Hornby.
Viking, 256 pp., £16.99, May 2001, 0 670 88823 0
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Little Green Man 
by Simon Armitage.
Viking, 246 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 0 670 89442 7
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... hitherto regarded as talentless, overrated, or simply wankers: Oasis, the Stones, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Robbie Williams, Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis, Evelyn Waugh, Auberon Waugh, Salman Rushdie, Jeffrey Archer, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, William Shakespeare (although to be fair they despise the comedies and some of the history plays only). ‘It is ...

Mrs G

John Bayley, 11 March 1993

Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 690 pp., £20, February 1993, 0 571 15182 5
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... much more than other woman writers, Victorian or contemporary. Writing to Dickens’s biographer, John Forster, about Charlotte Brontë’s forthcoming marriage to her curate Arthur Nicholls, Mrs Gaskell said that Charlotte ‘would never have been happy but with an exacting, rigid, passionate, law-giving man ... could never have borne not to be well-ruled ...

Archaeology is Rubbish

Richard Fortey: The Last 20,000 Years, 18 December 2003

After the Ice: A Global Human History 20,000-5000 BC 
by Steven Mithen.
Weidenfeld, 622 pp., £25, June 2003, 0 297 64318 5
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... the daily life of vanished cultures. He has chosen to give this time traveller the name John Lubbock. John Lubbock was also the name of a Victorian equivalent of Mithen himself, who summarised the current knowledge of ‘primitive’ societies nearly a century and a half ago in Prehistoric Times, as Illustrated by ...

I am Prince Mishkin

Mark Ford, 23 April 1987

‘Howl’: Original Draft Facsimile 
by Allen Ginsberg, edited by Barry Miles.
Viking, 194 pp., £16.95, February 1987, 0 670 81599 3
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White Shroud: Poems 1980-1985 
by Allen Ginsberg.
Viking, 89 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 670 81598 5
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... was guaranteed to increase its underground following. It was Ginsberg’s old Columbia colleagues, John Hollander, Norman Podhoretz and Louis Simpson, all cutting their teeth in the New York literary scene under the approving auspices of Lionel and Diana Trilling, who led the charge against the Beats. ‘It is only fair to Allen Ginsberg to remark on the utter ...

Pseud’s Corner

John Sutherland, 17 July 1980

Duffy 
by Dan Kavanagh.
Cape, 181 pp., £4.95, July 1980, 0 224 01822 1
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Moscow Gold 
by John Salisbury.
Futura, 320 pp., £1.10, March 1980, 0 7088 1702 5
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The Middle Ground 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 297 77808 0
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The Boy Who Followed Ripley 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 292 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 434 33520 7
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... pseudonyms of George G. Gilman, Charles R. Pike, Thomas H. Stone. Like his compatriots ‘John G. MeLaglen’ and J.T. Edson, Harknett has ‘appreciation societies’ devoted to his pseudonymous personae. (‘J.T.’, incidentally, the biggest seller of them all, claims his name is genuine. It’s a happy accident.) Multiple pseudonymy as a device of ...

Benson’s Pleasure

Noël Annan, 4 March 1982

Edwardian Excursions: From the Diaries of A.C. Benson 1898-1904 
edited by A.C. Benson and David Newsome.
Murray, 200 pp., £12.50, April 1981, 9780719537691
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Geoffrey Madan’s Notebooks 
edited by John Gere and John Sparrow.
Oxford, 144 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 0 19 215870 8
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... What could be more fitting than that his Notebooks should be edited by two fastidious scholars, John Gere, until lately the Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, and John Sparrow – Sparrow who at the age of 15 met Geoffrey Keynes on the steps of St Paul’s to inspect Donne’s effigy in his shroud and ...

Haleking

John Bossy: Simon Forman, 22 February 2001

The Notorious Astrological Physician of London: Works and Days of Simon Forman 
by Barbara Howard Traister.
Chicago, 260 pp., £19, February 2001, 0 226 81140 9
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Dr Simon Forman: A Most Notorious Physician 
by Judith Cook.
Chatto, 228 pp., £18.99, January 2001, 0 7011 6899 4
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... Twenty-five years ago A.L. Rowse, whose memory becomes more blessed in an age of research assessment exercises, made known to the world the riveting personality of the Elizabethan and Jacobean astrologer, private-enterprise medical practitioner, counsellor, sexual athlete and compulsive writer Simon Forman. Forman’s voluminous papers, case-notes, diaries and all sorts of other writings had been in the Bodleian Library since Elias Ashmole presented them in the late 17th century ...

A Faint Sound of Rust

Michael Wood, 21 October 1993

‘The Pit’ and ‘Tonight’ 
by Juan Carlos Onetti, translated by Peter Bush.
Quartet, 216 pp., £12.95, June 1991, 0 7043 2767 8
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The Shipyard 
by Juan Carlos Onetti, translated by Nick Caistor.
Serpent’s Tail, 186 pp., £8.99, February 1992, 1 85242 191 6
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‘Farewells’ and ‘A Grave with No Name’ 
by Juan Carlos Onetti, translated by Peter Bush.
Quartet, 136 pp., £12.95, March 1992, 0 7043 7015 8
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Body Snatcher 
by Juan Carlos Onetti, translated by Alfred MacAdam.
Quartet, 305 pp., £13.95, October 1991, 9780704327979
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A Brief Life 
by Juan Carlos Onetti, translated by Hortense Carpentier.
Serpent’s Tail, 292 pp., £9.99, February 1993, 1 85242 301 3
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Cuando ya no importe 
by Juan Carlos Onetti.
Alfaguara, 205 pp., £10.95, March 1993, 84 204 8107 6
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... of the ‘notes’ the apuntes, of an unnamed narrator – he has false papers identifying him as John Carr, an engineer, but we never learn his real name and he doesn’t appear to have a profession. His notes are dated but scrambled – he tells us at one point he dropped them all, and couldn’t be bothered to put them back into chronological order: a ...

Boy Gang

Peter Prince, 19 January 1984

Minor Characters 
by Joyce Johnson.
Collins, 262 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 00 272511 8
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Neurotica: The Authentic Voice of the Beat Generation 1948-1951 
edited by Jay Landesman and G. Legman.
Jay Landesman, 535 pp., £19.95, July 1981, 0 905150 26 0
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Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac 
by Gerald Nicosia.
Grove, 767 pp., £14.95, October 1983, 0 394 52270 2
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... writers and artists and drinking buddies, Kerouac then had few admirers. In 1950, under the name John Kerouac, he had published The Town and the City, a lengthy, rather formal account of his childhood and youth, heavily influenced by Thomas Wolfe. The novel had made little impression, and Kerouac himself had swiftly turned against it, finding its traditional ...

The Sovereign Weapon

Francis FitzGibbon: The Old Bailey, 5 March 2020

Court Number One: The Old Bailey Trials that Defined Modern Britain 
by Thomas Grant.
John Murray, 448 pp., £10.99, April, 978 1 4736 5163 0
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... of his baby daughter, who had in fact been killed, as had Evans’s wife, by the serial killer John Christie – Evans would now be recognised as a vulnerable defendant – to the more humane spirit in which trials are conducted today. There is still rhetoric, but the register of persuasive speech is more often conversational than grandiloquent (although I ...

i could’ve sold to russia or china

Jeremy Harding: Bradley Manning, 19 July 2012

The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story of the Suspect Behind the Largest Security Breach in US History 
by Chase Madar.
OR, 167 pp., £10, April 2012, 978 1 935928 53 9
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... has to be tested not simply against the views of Assange’s lawyers and helpmates, but those of John Bellinger, for example, a former legal counsel for the State Department, who told AP television news in 2010 that bringing charges against Assange while he was still in the UK would put a loyal ally on the spot by generating a rival extradition ...

Turning on Turtles

Stephen Sedley: Fundamental values, 15 November 2001

Fundamental Values 
edited by Kim Economides et al.
Hart, 359 pp., £40, December 2000, 1 84113 118 0
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... from the fundamental supervalue of human dignity. And why should human dignity be the bedrock? John Alder’s essay on environmental values in this volume cites a recent American article entitled ‘Should trees have standing?’ Alder examines the heterogeneity of the foundational arguments for environmental protection: do we support it because ...

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