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Bill Pearlman: Hanging with Pynchon

17 December 2009
... kids. But never drank. Weed was his diversion. As to whose books he liked, that was interesting. He loved Heller’s Catch-22, thought it the very best novel of its time. He also thought highly of JohnHawkes, whose Lime Twig was important to him. He thought Hawkes as a stylist was unsurpassed. And of course Nabokov, who’d taught him at Cornell. He was interested in what David Shetzline was ...

Walking backward

Robert Taubman

21 August 1980
Selected Works of Djuna Barnes 
Faber, 366 pp., £5.50, July 1980, 0 571 11579 9Show More
Black Venus’s Tale 
by Angela Carter.
Next Editions/Faber, 35 pp., £1.95, June 1980, 9780907147022
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The Last Peacock 
by Allan Massie.
Bodley Head, 185 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 370 30261 3
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The Birds of the Air 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 152 pp., £6.95, July 1980, 0 7156 1491 6
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... In 1936 T. S. Eliot warmly sponsored Nightwood, and one has heard since that her vision of Hell can be traced as an influence in Nathanael West and Malcolm Lowry, and her sort of Gothic fantasy in JohnHawkes. In spite of this, when her books reappear it doesn’t seem to be so much in response to a public demand as because the time has come once again for a reappraisal. Has she a place of her own ...

Enthusiasts

Anita Brookner

3 February 1983
Where I Used to Play on the Green 
by Glyn Hughes.
Gollancz, 192 pp., £7.95, January 1982, 0 575 02997 8
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Virginie 
by John Hawkes.
Chatto, 212 pp., £8.50, January 1983, 0 7011 3908 0
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Ancient Enemies 
by Elizabeth North.
Cape, 230 pp., £7.95, November 1982, 0 224 02052 8
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Dancing Girls 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 240 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 224 01835 3
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Master of the Game 
by Sidney Sheldon.
Collins, 495 pp., £8.95, January 1983, 0 00 222614 6
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... became harnessed to the work ethic, for the greater profit of all concerned. At this point, a new family arrives in Grimshaw’s parish, which is called Haworth: their name is Brontë. Virginie, by JohnHawkes, proclaims its intentions boldly on its pretty jacket: ‘a lush erotic masterpiece,’ runs the legend, beneath a reproduction of Greuze’s Cruche Cassée. One may in fact wonder whether it ...

Overflow

Frank Kermode: John​ Updike

21 January 1999
Beck at Bay: A Quasi-Novel 
by John​ Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 241 pp., £16.99, January 1999, 0 241 14027 7
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... That John Updike has a Trollopian fidelity to his characters is evident from the four books of the Rabbit series; this new book is the third of a sequence about the New York Jewish novelist Henry Bech. As it ...
28 September 1989
Calm at Sunset, Calm at Dawn 
by Paul Watkins.
Century Hutchinson, 269 pp., £12.95, August 1989, 0 09 173914 4
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Blood and Water 
by Patrick McGrath.
Penguin Originals, 183 pp., £4.99, February 1989, 0 14 011005 4
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The Grotesque 
by Patrick McGrath.
Viking, 186 pp., £11.95, October 1989, 0 670 82987 0
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... Her warnings have been disregarded by critics who consider that the governess’s ‘authority’ has to be accepted. For other critics, James’s book is a study in delusion. The Gothic novelist JohnHawkes has hailed The Grotesque, noting its resemblance to the James, and both works belong to the category of the tale of mystery and imagination which keeps us in uncertainty as to whether or not ...

Reconstruction

Christopher Beha: Jeffrey Eugenides

6 October 2011
The Marriage Plot 
by Jeffrey Eugenides.
Fourth Estate, 406 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 00 744129 7
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... The gods we were told about were Pynchon and high modernism. Experimentation was the norm for us. Then we found out what the modernists were rebelling against.’ Eugenides studied at Brown with JohnHawkes and at Stanford with Gilbert Sorrentino, exacting experimentalists who were ‘against order on the whole and against storytelling’. By setting much of his new novel at Brown in the early ...

Hawkesbiz

Frank Kermode

11 February 1993
Meaning by Shakespeare 
by Terence Hawkes.
Routledge, 173 pp., £30, October 1992, 0 415 07450 9
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Shakespeare’s Professional Career 
by Peter Thomson.
Cambridge, 217 pp., £24.95, September 1992, 0 521 35128 6
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Shakespeare’s Mouldy Tales 
by Leah Scragg.
Longman, 201 pp., £24, October 1992, 0 582 07071 6
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Reading Shakespeare’s Characters 
by Christy Desmet.
Massachusetts, 215 pp., £22.50, December 1992, 0 87023 807 8
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Bit Parts in Shakespeare’s Plays 
by Molly Mahood.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £35, January 1993, 0 521 41612 4
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... Faithful readers of this journal will remember Terence Hawkes’s article ‘Bardbiz’, if only because it provoked, between March 1990 and September 1991, one of the most protracted scuffles in the history of correspondence columns. ‘Bardbiz’ is ...
2 February 1984
The Oxford Companion to American Literature 
by James Hart.
Oxford, 896 pp., £27.50, November 1983, 0 19 503074 5
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The Modern American Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Oxford, 209 pp., £9.95, April 1983, 0 19 212591 5
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The Literature of the United States 
by Marshall Walker.
Macmillan, 236 pp., £14, November 1983, 0 333 32298 3
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American Fictions 1940-1980: A Comprehensive History and Critical Valuation 
by Frederick Karl.
Harper and Row, 637 pp., £31.50, February 1984, 0 06 014939 6
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Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism 
by John​ Updike.
Deutsch, 919 pp., £21, January 1984, 0 233 97610 8
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... in Philip Roth’s The Professor of Desire, the old woman who claims to have been Kafka’s whore ‘concentrates the tense problem of the modern muse and the sexual prompt of modern art’, or that John Updike is largely concerned with ‘the revelation of form, the moment of aesthetic revelation in the contingencies of life’. Bradbury is just going through the motions, hastening from name to name ...

Chastened

Lorna Tracy

3 September 1981
The Habit of Being: Letters by Flannery O’Connor 
edited by Sally Fitzgerald.
Farrar, Straus/Faber, 639 pp., £8.25, January 1979, 0 571 12017 2
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The violent bear it away 
by Flannery O’Connor.
Faber, 226 pp., £2.95, September 1980, 0 571 12017 2
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A good man is hard to find 
by Flannery O’Connor.
Women’s Press, 251 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7043 2832 1
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... in some halfway position ... everything works toward its true end or away from it, everything is ultimately saved or lost.’ She was sure that the devil is present in creation. She and the novelist JohnHawkes had a lot to say to each other about the devil in the course of their correspondence, although in The Habit of Being we get only O’Connor’s portion of this exchange. (The trouble with ...

Predatory Sex Aliens

Gary Indiana: Burroughs

7 May 2014
Call Me Burroughs: A Life 
by Barry Miles.
Twelve, 718 pp., £17, January 2014, 978 1 4555 1195 2
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... in the age of mass media, rapid international travel and global cultural homogenisation. A handful of American writers have accomplished something original with the novel form in his wake – JohnHawkes, Rudolph Wurlitzer, Renata Adler, Lynne Tillman, Kathy Acker, Bret Easton Ellis and Tao Lin come to mind – but innovative narrative fiction has enjoyed far greater support from publishers and ...

In Praise of Follett

John​ Sutherland

16 October 1980
The Key to Rebecca 
by Ken Follett.
Hamish Hamilton, 311 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 241 10492 0
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Joshua Then and Now 
by Mordecai Richler.
Macmillan, 435 pp., £6.95, September 1980, 0 333 30025 4
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Loosely Engaged 
by Christopher Matthew.
Hutchinson, 150 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 09 142830 0
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Imago Bird 
by Nicholas Mosley.
Secker, 185 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 9780436288463
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A Quest of Love 
by Jacquetta Hawkes.
Chatto, 220 pp., £6.50, October 1980, 0 7011 2536 5
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... enterprise, predicts that ‘things work in sudden jumps’. It’s a fair expectation that future instalments of this serial will jump us back into the unreadably difficult. The method of Jacquetta Hawkes’s A Quest of Love is appropriately archaeological. A well-organised dig into the past, it records, in successive historical strata, the experience of ‘advanced women’. These women are all taken ...

Lore and Ordure

Terence Hawkes: Jonson and digestion

21 May 1998
The Fury of Men’s Gullets: Ben Jonson and the Digestive Canal 
by Bruce Thomas Boehrer.
Pennsylvania, 238 pp., £36.50, January 1998, 0 8122 3408 1
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... in terms of a different opposition whose other binary term seeks firmly to establish human behaviour as rational, calculable and rule-bound. The polarity operates clearly in an epigram coined by Sir John Davies in 1594: Publius, student at the common law, Oft leaves his books, and for his recreation, To Paris Garden doth himself withdraw, Where he is ravished with such delectation, As down among the ...

Dr Blair, the Leavis of the North

Terence Hawkes: English in Scotland

18 February 1999
The Scottish Invention of English Literature 
edited by Robert Crawford.
Cambridge, 271 pp., £35, July 1998, 0 521 59038 8
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... who from this point presided over its growth and development. The Liberal Prime Minister Asquith had originally intended to offer the job to Sir Herbert Grierson, recent editor of the poems of John Donne. However, he allowed Lloyd George to persuade him that a post of such eminence ought rather to be a party appointment. Without doubt, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944) fitted that bill. He ...
5 April 1990
Exploding English: Criticism, Theory, Culture 
by Bernard Bergonzi.
Oxford, 240 pp., £25, February 1990, 0 19 812852 5
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Professing Literature: An Institutional History 
by Gerald Graff.
Chicago, 315 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 226 30604 6
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... illness, a small legacy) enabled Bergonzi to enter Oxford. A good degree admitted him to ‘the institutional system of English literature’. Unlike those of his contemporaries whom he most envies (John Wain, Kingsley Amis), Bergonzi never managed to break out of the institution. As he admits, it was too comfortable. In the last thirty years he has taught at Manchester, then Warwick University ...

Sod off, readers

John​ Sutherland

26 September 1991
Rude Words: A Discursive History of the London Library 
by John​ Wells.
Macmillan, 240 pp., £17.50, September 1991, 0 333 47519 4
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Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English 
by Geoffrey Hughes.
Blackwell, 283 pp., £16.95, August 1991, 0 631 16593 2
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... subscription in 1841, the London Library was the brainchild of Thomas Carlyle, a serious man. For its 150th anniversary, the present guardians of the London Library have chosen an eminent comedian, John Wells, to write their celebratory history. The sage of Chelsea would not have been amused. But then, nothing did amuse him. He seems to have been immune to such essentially human feelings. Carlyle ...

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