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Catching the Prester John​ Bug

John​ Mullan: Umberto Eco

8 May 2003
Baudolino 
by Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 522 pp., £18, October 2002, 0 436 27603 8
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... Somewhere in the skirts of the fabled land of Prester John, late in the 12th century, Baudolino, the protagonist of Umberto Eco’s latest novel, encounters a pygmy. He discovers that ‘the greeting to exchange with him was Lumus kelmin pesso desmar lon ...

John​ Sturrock

Mary-Kay Wilmers

20 September 2017
... It​ was John who had the idea that I should say something about his professional life at his funeral. It was a very nice idea and I’m glad – not to say flattered – that he had it. But I found it a spookily ...

John​ and Henry

Christopher Reid

2 December 1982
The Life of John​ Berryman 
by John​ Haffenden.
Routledge, 451 pp., £15, September 1982, 0 7100 9216 4
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Poets in their Youth: A Memoir 
by Eileen Simpson.
Faber, 272 pp., £10.95, September 1982, 0 571 11925 5
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... When John Berryman’s first full-length collection of poems, The Dispossessed, was published in 1948, Yvor Winters wrote a notice of it for the Hudson Review. Here Winters drew attention to Berryman’s ...

Who owns John​ Sutherland?

John​ Sutherland: Intellectual property in the digital age

7 January 1999
... hadn’t been properly refereed. Physica, for instance, would have sent it out to readers, who would instantly have sniffed out the scientific balderdash. The defence – provocatively stated by John Sturrock in these pages – was that humanities journals don’t work that way. In return for their services to the academy, science journals have traditionally demanded exclusive copyright from ...

Bad John

Alan Bennett: John​ Osborne

3 December 1981
A Better Class of Person 
by John​ Osborne.
Faber, 285 pp., £7.95, November 1981, 0 571 11785 6
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... One of John Osborne’s Thoughts for 1954: ‘The urge to please above all. I don’t have it and can’t achieve it. A small thing but more or less mine own.’ This book does please and has pleased. It is ...

Big John

Frank Kermode

19 March 1987
Little Wilson and Big God 
by Anthony Burgess.
Heinemann, 448 pp., £12.95, February 1987, 0 434 09819 1
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... The subtitle claims that this is ‘the First Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess’, who is officially known as John Burgess Wilson; and the book appears on the author’s 70th birthday, as part of his preparation for the coming encounter with Big God. There is, however, to be a Second Part, provisionally entitled ...
5 May 1983
Wars and Revolutions: Britain 1760-1815 
by Ian Christie.
Arnold, 359 pp., £17.50, June 1982, 0 7131 6157 4
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Augustan England: Professions, State and Society 1680-1730 
by Geoffrey Holmes.
Allen and Unwin, 323 pp., £18.50, November 1982, 0 04 942178 6
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... isolated, militarily discomforted and in the throes of domestic turmoil, the nation had also to face clamorous demands for political and economic reform from Ireland as well as the disarray of John Company in the Indian sub-continent. The victory of 1763 had been robbed of most of the, spoils. The theme of the next stage of Christie’s story is that of recovery, a recuperation largely ...
5 June 1980
Letters 
by John​ Barth.
Secker, 772 pp., £7.95, May 1980, 0 436 03674 6
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The Left-Handed Woman 
by Peter Handke, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Eyre Methuen, 94 pp., £4.95, April 1980, 0 413 45890 3
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Passion Play 
by Jerzy Kosinski.
Joseph, 271 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 7181 1913 4
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... Offering a critical account of John Barth’s new book within the confines of a periodical review is like trying to haul a whale on board a fishing smack. For the sake of brevity, even my formal description of the work must be brutally ...
2 September 1982
Shadow Train 
by John​ Ashbery.
Carcanet, 50 pp., £3.25, March 1982, 0 85635 424 4
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... The poet’s mind used to make up stories: now it investigates the reasons why it is no longer able to do so. Consciousness picks its way in words through a meagre indeterminate area which it seems to try to render in exact terms. Most contemporary American poetry wants only to offer what Helen Vendler has called ‘an interior state clarified in language’. ‘Clarified’ is an ambiguous word here ...
22 May 1980
The Dancing Wu Li Masters 
by Gary Zukav.
Hutchinson, 352 pp., £4.50, October 1979, 0 09 139401 5
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... No scientist worth his research grant really wants to conceal his discoveries from the world at large. Many non-scientists are curious to know something of the latest scientific discoveries. There would seem to be quite enough moral earnestness and prospects of profit to get this gap bridged. Alas, the chasm is wide and deep, especially where it guards the mysterious heights of modern physics. As some ...
6 December 1984
... When I see yet another work of hagiography concerning Sir John Betjeman, it makes me want to vomit! Show me, I want to say, please, the ‘geography’ of the house!1 But Betjeman wasn’t nasty, in fact very far from it. It’s probably the Murrays who are such ...

Saint John​ Henry

Richard Altick

5 August 1982
John​ Henry Newman: His Life and Work 
by Brian Martin.
Chatto, 160 pp., £8.95, May 1982, 0 7011 2588 8
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Protestant versus Catholic in Mid-Victorian England 
by Walter Arnstein.
Missouri, 271 pp., £14, June 1982, 9780826203540
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... The unseen spectator who was most involved in Pope John Paul’s progress through Britain, formerly in partibus infidelium, was the spirit of John Henry Newman, dead these 92 years, who doubtless observed the proceedings with mixed feelings. Surely Newman, a man of retiring temperament, would have been horrified by the crowds and the publicity ...
7 February 1980
The Wapshot Chronicle 
by John​ Cheever.
Harper and Row, 549 pp., £6.95, November 1980, 0 06 337007 7
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Florence Avenue 
by Elizabeth North.
Gollancz, 158 pp., £4.95, October 1980, 0 575 02680 4
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McKay’s Bees 
by Thomas McMahon.
Constable, 198 pp., £4.95, November 1980, 0 09 463120 4
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The Siesta 
by Patrice Chaplin.
Duckworth, 174 pp., £5.95, November 1980, 0 7156 1459 2
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... John Cheever’s two celebrated novels, The Wapshot Chronicle and The Wapshot Scandal, are now reissued in one volume. In this form, we can see that the two are really one and the end was always implied ...
25 April 1991
... Survivor, soldier of fortune, a tough mercenary who would be on hand in any campaign and whose washed-out pale-blue eyes might stare out with equal pugnacity and distaste from under a bowler, a bush hat or a steel helmet – that is the kind of image the old pro projected and presented. A 17th-century poet, writing an epitaph, would have given us a conceit about death being glad to have got him at ...
17 February 1983
From Author to Reader: A Social Study of Books 
by Peter Mann.
Routledge, 189 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 7100 9089 7
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David Copperfield 
by Charles Dickens, edited by Nina Burgis.
Oxford, 781 pp., £40, March 1981, 0 19 812492 9
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Martin Chuzzlewit 
by Charles Dickens, edited by Margaret Cardwell.
Oxford, 923 pp., £45, December 1982, 0 19 812488 0
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Books and their Readers in 18th-Century England 
edited by Isabel Rivers.
Leicester University Press, 267 pp., £15, July 1982, 0 7185 1189 1
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Mumby’s Publishing and Bookselling in the 20th Century 
by Ian Norrie.
Bell and Hyman, 253 pp., £12.95, October 1982, 0 7135 1341 1
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Reading Relations 
by Bernard Sharratt.
Harvester, 350 pp., £18.95, February 1982, 0 7108 0059 2
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...  systematically acquired and sorted publishers’ archives. But we still lack anything comparable to the German Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens. Nor does Britain have an equivalent to John Tebbel’s multivolume history of American publishing. The student of the subject in this country (particularly if he is interested in contemporary matters) will find himself dredging through the ...

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