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Untouched by Eliot

Denis Donoghue: Jon Stallworthy, 4 March 1999

Rounding the Horn: Collected Poems 
by Jon Stallworthy.
Carcanet, 247 pp., £14.95, September 1998, 1 85754 163 4
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... a poet to comment on his own work or even to lead his readers through a particular poem. Valéry, Allen Tate, William Empson, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren and Robert Lowell were instructive in that way. But it is rare for a poet to lead readers through a poem, draft by draft, or explain how he settled for one word rather than another. Yeats did not ...

A Life of Henry Reed

Jon Stallworthy, 12 September 1991

... University. There he was taught and befriended – as were his Birmingham contemporaries Walter Allen and Reggie Smith – by a young lecturer in the Classics Department, Louis MacNeice. Reed had a remarkable speaking voice and a gift for mimicry (and for assuming the accents of a class not his own), and as an undergraduate he acted in and produced ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... in both: I eschewed political arguments about Republicans and Democrats. They hardly mattered. Allen Dulles was my President, and I would be a combat trooper in the war against the Devil. I read Spengler and brooded through my winters in New Haven about the oncoming downfall of the West and how it could be prevented. Apart from its affinity with the ...

Wrong Again

Bruce Cumings: Korean War Games, 4 December 2003

... we’re just bluffing.’ What happened in October 2002 is that both Governments, according to Jonathan Pollack, a knowledgable specialist writing in the Naval War College Review, ‘opted to exploit the intelligence for political purposes’, and so to unravel ‘close to a decade of painfully crafted diplomatic arrangements designed to prevent full-scale ...

Places Never Explained

Colm Tóibín: Anthony Hecht, 8 August 2013

The Selected Letters of Anthony Hecht 
edited by Jonathan Post.
Johns Hopkins, 365 pp., £18, November 2012, 978 1 4214 0730 2
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... bombing crews – I feel sympathetic and sorry for both of them. Jarrell wrote to his wife about Allen Tate’s ‘Ode to Our Young Pro-Consuls of the Air’, a poem which ends with the Dalai Lama being exterminated from the air, saying it was ‘certainly poor and annoying … I thought the Dalai Lama almost the only touch of imagination.’ When he wrote ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... robs us of Nigel Nicolson on Alexander, A.J.P. Taylor on Beaverbrook, Martin Gilbert on Churchill, Jonathan Dimbleby on his father, John Pearson on Ian Fleming, P.N. Furbank on E.M. Forster, Philip Williams on Gaitskell, Sybille Bedford on Aldous Huxley, Michael Holroyd on Augustus John, J.E. Morpurgo on Allen Lane, Ronald ...

Someone Else’s

Matthew Reynolds: Translating Cesare Pavese, 6 October 2005

Disaffections: Complete Poems 1930-50 
by Cesare Pavese, translated by Geoffrey Brock.
Carcanet, 370 pp., £14.95, April 2004, 1 85754 738 1
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Italian Poems 
edited by Jamie McKendrick.
Faber, 167 pp., £12.99, June 2004, 0 571 19700 0
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... Saba translated by Derek Mahon, Ungaretti by Patrick Creagh, Maria Luisa Spaziani by Beverly Allen. But many others are more limited. In Biographia Literaria Coleridge illustrates the workings of metaphor with some made-up lines which do not pretend to be poetry but nonetheless go through poetical motions: they are ‘an illustration’ but not ‘an ...

Superficially Pally

Jenny Turner: Richard Sennett, 22 March 2012

Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Co-Operation 
by Richard Sennett.
Allen Lane, 323 pp., £25, February 2012, 978 0 7139 9874 0
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... The portrait of Rissarro, from Sennett’s early The Hidden Injuries of Class (co-written with Jonathan Cobb, 1972) is as classically, tragically American as Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman, only to my mind far richer. Sennett has portrayed other figures who are just as touching and historically illuminating: Rico, the successful, hollowed-out consultant in ...

Her Body or the Sea

Ian Patterson: Ann Quin, 21 June 2018

The Unmapped Country: Stories and Fragments 
by Ann Quin.
And Other Stories, 192 pp., £10, January 2018, 978 1 911508 14 4
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... writing about her. Since the rediscovery of B.S. Johnson (if that’s what it was) that followed Jonathan Coe’s biography a few years ago there’s been a wave of enthusiasm for ‘experimental fiction’. A new crop of writers such as Claire-Louise Bennett, Kevin Davey, Will Eaves, Eimear McBride and Eley Williams, all published by independent ...

It’s Mister Softee

Namara Smith: In Love with Roth, 19 July 2018

Asymmetry 
by Lisa Halliday.
Granta, 275 pp., £14.99, March 2018, 978 1 78378 360 1
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... female acolyte, signalled by walks in Central Park, evenings at red sauce Italian restaurants, and Jonathan Schwartz and the Great American Songbook on the radio. When they meet, in 2002, Ezra is in his late sixties. Alice is 25, but everyone tells her she looks 16. Ezra dusts off his old Polaroid SX-70 and shoots her topless, the Chrysler Building shining ...

Puellilia

Pat Rogers, 7 August 1986

Mothers of the Novel: One Hundred Good Women Writers before Jane Austen 
by Dale Spender.
Pandora, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 86358 081 5
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Scribbling Sisters 
by Dale Spender and Lynne Spender.
Camden Press, 188 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 948491 00 0
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A Woman of No Character: An Autobiography of Mrs Manley 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 176 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13934 5
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Cecilia 
by Fanny Burney.
Virago, 919 pp., £6.95, May 1986, 0 86068 775 9
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Millenium Hall 
by Sarah Scott.
Virago, 207 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86068 780 5
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Marriage 
by Susan Ferrier.
Virago, 513 pp., £4.50, February 1986, 0 86068 765 1
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Belinda 
by Maria Edgeworth.
Pandora, 434 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 074 2
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Self-Control 
by Mary Brunton.
Pandora, 437 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 9780863580840
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The Female Quixote: The Adventures of Arabella 
by Charlotte Lennox.
Pandora, 423 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 080 7
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... the beginnings of the epistolary novel in France or in England. Rightly observing that Walter Allen in The English Novel fails to trace the full lineage of fiction, she does not see how many of the male ancestors he omits with the women. Alive to the gaps in Ian Watt’s account as far as Aphra Behn et al are concerned, she seems oblivious of the fact ...

Doomed to Draw

Ben Jackson: Magnus Carlsen v. AI, 6 June 2019

The Grandmaster: Magnus Carlsen and the Match that Made Chess Great Again 
by Brin-Jonathan Butler.
Simon and Schuster, 211 pp., £12.99, November 2018, 978 1 9821 0728 4
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Game Changer: AlphaZero’s Groundbreaking Chess Strategies and the Promise of AI 
by Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan.
New in Chess, 416 pp., £19.95, January 2019, 978 90 5691 818 7
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... still fell to the inevitable; and last year he saw off Fabiano Caruana to retain the title. Brin-Jonathan Butler’s The Grandmaster, which focuses on the Karjakin match, doesn’t provide any evidence that it ‘made chess great again’, despite the book’s subtitle. The match left the peak of the chess world undisturbed. The main surprise was that ...

Gentlemen and ladies came to see the poet’s cottage

Tom Paulin: Clare’s anti-pastoral, 19 February 2004

John Clare: A Biography 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 650 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 330 37106 1
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‘I Am’: The Selected Poetry of John Clare 
edited by Jonathan Bate.
Farrar, Straus, 318 pp., $17, November 2003, 0 374 52869 1
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John Clare, Politics and Poetry 
by Alan Vardy.
Palgrave, 221 pp., £45, October 2003, 0 333 96617 1
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John Clare Vol. V: Poems of the Middle Period 1822-37 
edited by Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 822 pp., £105, January 2003, 0 19 812386 8
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... Thomas Carlyle, published the first biography of the ‘peasant poet’. It laid the foundations, Jonathan Bate says in his new Life, ‘for both the enduring myths and some of the key truths about Clare’. Though there have been other biographies since Martin’s, Bate’s should finally disprove Dickens’s dismissal of it as a ‘preposterous exaggeration ...

Customising Biography

Iain Sinclair, 22 February 1996

Blake 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 399 pp., £20, September 1995, 1 85619 278 4
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol I: Jerusalem 
editor David Bindman, edited by Morton D. Paley.
Tate Gallery, 304 pp., £48, August 1991, 1 85437 066 9
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. II: Songs of Innocence and Experience 
series editor David Bindman, edited by Andrew Lincoln.
Tate Gallery, 210 pp., £39.50, August 1991, 1 85437 068 5
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol III: The Early Illuminated Books 
series editor David Bindman, edited by Morris Eaves, Robert Essick and Joseph Viscomi.
Tate Gallery, 288 pp., £48, August 1993, 1 85437 119 3
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. IV: The Continental Prophecies: America, Europe, The Song of Los 
editor David Bindman, edited by D.W. Dörbecker.
Tate Gallery, 368 pp., £50, May 1995, 1 85437 154 1
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. V: Milton, a Poem 
series editor David Bindman, edited by Robert Essick and Joseph Viscomi.
Tate Gallery, 224 pp., £48, November 1993, 1 85437 121 5
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. VI: The Urizen Books 
 editor David Bindman, edited by David Worrall.
Tate Gallery, 232 pp., £39.50, May 1995, 9781854371553
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... Diaries and, of course, Peter Ackroyd’s gold-brick biography of Blake. Bennett, Ackroyd and Jonathan Miller – these were the figures who mattered most. The Christmas parcels of English literature. Enough of threadbare bohemia, paranoid narcissism, chemical tourism through the Third World. Enough of ill-disciplined prose and rootless lives. Enough of ...

When the beam of light has gone

Peter Wollen: Godard Turns Over, 17 September 1998

The Films of Jean-Luc Godard 
by Wheeler Winston Dixon.
SUNY, 290 pp., £17.99, March 1997, 0 7914 3285 8
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Speaking about Godard 
by Kaja Silverman and Harun Farocki.
New York, 256 pp., $55, July 1998, 0 8147 8066 0
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... set and Godard tore up the script, beginning again with Burgess Meredith and Molly Ringwald. Woody Allen did a walk-on as Mr Alien and Godard himself appeared as Professor Pluggy. Mailer’s vision of the film as a gangster movie in the tradition of The Godfather was systematically thrown to the winds. 7. Stabilisation. In the most recent phase of his ...

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