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Come Back, You Bastards!

Graham Robb: Who cut the tow rope?, 5 July 2007

Medusa: The Shipwreck, the Scandal, the Masterpiece 
by Jonathan Miles.
Cape, 334 pp., £17.99, April 2007, 978 0 224 07303 5
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... French by the Treaties of Paris (1814 and 1815). The captain, Hugues Duroy de Chaumareys, was, in Jonathan Miles’s words, ‘a rusty relic from the Ancien Régime who had not put to sea for about a quarter of a century’. When it ran aground, the Medusa had become separated from the rest of the expedition. There wasn’t enough room in its longboats ...

Palimpsest History

Jonathan Coe, 11 June 1992

Ulverton 
by Adam Thorpe.
Secker, 382 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 436 52074 5
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Kicking 
by Leslie Dick.
Secker, 244 pp., £13.99, May 1992, 0 436 20011 2
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Frankie Styne and the Silver Man 
by Kathy Page.
Methuen, 233 pp., £13.99, April 1992, 0 413 66590 9
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... of earlier styles is concerned, Thorpe exudes confidence: he’s well up to the standard set by Barnes and Ackroyd, say. (Not that judgment is really possible by non-specialists in the relevant periods: it wasn’t until a particularly unconvincing passage in the modern section – a conversation between three ‘youths’ who are required to mouth ...

A Kind of Gnawing Offness

David Haglund: Tao Lin, 21 October 2010

Richard Yates 
by Tao Lin.
Melville House, 206 pp., £10.99, October 2010, 978 1 935554 15 8
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... or as Lorrie Moore uses Mother and Baby in ‘People like That Are the Only People Here’. Jonathan Lethem has said that ‘strange character names are an easy way to make sure the reader feels, at the deepest level, they’re entering a propositional space where they have to suspend some of their reading protocols and suspend disbelief and make ...

Saucy to Princes

Gerald Hammond: The Bible, 25 July 2002

The Book: A History of the Bible 
by Christopher de Hamel.
Phaidon, 352 pp., £24.95, September 2001, 0 7148 3774 1
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The Wycliffe New Testament 1388 
edited by W.R. Cooper.
British Library, 528 pp., £20, May 2002, 0 7123 4728 3
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... the impact on England as a whole of having the Book printed in English. They encountered Robert Barnes, a singularly entrepreneurial supporter of the Reformers’ movement. In the words of a deposition made by one of the Steeple Bumpstead men to the authorities who were hot on the tail of the peddlers of an English Bible, ...

Pig Cupid’s Rosy Snout

Jane Eldridge Miller, 19 June 1997

Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy 
by Carolyn Burke.
Farrar, Straus, 494 pp., $35, July 1996, 0 374 10964 8
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The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems 
by Mina Loy, selected and edited by Roger Conover.
Farrar, Straus, 236 pp., $22, July 1996, 0 314 25872 8
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... which her poems were published in the Little Review and the Dial. Her close friendship with Djuna Barnes dates from this time. But after she received news that Haweis had taken Giles, who was 12, to live with him in the Caribbean, Loy returned to Florence. Deciding that Joella, now a teenager, had grown up disappointingly bourgeois and old-fashioned, Loy ...

Frazzle

Michael Wood: Chinese Whispers, 8 August 2013

Multiples 
edited by Adam Thirlwell.
Portobello, 380 pp., £20, August 2013, 978 1 84627 537 1
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... not persist in thinking that translation is all about loss – as so many people do, and as Julian Barnes did in these pages in 2010, with his fine phrase suggesting that the best translation can offer us only ‘a new way of necessarily falling short’.* No fidelity at all wouldn’t fall short: the old text would just have vanished. And plural fidelities ...

Wolfish

John Sutherland: The pushiness of young men in a hurry, 5 May 2005

Publisher 
by Tom Maschler.
Picador, 294 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 330 48420 6
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British Book Publishing as a Business since the 1960s 
by Eric de Bellaigue.
British Library, 238 pp., £19.95, January 2004, 0 7123 4836 0
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Penguin Special: The Life and Times of Allen Lane 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Viking, 484 pp., £25, May 2005, 0 670 91485 1
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... And many of Maschler’s authors weren’t household names in Britain until he published them at Jonathan Cape. His stable has included Philip Roth, García Márquez, McEwan, Martin Amis, Barnes, Rushdie, Vonnegut, Chatwin, Fowles, Deighton and, Maschler does not fear to admit, Jeffrey Archer. The title he was most excited ...

Writer’s Writer and Writer’s Writer’s Writer

Julian Barnes: ‘Madame Bovary’, 18 November 2010

Madame Bovary: Provincial Ways 
by Gustave Flaubert and Lydia Davis.
Penguin, 342 pp., £20, November 2010, 978 1 84614 104 1
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... writer. So if Rick Moody tells us that Lydia Davis is ‘the best prose stylist in America’, and Jonathan Franzen that ‘few writers now working make the words on the page matter more,’ does this make her better or worse equipped to render the best prose stylist of 19th-century France into 21st-century American English? Davis’s stories, typically from ...

Forever Krystle

Nicholas Shakespeare, 20 February 1986

Watching ‘Dallas’: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination 
by Ien Ang, translated by Della Couling.
Methuen, 148 pp., £10.50, November 1985, 0 416 41630 6
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... Sue Ellen’s name is not one to be taken lightly. In comparing her with a Mrs Hazel Pinder White, Jonathan Aitken brought on himself a legal action requiring him to kneel on the sand of Viking Bay, Broadstairs, and apologise publicly. JR’s wife, complained the plaintiff, ‘was nothing but a high-class prostitute who drank heavily and was a total ...

How much?

Ian Hamilton: Literary pay and literary prizes, 18 June 1998

Guide to Literary Prizes, 1998 
edited by Huw Molseed.
Book Trust, 38 pp., £3.99, May 1998, 0 85353 475 6
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The Cost of Letters: A Survey of Literary Living Standards 
edited by Andrew Holgate and Honor Wilson-Fletcher.
W Magazine, 208 pp., £2, May 1998, 0 9527405 9 1
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... money will go to the wrong writers, or to too many writers, encouraging a general sloppiness. As Jonathan Coe says, ‘it’s no surprise that the few meagre Arts Council grants are often handed out to writers who never go on to fulfil whatever promise was recognised.’ And Don Paterson: ‘It’s still easier to get money for that ...

It’s she, it’s she, it’s she

Joanna Biggs: Americans in Paris, 2 August 2012

Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis 
by Alice Kaplan.
Chicago, 289 pp., £17, May 2012, 978 0 226 42438 5
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As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Diaries 1964-80 
by Susan Sontag.
Hamish Hamilton, 544 pp., £18.99, April 2012, 978 0 241 14517 3
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... sister (right), photographed in Paris in 1958. Susan Sontag’s idea of Paris came from Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood. Harriet Sohmers, a fellow student, had picked her up at the University of California by asking her if she’d read it. Sontag had, many times, and the reward for passing this test of a pick-up line was an introduction to San Francisco’s ...

Not Not To Be

Malcolm Schofield: Aristotle’s legacy, 17 February 2005

A New History of Western Philosophy. Vol. I: Ancient Philosophy 
by Anthony Kenny.
Oxford, 341 pp., £17.99, June 2005, 0 19 875273 3
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... own subsequent work on its uses in the metaphysics of Plato and Aristotle. On a broader canvas, Jonathan Barnes’s The Pre-Socratic Philosophers (1979) painted a virtuoso picture of the whole development of early Greek philosophy that took Owen’s Parmenides as its fulcrum. Nobody has yet produced a more convincing rival story shifting the focus ...

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 ...

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