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Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2019, 2 January 2020

... a fashion I associate still with footballers in mufti. Photograph: Tom Miller 27 November. Jonathan Miller, who died this morning, would have been the first to joke (and grumble) about sharing the ultimate limelight with a TV chef and an Australian poet and critic who was almost as articulate as he was. But there would be no jokes about the chief rabbi ...

Hanging Offence

David Sylvester, 21 October 1993

... the exhibition. The exclusion of Chuck Close, accompanied by the inclusion of three large works by Jonathan Borofsky, can only inspire the traditional football crowd’s advice to the referee to get himself a dog and a white stick. As for the exclusion of all signs of Land Art, the failure to put a photograph or two of Walter de Maria’s Lightning Field into ...

Ink-Dot Eyes

Wyatt Mason: Jonathan Franzen, 2 August 2007

The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History 
by Jonathan Franzen.
Harper Perennial, 195 pp., £8.99, July 2007, 978 0 00 723425 7
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... an obscene self-congratulation for the virtue required to see your mistake and own up to it?’ Jonathan Franzen’s memoir, The Discomfort Zone, is an object lesson in the management of such obscenity. The book begins with a loss. After lengthy treatment for colon cancer, his widowed mother, Irene, has died. The youngest of three brothers who’ve fled the ...

Constable’s Plenty

John Barrell, 15 August 1991

Constable 
by Leslie Parris and Ian Fleming-Williams.
Tate Gallery, 544 pp., £45, June 1991, 1 85437 071 5
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Romatic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition 
by Jonathan Bate.
Routledge, 131 pp., £8.99, May 1991, 0 415 06116 4
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... of the West and the crisis of the planet are the avowed contexts of another work on landscape art, Jonathan Bate’s robust and opportunistic essay Romantic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition. The book claims to set ‘a new agenda for the study of Romanticism in the 1990s’, and it starts by proclaiming the end of the tradition of Marxist ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Selling my hair on eBay, 6 January 2022

... of war and friendly with the Nicholsons.28 March, Palm Sunday. Remember this a propos a joke of Jonathan Miller’s, who, seeing a woman coming back from church holding a cross made of reeds said that it was literally the last straw.1 April. There is currently a row going on about late night raves on Primrose Hill where, lacking toilet facilities on the ...

I don’t want your revolution

Marco Roth: Jonathan Lethem, 20 February 2014

Dissident Gardens 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Cape, 366 pp., £18.99, January 2014, 978 0 224 09395 8
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... men of the same generation, born in the mid to late 1960s – are Michael Chabon, Junot Díaz and Jonathan Lethem. The books they wrote were interested in popular culture or counterculture as much as in the thoughts and passions of characters. Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000) chronicled the rise of superhero comics in postwar ...

Like Beavers

Wyatt Mason: Safran Foer’s survival stories, 2 June 2005

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close 
by Jonathan Safran Foer.
Hamish Hamilton, 320 pp., £14.99, June 2005, 9780241142134
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... in an introductory note by a Conjunctions associate editor, an unknown 22-year-old American called Jonathan Safran Foer. ‘These pages of Singer’s are not great literature,’ Foer wrote. ‘Surely they were never intended to be published’: But like all great literature, like the stories, plays and poems by which these 18 days are now surrounded, they ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: The Wyatt Continuum, 20 November 2014

... Wyatt did a cover of ‘Stalin wasn’t stallin’’ in 1981. In his introduction to this book Jonathan Coe remembers Old Rottenhat as the album that ‘crystallised the emerging ruthlessness of the Thatcherite tendency’. The best of Wyatt’s tell-it-like-it-is songs is ‘Born Again Cretin’: ‘Let Mandela rot in prison/… Read him George ...

Hugging the cats

John Bayley, 14 June 1990

Poems 
by Gay Clifford.
188 pp., £14.99, May 1990, 0 241 12976 1
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Selected Poems 1940 – 1989 
by Allen Curnow.
Viking, 209 pp., £15.99, May 1990, 0 670 83007 0
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Collected Poems and Selected Translations 
by Norman Cameron, edited by Warren Hope and Jonathan Barker.
Anvil, 160 pp., £14.95, May 1990, 0 85646 202 0
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Collected Poems 
by Enoch Powell.
Bellew, 198 pp., £9.95, April 1990, 0 947792 36 8
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... the place loses all self-consciousness. In his introduction to Norman Cameron’s Collected Poems Jonathan Barker quotes a remark Auden made shortly before his death. ‘On hedonistic grounds I am a fanatical formalist. To me a poem is, among other things, always a verbal game.’ It depends, no doubt, on the impression it makes. The contraption (for Auden ...

For his Nose was as sharpe as a Pen, and a Table of greene fields

Michael Dobson: The Yellow Shakespeare, 10 May 2007

William Shakespeare, Complete Works: The RSC Shakespeare 
edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen.
Macmillan, 2486 pp., £30, April 2007, 978 0 230 00350 7
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... commonsensical approach to the text, still exerts a palpable influence on Shakespeare scholars: Jonathan Bate’s introduction to this new edition of the Complete Works makes regular appeals to Johnson’s authority and Johnson’s precedent. The differences between the circumstances and the procedures of the two editions, however, are at least as revealing ...

Diary

Jonathan Raban: I’m for Obama, 20 March 2008

... I want a hero: an uncommon want When every year and month sends forth a new one, Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant, The age discovers he is not the true one. Byron, Don Juan For the last few weeks, I’ve left the blue-sheathed national edition of the New York Times out in the yard, where it’s tossed over the gate at 3 a.m. each morning, and gone straight to the paper’s website, because news printed nine or ten hours ago is too old to keep up with the fast-moving course of the Democratic nomination battle ...

England and Other Women

Edna Longley, 5 May 1988

Under Storm’s Wing 
by Helen Thomas and Myfanwy Thomas.
Carcanet, 318 pp., £14.95, February 1988, 0 85635 733 2
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... Even the recent spate of studies – by Michael Kirkham, Stan Smith, and the contributors to Jonathan Barker’s Art of Edward Thomas – seems more fortuitous than co-ordinated. Thomas, as Robert Frost reminded him, ‘knew the worth of [his] bays’. However, it is unwise to die in war when a hegemonic project like Modernism is getting under ...

What the Public Most Wants to See

Christopher Tayler: Rick Moody, 23 February 2006

The Diviners 
by Rick Moody.
Faber, 567 pp., £12.99, January 2006, 0 571 22946 8
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... references, metafictional gestures, glazed irony and so on. But for Moody (b.1961), as for Jonathan Franzen (b.1959) and David Foster Wallace (b.1962), the previous generation’s experimentalism was as much a way of looking at society as a renovation of novelistic technique. Writers their grouchier teachers viewed as rebarbatively modish or futuristic ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Bennett’s Dissection, 1 January 2009

... To Cambridge, where I talk to students about my medical history. It’s part of a course run by Jonathan Silverman, director of communications at Addenbrooke’s and himself a Cambridgeshire GP. As so often when I’ve spoken in schools I find I’m of more interest to the staff than I am to the students, and I don’t do it very well, haltingly recounting ...

The Family That Slays Together

Deborah Friedell: Lorrie Moore, 19 November 2009

A Gate at the Stairs 
by Lorrie Moore.
Faber, 322 pp., £16.99, October 2009, 978 0 571 19530 5
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... way words sound, a double seeing that allows her to consider words apart from their meanings – Jonathan Lethem calls it Moore’s sense of ‘the thingliness of words’. Rhymes and puns are everywhere, with an extravagance that wouldn’t be out of place in a Renaissance drama. When Tassie’s dim younger brother fails a test because he ‘said Gandhi was ...

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