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We came, we saw, he died

Jackson Lears: Clinton’s Creed

5 February 2015
Hard Choices 
by Hillary Clinton.
Simon and Schuster, 635 pp., £20, June 2014, 978 1 4711 3150 9
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HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton 
by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes.
Hutchinson, 440 pp., £20, February 2014, 978 0 09 195448 2
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... also a Midwestern Methodist and a dewy-eyed patriot. It puts the final polish on the new Hillary brand that she and her handlers have been fashioning since the debacle of the 2008 primaries, or so JonathanAllen and Amie Parnes argue in HRC, their inside-dopester account of Clinton’s ‘rebirth’. Allen and Parnes serve as a chorus, commenting portentously on the events described in Hard Choices ...

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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... phones – Maschler’s achievements as a general trade publisher rank him with Archibald Constable, George Smith, John Blackwood, George Routledge, Frederick Macmillan, David Garnett, Ian Parsons, Allen Lane. It was one of the most highly regarded of today’s younger publishers, Peter Straus (now an agent), who commissioned the book. None of these coat-brushers of genius is a household name: most ...

Several Doses of Wendy

Robert Baird: David Means

10 August 2016
Hystopia 
by David Means.
Faber, 352 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 0 571 33011 9
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... massifs by Hilary Mantel, Elena Ferrante and Karl Ove Knausgaard. Did it matter that Means (with his wife) was the dedicatee of one of the most celebrated megaliths of the past quarter-century, Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections? Of course not. Or that Means had worried, not unreasonably, that the idea of ‘going big and wide for the sake of giving into the possibility’ was for him the succubus ...
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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... penning their own.’ Not quite true, surely? Reading them, and writing them, can be the same sort of collective enjoyment. The rarity is to find something not like a ‘poem’, more like a person. Allen Curnow, like the later Auden, has the gift of making a contraption with a guy inside it, someone whose interest is not that of being a poet. Nor of coming from New Zealand. He has his own country ...
24 January 1991
Hunting Mister Heartbreak 
by Jonathan​ Raban.
Harvill, 428 pp., £14, November 1990, 0 00 272031 0
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... Travelling,’ Jonathan Raban once remarked, ‘is inherently a plotless, disordered, chaotic affair, where writing insists on connection, order, plot, signification.’ Even the best contemporary travel writing is haunted ...

Vehicles of Dissatisfaction

Jonathan​ Dollimore: Men and Motors

24 July 2003
Autopia: Cars and Culture 
edited by Peter Wollen and Joe Kerr.
Reaktion, 400 pp., £25, November 2002, 1 86189 132 6
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... out of a traffic jam. This may change – we might yet see bus lanes redesignated as toll lanes. The contributors to Autopia grapple with these problems, but for the most part not very energetically. Allen Samuels tells us that the car ‘like all epochal icons . . . does not mean one thing, but many things’. In that sense it is an ‘empty sign. It is a vacuum. We fill it with meaning.’ Some of ...

Turtle upon Turtle

Christian Lorentzen: Nathan Englander

22 March 2012
What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank 
by Nathan Englander.
Weidenfeld, 207 pp., £12.99, February 2012, 978 0 297 86769 2
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... without having his characters constantly state that they are drunk. And his stories are all too often choreographed towards a schematic finish. In a conversation in the Guardian the novelist Jonathan Safran Foer told Englander that he admired his work because it ‘didn’t feel corny or sentimental but just the opposite’. Yet Englander’s appropriation of Carver’s title and scene-setting is ...

Martian Arts

Jonathan​ Raban

23 July 1987
Home and Away 
by Steve Ellis.
Bloodaxe, 62 pp., £4.50, February 1987, 9781852240271
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The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 48 pp., £4.95, May 1987, 0 7011 3227 2
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The Frighteners 
by Sean O’Brien.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £4.50, February 1987, 9781852240134
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... by sinister forces. ‘American Poetry’ is seen as the big, bad colonial influence by more than half the 35 contributors, few of whom bother to make it clear whether they mean Robert Lowell, or Allen Ginsberg, or the Black Mountain imitators of William Carlos Williams. ‘The Liverpool Poets’ are regarded with a mixture of fear and derision. ‘The ranks of the illiterate raise puerile and ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: The Wyatt Continuum

20 November 2014
... Wyatt was a jazz child in an age of hippie rock, which helped even if it meant a kind of liminality. Like most groups doing the rounds in the 1960s, the Soft Machine had a guitarist or two – Daevid Allen and the wonderful Kevin Ayers, who also stayed with Graves and settled for a time in Deià – but no one would have called it a guitar band. The Soft Machine’s horizons extended well beyond the ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Meeting the Royals

19 February 2015
... of wastefulness, self-importance and fastidious idleness, and any book that claimed otherwise would be considered a letdown. The new biography by Catherine Mayer, Charles: The Heart of a King (W.H. Allen, £20), begins by reminding people of an earlier claim, made by Jeremy Paxman, that Charles regularly instructs his cook to boil seven eggs each morning in the hope of getting a soft one. But then ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen

11 October 2018
... How many​ living novelists does the FBI keep files on? Is there a filing cabinet in Washington that contains a rundown of Jonathan Franzen’s feud with Oprah Winfrey? Do the Feds keep track of how many words Joyce Carol Oates writes in a day? Do they monitor Karl Ove Knausgaard’s border crossings? Did they know who Elena ...

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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... scattered riffs and routines lying around in piles of typewritten manuscript, assembled books from material discovered in long forgotten archives, moved sections from one book-in-progress to another. Allen Ginsberg selected the correspondence that became The Yage Letters. Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac put Naked Lunch together from drastic-looking clumps of torn, coffee-stained fragments; the book’s final ...

Start thinking

Michael Wood: The aphorisms of Karl Kraus

7 March 2002
Dicta and Contradicta 
by Karl Kraus, translated by Jonathan​ McVity.
Illinois, 208 pp., £18.50, May 2001, 0 252 02648 9
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... of authority: never to disappoint.’ It’s easy to see why unsteady, disappointed people would be attracted to such a figure, but the more general virtues of unfailing dogmatism are not so clear. Jonathan McVity, in an afterword to his excellent translation of a volume of Kraus’s aphorisms, says that Kraus ‘miscalculated badly in the Dreyfus Affair’. A remorseless critic in Kraus’s own mould ...

Got to go make that dollar

Alex Abramovich: Otis Redding

3 January 2019
Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life 
by Jonathan​ Gould.
Crown, 544 pp., £12.99, May 2018, 978 0 307 45395 2
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... of the Tindall Heights Homes and into a house they had bought on a dirt road just outside the city limits. They had a vegetable garden, a hog pen, a chicken coop. Redding’s most recent biographer, Jonathan Gould, says that Otis (14 at the time) ‘felt a special disdain for anything that smacked of “country”, flatly refusing to wear the overalls his parents bought for him’. Four years later, the ...

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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... to study his artistic processes, as Stallworthy did in Between the Lines. It is not unusual for 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 ...

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