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On the highway

Jonathan Coe

24 March 1994
by Joseph O’Connor.
Flamingo, 426 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 00 224301 6
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Resurrection Man 
by Eoin McNamee.
Picador, 233 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 330 33274 0
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by Emma Donoghue.
Hamish Hamilton, 232 pp., £9.99, January 1994, 0 241 13442 0
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... these novels burdened by exactly that fallacy, and had my expectations confounded in every case. Joseph O’Connor’s Desperadoes seesaws between Dublin and Nicaragua, and seems at first to be drawing political parallel between the two locations; but it turns out to be primarily a raw, highly emotional account of marital breakdown. Eoin McNamee’s ...

Clutching at Railings

Jonathan Coe: Late Flann O’Brien

23 October 2013
Plays and Teleplays 
by Flann O’Brien, edited by Daniel Keith Jernigan.
Dalkey, 434 pp., £9.50, September 2013, 978 1 56478 890 0
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The Short Fiction of Flann O’Brien 
edited by Neil Murphy and Keith Hopper.
Dalkey, 158 pp., £9.50, August 2013, 978 1 56478 889 4
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... less forgotten novels, the columns became ever less exuberant and ever more tetchy and cynical. As Joseph O’Connor wrote: ‘His fate, at least I think so, was to suffer one of the worst things that can happen: to be brilliant at something you don’t like doing. He deserved better than the disappointment, and the raucous praise of a small town. He was ...

Knife and Fork Question

Miles Taylor: The Chartist Movement

29 November 2001
The Chartist Movement in Britain 1838-50 
edited by Gregory Claeys.
Pickering & Chatto, £495, April 2001, 1 85196 330 8
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... Midlands and the North: men such as Humphrey Price, ‘the good parson of Needwood Forest’, and Joseph Rayner Stephens, the Wesleyan preacher. Stephens famously declared Chartism to be a ‘knife and fork question’. He also made a pass at Bronterre O’Brien’s sister-in-law and was hounded out of the movement as a result, although he continued his ...

Politics First

José Harris

19 April 1984
The Chartists 
by Dorothy Thompson.
Temple Smith, 399 pp., £19.50, February 1984, 0 85117 229 6
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Languages of Class: Studies in English Working-Class History 1832-1982 
by Gareth Stedman Jones.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £22.50, January 1984, 0 521 25648 8
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Class Power and State Power 
by Ralph Miliband.
Verso, 310 pp., £18.50, March 1984, 0 86091 073 3
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... divided and arrogant leadership. She strongly defends the moral and charismatic appeal of Feargus O’Connor, ascribes complaints against him to the malice of Bronterre O’Brien, and claims that no other radical movement throughout Europe had ‘the same continuity of personnel and organisation’. She also defends ...


Clair Wills: Plain Brian O’Nolan

4 April 2019
The Collected Letters of Flann O’Brien 
edited by Maebh Long.
Dalkey Archive, 619 pp., £20, April 2018, 978 1 62897 183 5
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...  ...

Jack and Leo

John Sutherland

27 July 1989
The Letters of Jack London 
edited by Earle Labor, Robert Leitz and Milo Shepard.
Stanford, 1657 pp., $139.50, October 1988, 0 8047 1227 1
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by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 572 pp., £16.95, May 1988, 0 241 12190 6
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... unloving Jack, redeemed only by his socialism. In 1940, one of Jack’s former drinking pals, Joseph Noel, added his scurrilous reminiscences in an anecdotal volume called Footloose in Arcadia. Noel’s Jack London is a flagrant womaniser, foul-mouthed, big-mouthed, probably bisexual, alcoholic and certainly suicidal. With the death of Charmian in ...
16 July 1981
Democracy and Sectarianism: A Political and Social History of Liverpool 1868-1939 
by P.J. Waller.
Liverpool, 556 pp., £24.50, May 1981, 0 85223 074 5
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... broke down because of fundamental differences, another example of playing across the field. Joseph Chamberlain’s success in managing Birmingham aroused the jealousy of Liverpool Conservatives, who determined to achieve the same management in their own city. The outcome was Tory Democracy, an attempt to capture the working-class vote. By the early ...

Hands Full of Rose Thorns and Fridge Oil

Elizabeth Lowry: ‘Triomf’

20 January 2000
by Marlene van Niekerk, translated by Leon de Kock.
Little, Brown, 444 pp., £16.99, November 1999, 0 316 85202 3
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... Square, a beaming Nelson Mandela casts a paternal eye over the lobby of South Africa House. Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo have been signed up by Heinz to carol ‘Inkanyezi Nezazi’ in an advertisment showing blond children eating tomato soup. In Britain we are occasionally treated to a television documentary or news headline about the ...

Green Martyrs

Patricia Craig

24 July 1986
The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse 
edited by Thomas Kinsella.
Oxford, 423 pp., £12.50, May 1986, 0 19 211868 4
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The Faber Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry 
edited by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 415 pp., £10.95, May 1986, 0 571 13760 1
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Irish Poetry after Joyce 
by Dillon Johnston.
Dolmen, 336 pp., £20, September 1986, 0 85105 437 4
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... na Gile’ (‘Brightness Most Bright’), which defeated Mangan in the 19th century, and Frank O’Connor in the 20th, doesn’t prove manipulable by Thomas Kinsella either – but all are of the utmost interest and signficance in denoting the cultural resources of the unregenerate Irish. As literature in Irish dwindled virtually to a handful of songs ...

Petty Grotesques

Mark Ford: Whitman

17 March 2011
Democratic Vistas 
by Walt Whitman, edited by Ed Folsom.
Iowa, 143 pp., $24.95, April 2010, 978 1 58729 870 7
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... of emancipated slaves whom they treated, in the main, with disdain and cruelty. The historian Joseph Glatthaar sums up their prevailing attitude with a line spoken by one of Sherman’s soldiers: ‘Fight for the nigger! I’d see ’em in de bottom of a swamp before I’d fight for ’em.’ Whitman’s speaker is less crude than this, but he was clearly ...
24 February 1994
The Rise and Fall of Liberal Government in Victorian Britain 
by Jonathan Parry.
Yale, 383 pp., £30, January 1994, 0 300 05779 2
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... 1886. In describing the party realignment of that year, Parry sheds no tears over the defection of Joseph Chamberlain, presumably because he sees the Brummagem Tribune as someone who shared Gladstone’s fatal addiction to reform ‘agitations’ without possessing any of the latter’s few redeeming virtues. Instead, Parry believes that the tragedy of the ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2011

5 January 2012
... Oxford out of term.One black mark against Larkin is that he no more cares for the work of Flannery O’Connor than Amis did: ‘The day didn’t get off to a very good start by my reading some stories by “Flannery O’Connor” in the bath … horribly depressing American South things.’ This is October 1967. I can’t ...

Southern Discomfort

Bertram Wyatt-Brown

8 June 1995
The Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American Conservatism 
by Eugene Genovese.
Harvard, 138 pp., £17.95, October 1994, 0 674 82527 6
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... theory. Genovese draws interesting portraits of an early 19th-century Northern Whig, Justice Joseph Story of Massachusetts, and John C. Calhoun, patron saint of the Southern conservative cause. Curiously, Story was more sceptical of democracy than the famous Southern reactionary, but both, Genovese notes approvingly, ‘placed considerations of public ...

Get over it!

Corey Robin: Antonin Scalia

10 June 2010
American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia 
by Joan Biskupic.
Farrar, Straus, 434 pp., $28, November 2009, 978 0 374 20289 7
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... much given to mocking his colleagues’ intelligence and questioning their integrity. Sandra Day O’Connor, who sat on the court from 1981 to 2006, was a frequent object of his ridicule and scorn. Of one of her arguments he said that it was ‘devoid of content’. Whenever he’s asked about his role in the case that put George W. Bush in the White ...

A Djinn speaks

Colm Tóibín: What about George Yeats?

20 February 2003
Becoming George: The Life of Mrs W.B. Yeats 
by Ann Saddlemyer.
Oxford, 808 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 19 811232 7
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... to Maud Gonne, and then became involved with her daughter Iseult, to whom he also proposed. Joseph Hone writes about this in his authorised biography of the poet, published in 1942. When Iseult finally rejected him in the summer of 1917, he decided to propose to a young Englishwoman, Georgie Hyde-Lees. He wrote to Lady Gregory: ‘I certainly feel very ...

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