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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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... on the dangers of regarding all new Irish writing as essentially politicised is that I approached 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 ...

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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... drinking. With such fame as he then enjoyed arising from his newspaper work rather than his more or 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 ...

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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... the original People’s Charter, Lovett’s men were soon overtaken by the Chartist leaders of the 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 ...

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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... categorised as a ‘true middle-class social and economic group’ – but it in no sense follows that they were therefore proletarian. Her unsung heroes of militant Chartism include the blacksmith, Joseph Capper, landlord of five houses; shoemaker, publisher and bookseller Joseph Lingard, ‘who wore a frock coat and had a genteel carriage’; and Lawrence Heyworth, later a successful railway promoter ...


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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... might be looking for someone to write advertising copy. He created fantastical backgrounds for himself under other names – whether as Flann O’Brien (‘As a lad I knew Ibsen … Swinburne and Joseph Conrad were also frequent visitors to my grandfather’s place … At dusk, Coleridge would sometimes look in on his way home for a final pipe, and more than once the burly shape of Lord Macaulay was ...

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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... accepted the vagrant astrologer Chaney as her grandfather and presented a moody, lying, lonely, drunken, 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 ...
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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... and Liberal Nonconformists, sometimes between Catholics and Anglicans. Whichever alliance was attempted 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 ...

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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... Organisation has been disbanded. Fergal Keane has packed up his microphone and gone home. In Trafalgar 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 ...

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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... in the Phoenix Park murders of 1882. From this point, we come up pretty swiftly to the modern age, via Yeats, Synge, Francis Ledwidge, Padraig Colum and one or two others: no Joyce, James Stephens, Joseph Campbell, F.R. Higgins, Donagh MacDonagh or W.R. Rodgers. It’s hard not to feel that John Montague’s Faber Book of Irish Verse of 1974 offers a rather more satisfactory selection from the middle ...

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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... they had previously met few black people, and were dismayed to find their lines encumbered by thousands 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 ...
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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... of leadership, as much as the contents of his first Home Rule Bill, which shattered the party in 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 ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2011

5 January 2012
... 16 September. I occasionally pick up the TLS to read on the train and today it’s a review of Ian Kershaw’s The End about the last days of Hitler. I turn the page and there is a photograph of Joseph Goebbels inspecting some troops of the Volkssturm in Silesia in March 1945. He’s shaking hands with Willi Hübner, a child of 16, which is unremarkable except that next to Hübner (and also in the ...

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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... It also explores with considerable persuasiveness the ambiguities of 19th-century constitutional 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 ...

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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... platoon’. He attended Xavier High School, a Jesuit school in Manhattan, and Georgetown, a Jesuit university in Washington DC. (In his freshman year at Georgetown, the senior class voted Senator Joseph McCarthy Outstanding American.) But he comes to his ethnicity and religion with an attitude, lending his conservatism a distinctive and defiant edge. He claims the reason he didn’t get into ...

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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... estranged husband, was executed after the 1916 Rising in Dublin, Yeats talked once more of marriage 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 ...

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