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Worth It

Andrew Cockburn: The Iraq Sanctions, 22 July 2010

Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions 
by Joy Gordon.
Harvard, 359 pp., £29.95, April 2010, 978 0 674 03571 3
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... ensured the deaths of half a million children, among other consequences. In her excellent book Joy Gordon charts these in horrifying detail, while providing a rigorous examination of the alibis and excuses given by sanctioneers at the time and since: the suffering was entirely due to Saddam Hussein’s obduracy; supplies of food and medicine were ...

Porno Swagger

Edmund Gordon: ‘Cleanness’, 16 April 2020

by Garth Greenwell.
Picador, 223 pp., £14.99, April, 978 0 374 12458 8
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... to other gay writers in a similar way. He assigns his students Frank O’Hara ‘primarily for his joy, his freedom from guardedness and guilt’. But Greenwell’s own qualities aren’t necessarily those of his idols. Although he describes gay sex with total candour, the narrator’s pleasure is usually ambiguous and always short-lived: ‘Sex had never been ...

From Pandemonium

Elizabeth Cook: Poetry wrested from mud, 1 September 2005

The Poems and Plays of Isaac Rosenberg 
edited by Vivien Noakes.
Oxford, 427 pp., £90, August 2004, 0 19 818715 7
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... each containing more than its predecessor – in 1922, 1937 and 1979. The first was edited by Gordon Bottomley, the poet whose epistolary friendship was the source of great sustenance to Rosenberg and to whom his sister, Annie Rosenberg, entrusted the task; the second by Bottomley and Denys Harding (of Scrutiny fame); and the last by Ian Parsons. This was ...

I’m an intelligence

Joanna Biggs: Sylvia Plath at 86, 20 December 2018

The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. I: 1940-56 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1388 pp., £35, September 2017, 978 0 571 32899 4
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The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. II: 1956-63 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1025 pp., £35, September 2018, 978 0 571 33920 4
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... to fight against her selflessness as we would fight against a deadly disease’. The ‘great god Gordon’ Lameyer, a tall, handsome, American-jawed – I might as well say it – hunk, arrived in spring 1953, along with acceptances of three poems by Harper’s (though they didn’t take ‘Mad Girl’s Love Song’), and the news that she had won a stint as ...

Body Maps

Janette Turner Hospital, 7 April 1994

The Rest of Life 
by Mary Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 257 pp., £15.99, January 1994, 0 7475 1675 8
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... for existence requires an attention we wouldn’t agree to if we understood its scope.’ For Gordon’s compulsively equivocating narrators, ‘ordinary life’ is a baffling country for which they must keep drafting provisional maps even though the topography forever shifts, resisting categorisation and dissolving its own signposts. The narrators keep ...

Screwdriver in the Eye

Mendez: David Keenan, 7 October 2021

by David Keenan.
White Rabbit, 168 pp., £14.99, November 2020, 978 1 4746 1705 5
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Monument Maker 
by David Keenan.
White Rabbit, 808 pp., £25, August 2021, 978 1 4746 1709 3
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... Dream Bride Which Is Of Course My Mother but Not with a Vagina Please’, though the Smiths, like Joy Division, are never mentioned directly (Joy Division appear briefly in the appendix). This might be because they are too obvious, too famous, too thinly spread for an encyclopedic mind like Keenan’s to reference (he is ...


Anthony Quinn, 29 August 1991

Varying Degrees of Hopelessness 
by Lucy Ellmann.
Hamish Hamilton, 184 pp., £13.99, July 1991, 0 241 13153 7
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by James Buchan.
Heinemann, 135 pp., £12.99, June 1991, 0 434 07499 3
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Alma Cogan 
by Gordon Burn.
Secker, 210 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 0 436 20009 0
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... show starts rolling again, all totally without significance. There can be no true tragedy or true joy in a world that is so repetitive. We try to fill these credibility gaps with painting, bits of ordered chaos; and music, noises hung on a line to dry. And love. Such a homily would not look out of place in a Vonnegut novel, where a long lens is trained upon ...

John Cheever’s Wapshot Annals

Graham Hough, 7 February 1980

The Wapshot Chronicle 
by John Cheever.
Harper and Row, 549 pp., £6.95, November 1980, 0 06 337007 7
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Florence Avenue 
by Elizabeth North.
Gollancz, 158 pp., £4.95, October 1980, 0 575 02680 4
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McKay’s Bees 
by Thomas McMahon.
Constable, 198 pp., £4.95, November 1980, 0 09 463120 4
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The Siesta 
by Patrice Chaplin.
Duckworth, 174 pp., £5.95, November 1980, 0 7156 1459 2
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... happen to them. In places the words get the bit between their teeth and run off on an autonomous joy-ride. All the same, we are securely situated in a time and a place: the time the first half of the present century, the place St Botolph’s, a small New England town. At the start, St Botolph’s is so securely tied to its past and its ingrained, unexamined ...

Not No Longer but Not Yet

Jenny Turner: Mark Fisher’s Ghosts, 9 May 2019

k-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher 
edited by Darren Ambrose.
Repeater, 817 pp., £25, November 2018, 978 1 912248 28 5
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... having a Wile E. Coyote moment: it was a year after the crash and nearly two since Northern Rock; Gordon Brown had been pushed to open the Chilcot Inquiry, established to investigate the behaviour of his predecessor in the run-up to the Iraq War; and the best-known Mark Fisher was Tony Blair’s former arts minister, the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central ...

Other Selves

John Bayley, 29 October 1987

How I Grew 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 0 297 79170 2
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Myself and Michael Innes 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 575 04104 8
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... about her past self – apart from not recalling just when things happened – let alone by joy, but Stewart finds both in days long gone, as all good composers of memoirs should. He makes himself amusing for our benefit, as Randall Jarrell, in a somewhat different spirit, made Mary McCarthy amusing for us as Gertrude Johnson, in Pictures from an ...

Jungle Joys

Alfred Appel Jr: Wa-Wa-Wa with the Duke, 5 September 2002

... oak kept young and vital by varnish) may also realise Brancusi’s sole intention, ‘to bring joy’, and he’s abetted by its accessibility, a vexing issue in regard to Modernism’s afterlife. How often is Ulysses read beyond the classroom? Have you ever noticed how most museum-goers don’t stop in front of Picasso’s dense, brown-hued Cubist ...

Hand and Mind

Michael Baxandall, 17 March 1983

Dürer: His Art and Life 
by Fedja Anzelewsky, translated by Heide Grieve.
Gordon Fraser, 273 pp., £50, November 1982, 0 86092 068 2
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Dürer: Paintings, Prints, Drawings 
by Peter Strieder, translated by Nancy Gordon and Walter Strauss.
Muller, 400 pp., £35, September 1982, 0 584 95038 1
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... than he should for the good of his art: but the point is that though he often sets to work without joy in his heart, ‘joy does come in the course of working.’ The strength of the Northern craft tradition is that its cult of manual skill enables the craftsman to be excited and indeed uplifted by his own skill as he ...


Claude Rawson, 1 October 1981

The Sinking of the Titanic 
by Hans Magnus Enzensberger.
Carcanet, 98 pp., £3.95, April 1981, 0 85635 372 8
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Paul Celan: Poems 
translated by Michael Hamburger.
Carcanet, 307 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 0 85635 313 2
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Talk about the Last Poet 
by Charles Johnston.
Bodley Head, 78 pp., £4.50, July 1981, 0 370 30434 9
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... passenger-list which includes Dante is framed in Prufrockian mannerisms: I recognised them all: Gordon Pym, Jerome the stoker, who never uttered a word, Miss Taussig, Guggenheim (copper and tin), Engels (textile), Ilmari Alhomaki, Dante – I was cold and afraid. This is the prescribed Anglo-Laforguian way of glimpsing the Eternal Footman (‘And in ...

When Men Started Doing It

Steven Shapin: At the Grill Station, 17 August 2006

Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker and Apprentice to a Butcher in Tuscany 
by Bill Buford.
Cape, 318 pp., £17.99, July 2006, 9780224071840
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... a celebrity cook. Not just how to cook a mushroom risotto like Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson or Gordon Ramsay or Anthony Bourdain, but what it’s like to be Jamie or Nigella or Gordon or Tony: Happy Days with the Naked Chef, How to be a Domestic Goddess, In the Heat of the Kitchen, Kitchen Confidential. And then – as ...

Our Guy

John Barnie: Blair’s Style, 20 January 2011

... is ‘a very clever guy’ and José María Aznar ‘a tough guy’ (a mark of approval). Only Gordon Brown – ominously for him – is ‘a strange guy’. Other character assessments are equally breezy. ‘She is a great person, Tessa [Jowell], just a gem.’ Mandela can be ‘fly as hell’. Princess Anne ‘does a huge amount of largely unnoticed ...

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