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Even My Hair Feels Drunk

Adam Mars-Jones: Joy Williams

2 February 2017
The Visiting Privilege 
by Joy Williams.
Tuskar Rock, 490 pp., £16.99, November 2016, 978 1 78125 746 3
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Ninety-Nine Stories of God 
by Joy Williams.
Tin House, 220 pp., £16.95, July 2016, 978 1 941040 35 5
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... Hard to imagine​ a brisker, bleaker opening than this one from the title story of JoyWilliams’s 2004 collection, Honoured Guest: She had been having a rough time of it and thought about suicide sometimes, but suicide was so corny in the eleventh grade and you had to be careful about this ...

Upwards and Onwards

Stefan Collini: On Raymond Williams

31 July 2008
Raymond WilliamsA Warrior’s Tale 
by Dai Smith.
Parthian, 514 pp., £25, May 2008, 978 1 905762 56 9
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... When Raymond Williams died suddenly, aged 66, in January 1988, estimations of him were sharply divided. There were those who regarded him as a deservedly influential literary and cultural critic, a major socialist ...

‘I love you, defiant witch!’

Michael Newton: Charles Williams

7 September 2016
Charles WilliamsThe Third Inkling 
by Grevel Lindop.
Oxford, 493 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 0 19 928415 3
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... In​ ‘On the Circuit’, a poem about the circle of purgatory reserved for touring poet-lecturers, W.H. Auden mentioned the moments of unanticipated connection: Or blessed encounter, full of joy Unscheduled on the Giesen Plan, With, here, an addict of Tolkien, There, a Charles Williams fan.If Auden were on the circuit now, he’d still find plenty of Tolkien addicts, but he’d go a long way ...

Diary

Patrick Parrinder: On Raymond Williams

18 February 1988
... times, and this February is one, when it all seems to boil down to a couple of brawls and a series of obituary notices. One by one the giants have departed: Leavis, Richards, Empson, and now Raymond Williams. The first three had come through to ripe and embattled old age, but Williams was still in his prime as a writer and critic. When I visited him in Saffron Walden in late December, he had been laid up ...

Knocking Through

Bernard Williams

6 March 1980
Rubbish Theory 
by Michael Thompson.
Oxford, 229 pp., £7.50, July 1979, 0 19 217658 7
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... particularly for the ‘knockers through’, as he calls them, who turn two rooms into one in terrace houses and make other well-known changes to convert a collapsing slum into a thing of pride and a joy for ever. Thompson’s sharp descriptions of these operations, and of the contrasts between the attitudes of those who own these gentrified residences and their working-class neighbours, who regard ...

Looking Up

Donald Davie

15 July 1982
The Passages of Joy 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 93 pp., £4, June 1982, 0 571 11867 4
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The Occasions of Poetry 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 188 pp., £6.95, June 1982, 0 571 11733 3
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... been one modern poet with a sympathy for the English Renaissance, that was far from being as central to his achievement as some of us thought. For the achievement is still there: The Passages of Joy is as fine a collection as he has ever published, and if it lacks the resonances that some of us have come to expect and delight in, it provides others that many readers may well prefer. And after ...
25 October 1979
... I sometimes​ argue with my friend Heathcote Williams about his use of pornography as a means of attacking his political enemies. It seems to me an irrelevant weapon in any context, and in the hands of a man with Heathcote’s anarchistic, optimistic ...

Jungle Joys

Alfred Appel Jr: Wa-Wa-Wa with the Duke

5 September 2002
... reminds us that art creates its own reality and issues no passports. This swirling, uplifting work (its 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 ...

Making It Up

Raphael Samuel

4 July 1996
Raymond Williams 
by Fred Inglis.
Routledge, 333 pp., £19.99, October 1995, 0 415 08960 3
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... This biography opens with a vivid chapter on Raymond Williams’s funeral. Entitled ‘Prologue, in Memoriam’, it transports the reader to Clodock Church, ‘a plain little building’ in the foothills of the Black Mountains. It is a comfortless day, Fred ...

Exotic Bird from Ilford

Robert Baird: Denise Levertov

24 September 2014
Denise Levertov: A Poet’s Life 
by Dana Greene.
Illinois, 328 pp., £22.99, October 2012, 978 0 252 03710 8
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A Poet’s Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov 
by Donna Krolik Hollenberg.
California, 515 pp., £30.95, April 2013, 978 0 520 27246 0
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Collected Poems 
by Denise Levertov.
New Directions, 1063 pp., £32.99, December 2013, 978 0 8112 2173 3
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... talked her up to Robert Creeley; Creeley, who spent so much time with Levertov when they were both in Provence that his wife was sure they were having an affair, introduced her to William Carlos Williams; Williams told her that her second collection, Here and Now (1957), ‘reveals a mind with which I am in love’. (The equation also cut the other way: Levertov often found it difficult to ...

Full of Glory

John Mullan: The Inklings

19 November 2015
The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings 
by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski.
Farrar, Straus, 644 pp., £11.20, June 2015, 978 0 374 15409 7
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... this biography that the other Inklings tried not to think of themselves as bit-part players in this saga. The cover of The Fellowship flourishes the names of two of them – Owen Barfield and Charles Williams – alongside those of Tolkien and Lewis. Barfield had become friends with Lewis when they were undergraduates, and was later a frequent companion on his walking tours of rural England and his ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Angels aren’t what they used to be

16 December 2004
... unaided). Newcomb provides an optional formulation for thanking angels for their help, though you don’t have to bother too much about showing gratitude since ‘helping us brings them extreme joy’ and ‘is their very reason for being’. There are short chapters on ‘Angels in Culture’ and ‘Angels in Religion’: if you’re some kind of cynic who thinks those are the only places ...

Ovid goes to Stratford

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare Myths

5 December 2013
Thirty Great Myths about Shakespeare 
by Laurie Maguire and Emma Smith.
Wiley-Blackwell, 216 pp., £14.99, December 2012, 978 0 470 65851 2
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... of which formed the climax of the 1769 festivities, Garrick declared that Here Nature nursed her darling boy From whom all care and sorrow fly, Whose harp the Muses strung; From heart to heart, let joy rebound, Here, here, we tread enchanted ground, Here Shakespeare walked and sung! Others who liked to think of Shakespeare as Nature’s darling boy included George Romney, who from the 1760s ...

Poisoned Words

Ian Williams

5 May 1988
Indictment: Power and Politics In the Construction Industry 
by David Morrell.
Faber, 287 pp., £14.95, November 1987, 0 571 14985 5
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... one needed to run an overt blacklist. A poisoned word at the dinner table could establish a company as broke, or cursed with a strike-happy work-force, or technically incompetent, and of course the joy of rumour as a weapon is that it is almost impossible to refute without giving the story further currency. Not surprisingly, Mitchell’s soon acquired just such a poisoned reputation in the oral ...
15 August 1991
Lives in the Shadow with J. Krishnamurti 
by Radha Rajagopal Sloss.
Bloomsbury, 336 pp., £17.99, May 1991, 0 7475 0720 1
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... us of one proposition: that Krishnamurti was less Chaste than his followers assumed him to be. Specifically, he is said to have had a long affair with Mrs Sloss’s mother, Rosalind Rajagopal, née Williams – an American devotee both when he was operating under the aegis of the Theosophical Society and later when he went freelance. This rather moth-eaten scenario of a spiritual leader going to bed ...

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