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Looking back

John Sutherland, 22 May 1980

Metroland 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 176 pp., £4.95, March 1980, 0 224 01762 4
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The Bleeding Heart 
by Marilyn French.
Deutsch, 412 pp., £6.50, May 1980, 9780233972343
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Creator 
by Jeremy Leven.
Hutchinson, 544 pp., £6.95, April 1980, 0 09 141250 1
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... in the face of the permissive Sixties, Humanae Vitae and the abolition of National Service. Julian Barnes’s very much à la mode Metroland is divided into three sections: I Metroland (1963), II Paris (1968), III Metroland (1977). Current fashions apart, the narrative circuit is familiar from Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying: both novels record a ...

Hating dogs

Julian Barnes, 17 September 1981

Words on the Air 
by John Sparrow.
Collins, 163 pp., £7.95, August 1981, 0 00 216876 6
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... and readers of the country’s stuffiest newspaper. Sparrow succeeded with elegance and wit, a Martin Fagg of academe, a large master of minor form. The form in Words on the Air is the talk. Most of the pieces here were first commissioned for the radio; one was a university sermon; others began as guest lectures. The book starts, perhaps unwisely, with the ...

Eyeballs v. Optics

Julian Bell: Western art, 13 December 2001

Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters 
by David Hockney.
Thames and Hudson, 296 pp., £35, October 2001, 0 500 23785 9
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... Hockney’s correspondence on the subject over the last two years, chiefly with the art historian Martin Kemp, author of The Science of Art (1990), a magisterial study of painting and optics. David and Martin, seemingly unedited, exchange chitchat, aperçus and mutual encouragement between Los Angeles and Oxford, artlessly ...

Qui êtes-vous, Sir Moses?

C.R. Whittaker, 6 March 1986

Ancient History: Evidence and Models 
by M.I. Finley.
Chatto, 131 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 7011 3003 2
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... Julian Barnes’s recent best-seller, Flaubert’s Parrot, quotes a letter from Flaubert to Feydeau: ‘When you write the biography of a friend you must do it as if you were taking revenge for him.’ Sir Moses Finley has been my teacher, colleague and friend for close on twenty years, and while I am not intent on taking revenge on his behalf, I can’t claim to be able to write dispassionately about his work, on the occasion of the publication of his new book, Ancient History: Evidence and Models, and of the republication in paperback (with additions) of Democracy Ancient and Modern and The Ancient Economy ...

Be interesting!

John Lanchester: Martin Amis, 6 July 2000

Experience 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 401 pp., £18, May 2000, 0 224 05060 5
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... than a novel. On the other hand, it does have going for it the very considerable glamour of fact. Martin Amis’s memoir Experience – published to harrypotterish levels of excitement and with an amazingly clumsy serialisation – is autobiographical writing of a very high order, well towards the life-over-art end of the spectrum. ‘The trouble with life ...

At the V&A

Jeremy Harding: 50 Years of ‘Private Eye’, 15 December 2011

... proudly displayed (as are the many builders’ cracks in the drawing), Barry Fantoni, Nick Newman, Martin Honeysett, Willie Rushton … the list is long. Most of this, including the strips, is topical, socio-comic work, or lunatic observational – the country seen from another planet – or simply anarchic. Scarfe and Steadman, the two high executioners, were ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Tayler: The School of Life, 19 May 2011

... Face Death’ (The Egyptian Book of the Dead). There were lists of events and classes: ‘Ego with Julian Baggini’, ‘Urban Gardening’, ‘How To Be Cool’. There were also some stuffed black birds, and eight birch trunks fixed upright between the floor and ceiling – four in a window bay and four further back near a leopardskin-print chaise-longue. The ...

Keeping the peace

E.S. Turner, 2 April 1987

March to the South Atlantic: 42 Commando Royal Marines in the Falklands War 
by Nick Vaux and Max Hastings.
Buchan and Enright, 261 pp., £11.50, November 1986, 0 907675 56 5
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Further Particulars: Consequences of an Edwardian Boyhood 
by C.H. Rolph.
Oxford, 231 pp., £12.50, January 1987, 0 19 211790 4
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... Nick Vaux, who led 42 Commando Royal Marines in the Falklands, waited only for his brigadier, Julian Thompson, to write No Picnic before weighing in with March to the South Atlantic. Vaux is now a general. He writes lucidly, robustly, as befits a soldier, but is not ashamed to reveal his inner feelings (or to mention how, in a scramble up the slopes of ...

What’s Happening in the Engine-Room

Penelope Fitzgerald: Poor John Lehmann, 7 January 1999

John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure 
by Adrian Wright.
Duckworth, 308 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 7156 2871 2
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... He has come into all the material collected by John Lehmann’s commissioned biographer, Martin Taylor, who died before he could write a word of it. He has seen photocopies of the extensive diaries, and he has interviewed the survivors and their descendants. Lehmann himself wrote three volumes of dignified autobiography about his work, his ...

Keep talking

Julian Loose, 26 March 1992

Vox 
by Nicholson Baker.
Granta, 172 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 0 14 014232 0
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... a book, he needs the images. But Jim is certainly no Keith Talent, the unlovable character in Martin Amis’s London Fields who Fast Forwards and ‘SloMos’ through his nightly video, scanning for digitised images of sex, ‘astronomies of breast and belly, of shank and haunch’. Jim, by contrast, is conscience stricken and easily put off his stroke: a ...
Rembrandt by Himself 
edited by Christopher White and Quentin Buvelot.
Yale, 272 pp., £25, June 1999, 9781857092523
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Rembrandt: The Painter at Work 
by Ernst van de Wetering.
Amsterdam University Press, 340 pp., £52.50, November 1997, 90 5356 239 7
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... sum, is our culture’s chief pictorial repository for the so-called human condition. John Rupert Martin, Kenneth Clark, H.P. Chapman and E.H. Gombrich (respectively) were, each of them, writing out of a scholarly knowledge of the 17th century. Nonetheless, their terminologies raise a major problem: does the strength of our emotional response to Rembrandt ...

The Irish Savant’s Problem

Julian Bell: Diderot on Blindness, 21 June 2012

Blindness and Enlightenment: An Essay 
by Kate Tunstall.
Continuum, 238 pp., £17.99, August 2011, 978 1 4411 1932 2
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... monitor, that watching-machine. ‘The Enlightenment and the Revolution it helped spawn,’ Martin Jay wrote in Downcast Eyes, his historical survey of the rhetoric of vision, may ‘be justly said to have expressed that privileging of sight so often taken to characterise the modern era in general.’ By ‘so often taken’, he is referring to the ...

Ecoluxury

John Gray, 20 April 1995

The Fading of the Greens: The Decline of Environmental Politics in the West 
by Anna Bramwell.
Yale, 224 pp., £18.95, September 1994, 0 300 06040 8
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The Chicago Gangster Theory of Life: Nature’s Debt to Society 
by Andrew Ross.
Verso, 308 pp., £18.95, October 1994, 0 86091 429 1
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Green Delusions: An Environmentalist Critique of Radical Environmentalism 
by Martin Lewis.
Duke, 288 pp., $12.95, February 1994, 0 8223 1474 6
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... libertarianism of Herbert Spencer and F.A. Hayek, and the technological optimism of Herman Kahn or Julian Simon, post-scarcity anarchism asserts that, given existing and prospective technologies, there are no insuperable natural limitations to the growth of human population, and no forms of scarcity that cannot be overcome by scientific innovation and ...

Heart-Squasher

Julian Barnes: A Portrait of Lucian Freud, 5 December 2013

Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud 
by Martin Gayford.
Thames and Hudson, 248 pp., £12.95, March 2012, 978 0 500 28971 6
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Breakfast with Lucian: A Portrait of the Artist 
by Geordie Greig.
Cape, 260 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 224 09685 0
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... once, and swore never to be so again. He was always a controller, and sometimes an exterminator. Martin Gayford and Geordie Greig’s accounts of Freud’s behaviour reminded me at times of two unlikely novelists: Kingsley Amis and Georges Simenon. When Amis’s second wife and fellow novelist, Elizabeth Jane Howard, saw him, at eleven o’clock on the ...

At MoMA

Hal Foster: Sigmar Polke, 19 June 2014

... and he passed it on to subsequent artists who were also wayward performers, such as the German Martin Kippenberger and the American Mike Kelley. Appropriately, the Polke retrospective currently on view at MoMA is called Alibis (it will open at Tate Modern in October and move to the Ludwig Museum in Cologne early next year). ‘Moderne ...

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