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Diary

Karl Miller: On Doubles, 2 May 1985

... to page 15 and lit on the magic words: ‘When he first saw how enchanted I was by this toy, Karl Miller was pleased.’ In the literature of romantic duality the most important of all pairs is the one constituted by the author and his principal character, or his narrator: here, if you like, is the primal duplication of the genre. In these fictions ...

The London Review of Books

Karl Miller, 25 October 1979

... The London Review of Books is something new. This, for the first time, is it. The journal will appear fortnightly, with a summer layoff, and it will appear, for the present, marsupially or bisectingly, together with the New York Review of Books. Editorially, it will be separate and independent. The writers we publish, and the writers and publishers whose books we review, will generally be British ...

Lost Artist

Karl Miller, 4 November 1982

... The painter Rory McEwen, who died on 16 October, was born, the fourth of seven children, on 12 March 1932. The family was Catholic, and his father a Conservative politician. His childhood was spent at the beautiful house of Marchmont, set in the storied countryside of the Merse in Berwickshire. The landscape is apparent if we go, as Rory did, to the work of another local talent, Alexander Hume, who flourished four hundred years earlier ...

Sound Advice for Scotch Reviewers

Karl Miller, 24 January 1980

... The manuscripts of Henry Cockburn’s letters have been gathered together in the National Library of Scotland, where they cry out for a collected edition. When such an edition appears, they cannot fail to be recognised as a masterpiece of Scottish literature. I came, while engaged in writing a book about Cockburn, to love his letters, and I have even managed to love those which turned up too late for consideration in the book ...

Barbara Pym’s Hymn

Karl Miller, 6 March 1980

... Several authors have died in the course of Britain’s current and by now customary hard winter. V.S. Pritchett writes, nearby, about one of them, and I would like to write about another – the novelist, Barbara Pym. To think of her in relation to a literary world, with its apparatus of publicity and reward, gives a sense of incongruity, but, of course, there’s a tale that hangs on the connection – the story of how this world turned from her in middle age, after her work of the Fifties, which was indeed ‘of the Fifties’ to a degree that was barely understood at the time ...

Pouting

Karl Miller: Smiley and Bingham, 9 May 2013

A Delicate Truth 
by John le Carré.
Viking, 310 pp., £18.99, April 2013, 978 0 670 92279 6
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The Man Who Was George Smiley: The Life of John Bingham 
by Michael Jago.
Biteback, 308 pp., £20, February 2013, 978 1 84954 513 6
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... John le Carré has now published 23 books, the Great Bear of that night sky being the series of novels lit by the round English gentleman, spymaster George Smiley, he who wipes his glasses with the thick end of his unfailing tie. Among the features of these spy stories is a concern with patriotism and uncertainty, not least with the uncertainties of patriotism ...
... The first issue of the London Review of Books appeared on 27 September last year, and the present issue is the 14th we have produced. The journal was started when some newspapers were in abeyance, and others had taken to cutting back on the space allowed for the discussion of books. Publishing houses were rumoured to be in financial difficulty – such as Penguin – and Collins were presently said to have become ‘over-heated’ in Australia ...

Diary

Karl Miller: Sponsored by the Arts Council, 24 January 1985

... The Arts Council is weeding its garden. It is taking steps, as many institutions have had to do over the last few years, to effect economies and redundancies. Operas, orchestras, spectacles for the wealthy, as they might sourly be described, are unlikely to be much affected. But there are small papers, including this one, for which the small steps in question will seem like giant steps, for which they may spell the end of the road ...

Diary

Karl Miller: On the 1990 World Cup, 26 July 1990

... An article in the Independent of 10 July was headed with these remarkable words: ‘Patrick Barclay reflects on a World Cup which was largely lacking in drama, individual dynamism and moments to cherish in the memory.’ This is not a description of the World Cup that I have been watching. But it is a good description of the coverage of the football which was offered by Patrick Barclay, by other British journalists, and by experts and commentators who were heard from on television ...

Eric Hobsbawm

Karl Miller, 25 October 2012

... I am not an economic historian, which did not prevent me from being friends with Eric Hobsbawm for many years. It keeps me from opinionating here about his work as a historian, a more than economic historian, in fact, who wrote for a wide public. But it doesn’t stop me from writing about him in a personal way, with recourse to memories. My first memory of him lingers in my cells as located in a Cambridge college, Caius, just after the war, and after lunch, over coffee ...

Northern Laughter

Karl Miller: Macrone on Scott, 9 October 2013

The Life of Sir Walter Scott 
by John Macrone, edited by Daniel Grader.
Edinburgh, 156 pp., £65, February 2013, 978 0 7486 6991 2
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... Students of the life and works of Walter Scott and James Hogg may have glimpsed the shadowy, not to say meteoric, not to say dubious presence of the publisher John Macrone, and learned of his prompt desire, after Scott’s death in September 1832, to write his Life, basing it to a large extent on rural informants. Here was the promise of a main event in the comet’s six-year visit to the Anglo-Scottish cultural scene ...

Gallivanting

Karl Miller: Edna O’Brien, 22 November 2012

Country Girl: A Memoir 
by Edna O’Brien.
Faber, 339 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 0 571 26943 3
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... They ran that woman out of County Clare,’ said one of the plain people of the West of Ireland, following the notoriety caused by Edna O’Brien’s fine first novel, The Country Girls, published in 1960. The notoriety was echoed in England: the last of England’s eminent Edwardian novelists, L.P. Hartley, described the novel, she has recalled, as ‘the skittish story of two Irish nymphomaniacs ...

We’ve done awfully well

Karl Miller: The Late 1950s, 18 July 2013

Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, June 2013, 978 0 7475 8893 1
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... This book is preceded by two two-volume books that have been praised by journalists to the skies. They belong to a grand design, to a project set to tell the story of modern Britain (modern England as a rule) from 1945 to 1979; the present instalment, Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, covers the narrow gap from 1957 to 1959. David Kynaston tells the story in his own measured words, and he also tells it in the often loud and uninhibited words of others – authors, newspapers, diarists, eminent politicians, Mass Observation respondents ...

Taking sides

Karl Miller, 17 April 1980

W.H. Auden: The Life of a Poet 
by Charles Osborne.
Eyre Methuen, 336 pp., £7.95, March 1980, 0 413 39670 3
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... In 1960, Auden completed his third decade as a poet with the volume Homage to Clio. By then, Charles Osborne writes, he was ‘widely regarded as among the few really great poets of the century’. No slur on the century seems intended here: part of what we mean by talking of great poets is that there are never very many of them about. But Mr Osborne goes on to mention that the poets Larkin and Gunn refused to kneel to the new collection ...

Death of a Poet

Karl Miller, 22 January 1981

... I write this during the world silence which Yoko Ono has asked for in remembrance of her husband, John Lennon, murdered by a crazy fan. I can’t say I’m observing it, but I’m not ignoring it either. ‘The soul of Adonais, like a star’ is to concentrate the thoughts and lift up the hearts of the many people who mourn him. The idea of a silence seems a good one for Lennon ...

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