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Prowled and Yowled

Blake Morrison: Kay Dick, 12 May 2022

by Kay Dick.
Faber, 107 pp., £8.99, February, 978 0 571 37086 3
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... that the writer veck started to platch like his life’s work was ruined’. The gangs in Kay Dick’s They (first published in 1977, fifteen years after Burgess’s novel) are no less brutal to anyone suspected of being creative. But unlike Alex, who’s eventually caught and sent to prison, they’re given a free hand: government policy is to ...


Tom Crewe: The Queen and I, 1 August 2019

... interviews, one with Ivy Compton-Burnett and one with Stevie Smith, recorded and transcribed by Kay Dick in 1963 and 1970 respectively and published after the writers’ deaths. I’ve called them interviews, but actually they are conversations with friends: Dick knew both women well and the transcripts are ...


Anthony Thwaite, 27 October 1988

Stevie Smith: A Critical Biography 
by Frances Spalding.
Faber, 331 pp., £15, October 1988, 0 571 15207 4
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... In a long tape-recorded conversation she had with Kay Dick in November 1970 (the best source for the flavour of her speech), Stevie Smith remarked: I’m straightforward but I’m not simple ... In some ways I’m romantic but my basic root is profoundly sensible – profoundly sensible. About everything. There is a balance; I am aware of a balance ...


Penelope Fitzgerald, 3 December 1981

Me Again: Uncollected Writings of Stevie Smith 
edited by Jack Barbera and William McBrien.
Virago, 359 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 9780860682172
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... she was driven to write because there was absolutely no company for her in Palmer’s Green. When Kay Dick interviewed her in 1970, Stevie complained about her photographs. ‘They make me look dead, and as if I’d been dead for a long time. I haven’t got a thing about age, but I do rather have a thing about looking dead and buried.’ She made no ...

What most I love I bite

Matthew Bevis: Stevie Smith, 28 July 2016

The Collected Poems and Drawings of Stevie Smith 
edited by Will May.
Faber, 806 pp., £35, October 2015, 978 0 571 31130 9
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... Her sense of what might have been was informed by what had already taken place. When the novelist Kay Dick asked her for a brief biography in 1953 (she seems to have been planning a piece on Smith), Smith replied: ‘It is precious dull I must say, unless we dip into fic. One might say for instance, Born in Afghanistan by accident on a picnic etc. But ...

Punch-up at the Poetry Reading

Joanna Kavenna: Dorothy Porter’s verse novel, 7 May 1998

The Monkey's Mask 
by Dorothy Porter.
Serpent’s Tail, 264 pp., £9.99, October 1997, 1 85242 549 0
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... poetry – Fitzpatrick rubs shoulders with other crime novel heroines such as V.I. Warshawski and Kay Scarpetta. Yet the poetry industry – as well as poetic form – is crucial to The Monkey’s Mask, as observed by Fitzpatrick, who feels herself irreparably excluded on grounds of class, sexual orientation and lack of knowledge. The detective trail in the ...

Attila the Hus

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 4 November 1982

Rules of the Game: Sir Oswald and Lady Cynthia Mosley 1896-1933 
by Nicholas Mosley.
Secker, 274 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 436 28849 4
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... up ... People might dance a little ... A few games would begin ... When one day their friend Dick Wyndham slipped off a pogo-stick and broke his jaw, ‘there was a queer funeral cortege down to the river – to throw in not Dick Wyndham, but the pogo-stick.’ There were two tennis courts where mixed doubles were ...

‘Double y’im dees’

Christopher Tayler: Ben Fountain, 2 August 2012

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk 
by Ben Fountain.
Canongate, 307 pp., £16.99, July 2012, 978 0 85786 438 3
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... war,’ women say, ‘the troops because defending szszszsz among nations szszszsz owl-kay-duzz szszszsz.’ Sometimes Billy zones out entirely and there’s a sprinkling of words on white space: ‘currj’, ‘double y’im dees’, ‘Sod’m’, ‘Eye-rack’, ‘Eaaaar-rock’, ‘soooh-preeeeme sacrifice’ – the concrete poetry of ...

Adjusting the Mechanism

Colin Burrow: Robert Graves, 11 October 2018

Robert Graves: From a Great War Poet to ‘Goodbye to All That’, 1895-1929 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Bloomsbury, 461 pp., £25, August 2018, 978 1 4729 2914 3
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The Reader over Your Shoulder: A Handbook for Writers of English Prose 
by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge.
Seven Stories, 613 pp., £30, September 2017, 978 1 60980 733 7
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... he hated. He got through by learning to box, by falling in love with a boy he referred to as ‘Dick’ (actually called George Harcourt Vanden-Bempde-Johnstone, later 3rd Baron Derwent), and by joining a poetry society run by some charismatic masters. He said in his autobiography, Goodbye to All That, written in 1929 when he was only 34, that by the end of ...

Likeable Sage

Sheldon Rothblatt, 17 September 1981

Matthew Arnold: A Life 
by Park Honan.
Weidenfeld, 496 pp., £9.95, August 1981, 0 297 77824 2
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... to excess – and gambled – not immoderately, but he was always careless about money. (His son Dick acquired the habit, ran up large debts in his Oxford years and even went down without a degree. However, he had another side and is remembered in the fifth of Edward Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’.) Arnold exhausted the patience of tutors, lounging back ...

Who had the most fun?

David Bromwich: The Marx Brothers, 10 May 2001

Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx 
by Stefan Kanfer.
Penguin, 480 pp., £7.99, April 2001, 0 14 029426 0
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The Essential Groucho 
by Groucho Marx, edited by Stefan Kanfer.
Penguin, 254 pp., £6.99, September 2000, 0 14 029425 2
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... practice on the road, and she was Groucho’s unhappiest real-life casualty until his wives Ruth, Kay and Eden. His first marriage, to Ruth Johnson, took a long time to unravel. She had fallen in love with his quickness. Closer up, Groucho resembled his on-stage character in ways she found disturbing. He could say ‘I want to be alone,’ in a vaguely Slavic ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1995, 4 January 1996

... ever had a job, an omission I had to some extent rectified by the time I got to Kafka’s Dick, when the wife has at least been in employment at some period (she was an exnurse). But again the men did the jobs and most of the talking. In Enjoy, which is set in Leeds, the women do most of the talking, which is how it always used to be when I was a ...

Kafka at Las Vegas

Alan Bennett, 23 July 1987

... who has come in, as he has been told, ‘just for observation’. Presumptuous to call him Mr Kay, let us call him Mr Jay. ‘Fiction or non-fiction?’ asks Miss Venables. ‘Fiction,’ says Mr Jay, and hopes he is going to do better than last week. Last week he had wanted a copy of Jake’s Thing, but could not remember the title and had finished up ...

A Short History of the Trump Family

Sidney Blumenthal: The First Family, 16 February 2017

... that he’s a reincarnation of the original rags-to-riches hero out of Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick; or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks, a Gilded Age tale of pluck and the Protestant Ethic that lifts an urchin to respectability through a business career and churchgoing. In a 1990 interview Trump boasted to Playboy that ‘the working man ...

His Spittin’ Image

Colm Tóibín: John Stanislaus Joyce, 22 February 2018

... of Mr Kernan, the man who falls, from that of his father to a neighbour of the Joyces’ called Dick Thornton, a tea-taster and opera lover. The story’s tone is unmerciful. The drinker’s clothes ‘were smeared with the filth and ooze of the floor on which he had lain, face downwards. His eyes were closed and he breathed with a grunting noise.’ The ...

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