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Merely an Empire

David Thomson: Eighteen Hours in Vietnam

20 September 2017
The Vietnam War 
directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.
PBS, ten episodes
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... is to be a fool, to kid ourselves, and try to think of courage.The Vietnam War, a film made by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, comes in ten parts, with beginnings, middles and end credits; and lasts 18 hours altogether, which some may feel is a lot to ask of busy, anxious wrecks who have their own troubles to patrol. Not that 18 hours on your ...
20 November 1986
Bowie 
by Jerry Hopkins.
Elm Tree, 275 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 241 11548 5
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Alias David Bowie 
by Peter Gillman and Leni Gillman.
Hodder, 511 pp., £16.95, September 1986, 0 340 36806 3
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... under a smudge of showbiz hype: they are particularly interested in his half-brother, Terry Burns, who was sent to Cane Hill, a Surrey asylum for the insane, and committed suicide. (Charles Chaplin’s mother also ended up in Cane Hill.) Thirdly, the Gillmans want to interpret Bowie’s lyrics. These three interests make for a long, probing book. The ...
10 November 1988
MacDiarmid 
by Alan Bold.
Murray, 482 pp., £17.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4585 4
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A Drunk Man looks at the Thistle 
by Hugh MacDiarmid, edited by Kenneth Buthlay.
Scottish Academic Press, 203 pp., £12.50, February 1988, 0 7073 0425 3
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The Hugh MacDiarmid-George Ogilvie Letters 
edited by Catherine Kerrigan.
Aberdeen University Press, 156 pp., £24.90, August 1988, 0 08 036409 8
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Hugh MacDiarmid and the Russian 
by Peter McCarey.
Scottish Academic Press, 225 pp., £12.50, March 1988, 0 7073 0526 8
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... Modernist writer, it is better to move from Bold’s workmanlike expositions of the poetry to Kenneth Buthlay’s splendid new edition of A Drunk Man looks at the Thistle. Fully glossed, annotated, and with a forceful introduction, this edition will be of great value to both old and new readers of the poem. It supplies much linguistic, literary and ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945

1 April 1999
The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... are powerful things: movements are launched, periods are parcelled up, writers are made and broken. They are, or want to be, the book world’s performative utterances: defining what they claim only to reflect, they make the things they speak of come to pass. But one last fin-de-siécle anthologising project remains: an anthology of anthology ...

Diary

Jenny Turner: The Deborah Orr I Knew

20 February 2020
... year as well, a week before Deborah). The office, when we started, was in an old warehouse in Clerkenwell with worn floors, iron stairs, clattering typewriters, and layout still done on boards, with glue and scalpels. Deborah was deputy editor, Tommy was assistant editor and I was books editor, and to begin with I think we all loved it – I know I did. It ...

Dialect does it

Blake Morrison

5 December 1985
No Mate for the Magpie 
by Frances Molloy.
Virago, 170 pp., £7.95, April 1985, 0 86068 594 2
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The Mysteries 
by Tony Harrison.
Faber, 229 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 9780571137893
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Ukulele Music 
by Peter Reading.
Secker, 103 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 40986 0
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Hard Lines 2 
edited by Ian Dury, Pete Townshend, Alan Bleasdale and Fanny Dubes.
Faber, 95 pp., £2.50, June 1985, 0 571 13542 0
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No Holds Barred: The Raving Beauties choose new poems by women 
edited by Anna Carteret, Fanny Viner and Sue Jones-Davies.
Women’s Press, 130 pp., £2.95, June 1985, 0 7043 3963 3
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Katerina Brac 
by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 47 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 571 13614 1
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Skevington’s Daughter 
by Oliver Reynolds.
Faber, 88 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 571 13697 4
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Rhondda Tenpenn’orth 
by Oliver Reynolds.
10 pence
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Trio 4 
by Andrew Elliott, Leon McAuley and Ciaran O’Driscoll.
Blackstaff, 69 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 85640 333 4
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Mama Dot 
by Fred D’Aguiar.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, August 1985, 0 7011 2957 3
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The Dread Affair: Collected Poems 
by Benjamin Zephaniah.
Arena, 112 pp., £2.95, August 1985, 9780099392507
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Long Road to Nowhere 
by Amryl Johnson.
Virago, 64 pp., £2.95, July 1985, 0 86068 687 6
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Mangoes and Bullets 
by John Agard.
Pluto, 64 pp., £3.50, August 1985, 0 7453 0028 6
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Ragtime in Unfamiliar Bars 
by Ron Butlin.
Secker, 51 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 07810 4
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True Confessions and New Clichés 
by Liz Lochhead.
Polygon, 135 pp., £3.95, July 1985, 0 904919 90 0
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Works in the Inglis Tongue 
by Peter Davidson.
Three Tygers Press, 17 pp., £2.50, June 1985
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Wild Places: Poems in Three Leids 
by William Neill.
Luath, 200 pp., £5, September 1985, 0 946487 11 1
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... soon’, no’ sense, that faddoms the herts o’ men, And by my sangs the rouch auld Scots I ken E’en herts that ha’e nae Scots‘ll dirl richt thro’ As nocht else could – for here’s a language rings Wi’ datchie sesames, and names for nameless things. Dialect here becomes the true cosmopolitanism: if MacDiarmid is to be believed, it’s ...

No One Leaves Her Place in Line

Jeremy Harding: Martha Gellhorn

7 May 1998
... going back over her writing a bit of a gamble and had to steel herself for it. Reading A Stricken Field, for example, a novel set in Czechoslovakia at the time of Munich, the annexation of Sudetenland and Hitler’s entry into Prague, caused her some aches and pains, but I once discovered her engrossed in a copy of The Honeyed Peace, a collection of ...

I only want the OM

Christopher Tayler: Somerset Maugham

1 September 2005
Somerset Maugham: A Life 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Vintage, 411 pp., £12, April 2005, 1 4000 3052 8
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... born in 1915 – but he continued to see Haxton. Gossip proliferated. Maugham, it was said, had taken to hiding behind the sofa whenever his ‘coarse and irritating’ wife was at home. Fanciful tales about the exotic arrangements required to overcome his ‘homosexual nervosity’ in the marital bed began to do the rounds. To complicate matters further, the ...
4 May 1989
... Cathedral, the figures of the Saints and the Evangelists and the Virgin having been smashed and broken and hurled into the waters of the Fen years before. But with the draining of the Fen, the lowering of the waters and the shrinking of the peat beds, on that particular summer evening as Nicodemus falls to his knees at the collapse of his dream, the evening ...

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