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Merely an Empire

David Thomson: Eighteen Hours in Vietnam, 21 September 2017

The Vietnam War 
directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.
PBS, ten episodes
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... 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 ...

Even When It’s a Big Fat Lie

Alex Abramovich: ‘Country Music’, 8 October 2020

Country Music 
directed by Ken Burns.
PBS, eight episodes
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... the Civil War,’ she said. ‘But I do know that many historians, including Shelby Foote, in Ken Burns’s famous Civil War documentary, agree that a failure to compromise was a cause of the Civil War.’Sanders was right: Kelly’s comments could have come straight out of Burns’s documentary, which gave a ...
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 ...

MacDiarmid and his Maker

Robert Crawford, 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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... Man. We might also point to Gregory Smith’s discussion of the so-called Editorial Theory about Burns. This theory sees the poet’s merit less in terms of his individual originality than in terms of his editing of given material. MacDiarmid’s oeuvre is a constant exploration of the tension between poet as creator and poet as editor. In his ...

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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... received opinions, particularly about the Forties and Fifties. We won’t find, for instance, Burns Singer, one of the most original poets of the Fifties, or David Wright and John Heath-Stubbs. All three were friends of Graham, and their inclusion might have helped the Forties and Fifties out of their New Apocalypse v. Movement stand-off. Hamish ...

Diary

Jenny Turner: The Deborah Orr I Knew, 20 February 2020

... and yet, there was so much standardisation in 1960s Scottish girlhoods. Platignum Pens and the Burns Federation. Busy books, Francis Gay, Opportunity Knocks with Neil Reid. Dogs of all sorts, but mainly collies. Collies are the best. Chips fried in lard you’d leave to solidify for the next time, until it got so many ‘bits’ in it you had to throw 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 ...

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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... he died – on 15 December 1965 – while the Beatles were promoting Rubber Soul. A month earlier, Ken Tynan had said ‘fuck’ on TV. Maugham, by most accounts, had been saying it in public quite a lot as well. Meyers clearly works at great speed, and although his biography is better than it might be, there are times when it reads like an extended cuttings ...

No One Leaves Her Place in Line

Jeremy Harding: Martha Gellhorn, 7 May 1998

... on hers about the virtue of the Republic and those, all those, who fought for it. Martha regarded Ken Loach’s movie, Land and Freedom, which tells the story of the betrayal of the POUM by the Communists, as an insult to the International Brigades. She poured scorn on the combat scenes (‘a joke’) and went on to dismiss Orwell, on which the film is a ...

Too Close to the Bone

Allon White, 4 May 1989

... elegiac lyricism of drowning and summer afternoons here – gentle kaddish for the dead. Here it burns and hurts. It is violent, spasmodic, monstrous. There is no wholeness. I am not myself here. I can bear to stay here no longer.But there is a second thing, a second way in which Carol’s death is inside me – less exorbitant, a little more ...

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