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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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... 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 ...

Retro-Selfies

Iain Sinclair: Ferlinghetti, 17 December 2015

I Greet You at the Beginning of a Great Career: The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, 1955–97 
edited by Bill Morgan.
City Lights, 284 pp., £11.83, July 2015, 978 0 87286 678 2
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Writing across the Landscape: Travel Journals 1960-2010 
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, edited by Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson.
Liveright, 464 pp., £22.99, October 2015, 978 1 63149 001 9
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... the Six Gallery, an auto-repair shop at Union and Fillmore in San Francisco. Five poets performed. Kenneth Rexroth, the consigliore of radicalism, was master of ceremonies. Jack Kerouac, too self-conscious to read, acted as cheerleader: ‘Go! Go! Go!’ He passed out slopping gallon jugs of Californian Burgundy. There had been poetry readings in the Bay Area ...

The Greatest Geek

Richard Barnett: Nikola Tesla, 5 February 2015

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age 
by W. Bernard Carlson.
Princeton, 520 pp., £19.95, April 2015, 978 0 691 05776 7
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... making money from them. Astor and Westinghouse declined to invest, but aid came from John Pierpont Morgan, the financier behind General Electric, who paid $150,000 for a 51 per cent share in Tesla’s new patents. Tesla took out a mortgage to buy two hundred acres of land at Wardenclyffe on the northern shore of Long Island, and commissioned the ...

Prize Poems

Donald Davie, 1 July 1982

Arvon Foundation Poetry Competion: 1980 Anthology 
by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.
Kilnhurst Publishing Company, 173 pp., £3, April 1982, 9780950807805
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Burn this 
by Tom Disch.
Hutchinson, 63 pp., £7.50, April 1982, 0 09 146960 0
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... as well as formal) below, for instance, 18 solid unpunctuated pages of pornographic daydream: Kenneth Bernard’s ‘The Baboon in the Night Club’? Did they judge the sonnet-sequence irremediably old-hat, even when managed with a Bosley’s erudition and inventive brilliance? I fear so. But in that case, how could they have rated below the prizewinners ...

Anglophobe Version

Denton Fox, 2 February 1984

The New Testament in Scots 
translated by William Laughton Lorimer.
Canongate, 476 pp., £17.50, October 1983, 0 900025 24 7
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Scotland and the Lowland Tongue 
edited by J. Derrick McClure.
Aberdeen University Press, 256 pp., £17, September 1983, 0 08 028482 5
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... an attempt to rehabilitate Scots. His prejudices, apparent in his annotations and confirmed by Sir Kenneth Dover’s excellent memoir in the Proceedings of the British Academy, were a dislike of the English and a hatred of Catholicism (Anglo- as well as Roman, I suspect). Dover records that ‘he often spoke as if he regarded the Border as a fast-decaying ...

Swanker

Ronald Bryden, 10 December 1987

The Life of Kenneth Tynan 
by Kathleen Tynan.
Weidenfeld, 407 pp., £16.95, September 1987, 9780297790822
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... that she wavered for some time between writing a personal memoir of her 16 years with her husband Kenneth and embarking on a full-dress biography, embracing the 36 before they met. As she foresaw, making the second choice has produced an odd, hybrid book, not quite one thing nor the other. At times deeply intimate, at others coolly dispassionate, her ...

You see stars

Michael Wood, 19 June 1997

The House of Sleep 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 384 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 0 670 86458 7
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... old chatty novels, stage farces – not everyone would connect Jean Cocteau with Sid James and Kenneth Connor. But it is above all a novel of the Thatcher years, satirically seen as the reign of a particular mentality, easily identified, but not so easily defined. Coe portrays it through six grotesques, members of a single family, which itself is a kind of ...

Back to Reality

David Edgar: Arthur Miller and the Oblong Blur, 18 March 2004

Arthur Miller: A Life 
by Martin Gottfried.
Faber, 484 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 571 21946 2
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... about the Jewish orchestra in Auschwitz, Playing for Time, and his 1991 play The Ride down Mount Morgan are worthy of joining the canon. But the most cogent defence of late Miller (or, more accurately, last two-thirds Miller) is provided by the British critic Christopher Bigsby. For Bigsby, Miller has ‘quite consciously experimented with form’, not just ...

Visible Woman

James Shapiro: Sticking up for Shakespeare, 4 October 2007

Shakespeare’s Wife 
by Germaine Greer.
Bloomsbury, 406 pp., £20, September 2007, 978 0 7475 9019 4
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... fiend-like original in his own bosom’. (One can only guess what Steevens would have made of Kenneth Gross’s recent book, Shylock Is Shakespeare.) Malone refused to concede the point, in part because he believed he knew – given his unrivalled immersion in Shakespeare’s life and work – what Shakespeare was really like, and in part because he ...

Berenson’s Elixir

Simon Schama, 1 May 1980

Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur 
by Ernest Samuels.
Harvard, 477 pp., £9.50, June 1979, 0 674 06775 4
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Being Bernard Berenson 
by Meryle Secrest.
Weidenfeld, 473 pp., £8.50, January 1980, 0 297 77564 2
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... themselves. On learning of BB’s descent on Widener’s optimistically attributed collection J.P. Morgan gloated: ‘I hear Berenson’s gone to Philadelphia to bust up Widener’s collection.’ And to promote their services, the Berensons had to suppress their refined nausea at plutocratic vulgarity. At one house they sat through a concert of organ-grinders ...

Magnifico

David Bromwich: This was Orson Welles, 3 June 2004

Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life 
by Peter Conrad.
Faber, 384 pp., £20, September 2003, 0 571 20978 5
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... of the family, is watched and questioned by his spinster aunt Fanny; the dinner where Eugene Morgan, in love with George’s mother, the last of the Ambersons, sees the truth in a thoughtless insult by George and says that though cars have made his fortune, men may come to think they were something that ‘had no business to be invented’ – all these ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2000, 25 January 2001

... blue and white Victorian tile at Gabor Cossa which one of the partners thinks is William de Morgan but isn’t and then cross the road to the Fitzwilliam. I take in a chance selection of pictures, dictated by which happen to be in range of available banquettes, and in particular the Van Dyck portrait of Archbishop Laud. It’s hung beside one of his ...

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