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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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... Meanwhile he was supposed to be studying English literature at Oxford, where he befriended T.E. Lawrence, whose wartime adventures Graves was to relate in a rather Boy’s-Own style in Lawrence and the Arabs (1927). In the early 1920s he and Lawrence planned their very own Boy’s Own ...

A History of Disappointment

Jackson Lears: Obama’s Parents, 5 January 2012

The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father 
by Sally Jacobs.
Public Affairs, 336 pp., £20, July 2011, 978 1 58648 793 5
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A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother 
by Janny Scott.
Riverhead, 384 pp., £18.99, May 2011, 978 1 59448 797 2
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... From the moment he announced his staff and cabinet appointments (Rahm Emanuel, Timothy Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates et al) it was clear that Obama meant to play by the same Washington rules that created the policy disasters he inherited from George W. Bush. Obama had retreated into politics as usual. He never looked back. One did ...

In a Dark Mode

Lawrence Rainey: Grim Modernism, 20 January 2000

Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism 
by T.J. Clark.
Yale, 451 pp., £30, April 1999, 0 300 07532 4
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... version of the Modernist dream has become real, with nightmarish results. The focus then shifts to Jackson Pollock, whose drip paintings become a variant of the dilemma that had faced Braque and Picasso: irreducible difference confronting anonymous identity, a dilemma restaged in a different key of agonised inquiry. Pollock, in turn, is followed by a ...

Feasting on Power

John Upton: David Blunkett’s Criminal Justice Bill, 10 July 2003

... Kingdom, the so-called Diplock Courts in Northern Ireland. In their study of those courts, John Jackson and Sean Doran suggest that the arrangement leads to an ‘adversarial deficit’ – the judge’s increased inquisitorial role changes the nature of the proceedings. Pressure is placed on defendants to refrain from contesting the prosecution case on its ...

Nothing for Ever and Ever

Frank Kermode: Housman’s Pleasures, 5 July 2007

The Letters of A.E. Housman 
edited by Archie Burnett.
Oxford, 1228 pp., £180, March 2007, 978 0 19 818496 6
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... and of course there was the doubtless related matter of Housman’s sterile love for Moses Jackson, a friend and fellow undergraduate capable of inspiring the deep devotion of the young Housman but lacking any intention of responding in the manner desired. Moses Jackson was certainly important to the poetry, and I ...

Balls and Strikes

Charles Reeve: Clement Greenberg, 5 April 2007

Art Czar: The Rise and Fall of Clement Greenberg 
by Alice Goldfarb Marquis.
Lund Humphries, 321 pp., £25, April 2006, 0 85331 940 5
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... might verge on narrow-mindedness; the game might bore us. But the rulings were clear: by 1954, Jackson Pollock’s paintings were ‘forced’ and ‘dressed up’; Clyfford Still never left the minor league; Marcel Duchamp was a joker (not in a good way); Morris Louis painted as brilliantly as Raphael. In a 1959 essay, ‘The Case for Abstract Art’, he ...

Hormone Wars

A. Craig Copetas, 23 April 1992

Crazy Cock 
by Henry Miller.
HarperCollins, 202 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 0 00 223943 4
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The Happiest Man Alive 
by Mary Dearborn.
HarperCollins, 368 pp., £18.50, July 1991, 0 00 215172 3
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... Managing editor: Alfred Perles; society editor: Anais Nin; sports editor: Charles Nordon (aka Lawrence Durrell); butter news editor: Walter Lowenfels; department of metaphysics and metapsychosis: Michael Fraenkel; fashion editor: Earl of Selvage (aka Henry Miller); and Lawrence Durrell and William Saroyan as the ...

Living on Apple Crumble

August Kleinzahler: James Schuyler, 17 November 2005

Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler 1951-91 
edited by William Corbett.
Turtle Point, 470 pp., £13.99, May 2005, 1 885586 30 2
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... love it here; real mad fun. Especially the evening game of gin rummy before beddy-by (9.30); the 8 p.m. cup of cocoa.’ The letter was written on 15 November 1951, a few days after James Schuyler had been admitted to Bloomingdale Hospital, a mental institution in White Plains, New York. Schuyler still gets his semi-colons right, and his appetite for gossip is ...

White Hat/Black Hat

Frances Richard: 20th-Century Art, 6 April 2006

Art since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism 
by Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois and Benjamin H.D. Buchloh.
Thames and Hudson, 704 pp., £45, March 2005, 0 500 23818 9
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... automobiles and television. New names will appear: Clement Greenberg, Alfred Barr, Josef Albers, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon. All but the stodgiest departments – though this exempts many – will make gestures towards what has for the last thirty years been referred to, again tautologically, as ‘Theory’. Somewhere along the line, art ...

Mud, Mud, Mud

Nathaniel Rich: New Orleans, 22 November 2012

The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans 
by Lawrence Powell.
Harvard, 422 pp., £22.95, March 2012, 978 0 674 05987 0
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... what will come next, and how soon. In New Orleans’s first hundred years, the period covered by Lawrence Powell’s The Accidental City, its existence was imperilled more than a dozen times. The first catastrophic flood occurred in 1719, less than a year after the site was claimed by French settlers. It was ‘the worst overflow the local Indians could ...

Each of us is a snowball

Susannah Clapp: Squares are best, 22 October 2020

Square Haunting 
by Francesca Wade.
Faber, 422 pp., £20, January, 978 0 571 33065 2
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... is a tremendous biographical document with flashes of power. It has a striking portrait of D.H. Lawrence being foxy while Frieda gets on with her knitting. But as fiction it’s inert: tendril-waving and clumpingly spelled out. All psychologies underlined. Things said twice. What happened to the poet’s ear for tautology when she talks of someone as having ...

Embarrassed

Graham Hough, 7 October 1982

Thomas Hardy: A Biography 
by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 637 pp., £15, June 1982, 0 19 211725 4
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The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Vol. III: 1902-1908 
edited by Richard Purdy and Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 367 pp., £19.50, July 1982, 0 19 812620 4
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The Neglected Hardy: Thomas Hardy’s Lesser Novels 
by Richard Taylor.
Macmillan, 202 pp., £17.50, May 1982, 0 333 31051 9
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Good Little Thomas Hardy 
by C.H. Salter.
Macmillan, 200 pp., £15, August 1982, 0 333 29387 8
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Thomas Hardy and Women: Sexual Ideology and Narrative Form 
by Penny Boumelha.
Harvester, 178 pp., £18.95, April 1982, 0 7108 0018 5
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Illustration and the Novels of Thomas Hardy 
by Arlene Jackson.
Macmillan, 151 pp., £15, October 1981, 0 333 32303 3
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... immersion in it – as only a detailed biography such as this can show. Hardy was not, like Lawrence, continually engaged on his own bildungsroman: but the wry situations in the novels, the ironic plots behind the poems, are again and again found to have their roots in direct experience, observed or lived through; and the power of the best scenes in the ...

A New Twist in the Long Tradition of the Grotesque

Marina Warner: The monstrousness of Britart, 13 April 2000

High Art Lite: British Art in the 1990s 
by Julian Stallabrass.
Verso, 342 pp., £22, December 1999, 1 85984 721 8
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This is Modern Art 
by Matthew Collings.
Weidenfeld, 270 pp., £20, June 1999, 0 297 84292 7
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... The book bears the marks of its origin as a TV series: potted biographies of the founding heroes (Jackson Pollock and Picasso) interpolated here and there, scenic shoots in studios far and wide, and a haphazard structure. It does well, though, to place the Sensation lot in a family tree, with Goya, Munch, Picasso, America, Modernism and Matisse. Collings has ...

Among the Graves

Thomas Laqueur: Naming the Dead, 18 December 2008

The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction 
by Mark Neely.
Harvard, 277 pp., £20.95, November 2007, 978 0 674 02658 2
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This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War 
by Drew Gilpin Faust.
Knopf, 346 pp., $27.95, January 2008, 978 0 375 40404 7
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... Stonewall Jackson, the deeply neurotic but irresistibly romantic, swashbuckling Confederate commander, thought that the great and swift destruction of life and property seen in the American Civil War was the essence of war generally. But this war was not swift. It was long and gruelling: 425 men, on average, died every day for 1458 days ...

What Life Says to Us

Stephanie Burt: Robert Creeley, 21 February 2008

The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley: 1945-75 
California, 681 pp., £12.55, October 2006, 0 520 24158 4Show More
The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley: 1975-2005 
California, 662 pp., £29.95, October 2006, 0 520 24159 2Show More
On Earth: Last Poems and an Essay 
by Robert Creeley.
California, 89 pp., £12.95, April 2006, 0 520 24791 4
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Selected Poems: 1945-2005 
by Robert Creeley, edited by Benjamin Friedlander.
California, 339 pp., $21.95, January 2008, 978 0 520 25196 0
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... continuously’ and drinking a lot; he got in fights, too, including one abortive dust-up with Jackson Pollock. Partly to escape urban temptation, Creeley, his wife, Ann, and their two young sons relocated in 1948 to a farm in New Hampshire, where he bred pigeons and poultry and tried to write. ‘I learned more about poetry as an actual activity from ...

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