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‘How big?’ ‘That big’

Andrew Motion: Tales from the Riverbank, 5 February 1998

Notes on Fishing 
by Sergei Timmofeevich Aksakov, translated by Thomas Hodge.
Northwestern, 230 pp., $30, September 1997, 9780810113664
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... racing water, then a spangle of light fragments like big fish-scales, then the thing itself – a silver ingot, rigid and heavy, its lower jaw stuck out. When it found me and the dog looming over the bank, all its energy came back in a thunderbolt, the silver etherising at once, the water empty, my mother cursing. Which ...

Mysteries of Kings Cross

Iain Sinclair, 5 October 1995

Vale Royal 
by Aidan Dun.
Goldmark, 130 pp., £22.50, July 1995
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... through Milton and Blake and Keats, to David Jones, Gascoyne, Dylan Thomas, Nicholas Moore, to Lee Harwood’s Cable Street, Bill Griffiths’s Whitechapel and Brian Catling’s The Stumbling Block. London infected its interpreters, soliciting contributions to an open-ended project. The names of the poets were the stanzas of a continuous book. Aidan ...


Christopher Harvie: Cars and Cuckoo Clocks, 26 January 1995

... sand; echoing corrugated-iron sheds where shears clipped steel sheet like cardboard, and whorls of silver metal spun off lathes. Plumbers, electricians, carpenters’ shops: wee men in big glasses chop-chop-chopping with a chisel until a perfect mortice joint emerged. ‘Fine day, Mr Aikman. Everybody satisfied wi’ the boat? No a great looker, but she ...

Play hard

Dave Haslam, 20 October 1994

The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music 1972-93 
by Nick Kent.
Penguin, 338 pp., £9.99, May 1994, 0 14 023046 7
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... pose with some favourite objects. He chose that most crucial piece of drug-taking paraphernalia, silver foil. The nearest bit to hand was an unwrapped Kit Kat, and the singer was duly snapped holding one. Believing this to be a simple endorsement of their chocolate bar, Rowntrees – the manufacturers – later delivered to him two large boxes full of Kit ...

The Education of Gideon Chase

Paul Edwards, 5 June 1986

An Insular Possession 
by Timothy Mo.
Chatto, 593 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 7011 3078 4
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The Story of Zahra 
by Hanan al-Shaykh.
Quartet, 184 pp., £8.95, April 1986, 0 7043 2546 2
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The Lightning of August 
by Jorge Ibarguengoitia.
Chatto, 117 pp., £8.95, May 1986, 0 7011 3950 1
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... commercial traffic: ‘ “Half-um?” he says witheringly. “Half-um? Me tink-ee mak-ee half-um silver dollar can buy all-um duck market hab got Canton-side.” ’ (This time it is the American Eastman talking.) For any other form of cultural exchange it is worse than useless – ‘ridiculous nonsense’, as Mo reassuringly calls it later in the ...

Does one flare or cling?

Alice Spawls, 5 May 2016

‘Vogue’ 100: A Century of Style 
by Robin Muir.
National Portrait Gallery, 304 pp., £40, February 2016, 978 1 85514 561 0
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‘Vogue’ 100: A Century of Style 
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... British Vogue was born in September 1916, when German U-boats (really quite chic in their way – silver-blue with muscular lines) prevented the Americans from transporting their edition to British shores. Muir, in his catalogue introduction, points out that Vogue’s inception coincided with Haig’s launch of the tank at the Battle of the Somme, which gives ...

Out of the blue

Mark Ford, 10 December 1987

Meeting the British 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 53 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 571 14858 1
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Partingtime Hall 
by James Fenton and John Fuller.
Salamander, 69 pp., £7.50, April 1987, 0 948681 05 5
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Private Parts 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Chatto, 72 pp., £4.95, June 1987, 9780701132064
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Bright River Yonder 
by John Hartley Williams.
Bloodaxe, 87 pp., £4.95, April 1987, 1 85224 028 8
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... Bazaar at the time – and tenanted by Auden, Carson McCullers, Benjamin Britten and Gypsy Rose Lee; shorter-term residents included Louis MacNeice, Auden’s lover Chester Kallman and Salvador Dali. The poem consists of a monologue by each of these. Like ‘Immram’ and ‘The more a man has the more a man wants’, ‘7, Middagh Street’ is a beguiling ...

Drowned in the Desert

James Meek, 20 July 2000

A Fly for the Prosecution: How Insect Evidence Helps Solves Crimes 
by Lee Goff.
Harvard, 225 pp., £14.50, May 2000, 0 674 00220 2
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... His skill arouses Margarita, who has ‘a passion for all people who do anything to perfection’. Lee Goff’s peculiar skill evokes the same delight and horror as that of the perfect assassin, though he is dealing with the effects of other people’s murders, and not doing any killing himself (except of pigs and rabbits). It is a fine thing, rare in fiction ...


Patrick Parrinder, 23 November 1989

Christopher Unborn 
by Carlos Fuentes, translated by Alfred MacAdam.
Deutsch, 531 pp., £13.95, October 1989, 0 233 98016 4
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The Faber Book of Contemporary Latin American Short Stories 
edited by Nick Caistor.
Faber, 188 pp., £11.99, September 1989, 0 571 15359 3
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by Gore Vidal.
Deutsch, 543 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 9780233984957
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Oldest living Confederate widow tells all 
by Allan Gurganus.
Faber, 718 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 9780571142019
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... these. With President Wilson America is firmly launched on the world stage, but the champagne and silver-fork Washington circuit, even with Hollywood as an occasional bonus, proves a rather inadequate vantagepoint from which to portray, for example, the First World War. This was an epoch when Presidential illnesses had much impact on political ...

Wolfing it

Angela Carter, 23 July 1987

Honey from a Weed: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia 
by Patience Gray.
Prospect, 374 pp., £17.50, November 1986, 0 907325 30 0
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A Table in Provence: Classic Recipes from the South of France 
collected and illustrated by Leslie Forbes.
Webb and Bower/Joseph, 160 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 86350 130 3
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The Joyce of Cooking: Food and Drink from James Joyce’s Dublin 
by Alison Armstrong, foreword by Anthony Burgess.
Station Hill Press, 252 pp., $18.95, December 1986, 0 930794 85 0
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... the autobiography of the painter and photographer Man Ray, in which a starring part is allotted to Lee Miller, the universal muse of the Surrealists, who herself became a famous practitioner of gourmet cookery. Patience Gray belongs to this nexus of cookery and the arts, although she has an earthy, hands-on approach to the real lives of the predominantly ...


Jeremy Harding: On the Tyson Saga, 31 August 1989

... record as a boxer is now becoming a liability to himself and the promoter, Don King, whose silver hair stands reverently to attention as the dollars file towards him in their solemn millions. The problem is simple: Tyson can no longer command a big gate, since he is likely to put his opponents away within a couple of rounds and send the fans home for ...


Adam Lively, 10 March 1994

The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness 
by Paul Gilroy.
Verso, 261 pp., £11.95, November 1993, 0 86091 675 8
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Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Culture 
by Paul Gilroy.
Serpent’s Tail, 257 pp., £12.99, October 1993, 9781852422981
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... the collection. But there are also valuable pieces on popular culture – Frank Bruno, Spike Lee, the iconography of album covers; and an emphasis on the relationship between race and nation, the possibility of Black Britishness, that ties it closer to his earlier There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack (1987). Gilroy’s insistence that it is ...

Lords loses out

R.W. Johnson: Basil D’Oliveira and racism in sport, 16 December 2004

Basil D’Oliveira: Cricket and Conspiracy: The Untold Story 
by Peter Oborne.
Little, Brown, 274 pp., £16.99, June 2004, 0 316 72572 2
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Reflections on a Life in Sport 
by Sam Ramsamy and Edward Griffiths.
Greenhouse, 168 pp., £7.99, July 2004, 0 620 32251 9
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... both the batting and bowling at the age of 13 – while at Durban High School the opening pair of Lee Irvine and Barry Richards had century or double-century partnerships every week; it was impossible to bowl to them. When in 1969-70 this lot, plus the young Pollock brothers, Peter and Graeme, slaughtered the Australians by four tests to nil, you felt that it ...


Tom Paulin: Summer in Donegal, 16 September 1999

... island fort, in the estuary below, but the fact it’s not circular, the way it’s set into the lee of the hill, makes me think it must be an old stone cabin, how old I don’t know, but it would have been inhabited by Gaelic speakers who cut hay on the two hidden meadows further up the hill, or grew potatoes or oats on them. It’s a hot, sunny July ...


Andrew O’Hagan, 5 October 1995

Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-56 
edited by Ann Charters.
Viking, 629 pp., £25, August 1995, 0 670 84952 9
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... Lucy; a dinner-table scene from The Waltons; Neil Armstrong’s One Small Step; the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald; the pilot show of Roseanne. Each viewer wore headphones; all you could hear was the giggles and gasps. On my little TV, where the picture was jumpy at first, was Jack Kerouac. He was sitting up at a white piano, and Steve Allen tinkled ...

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