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John Ellis, 14 May 1992

Addressing Frank Kermode: Essays in Criticism and Interpretation 
edited by Margaret Tudeau-Clayton and Martin Warner.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £40, July 1991, 9780333531372
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The Poverty of Structuralism: Literature and Structuralist Theory 
by Leonard Jackson.
Longman, 317 pp., £24, July 1991, 0 582 06697 2
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Inconvenient Fictions: Literature and the Limits of Theory 
by Bernard Harrison.
Yale, 293 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 300 05057 7
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Reading Minds: The Study of English in the Age of Cognitive Science 
by Mark Turner.
Princeton, 298 pp., £18.99, January 1992, 0 691 06897 6
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Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics 
by Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson.
Stanford, 530 pp., $49.50, December 1990, 0 8047 1821 0
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... literary critics think that they either could of should follow in such ugly footsteps? Leonard Jackson begins his The Poverty of Structuralism with the bald statement: ‘Modern literary theory is very strange.’ Indeed it is, but it is easier to see this than to pin down just how and why it is strange. In Addressing Frank Kermode Kermode ...

Bloodbaths

John Sutherland, 21 April 1988

Misery 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 320 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 340 39070 0
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The Tommyknockers 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 563 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 340 39069 7
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Touch 
by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 245 pp., £10.95, February 1988, 9780670816545
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Sideswipe 
by Charles Willeford.
Gollancz, 293 pp., £10.95, March 1988, 0 575 04197 8
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Ratking 
by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 282 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 571 15147 7
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... reminds us, there is worse literary company than Lovecraft, Leiber, Bloch, Matheson and Jackson. ‘I could, for example, be an “important” writer like Joseph Heller and publish a novel every seven years or so, or a “brilliant” writer like John Gardner and write obscure books for bright academics who eat macrobiotic foods and drive old Saabs ...

My Kind of Psychopath

Michael Wood, 20 July 1995

Pulp Fiction 
by Quentin Tarantino.
Faber, 198 pp., £7.99, October 1994, 0 571 17546 5
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Reservoir Dogs 
by Quentin Tarantino.
Faber, 113 pp., £7.99, November 1994, 0 571 17362 4
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True Romance 
by Quentin Tarantino.
Faber, 134 pp., £7.99, January 1995, 0 571 17593 7
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Natural Born Killers 
by Quentin Tarantino.
Faber, 175 pp., £7.99, July 1995, 0 571 17617 8
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... think what you did ... was so romantic.’ Tarantino says he was trying to be Elmore Leonard in this script – ‘although I’m not saying it’s as good’ – and he does get something of Leonard’s pace and complication; something of his sense of the world of cops and robbers too, a place where you ...
Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot 
by Michael Rogin.
California, 320 pp., $24.95, May 1996, 0 520 20407 7
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... Is there anything stranger than a pop star out of time? Before Elvis Presley, before Michael Jackson, there was Al Jolson – ‘the most popular entertainer of the first half of the 20th century,’ as Michael Rogin describes him. Eyes wide and mouth agape, arms outstretched and face painted black, Jolson concludes his performance in The Jazz Singer (1927) down on one knee, serenading the delighted actress who plays his mother in a voice as strong and piercing as a foghorn ...

I have nothing to say and I am saying it

Philip Clark: John Cage’s Diary, 15 December 2016

The Selected Letters of John Cage 
edited by Laura Kuhn.
Wesleyan, 618 pp., £30, January 2016, 978 0 8195 7591 3
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Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse) 
by John Cage, edited by Richard Kraft and Joe Biel.
Siglio, 176 pp., £26, October 2015, 978 1 938221 10 1
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... its likes + dislikes + its reliance on taste or memory’, as he would later explain to the poet Jackson Mac Low. His piece Williams Mix (1953), intricately spliced together from six hundred sections of pre-recorded electromagnetic tape, and his solo piano work, Music of Changes (1951), were assembled using instructions divined from the I Ching. But by the ...

People and Martians

Sheila Fitzpatrick, 24 January 2019

The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties 
by Robert Conquest.
Bodley Head, 576 pp., £20, November 2018, 978 1 84792 568 8
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The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivisation and the Terror-Famine 
by Robert Conquest.
Bodley Head, 412 pp., £20, November 2018, 978 1 84792 567 1
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... of the self-involvement of (say) Alain Besançon, the humourless righteousness of Richard Pipes or Leonard Schapiro’s cold disdain. There was a jokey, blokey aspect to Conquest, a whiff of the Oxford debating society and student satirical review, that made him an anomalous figure in international Sovietology, which – apart from Abe Brumberg’s ...

Little Englander Histories

Linda Colley: Little Englandism, 22 July 2010

A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People? England 1783-1846 
by Boyd Hilton.
Oxford, 757 pp., £21, June 2008, 978 0 19 921891 2
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Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld, 1780-1939 
by James Belich.
Oxford, 573 pp., £25, June 2009, 978 0 19 929727 6
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... with Britain’s imperial diaspora. Although other scholars such as Howard Lamar and the late Leonard Thompson have also explored these comparisons, the ‘opening’ of the West – even before Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis – has always been an important part of a self-congratulatory and inward-looking ...

On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move, 13 September 2018

Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... 1962. The other was The New Poetry, also published in 1962. Edited by A. Alvarez, it had a crazy Jackson Pollock painting on the cover. In the Allott anthology I was intrigued by some of the poems that came towards the end, most notably Jon Silkin’s ‘Death of a Son’, whose last line (‘And out of his eyes two great tears rolled, like stones, and he ...

All This Love Business

Jean McNicol: Vanessa and Julian Bell, 24 January 2013

Julian Bell: From Bloomsbury to the Spanish Civil War 
by Peter Stansky and William Abrahams.
Stanford, 314 pp., £38.95, 0 8047 7413 7
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... would be great fun to sit down and invent stories’) and sometimes felt badly treated by her and Leonard Woolf. Believing, not incorrectly, that his work was sloppy, they turned down several essays he submitted to the Hogarth Press. ‘I do think Virginia is exceedingly tiresome,’ Julian complained to his mother after his aunt had criticised his essay on ...

One Summer in America

Eliot Weinberger, 26 September 2019

... arranged for a portrait of Harriet Tubman, the former slave and abolitionist, to replace Andrew Jackson, the slave owner known as the Indian Killer, on the $20 bill. Steve Mnuchin, the secretary of the treasury, states that this will not be possible until at least 2028 and probably not at all. Trump has a portrait of ...

Love in a Dark Time

Colm Tóibín: Oscar Wilde, 19 April 2001

The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde 
edited by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis.
Fourth Estate, 1270 pp., £35, November 2000, 1 85702 781 7
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... Kallmann can be understood in this context, or the relationship between James Merrill and David Jackson. This, more likely, was the stamp and seal of the love between Wilde and Douglas. In the years which followed their meeting we get two versions of Wilde’s feelings for Douglas. In July 1894, he wrote: ‘It is really absurd. I can’t live without ...

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