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Likeable Sage

Sheldon Rothblatt, 17 September 1981

Matthew Arnold: A Life 
by Park Honan.
Weidenfeld, 496 pp., £9.95, August 1981, 0 297 77824 2
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... women in smart attire, the company of a Rothschild, the compliments of Disraeli, the wealth of a Hudson River estate (where in 1883 he went to see Delanos and Astors), and yes, it mattered to him that his famous lecture tour of the United States netted upwards of £1000, since he was perpetually in debt. Yes, Victorian biographers, memoirists, members of the ...

Did they even hang bears?

Tom Shippey: What made the Vikings tick?, 13 August 2020

The Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings 
by Neil Price.
Allen Lane, 599 pp., £30, August, 978 0 241 28398 1
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... system beyond ‘the fourth year of King Olaf’ and so on. Royal succession was the only way to mark time. The sequence of events we refer to as the Viking Age was put together from the accounts of their many victims, from Ireland to Byzantium.Price’s book, however, centres on ‘what made [the Vikings] tick, how they thought and felt’. How much money ...

But this is fateful!

Theo Tait: Jonathan Lethem, 16 March 2017

The Blot: A Novel 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Cape, 289 pp., £16.99, February 2017, 978 0 224 10148 6
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The Blot 
by Jonathan Lethem and Laurence Rickels.
Anti-Oedipus, 88 pp., £6.99, September 2016, 978 0 9905733 7 1
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... street person’, with a ‘warped grin and pigeon walk’ and ‘a posture like a question mark … dressed in layers of baggy, unwashed black polyester’, Keith Stolarsky is in fact extremely rich, as his very attractive ‘companion’, Tira, explains: he now owns a prime block on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, and is ‘viewed as kind of like Darth ...

Genius in Its Pure State

Mark Ford, 22 May 1997

... performance they’re witnessing. One thinks of Henry James’s remark in the Preface to Roderick Hudson about the artist’s need to draw a circle around relations that really stop nowhere: the young Roussel seems unaware of this need. Texts like La Seine or Claude et Luce might continue for ever, mes-merically in thrall to the world’s banality and ...

Op Art

Joshua Cohen: Joshua Sobol, 3 March 2011

Cut Throat Dog 
by Joshua Sobol, translated by Dalya Bilu.
Melville House, 270 pp., £10.99, November 2010, 978 1 935554 21 9
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... bomb is merely a metaphor symbolising his own fuming self. In the final scene, he jumps into the Hudson and drowns; the city is saved. Metaphysics, if it can be defined at all, is highbrow gimmickry, while genre literature was until recently the lowest of the low. For writers they represent two opposing drives: the desire to be taken seriously and the desire ...

Brideshead Revered

David Cannadine, 17 March 1983

The Country House 
by James Lees-Milne.
Oxford, 110 pp., £4.50, November 1982, 0 19 214139 2
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English Country Houses and Landed Estates 
by Heather Clemenson.
Croom Helm, 244 pp., £15.95, July 1982, 0 85664 987 2
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The Last Country Houses 
by Clive Aslet.
Yale, 344 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 300 02904 7
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... This is not, of course, a universally valid dictum. Even the combined and mellifluous resources of Mark Girouard and Yale University Press have yet to unfurl the full panoply of best-selling nostalgia on behalf of such doomed and dodoed delights as education before the comprehensive (Life in the English Secondary Mod?), arithmetic before the pocket calculator ...

Full of Hell

Fatema Ahmed: James Salter, 5 February 2004

by James Salter.
Harvill, 208 pp., £10.99, August 2003, 1 86046 925 6
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Light Years 
by James Salter.
Vintage, 320 pp., £6.99, August 2003, 0 09 945022 4
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... on the whole, of his life, was that he wrote on the bedroom walls. That seems to me the true mark of a writer. It is like a pianist practising in the middle of the night when the whole household is asleep or trying to sleep.’ Salter says nothing of his own writing habits, or of his recent revisiting of past work. He revised The Hunters before agreeing ...

The Hell out of Dodge

Jeremy Harding: Woodstock 1969, 15 August 2019

Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music 
by Michael Lang.
Reel Art Press, 289 pp., £44.95, July 2019, 978 1 909526 62 4
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... who made Woodstock happen, has a habit of surfacing at Woodstock birthdays: one book to mark the tenth anniversary, another to mark the fortieth, a couple of namesake concerts and now a coffee-table volume of photos from the 1969 festival, plus brief explanatory notes. Earlier this year he announced the line-up ...

A Mile or Two outside Worthing

Richard Jenkyns: Edward Trelawny, 26 November 1998

Lord Byron’s Jackal: A Life of Trelawny 
by David Crane.
HarperCollins, 398 pp., £19.99, July 1998, 0 00 255631 6
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... and talk sentiment with the ladies. Here he founded the friendships and enmities which were to mark the rest of his life. He was to become the keeper of Shelley’s flame. His devotion to Byron was to curdle into jealousy and hatred. He was to maintain a friendship with Mary Shelley until a bitter estrangement many years later. With Claire Clairmont, the ...

Deadly Eliza

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: ‘The Whole Family: A Novel by Twelve Authors’, 1 November 2001

The Whole Family: A Novel by Twelve Authors 
by William Dean Howells et al.
Duke, 416 pp., £13.50, November 2001, 0 8223 2838 0
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Publishing the Family 
by June Howard.
Duke, 304 pp., £13.50, November 2001, 0 8223 2771 6
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... through the generations. But what with the refusal of some writers to join the enterprise – Mark Twain was an early dropout – and the work schedule of others, the engenderer was compelled to get the family under way. No sooner had he done so, however, than he was upstaged by an ‘old-maid aunt’: a character whom Howells had originally relegated to ...

Porringers and Pitkins

Keith Thomas: The Early Modern Household, 5 July 2018

A Day at Home in Early Modern England: Material Culture and Domestic Life, 1500-1700 
by Tara Hamling and Catherine Richardson.
Yale, 311 pp., £40, October 2017, 978 0 300 19501 9
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... on the building and layout of the houses in which people lived. This gap was filled by Thomas Hudson Turner, who worked on household accounts and planned a three-volume work on medieval domestic architecture. It was completed after his death (in 1852) by another architectural historian, John Henry Parker, who also drew on it for Our English Home: Its ...

His Own Prophet

Michael Hofmann: Read Robert Lowell!, 11 September 2003

Collected Poems 
by Robert Lowell, edited by Frank Bidart and David Gewanter.
Faber, 1186 pp., £40, July 2003, 0 571 16340 8
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... It is as though heat had been applied to the language (calefaction?), and made – in Mark Rudman’s phrase – ‘fused images’. Lines from Lowell’s Leopardi suggest themselves by way of confirmation: ‘I could forget/the fascinating studies in my bolted room,/where my life was burning out,/and the heat/of my writings made the letters ...

Franklin D, listen to me

J. Hoberman: Popular (Front) Songs, 17 September 1998

Songs for Political Action: Folk Music, Topical Songs and the American Left, 1926-53 
edited by Ronald Cohen and Dave Samuelson.
Bear Family Records, DM 390, June 1996
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... Composers’ Collective – a New York-based Communist cell which included among its associates Mark Blitzstein, Earl Robinson and Aaron Copland. The Collective took its cue from the militant anthems of Bertolt Brecht and Hans Eisler, composing American versions of 12-tone protest songs: ‘The Strange Funeral at Braddock’ gives the full Modernist ...


Iain Sinclair, 6 June 1996

... work is his life, is happy to go either way: rhyme them or float them, with a winning question mark, at the conclusion of an in-your-face Greenwich Village monologue. The novelist is the Miami-based eco dude, Carl Hiaasen, author of a number of slick, fast-moving, if increasingly formulaic, crime romps. Barbecued poodles, steroidal maniacs in sub-Disney ...

Bought a gun, found the man

Anne Hollander: Eadweard Muybridge, 24 July 2003

Motion Studies: Time, Space and Eadweard Muybridge 
by Rebecca Solnit.
Bloomsbury, 305 pp., £16.99, February 2003, 0 7475 6220 2
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... a degree unmatched even by the industrial East. Stanford’s fellow tycoons in these projects were Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker and Collis P. Huntington – ‘and their corruption was as big as their profit,’ Solnit says. These ‘Big Four’, all former Sacramento storekeepers who had sold goods to Gold Rush miners, had come to monopolise political and ...

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