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This is not a ghost story

Thomas Jones: Nathan Filer

20 February 2014
The Shock of the Fall 
by Nathan Filer.
Borough, 320 pp., £7.99, January 2014, 978 0 00 749145 2
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... family holiday at a caravan park on the Dorset coast. The exact circumstances of his death aren’t revealed until three-quarters of the way through the book, but from the beginning it’s clear that Matt holds himself obscurely responsible. When Matt was 17 he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. According to his risk assessment, ‘he suffers from command hallucinations, which he attributes to a dead ...

At the End of a Dirt Road

Thomas Powers: The Salinger File

24 October 2019
The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour – an Introduction 
by J.D. Salinger.
Little, Brown, 1072 pp., $100, November 2018, 978 0 316 45071 3
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... no questions from the curious, and carried on writing books he did not intend to publish in his lifetime. I call them books but nobody knows what they are, really: new stories about the fictional Glass family, another novel, a memoir of some kind, and tracts on homeopathy or Eastern religion are all possibilities. The only known reader of the new work is Salinger’s son, Matthew, but he may have ...

You can’t get there from here

Benjamin Markovits: Siri Hustvedt

19 June 2003
What I Loved 
by Siri Hustvedt.
Sceptre, 370 pp., £14.99, January 2003, 9780340682371
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... this book today.’ The novel is split into three sections. The first is an account of the befriended couples, suffering together the ordinary vicissitudes of love and work, and each raising a son: Matt, the slow but conscientious child of Leo and Erica; and Mark, the quick-witted and charming son of Bill and Lucille, who splits his time between his mother’s and Violet’s homes. The ordinary ...


David Harsent

2 July 2014
... and gowned in holy white to flog themselves down the street.The rhythm of that scourging, their dumbness, the rack of bloodied feet.*If not a cellar, an attic. If not walls of stone, then walls of glass.Now music from another room, the way it hangs in air,the way light scintillates, the way mirrors will passan image between them: raw scorch beneath the skin, that lidless stare.*Here, something is ...


Matt​ Frei: In Albania

14 May 1992
... coal to the steel works crisscrosses the valley like a rusty web. The pullies hang motionless. The greenhouses in which the workers used to grow their vegetables are not merely empty: every pane of glass, every brick, every movable object has been removed by human termites. All that remains is the rusty metal skeleton. As you enter the steel plant, you face a long avenue lined with bushes that seems ...

Join the club

Richard Hornsey: A new queer history of London

7 September 2006
Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis 1918-57 
by Matt​ Houlbrook.
Chicago, 384 pp., £20.50, September 2005, 0 226 35460 1
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... it as a ‘triumph for gay rights’ – in the Windsor Guildhall, where Charles had married Camilla only eight months before. Having arrived in the same year as the Civil Partnership Register, Matt Houlbrook’s impressive study of queer life in London between 1918 and 1957 does much to revise our understanding of homosexuality in that period. Coverage of recent changes in the law has tended to ...


Elspeth Davie

19 February 1981
... past on a level with the windows. Sometimes an anxious eye outside would meet the marble gaze inside. A puffy red brow might turn momentarily as if to compare itself with the clear brow behind glass. Occasionally, large birds were flung by the wind onto these windowsills – no longer omens for those ones inside who remained half-smiling, calm and beautiful at all times. The place where the ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: 10,860 novels

23 August 2001
... onto a single boatswain’s chair (or rather bench): each time one of them tugs on his rope, they all move a little higher up the skyscraper of fame; each time one applies his chamois cloth to the glass, the rest of us, peering out from the gloom inside the building, see all their faces a little more clearly. Amis and Co aren’t the only gang of this kind, they’re just the oldest and the biggest ...

At the Saatchi Gallery

Peter Campbell: London’s new art gallery

8 May 2003
... from the building. It is even more effective here, reflecting wood panelling, windows and the sky beyond, than it was in the collection’s former gallery in St John’s Wood, where it reflected a glass roof. You walk into it down a narrowing, steel-walled, waist-high passage, where black oil rises to the rim and stretches out all around you. The tank is neatly tailored to follow the room’s walls ...

At the Wallace Collection

Peter Campbell: Osbert Lancaster’s Promontory

25 September 2008
... Tudor’: ‘All over the country the latest and most scientific methods of mass production are being utilised to turn out a stream of old oak beams, leaded window panes and small discs of bottled glass.’ The details in the black and white line drawings are wonderfully precise: not just of mouldings, doors and table ornaments, but of inhabitants too. That the furniture in ‘20th-Century ...
7 October 2004
... end.) She painted one version after another of the same picture; but her repetitions are quite unlike those of, say, 17th-century Dutch still-life painters, or Academy stalwarts who knew that their glass, twist of lemon and herring, girls in the garden, or wet street at night, would sell again and again. Nor do her series mark out a path towards the final resolution of a pictorial problem, or depict ...

At Tate Modern

Peter Campbell: Rothko

23 October 2008
... lasted well. In the catalogue a table sets out the materials and processes used in the Seagram murals to achieve a richness in which glazes, underpainting, overpainting, and the contrast between matt and gloss surfaces all have a part to play. In it there are columns for earth, clay and egg as well as for various pigments, natural and synthetic, oils, resins and so forth. But the Seagram pictures ...


Frank Kermode

5 June 1997
The Untouchable 
by John Banville.
Picador, 405 pp., £15.99, May 1997, 0 330 33931 1
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... The moment stretched. Neither of us spoke. Time can stand still, I am convinced of it; something snags and stops, turning and turning, like a leaf on a stream. A thick drop of sunlight seethed in a glass paperweight on a low table.’ Light seething in glasses is a recurring figure, perhaps random, perhaps a leitmotif about the significance of which one can only speculate: it could have to do with ...


Ian Sansom

11 December 1997
The Bounty 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 78 pp., £14.99, July 1997, 0 571 19130 4
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... on now, enough!’, ‘Bounty!’, ‘ah yes!, don’t interrupt!’), and in universities the Marys have won out over the Marthas: no waste, value for money, efficiency. Everyone now seems to prefer matt to shiny and to distrust sparkle of any kind – in furnishings, in food, in philosophy and in poets. We prefer the sombre, darker tones, moodily suggesting depth and history. Brilliance is usually ...

Alma’s Alter

Gabriele Annan

11 June 1992
Oscar Kokoschka: Letters 
translated by Mary Whittall.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £24.95, March 1992, 0 500 01528 7
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... hot, blue-cold, feminine colours. The Power of Music to the subject, because a trombone fanfare, yellow, shoots out of the painting, and the immense, radiant mass of colour (radiant as stained glass, Rouault never manages to do anything like it, Van Gogh is matt and whitish-grey by comparison!) begins to tremble like a living organism in action. This is ‘action painting’ in the true sense of ...

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