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... How strong was the fortress of Jewish life when you were young – did it hold up against the invasions of Chicago? I think it broke down very quickly, at least in the Twenties. After the Second World War the Jews were shocked out of this and turned again to Orthodoxy but no longer the old Orthodoxy – to a sort of suburban religious life without much substance to it ...
The Journalist and the Murderer 
by Janet Malcolm.
Bloomsbury, 163 pp., £12.99, January 1991, 0 7475 0759 7
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... more readers/viewers/listeners to the subject’s work. Thus when Kirk Douglas or Richard Adams or Melvyn Bragg ‘agrees to see me’ shortly before their new book comes out, they are not doing it out of the kindness of their hearts but in hopes of a socking great plug. And even if I say their book is lousy, their publishers will still reassure them that ...

Tristram Rushdie

Pat Rogers, 15 September 1983

by Salman Rushdie.
Cape, 287 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 224 02952 5
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by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 233 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 241 11101 3
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Love and Glory 
by Melvyn Bragg.
Secker, 252 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 436 06716 1
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The Complete Knowledge of Sally Fry 
by Sylvia Murphy.
Gollancz, 172 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 575 03353 3
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... Four titles, and an abstract noun apiece – well, Melvyn Bragg has two, but it’s the well-known coupling as in (exactly as in, that’s rather the trouble) a fight for love-’n’-glory. Salman Rushdie’s word is a real operative concept, indeed a kind of virtue insistently contrasted with shamelessness ...


Julian Loose, 25 June 1992

Crystal Rooms 
by Melvyn Bragg.
Hodder, 342 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 0 340 56409 1
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... and I was on all of them. I thought ‘Christ, that’s awful.’ I found it quite disturbing. Melvyn Bragg interviewed by the Daily Mail, 1990 To judge from his fiction, Melvyn Bragg finds his status as the nation’s cultural uncle as unsettling as anybody. An early novel, The Nerve (1971), is ostensibly ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Who’s the arts minister?, 5 April 2001

... off’ in the column of that name in last Sunday’s Observer (we go to press on 22 March), Melvyn Bragg – novelist, broadcaster, Controller of Arts Programmes at LWT, President of the National Campaign for the Arts, Labour peer and otherwise big-haired all-rounder – lavished praise on Chris Smith. He ended with an anecdote about a meeting in ...

Speaking for England

Patrick Parrinder, 21 May 1987

The Radiant Way 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 396 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 297 79095 1
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by Maureen Duffy.
Methuen, 224 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 9780413576408
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Moon Tiger 
by Penelope Lively.
Deutsch, 208 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 233 98107 1
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The Maid of Buttermere 
by Melvyn Bragg.
Hodder, 415 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 340 40173 7
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by A.N. Wilson.
Walker, 175 pp., £8.95, April 1987, 0 7445 0801 0
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... novels, and one cannot help feeling that her best talents lie elsewhere. The Maid of Buttermere by Melvyn Bragg is a full-blooded historical novel, with a wealth of invented incidents, a use of picturesque Cumbrian landscapes and a degree of psychological melodrama belonging in the tradition of Scott. The outlines of Mary Robinson’s story are to be ...

Theroux and Through

Julian Barnes, 21 June 1984

The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 303 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 0 241 11086 6
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Doctor Slaughter 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 137 pp., £6.95, June 1984, 0 241 11255 9
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... have made them wish there was an RSPCA for humans, Dame Edna (for it was she) suddenly spotted Melvyn Bragg. ‘And there’s little Melvyn!’ she yelped. The erstwhile chairman of the Arts Council’s Literature Panel grinned no more easily than any of us would have done in his place. ‘Hands up,’ demanded Dame ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Britney’s Biggest Fan, 21 June 2001

... the Second World War, including Joanne Harris’s Five Quarters of the Orange and A Son of War by Melvyn Bragg, An Act of Treachery follows the success of Widdecombe’s first novel, The Clematis Tree. That tale of a child brain-damaged in a car accident could be said to have something of the night about it. Edwina Currie, whose novels include A ...

Huw should be so lucky

Philip Purser, 16 August 1990

Sir Huge: The Life of Huw Wheldon 
by Paul Ferris.
Joseph, 307 pp., £18.99, June 1990, 0 7181 3464 8
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... and brought such champions of Wheldon’s reputation as Sir Denis Forman, Ludovic Kennedy and Melvyn Bragg trumpeting into the field. In common with other young men of his generation (he was born in 1916), Wheldon was slow to come to terms with his sexual drive. Sent to stay with a Westphalian family and learn German during the first years of the ...

This Charming Man

Frank Kermode, 24 February 1994

The Collected and Recollected Marc 
Fourth Estate, 51 pp., £25, November 1993, 1 85702 164 9Show More
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... Mellor, Alan Bennett. There are a few outers: Jonathan Miller, Stephen Spender, Alfred Brendel, Melvyn Bragg – but even in these he is good on the hair, which, according to Craig Brown, was what he always homed in on. Rosemary Sayigh, Boxer’s sister, provides the most intimate of the recollections. In 1931, when Mark was born, the family, though ...

Ten Days that Shook Me

Alan Bennett, 15 September 1988

... fair,’ says Sue Townsend. ‘I believe they do a very good smelter.’ I am disturbed to find Melvyn Bragg working in the hotel as a doorman. He pretends not to recognise me. To Massenet’s Werther at the Bolshoi. It is an indifferent production, the scenery and sets almost Music Hall, but the house is packed and Nina and Galina, our guides, say ...

Character References

Robert Taubman, 15 May 1980

The Echo Chamber 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Harvester, 154 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 85527 807 2
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by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 160 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 575 02762 2
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Kingdom Come 
by Melvyn Bragg.
Secker, 352 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 436 06714 5
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A Gentle Occupation 
by Dirk Bogarde.
Chatto, 360 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 7011 2505 5
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Innocent Blood 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 276 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 571 11566 7
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... both fantasy and about fantasy, not least as a way of coming to terms with pain and horror. Melvyn Bragg’s novel is of the documentary kind, a transcription of what goes on outside it – true to life, one would say if one found it any good: but then paradoxically that depends on the liveliness of what he himself has created. Kingdom Come has a ...


John Naughton: On the Future of the BBC, 17 December 1992

... is basically an exercise in steam-venting for pressure groups and interested parties, like Melvyn Bragg and Mrs Whitehouse. In the process the Corporation hopes to obscure the awkward fact that it is not the private property of Marmaduke Hussey, John Birt and their acolytes to dispose of as they see fit. Imagine the outrage there would be if the ...


Elaine Showalter: My Year of Living Dangerously, 2 April 1998

... for 15 minutes. If so, my time is up. In Britain the worst I had to face was a nasty grilling from Melvyn Bragg on Start the Week. (Only a few days before the programme I discovered that Bragg is an officer of the British ME Association.) And even he relented enough to give me a piece of Eric Hobsbawm’s 80th-birthday ...


John Sutherland, 14 June 1990

CounterBlasts No 10. The Monarchy: A Critique of Britain’s Favourite Fetish 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Chatto, 42 pp., £2.99, January 1990, 0 7011 3555 7
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The Prince 
by Celia Brayfield.
Chatto, 576 pp., £12.95, March 1990, 0 7011 3357 0
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The Maker’s Mark 
by Roy Hattersley.
Macmillan, 558 pp., £13.95, June 1990, 9780333470329
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A Time to Dance 
by Melvyn Bragg.
Hodder, 220 pp., £12.95, June 1990, 0 340 52911 3
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... for the next two instalments. If God likes a good read, he’ll give Mrs Thatcher a fourth term. Melvyn Bragg’s latest effort is a claustrophobic study of male infatuation. A 54-year-old, retired bank manager and Rotarian falls in love with an 18-year-old secretary with a dubious Irish Catholic background (some things haven’t changed in a hundred ...

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