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Mary-Kay Wilmers: The Menopause, 10 October 1991

... that ‘many a man who was attractive and amusing at 20 is a pompous old bore at 50,’ and Melvyn Bragg got a lot of stick for the novel he wrote about an icky romance between a nice enough man in his fifties and an even nicer 18-year-old whose looks were out of this world, but women (for whatever reason) never seem to tire of telling stories ...


Stephen Smith: Stephen Smith goes to Cuba and tries to get his books out of the library, 24 November 1994

... managing a writers’ XI would want to sign him on the spot – a sly, last-minute ringer for Melvyn Bragg or Martin Amis. A. is in his early thirties and is presently contributing to magazines in South America. A short story of his appeared in a Cuban anthology published last year. ‘We had help from Spain and the USA,’ he explains. ‘We would ...


Ian Jack: Class 1H, 15 July 2021

... ever know anyone so anxious to please their parents, so lonely and so scared of failure that, like Melvyn Bragg, they suffered a breakdown in their first year at grammar school. What I do remember is that life improved in my later school years, which accords with Todd’s view that working-class children, particularly boys, tended to get more help with ...


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 ...

Delivering the Leadership

Nick Cohen: Get Mandy, 4 March 1999

Mandy: The Authorised Biography of Peter Mandelson 
by Paul Routledge.
Simon and Schuster, 302 pp., £17.99, January 1999, 9780684851754
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... share option lottery in 1993 fell well for them. (Among the lucky LWT managers, incidentally, were Melvyn Bragg, Barry Cox and Greg Dyke. They provided most of the £79,000 Tony Blair spent on his campaign to become Labour leader. Bragg was ennobled by New Labour, Cox is a senior executive in the ITV network and ...

Utterly in Awe

Jenny Turner: Lynn Barber, 5 June 2014

A Curious Career 
by Lynn Barber.
Bloomsbury, 224 pp., £16.99, May 2014, 978 1 4088 3719 1
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... her legs wide apart, her black satin crotch glinting between her scrawny 55-year-old thighs’. Melvyn Bragg, filming his reaction shots for the South Bank Show, ‘smiling, simpering, giggling, looking down at his nails’. Richard Harris at the Savoy in 1990, ‘playing pocket billiards’ through his tracksuit bottoms. Rafael Nadal in Rome in ...

Mythic Elements

Stephen Bann, 30 December 1982

Queen of Stones 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 160 pp., £6.95, November 1982, 0 224 02601 1
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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 
by William Kotzwinkle, based on a screenplay by Melissa Mathison.
Arthur Barker, 246 pp., £6.95, November 1982, 0 213 16848 0
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Tales of Afghanistan 
by Amina Shah.
Octagon Press, 128 pp., £6.50, November 1982, 0 900860 94 4
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The Masque of St Eadmundsburg 
by Humphrey Morrison.
Blond and Briggs, 228 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 85634 127 4
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A Villa in France 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 575 03103 4
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Collected Stories: Vol. III 
by Sean O’Faolain.
Constable, 422 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 09 463920 5
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Work Suspended and Other Stories 
by Evelyn Waugh.
Penguin, 318 pp., £2.75, November 1982, 0 14 006518 0
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... contact with Adam (known to viewers of London Weekend Television through the surrogate emblem of Melvyn Bragg conducting the live electricity of the Arts) has been hijacked for the dust-cover of this generic hybrid. Let us pause before the engaging image of the outstretched fingers of the human child glowing softly in response to the scaly protuberances ...

Carré on spying

John Sutherland, 3 April 1986

A Perfect Spy 
by John le Carré.
Hodder, 463 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 9780340387849
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The Novels of John le Carré 
by David Monaghan.
Blackwell, 207 pp., £12.50, September 1985, 0 631 14283 5
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Taking sides: The Fiction of John le Carré 
by Tony Barley.
Open University, 175 pp., £20, March 1986, 0 335 15251 1
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John le Carré 
by Peter Lewis.
Ungar, 228 pp., £10.95, August 1985, 0 8044 2243 5
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A Servant’s Tale 
by Paula Fox.
Virago, 321 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 86068 702 3
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A State of Independence 
by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 158 pp., £8.95, February 1986, 0 571 13910 8
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... had consciously ended a major phase of his writing career. As he put it in an interview with Melvyn Bragg in 1983, ‘by the end of the Smiley books I’d gone too far into a private world.’ The Smiley saga ends, it will be remembered, with Karla crossing no man’s land, betrayed into defection by love for his daughter. It is a life’s triumph ...

Dark Sayings

Thomas Jones: Lawrence Norfolk, 2 November 2000

In the Shape of a Boar 
by Lawrence Norfolk.
Weidenfeld, 322 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 0 297 64618 4
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... Memel is being prepared for a TV interview with Maximilian Faucher, a 1960s French version of Melvyn Bragg. Memel’s bloodless face regarded him from the mirror. He recognised the widow’s peak, a drooping around the eyes. An unexceptional mouth set above an unremarkable chin. His face had lengthened in his late teens, when his appearance had been ...

A Calamitous Man

Patrick Collinson: Incombustible Luther, 29 July 1999

Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death 
by Richard Marius.
Harvard, 542 pp., £19.95, March 1999, 0 674 55090 0
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... a TV programme, that Luther was to religion what J.S. Bach was to music, brought the retort from Melvyn Bragg that Sir Thomas Beecham found that he could manage very well without Bach. Luther himself, and his followers, ensured that there would always be plenty to talk and argue about, so that hundreds of books and articles have been devoted to the ...


Iain Sinclair: London’s Lost Cinemas, 6 November 2014

... Museum, all that rescued signage, all that period-specific authenticity, the impressive figure of Melvyn Bragg, who had been shooting some high-toned television against this picturesque backdrop, swept out to his waiting Mercedes. Nobody in the convalescent audience heard much of the introduction, but they waited patiently and gave this night’s ...

Woof, woof

Rosemary Hill: Auberon Waugh, 7 November 2019

A Scribbler in Soho: A Celebration of Auberon Waugh 
edited by Naim Attallah.
Quartet, 341 pp., £20, January 2019, 978 0 7043 7457 7
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... readings from the unlucky winner’s efforts. Recipients have included Rachel Johnson and Melvyn Bragg. At the Literary Review Waugh held up a distorting mirror to the literary world. Some of his scepticism must have been a product of his relationship with his father. Geoffrey Wheatcroft noted that as he grew older Waugh ‘became more candid ...

Literary Friction

Jenny Turner: Kathy Acker’s Ashes, 19 October 2017

After Kathy Acker: A Literary Biography 
by Chris Kraus.
Allen Lane, 352 pp., £20, August 2017, 978 1 63590 006 4
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... tough, fashionable, self-conscious group, now at the top of the New York avant-garde art world,’ Melvyn Bragg explains, blunt brown sideburns toning nicely with his blunt brown tie. A bit later he addresses Acker directly. ‘You talk in your books about doing away with meaning. What do you mean by that, more precisely?’ She smiles.For this ...


Will Self: On the Common, 25 February 2010

... Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time has become something of a badge to be worn with pride by the contemporary British dilettante. I often find myself groping for conversation, when my interlocutor, perhaps sensing my abstraction, will reveal that she listens to – and loves – the Radio 4 discussion programme on the history of ideas ...

On the Salieri Express

John Sutherland, 24 September 1992

Doctor Criminale 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 343 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 436 20115 1
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The Promise of Light 
by Paul Watkins.
Faber, 217 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 571 16715 2
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The Absolution Game 
by Paul Sayer.
Constable, 204 pp., £13.99, June 1992, 0 09 471460 6
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The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman 
by Louis de Bernières.
Secker, 388 pp., £14.99, August 1992, 0 436 20114 3
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Written on the Body 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Cape, 190 pp., £13.99, September 1992, 0 224 03587 8
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... off to drink himself stupid at Groucho’s in the company of (or at least in the same room as) Melvyn Bragg, Umberto Eco and Gore Vidal. Amnesia has gone away and names are being profusely dropped again. Bradbury has never had much luck with the Booker, and I would guess that he’s blown it for 1992. But what is intriguing about the description of ...

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