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Shaky Do

Tony Gould, 5 May 1988

Mary and Richard: The Story of Richard Hillary and Mary Booker 
by Michael Burn.
Deutsch, 249 pp., £12.95, April 1988, 0 233 98280 9
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... Michael Burn assumes in this book that the name of Richard Hillary means nothing to present-day readers, so the reviewer had better follow his practice and provide biographical details. Although he was born in Australia shortly after the end of the First World War, Hillary came to England at an early age and had a thoroughly English upper middle-class education – prep school, followed by public school (Shrewsbury) and Oxford (Trinity College ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Michael Jackson’s frailties, 31 March 2005

... Catching news about the Michael Jackson trial, I can’t help being reminded of a caustic song by Dan Bern, a singer less famous than Jackson by several orders of magnitude, called ‘Too Late to Die Young’. ‘The day that Elvis died was like a mercy killing,’ it begins, before turning its attention to the inglorious late careers of other fallen idols of American popular culture, challenging listeners to ‘name the last good film that Marlon Brando made/While trying to keep his kid from going to jail ...

Exotic Birds

Michael Foley, 4 April 1985

... for each other though. Guys catch the eyes of the girls (their friend’s girl) In glances that burn as the rounds arrive and the anecdotes flow Interrupting, interpolating, exaggerating, playing for laughs. But serious too. The young men are writers. Correction! They ‘write a bit’. Hence their loudly-voiced outrage, bewilderment, pain and disgust. The ...

Seven Poems

Michael Hofmann, 4 September 1980

... correspondence. I don’t know what I see in you. You criticise my passionate letters, then burn them for safety. In return, you write me Latin tags, stoical philosophy boiled dry. I placed a knife under my white left breast (which you’ve never seen), broke the skin and sent you my heart’s blood on a handkerchief. You always feel sorry for your ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Avengers: Endgame’, 6 June 2019

... the humans,​ ’ a dark deep voice asks at the beginning of the film, ‘what can they do but burn?’ The answer is quite a lot, especially when they are defended by superheroes. Still, many of them do burn, and the film itself, The Avengers (2012), directed by Joss Whedon, quietly raises the issue of collateral ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Captain America: Civil War’, 15 June 2016

Captain America: Civil War 
directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo.
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... films. One is shared with many action movies: there has to be a lot of damage to property. Cars burn, streets are ripped up, tall buildings flame and topple. This is great fun, like smashing all your toys so you can get another set, and it allows you to make terrific noises on the soundtrack. The other rule is that there has to be a good deal of ...

Sympathy for the Devil

Michael Wood, 16 October 1997

The Master and Margarita 
by Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O’Connor.
Picador, 367 pp., £20, August 1997, 0 330 35133 8
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The Master and Margarita 
by Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
Penguin, 412 pp., £7.99, May 1997, 0 14 118014 5
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... which forms the title of a very good book on Bulgakov by Julie Curtis: ‘Manuscripts don’t burn.’ He indicates a chair where the complete manuscript sits. Is he talking about ‘the immortality of a created work’, as Ellendea Proffer says in her commentary to the Picador translation? Expressing ‘an absolute trust in the triumph of ...

The Old, Bad Civilisation

Arnold Rattenbury: Second World War poetry, 4 October 2001

Selected Poems 
by Randall Swingler, edited by Andy Croft.
Trent, 113 pp., £7.99, October 2000, 1 84233 014 4
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British Writing of the Second World War 
by Mark Rawlinson.
Oxford, 256 pp., £35, June 2000, 0 19 818456 5
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... to Mary and Richard (1988), a collection of love letters between Hillary and Mary Booker edited by Michael Burn, later to become Mary’s husband; this leads him to Burn’s own important POW novel, Yes, Farewell (1946) and Burn’s introduction to its reprint in 1974, as Farewell to ...

Kill a Pig, roast a Prussian

Michael Burns, 19 November 1992

The Village of Cannibals: Rage and Murder in France, 1870 
by Alain Corbin, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Polity, 164 pp., £25, July 1992, 0 7456 0895 7
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... Calas. Corbin uses trial records and memoirs to capture the horror: To make sure the fire would burn well, the fuel, along with the body beneath it, was trampled underfoot. Chambort ‘packed the wood down with his foot’ and ‘danced precariously’ atop the pile ... Young Campot also danced about and raised his arms while shouting ‘Vive ...

Red Stars

John Sutherland, 6 December 1984

Wild Berries 
by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, translated by Antonia Bovis.
Macmillan, 296 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 333 37559 9
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The Burn 
by Vassily Aksyonov, translated by Michael Glenny.
Hutchinson, 528 pp., £10.95, October 1984, 0 09 155580 9
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Fellow Travellers 
by T.C. Worsley.
Gay Men’s Press, 249 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 907040 51 9
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The Power of the Dog 
by Thomas Savage.
Chatto, 276 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 7011 3939 0
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The Fourth Protocol 
by Frederick Forsyth.
Hutchinson, 448 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 09 158630 5
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The Set-Up 
by Vladimir Volkoff, translated by Alan Sheridan.
Bodley Head, 397 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 370 30583 3
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... he lives in Washington, jogs four miles a day, and greatly admires the Jefferson memorial. The Burn, which is proclaimed his masterwork, was written over the period 1969-75, but never published in the USSR. It’s hard to see how it ever could have been. The novel (evidently composed as an angry private journal) is a fantasia on the theme of the lost hopes ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Inglourious Basterds’, 10 September 2009

Inglourious Basterds 
directed by Quentin Tarantino.
August 2009
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... and perfectly calm at the same time. She has the film’s one truly brilliant idea: she will burn down the cinema with the Nazis in it, using all the nitrate stock she has to create and fuel the blaze. She announces this scheme to her friend in the beautifully photographed empty lobby of her cinema. It’s as if she has to kill the movies to get rid of ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘300’, 26 April 2007

300 
directed by Zack Snyder.
December 2006
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... having some foreknowledge of Henry V’s stance at Agincourt (‘We will light a fire that will burn in the hearts of free men for all the centuries yet to be’) invites the faint-hearted – i.e. those not in favour of certain death – to leave him. They do leave, in their thousands, muttering things like ‘I’d be crazy not to,’ ‘I’ve got my ...

Defence of the Housefly

Dinah Birch, 14 November 1996

Letters of Emma and Florence Hardy 
edited by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 364 pp., £45, April 1996, 0 19 818609 6
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... Florence was struck with uneasiness after one particularly edgy bout of discontent: ‘I hope you burn my letters. Some are, I fear, most horribly indiscreet.’ But her husband was by then the most famous literary man of his age, and Florence’s letters were not for burning. They might, after all, be worth something. Neither Emma nor Florence could come to ...
... he can be killed are equally mistaken. Weapons cannot pierce this life that animates you, nor fire burn it, nor water dampen it, nor wind dry it out. Have no fear, and stand up, for I love you. Then the two armies tear each other limb from limb. War as metaphor, war as brutal reality. Brook says his engagement with The Mahabharata began in 1966, when a young ...

Vampiric Words

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 26 May 1994

The Hunger Artists: Starving, Writing and Imprisonment 
by Maud Ellmann.
Virago, 136 pp., £7.99, September 1993, 1 85381 675 2
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... anymore,’ the 57-year-old Fonda announced, explaining that after two decades of ‘going for the burn’ when she exercised and of binging and purging when she ate, she had decided that there was something unhealthily obsessive about her relation to her flesh. Social critics troubled by the fact that the last twenty years have also seen a dramatic rise in ...

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