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Jacqueline Rose: ‘Specimen Days’

22 September 2005
Specimen Days 
by Michael Cunningham.
Fourth Estate, 308 pp., £14.99, August 2005, 0 00 715605 7
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... At the centre of MichaelCunningham’s new novel, in the second of its three tales, Cat, a black woman police investigator in New York, has the job of receiving and recording the calls of people threatening to blow themselves and ...


Christian Lorentzen: Are books like nappies?

2 August 2012
... boredom by occasionally pretending to represent the Scientology delegation. Just before the door we were accosted by the head of a mission from Moscow. Her offerings included the complete works of MichaelCunningham in Russian. She wouldn’t let us leave without a copy of Sense, a novel by a Chechen called Arslan Khasavov, 24-year-old winner of the Debut Prize. The novel shows ‘the limits to which ...


Danny Karlin

23 May 1991
The Clopton Hercules 
by Duncan Sprott.
Faber, 220 pp., £13.99, January 1991, 9780571144082
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Life of a Drum 
by Carlo Gebler.
Hamish Hamilton, 173 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 241 13074 3
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Seventh Heaven 
by Alice Hoffman.
Virago, 256 pp., £12.99, February 1991, 1 85381 283 8
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A Home at the End of the World 
by Michael Cunningham.
Hamish Hamilton, 343 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 241 12909 5
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A place I’ve never been 
by David Leavitt.
Viking, 194 pp., £12.99, February 1991, 0 670 82196 9
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... culture) is shown up, with different degrees of irony or scepticism. A terrible artist’s snobbery is at work here, even in the best of these five books, Alice Hoffman’s Seventh Heaven and MichaelCunningham’s A Home at the End of the World. Carlo Gebler dissents from this attitude; unfortunately he writes less well. Still, there were times when I warmed to Life of a Drum, lacking though it ...

Tacky Dress

Dale Peck

22 February 1996
Like People in History: A Gay American Epic 
by Felice Picano.
Viking, 512 pp., $23.95, July 1995, 0 670 86047 6
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How Long Has This Been Going On? 
by Ethan Mordden.
Villard, 590 pp., $25, April 1995, 0 679 41529 7
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The Facts of Life 
by Patrick Gale.
Flamingo, 511 pp., £15.99, June 1995, 0 602 24522 2
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Flesh and Blood 
by Michael Cunningham.
Hamish Hamilton, 480 pp., £14.99, June 1995, 9780241135150
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... cheapest and most accessible form of art has always been the written word. By the late Seventies an organisation called the Violet Quill had formed, and its members – Christopher Cox, Robert Ferro, Michael Grumley, Andrew Holleran, Felice Picano, Edmund White and George Whitmore, together with the film critic Vito Russo and the editor and academic George Stambolian – began producing books whose ...


James Davidson: Face to Face with Merce Cunningham

2 November 2000
... soon graduated, or rather moved on, for I hadn’t reached any particular standard, to Oxford’s Old Fire Station, which somehow afforded top-class teachers from London. Here I was introduced to ‘Cunningham technique’, which was a reaction to Graham and involved lots of standing up. You held your arms like albatross wings and worked the top of the back first, tipping forwards, then sideways, then back ...

Grendel gongan

Richard North

10 October 1991
The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature 
by Malcolm Godden and Michael​ Lapidge.
Cambridge, 298 pp., £30, June 1991, 0 521 37438 3
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... is just this statutory match of Old and Modern in one term that is now under scrutiny in the English Faculty in Oxford. In a recent piece in the Oxford Magazine called ‘Reading English’ Valentine Cunningham proposes the abolition of compulsory Old English as part of a reform of the post-Medieval syllabus. Those who think as he does appear to see Old and Modern as implacable rivals, or at least as de ...


Michael​ Church

9 October 1986
The Children of the Souls: A Tragedy of the First World War 
by Jeanne Mackenzie.
Chatto, 276 pp., £14.95, June 1986, 9780701128470
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Voices from the Spanish Civil War: Personal Recollections of Scottish Volunteers in Republican Spain 1936-39 
edited by Ian MacDougall, by Victor Kiernan.
Polygon, 369 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 948275 19 7
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The Shallow Grave: A Memoir of the Spanish Civil War 
by Walter Gregory, edited by David Morris and Anthony Peters.
Gollancz, 183 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 575 03790 3
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Spanish Front: Writers on the Civil War 
edited by Valentine Cunningham.
Oxford, 388 pp., £15, July 1986, 0 19 212258 4
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The Spanish Cockpit 
by Franz Borkenau.
Pluto, 303 pp., £4.95, July 1986, 0 7453 0188 6
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The Spanish Civil War 1936-39 
by Paul Preston.
Weidenfeld, 184 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 297 78891 4
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Images of the Spanish Civil War 
by Raymond Carr.
Allen and Unwin, 192 pp., £14.95, July 1986, 0 04 940089 4
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... it in England, he said, was ‘lies, because the propaganda is conducted by politicians, whether of the Daily Worker or of the Daily Mail’. The Daily Worker’s role in Spain was one of Valentine Cunningham’s targets in the astringent introduction to his earlier anthology The Penguin Book of Spanish Civil War Verse. Cuningham noted the paper’s slavering desire for martyrs and its cynical distortion ...

At the Royal Academy

Eleanor Birne: Tacita Dean

7 June 2018
... still from Tacita Dean’s film portrait of David Hockney (2016) Dean clearly has an affinity with old men. Her exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery was full of them. She visits the elderly Michael Hamburger at his Suffolk farmhouse with her movie camera, zooming in on the wonky doorways, the rotting window frames, the overgrown garden, the teetering piles of books – an old poet’s props ...

When the Costume Comes Off

Adam Mars-Jones: Philip Hensher

14 April 2011
King of the Badgers 
by Philip Hensher.
Fourth Estate, 436 pp., £18.99, March 2011, 978 0 00 730133 1
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... coming-of-age stories a majority readership can be expected to embrace, a number of novelists have started to look for ways of remaining unapologetically gay writers without writing ‘gay novels’. MichaelCunningham won a large readership with The Hours, in which gay lives featured without being allowed to predominate, though his touch seems less sure in his most recent offering, By Nightfall. A ...

The Pills in the Fridge

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘Christodora’

29 March 2017
by Tim Murphy.
Picador, 432 pp., £16.99, February 2017, 978 1 5098 1857 0
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... Woolf’s Clarissa Dalloway, for instance, with her intimations of bliss and connectedness, was the psychologically ruined war veteran Septimus Smith. In that novel the two didn’t meet, though MichaelCunningham, refracting the material in The Hours, had his modern-day Clarissa figure care for Richard, his version of Septimus, worn down by the struggle with HIV. The ending, suicide by jumping, was ...


Michael​ Neve

8 November 1990
The Double in 19th-Century Fiction 
by John Herdman.
Macmillan, 174 pp., £35, August 1990, 9780333490242
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Romanticism and the Sciences 
edited by Andrew Cunningham and Nicholas Jardine.
Cambridge, 345 pp., £40, June 1990, 0 521 35602 4
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Schizophrenia: A Scientific Delusion? 
by Mary Boyle.
Routledge, 248 pp., £35, September 1990, 0 415 04096 5
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... he dead.’ Kleist could only think of one way out, the only alternative to the endless repetition of duality: killing himself and his girl on the banks of the Wannsee in Berlin in November 1911. Cunningham and Jardine have done well to collect together the essays in Romanticism and the Sciences, especially given English intellectual hostility to finding anything coherent in Romanticism, let alone ...

Whose Body?

Charles Glass: ‘Operation Mincemeat’

22 July 2010
Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story that Changed the Course of World War Two 
by Ben Macintyre.
Bloomsbury, 400 pp., £16.99, January 2010, 978 0 7475 9868 8
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... gallows, explained to Montagu which causes of death could pass for drowning or exposure. Purchase went one better and procured the body, according to Macintyre, of a down and out Welshman, Glyndwr Michael, a 34-year-old vagrant found dead in January 1943 in an abandoned warehouse. Michael had either intentionally or mistakenly drunk a concoction called Battle’s Vermin Killer, which contained white ...

In the Company of Confreres

Terry Eagleton: ‘Modern British Fiction’

12 December 2002
On Modern British Fiction 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 328 pp., £14.99, October 2002, 0 19 924932 6
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... imagine the Crime Writers Guild threatening to withdraw their labour. Whether Iris Murdoch was a lady or a woman is hard to say. In a busily energetic, impressively wide-ranging chapter, Valentine Cunningham lavishes the customary critical praise on her conception of human life as sprawling, contingent and delightfully muddled. This delight in messiness was not in fact confined to her art, as Martin Amis ...

Top Grumpy’s Top Hate

Robert Irwin: Richard Aldington’s Gripes

18 February 1999
Richard Aldington and Lawrence of Arabia: A Cautionary Tale 
by Fred Crawford.
Southern Illinois, 265 pp., £31.95, July 1998, 0 8093 2166 1
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Lawrence the Uncrowned King of Arabia 
by Michael​ Asher.
Viking, 419 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 670 87029 3
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... as a sitter for characters in other people’s novels than he was as a writer. Besides starring as Rafe Ashton in his former wife Hilda Doolittle’s novel Bid Me to Live (1960), and as Robert Cunningham in D.H. Lawrence’s Aaron’s Rod (1922), he may have had the misfortune to furnish the model for Sir Clifford Chatterley. Aldington’s maledictory novel, Death of a Hero, has not worn well. The ...
5 September 1996
Growing Up Poor: Home, School and Street 1870-1914 
by Anna Davin.
Rivers Oram, 289 pp., £19.95, January 1996, 9781854890627
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... V.S. Pritchett) and, to escape the workhouse, relying on the kindness of relatives and neighbours – traditions of give-and-take which still survived in the postwar Bethnal Green anthropologised by Michael Young and Peter Willmott in Family and Kinship in East London (1957). Davin’s respect for the resourcefulness, grit and loyalty of these working families is clear: the streets may have been mean ...

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