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Frank Auerbach’s London

T.J. Clark: Frank Auerbach, 9 September 2015

... the Railway Station’: ‘And the man in the handcuffs suddenly sang/With grimful glee …’ Frank Auerbach to William Feaver And the man in the handcuffs suddenly sang With grimful glee: ‘This life so free Is the thing for me!’ And the constable smiled, and said no word. Thomas Hardy, ‘At the Railway Station, Upway’ I remember​ the first ...

A Sort of Nobody

Michael Wood, 9 May 1996

Not Entitled: A Memoir 
by Frank Kermode.
HarperCollins, 263 pp., £18, May 1996, 0 00 255519 0
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... Criticism for Frank Kermode is the articulation of assumptions, a sort of phenomenology of interpretative need. Its job, as he says in The Sense of an Ending (1967), is ‘making sense of the ways we try to make sense of our lives’. It involves close reading, discriminations of value, a practised affection for old and new texts, but its chief quarry is the turn of a culture’s mind, one of those trains of thought which Conrad thought could not be false – because even when they look horribly false they are embedded in arguments or entailments we need to believe are true ...

At Tate Britain

Frank Kermode: William Blake, 14 December 2000

... perhaps Blake used the copper plate as a sketchpad, as Peter Ackroyd suggests in his biography. Michael Phillips’s replicas of the original plates testify to the artist’s industry and also to the devotion of modern Blakeans. The lay observer can hardly bear to contemplate the toil involved in all that neat, packed engraving, let alone in having to do ...

Liverpool’s Nightmare

Frank Field, 19 December 1985

Liverpool on the Brink: One City’s Struggle against Government Cuts 
by Michael Parkinson.
Policy Journals, 184 pp., £9.50, November 1985, 0 946967 06 7
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Unemployment in Liverpool. Vol. I: Unemployment Changes 1982-1985 
by Michael Hayes.
Liverpool City Council, 16 pp., £2, November 1985
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Liverpool’s Economy. Vol. I: Employment and Unemployment: Changes and Trends 1978-1991 
by Michael Hayes.
Liverpool City Council, 39 pp., £2.50, June 1985
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... to the collapse of part of Liverpool’s economy was formulated in the wake of the Toxteth riots. Michael Heseltine assumed a kind of viceroy role – not inappropriate, given the similarities between part of the local economy and that of the Third World. A task force of civil servants was established, headed, at first, by Eric Sorensen, one of the brightest ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘300’, 26 April 2007

300 
directed by Zack Snyder.
December 2006
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... any Greek’, a character says in Zack Snyder’s blood-spattered box-office success 300 (and in Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name, on which the movie is faithfully, not to say slavishly based). Thus the Western world was saved, at least for a while, from what the film calls ‘mysticism and tyranny’. Mysticism? That’s what you call ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Shop around the Corner’, 6 January 2011

The Shop around the Corner 
directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
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... him before, and why are we so convinced of his secret benevolence? We have. And we know him as Frank Morgan, alias the Wizard of Oz. And James Stewart, looking much younger than the wry, unageing James Stewart of legend and memory (he was 32 when he made this movie) – why doesn’t he seem more out of place? James Stewart, the man from Laramie, the man ...

Charging Downhill

Frank Kermode: Michael Holroyd, 28 October 1999

Basil Street Blues: A Family Story 
by Michael Holroyd.
Little, Brown, 306 pp., £17.50, September 1999, 0 316 64815 9
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... When he came to write his autobiography, the biographer Michael Holroyd decided to restrict himself to what he calls ‘a good walk-on part’, assigning the leading roles to his family. Avowedly happier with the lives of others than with his own, he remains as close as the circumstance permits to the condition of invisible watcher ...

Family Values

Michael Wood, 17 October 1996

The Last Don 
by Mario Puzo.
Heinemann, 482 pp., £15.99, October 1996, 0 434 60498 4
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... the world of business whether they want to or not, and the connection is eerily alive in Frank Sinatra’s version of ‘Mack the Knife’, where he sings of making an offer you can’t refuse. There is almost too much to unravel here. The song comes from (the English translation of) Brecht’s re-creation of Gay’s play, and has been separately ...

No nation I’ve ever heard of

Garth Greenwell: Matthew Griffin’s ‘Hide’, 19 January 2017

Hide 
by Matthew Griffin.
Bloomsbury, 272 pp., £16.99, August 2016, 978 1 4088 6708 2
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... narrator, finds his partner collapsed in their garden, face up in the North Carolina sun. Frank will recover from the immediate effects of his stroke, but the book charts his decline into physical debility and dementia, as well as Wendell’s increasingly desperate efforts to care for him. Care doesn’t always look the way one might ...

Georgian eyes are smiling

Frank Kermode, 15 September 1988

Bernard Shaw. Vol. I: The Search for Love, 1856-1898 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 486 pp., £16, September 1988, 0 7011 3332 5
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Bernard Shaw: Collected Letters. Vol. IV 
edited by Dan Laurence.
Bodley Head, 946 pp., £30, June 1988, 0 370 31130 2
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Shaw: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies. Vol. VIII 
edited by Stanley Weintraub.
Pennsylvania State, 175 pp., $25, April 1988, 0 271 00613 7
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Shaw’s Sense of History 
by J.L. Wisenthal.
Oxford, 186 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812892 4
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Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. III: 1903-1907 
edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies.
Cambridge, 532 pp., £35, April 1988, 0 521 32387 8
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Joseph Conrad: ‘Nostromo’ 
by Ian Watt.
Cambridge, 98 pp., £12.50, April 1988, 0 521 32821 7
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... There were already good biographies of Shaw, notably those of Frank Harris and Hesketh Pearson, both of whom knew Shaw and had the benefit of his energetic interventions. Pearson in particular will not be easily supplanted. Nevertheless the archives of the world are full of Shaviana inaccessible before his death, and because there had not been a serious attempt since 1956 – the centenary year – the Shaw Estate sensibly decided that the time had come for a new biography, and invited Mr Holroyd to write it ...

Ramadhin and Valentine

J.R. Pole, 13 October 1988

A History of West Indies Cricket 
by Michael Manley.
Deutsch, 575 pp., £17.95, May 1988, 0 233 98259 0
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Sobers: Twenty Years at the Top 
by Garfield Sobers and Brian Scovell.
Macmillan, 204 pp., £11.95, June 1988, 0 333 37267 0
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... on socialism, Richard Crossman’s Bagehot, would hardly have come out of Whitehall, and Michael Manley would not have found time to write a history of West Indian cricket which encompasses the social, economic and regional problems of the Caribbean if he had been engaged in trying to resolve them in their present manifestations. There is no way of ...

Power-Seeker

Frank Kermode, 12 October 1989

Bernard Shaw. Vol. II: The Pursuit of Power 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 422 pp., £18, September 1989, 0 7011 3350 3
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... of all his efforts, and the cause of their relative failure, was what must look, to a Wells or a Frank Harris, and to many a modern eye, a vacuous or at any rate stunted emotional life. But to others, and to himself, it may not have seemed so at the time. It was doubtless in the circumstances unreasonable of Charlotte to be jealous of the actresses and the ...

Going Against

Frank Kermode: Is There a Late Style?, 5 October 2006

On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain 
by Edward Said.
Bloomsbury, 176 pp., £16.99, April 2006, 9780747583653
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Late Thoughts: Reflections on Artists and Composers at Work 
edited by Karen Painter and Thomas Crow.
Getty, 235 pp., $40, August 2006, 0 89236 813 6
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... to other cases. Said’s book consists of lectures and other scattered pieces, deftly assembled by Michael Wood, and not all bearing directly on the topic, though it is always near at hand. The most surprising contribution is an essay on Richard Strauss, who certainly had spent a long life studying ‘the possibilities’. He set some well-known stylistic ...

Retripotent

Frank Kermode: B. S. Johnson, 5 August 2004

Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of B.S. Johnson 
by Jonathan Coe.
Picador, 486 pp., £20, June 2004, 9780330350488
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‘Trawl’, ‘Albert Angelo’ and ‘House Mother Normal’ 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 472 pp., £14.99, June 2004, 0 330 35332 2
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... the OED) as Lawrence might have done. Some time around 1972 he came once or twice with his agent, Michael Bakewell, to a seminar at University College London, attended by students and lecturers but open to interested visitors. I can’t now remember anything he said, but he made himself welcome, and my memory is of a large and genially argumentative ...

Every club in the bag

Michael Howard, 10 September 1992

The Chiefs: The Story of the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff 
by Bill Jackson and Dwin Bramall.
Brassey, 508 pp., £29.95, April 1992, 0 08 040370 0
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... were thus compelled to be aggressive for fear of letting down their side, and our authors are very frank about the number who were indifferent. The Army in particular has had a penchant for producing ‘good fighting soldiers’ who were quite out of their depth in Whitehall, starting with their first member the Earl of Cavan – described by the waspish Henry ...

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