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Inside Out

John Bayley

4 September 1980
The Collected Ewart 1933-1980 
by Gavin Ewart.
Hutchinson, 412 pp., £10, June 1980, 0 09 141000 2
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Selected Poems and Prose 
by Michael Roberts, edited by Frederick Grubb.
Carcanet, 205 pp., £7.95, June 1980, 0 85635 263 2
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... comes, somewhat as it does in Dryden, as an enlightening surprise, and just as the series of witty poems about sex – the purple penises and panties round the ankles – was beginning to pall. MichaelRoberts, editor of the original Faber Book of Modern Poetry, was also a poet, but it seems unlikely that his own poems will be remembered, Time, as Auden pointed out, worships language and forgives ...

Rehearsal for the Day of Joy

Michael​ Symmons Roberts

7 January 2016
... The dancers are stretching, loosening in their dressing rooms, half-dressed in a mess of costume rails, water glasses topped with a dusting of rouge. Although it’s still too soon to dance, look at the rush of guttered rain through grids to join the surge towards an open sea. See how the dry leaves catch in corners, petals of a burnt manifesto caught in a breeze between tenements. And after ...

Massacre of the Innocents

Michael​ Symmons Roberts

29 June 2016
... It was just a handful – five or six – but they spread themselves around us, hid behind trees, began a sotto voce incantation made of nonsense: jingoistic rhymes, unsolvable riddles, misplaced bits of liturgy. But rattling as it did off countless boughs and branches, this whispered cacophony convinced us that an army choked the forest. We pictured cities laid to ruin on the roads from here, battalions ...


Michael​ Symmons Roberts

4 July 1996
... There was a scramble for mementos when the road across the border was smashed up, and there was no way in or out of this province of great lakes and mountains. High on a terraced garden, where potatoes and carrots have begun to replace blooms, a broken cat’s-eye lies in its hand-sized block of rusted iron, and blinks at the house lights every night unseen. Close up, it’s like a toad with ivory ...

Two Poems

Michael​ Symmons Roberts

17 May 2017
... Soliloquy of the Inner Emigré The authorities asked us to call at noon, to test their new helpline. No one was available to answer our questions. I kept the line open just in case, held the phone to my ear all afternoon, until its ringtone was my metronome. Devolution is a constant process: each week I secede another stage, ratchet back and back from every bloc until I am a law unto myself ...

Golden Boy

Denis Donoghue

22 December 1983
W.H.Auden: The Critical Heritage 
edited by John Haffenden.
Routledge, 535 pp., £19.95, September 1983, 0 7100 9350 0
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Auden: A Carnival of Intellect 
by Edward Callan.
Oxford, 299 pp., £12.50, August 1983, 0 19 503168 7
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Drawn from the Life: A Memoir 
by Robert Medley.
Faber, 251 pp., £12.50, November 1983, 0 571 13043 7
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... could speak to the issues they proposed, largely accounted for the reception of The Orators when it appeared in May 1932. By the end of that year, Louis MacNeice, Stephen Spender, Geoffrey Grigson, MichaelRoberts, Bonamy Dobrée, John Hayward and Graham Greene had nominated Auden as the new voice. The six odes and the epilogue of The Orators, Greene said, justified Auden’s ‘being named in the same ...
18 April 1985
The Thirty Years’ War 
by Geoffrey Parker.
Routledge, 340 pp., £20, January 1985, 0 7100 9788 3
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... a team of nine collaborators (not to mention research assistants). The team is a strong one, including as it does Bonney on France, Elliott on Spain, Evans on Central Europe, Petersen on Denmark, Roberts on Sweden, and so on. These contributions, which amount to about 40 per cent of the whole, are signed, but they are fitted so neatly into the grand design that the result is a book and not just a ...


Daniel Soar: The Photographic Novel

20 April 2006
Patrick’s Alphabet 
by Michael​ Symmons Roberts.
Cape, 230 pp., £10.99, March 2006, 0 224 07596 9
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... developed sheet of blank photographic stock, it is captioned: ‘This is unexposed film of Greenwich Village because nothing ever happens there.’ Perry Scholes, the protagonist and narrator of Michael Symmons Roberts’s first novel, Patrick’s Alphabet, is obsessed with Weegee. Perry is a modern ambulance chaser who patrols the suburban ‘edgelands’ of the M4 corridor and the M25 in self ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: The gangster movie

13 December 2007
American Gangster 
directed by Ridley Scott.
November 2007
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... dressed like a gangster, the police know this otherwise invisible man must be up to something. There is a parallel to Lucas’s life of denial, and this is the curious double-standard story of Richie Roberts, played by Russell Crowe. In a world where many cops are on the take, and others are at least keeping quiet about what they know, Roberts not only doesn’t steal, he returns to the authorities a ...

In Coleridge’s Bed

Ange Mlinko: Dead Poets Road Trip

19 April 2017
Deaths of the Poets 
by Paul Farley and Michael​ Symmons Roberts.
Cape, 414 pp., £14.99, February 2017, 978 0 224 09754 3
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... was a metaphor for inspiration, though a literal interpretation also suggests itself. Even Pindar, Horace and Ovid threw down the gauntlet to oblivion: come and get me if you can. Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts are poets and professors of poetry, and the authors of a previous collaboration, Edgelands, which took as its subject the dejected spaces that buffer suburban developments, industrial ...

Ideas of War

Johann Sommerville

27 October 1988
The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800 
by Geoffrey Parker.
Cambridge, 234 pp., £15, May 1988, 0 521 32607 9
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War and Society in Europe of the Old Regime: 1618-1789 
by M.S. Anderson.
Fontana, 239 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 00 686053 2
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Waging war: A Philosophical Introduction 
by Ian Clark.
Oxford, 154 pp., £17.50, April 1988, 0 19 827325 8
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... too enthusiastic, and that on re-examination things look rather less revolutionary (or critical) than they did at first glance. The idea of an Early Modern military revolution was introduced by MichaelRoberts in 1955. Professor Parker accepts and develops the notion. Perhaps the single most important aspect of the revolution was the victory of the gun. In Venice the gun replaced the crossbow in ...

Goodness me

Mary-Kay Wilmers

26 October 1989
Margaret, Daughter of Beatrice: A Politician’s Psycho-Biography of Margaret Thatcher 
by Leo Abse.
Cape, 288 pp., £13.95, September 1989, 0 224 02726 3
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... Mrs Thatcher, like Hedda Gabler, thinks of herself as her father’s daughter. For a hero, Alderman Roberts may be lacking in style. ‘A cautious, thrifty fellow’ is how Hugo Young describes him and it’s easy to tell he isn’t impressed. But Alfred Roberts was an imposing figure in Grantham and his ...


Michael​ Neve

18 November 1982
Edie: An American Biography 
by Jean Stein and George Plimpton.
Cape, 455 pp., £9.95, October 1982, 0 224 02068 4
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Baby Driver: A Story About Myself 
by Jan Kerouac.
Deutsch, 208 pp., £7.95, August 1982, 0 233 97487 3
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... with others. The early sexlessness of the Warhol ambience was to change. The book is interesting about that forgotten class of dope dealers in late Sixties Manhattan: the doctors. For example, Doctor Roberts, made famous by the Beatles song, who would shoot up his patients with vitamins and methedrine. According to Cherry Vanilla, a client, ‘you’d go round to Doctor Roberts, and after the shots you ...
9 May 1996
John Wayne: American 
by Randy Roberts and James Olson.
Free Press, 738 pp., £17.99, March 1996, 0 02 923837 4
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... imitation of their own, blame ‘the media and the cultural élite’ for the denigration of their man. Assaulting the traditional American ideals of masculinity, individualism and patriotism, Randy Roberts and James Olson write, the antiwar movement, women’s groups and cultural critics in the Sixties and Seventies cut themselves off from ‘the rest of the country’. A ‘working-class hero ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: ‘The International’, ‘Duplicity’

9 April 2009
The International 
directed by Tom Twyker.
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directed by Tony Gilroy.
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... although it seems to be cosmetics. We only know that each is an empire, and that the emperors, Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti, think of little except doing each other in. Enter Clive Owen and Julia Roberts – well, they enter several times, given the complicated time frames of the movie. He is ex-MI6, she is ex-CIA, and now they work for the imperial companies – to be precise, for the same imperial ...

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