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Going Straight

Neal Ascherson, 17 March 1983

After Long Silence 
by Michael Straight.
Collins, 351 pp., £11.95, March 1983, 0 00 217001 9
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A Matter of Trust: MI5 1945-72 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 196 pp., £8.95, December 1982, 0 297 78253 3
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... malevolent, piteous or merely inaccurate, ought to be wound up after the publication of Michael Straight’s contribution. Very possibly, Anthony Blunt will one day write such a book himself. But the names have almost all been named, the questions of motive worn smooth, the titles and pensions (some of them) stripped like epaulettes, the spell ...

A Conversation with Gore Vidal

Thomas Powers: Meeting Gore Vidal, 31 July 2014

... that well, and I don’t think Wilson much liked him.’ He said he’d read Wilson’s letters straight through, liked them very much, but still didn’t know why Wilson had been fired by the New Republic. Michael Straight was his sister’s husband – can that be right? the chains of relation are sometimes ...

Joining the Gang

Nicholas Penny: Anthony Blunt, 29 November 2001

Anthony Blunt: His Lives 
by Miranda Carter.
Macmillan, 590 pp., £20, November 2001, 0 333 63350 4
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... What does seem clear is that by 1950 he had narrowed his life and become, in the words of Michael Hirst – one of his appointments to the staff of the Courtauld Institute – ‘a driven man and increasingly closed in’, relentlessly working on his scholarly books but rarely listening to music or reading outside his field of study, with little ...

Michael Hofmann reads his father’s book

Michael Hofmann, 25 June 1987

Our Conquest 
by Gert Hofmann, translated by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 281 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 85635 687 5
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... or lines of thought that are mysterious or wilful or decorative, some that are so challengingly straight and direct that the reader has to treat them as allegorical. In the slaughterhouse episode, there is a little excursus in which is described, first how the music-school was relocated in the slaughterhouse, and then how the butcher turns up, proclaims his ...

Digital Recordings

Michael Hofmann, 20 June 1985

... with the frontal bone of intellect ... The central heating clicks on, and the warm air shoots straight up into the triangular apex of the studio, against twenty feet of northlight, now darkness and fog. I’ve no reason to believe there’s anything below me – the presumed foundations, whichever of God’s creatures left their prints in the snow and ...

Room to Rhyme

Michael Longley, 24 September 2015

... up at the end. II In the middle of a field in Mourne country Standing side by side, looking straight ahead We peed against a fragment of stone wall, St Patrick’s windbreak, the rain’s urinal. III On our pilgrimages around the North In your muddy Volkswagen, we chanted Great War songs: Hush! Here comes a whizz-bang! We’re here because we’re ...

Two Poems

Michael Hofmann, 2 July 1981

... be said to be lying ... I began without a tape-recorder, like a secretary taking confession – straight to the boulevard papers. Later, I was often admitted to their life-style, but it was more than I could cope with. Migraine, the affliction of the sensitive, made me retire to my hotel bedroom ... While at other times, it was my exclusion that was ...

Two Poems

Michael Symmons Roberts, 18 May 2017

... of local gods, but they are patient in their sad-masks. Such acquiescence, you knew they saw you straight, and even so would give you everything. Our only rule: we never touched them. Save one time I saw a blue heart-shaped soap clutched in a woman’s hand and something in her would not give it up to me for all the world. I have it somewhere. Let me find ...

Desolation Studies

Edward Luttwak, 12 September 1991

The Lessons of History 
by Michael Howard.
Oxford, 217 pp., £17.50, March 1991, 0 19 821581 9
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... I still recall my acute disappointment with Michael Howard’s The Franco-Prussian War, published some thirty years ago. The subject was exciting – what with the desperate German infantry assaults at Gravelotte and the dramatic unveiling of the ultra-secret mitrailleuse – and the book was thick enough to promise much good fun to any schoolboy eager to read of battles with a threepenny bag of crisps at his side ...

Mr Straight and Mr Good

Paul Foot: Gordon Brown, 19 February 1998

Gordon Brown: The Biography 
by Paul Routledge.
Simon and Schuster, 358 pp., £17.99, February 1998, 0 684 81954 6
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... far more to do with the rise in VAT on fuel, Norman Lamont’s Exchange Rate Mechanism fiasco, and Michael Heseltine’s pit closures than with any decision of a Labour Party Special Conference. The evidence suggests that large numbers of people who voted Tory in 1992 were persuaded very soon that they had made a hideous mistake. These people would have voted ...

Banality and Anxiety

Michael Mason, 19 March 1981

Thirty Seconds 
by Michael Arlen.
Farrar, Straus/Faber, 211 pp., £5.50, February 1981, 0 374 27576 9
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The Crystal Bucket 
by Clive James.
Cape, 238 pp., £6.95, February 1981, 0 224 01890 6
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The Message of Television 
by Roger Silverstone.
Heinemann, 248 pp., £14.50, March 1981, 0 435 82825 8
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... of Norman Mailer and other modern American writers. All these books are from literary stables. Michael Arlen’s first appeared in the New Yorker, and comes to the British reader via two very respected publishing houses (Fabers, incidentally, are apparently issuing the American edition with its original binding and title-page, without their own imprint: a ...

Coats of Every Cut

Michael Mason, 9 June 1994

Robert Surtees and Early Victorian Society 
by Norman Gash.
Oxford, 407 pp., £40, September 1993, 0 19 820429 9
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... of linguistic disruption. Gash calls this passage from Mr Sponge’s Sporting Tour a piece of ‘straight visual reporting’: Away they rumble up the Edgware Road; the gradual emergence from the brick and mortar of London being marked as well by the telling out of passengers as by the increasing distances between the houses. First, it is all huddle with ...

Thoughts about Hanna

Gabriele Annan, 30 October 1997

The Reader 
by Bernhard Schlink, translated by Carol Brown Janeway.
Phoenix House, 216 pp., £12.99, November 1997, 1 86159 063 6
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... female guards captured by the Allies stood in line, middle-aged and grim. Then a younger one spoke straight to camera. She was blonde and dishevelled; she said her name, her age – 24 – and that she had been at Belsen two months. She looked terrified. I felt sorry for her, and shocked that I was. This novel is about someone like her, and examines the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The gangster movie, 13 December 2007

American Gangster 
directed by Ridley Scott.
November 2007
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... on his family and no one else, and to permit himself even murder in the name of fidelity and straight dealing. He has inherited a crime empire from his boss and mentor, Bumpy Johnson, who dies at the start of the film. Lucas was his driver, collector and hit man: in a shocking brief pre-credit sequence, still working for Johnson, he soaks a man in petrol ...

Dazzling Philosophy

Michael Hofmann, 15 August 1991

Seeing things 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 113 pp., £12.99, June 1991, 0 571 14468 3
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... practice of his art. Seeing things has a similar geometrical leitmotiv or schema, and that is the straight line, or pattern of straight lines, dazzling as op art, and producing the sensation of depth. The lines are not adduced from such obvious sources as waves, layers of rock or clouds at sunset; they are rooted in ...

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