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At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: ‘The Tree of Life’

28 July 2011
The Tree of Life 
directed by Terrence Malick.
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... revealing to us that this God is a Darwinist. The fittest surviving creature we see is a sort of oversized scaly ostrich, which steps on the head of a fallen lesser animal and trots off into the woods looking very pleased with the experience. The effect is that of 2001 not quite meeting Jurassic Park. There’s some modern material that’s pretty bad too. The date seems to be the present, there ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: ‘Upstream Colour’

26 September 2013
Upstream Colour 
directed by Shane Carruth.
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... her in a shop looking for and finding a copy of the book. Now Jeff is reading from it, and as she surfaces with some of the stones Kris completes the sentences. He says: ‘I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbour, in a house which I had built myself, and earned my living by the labour of my hands only’. She says: ‘I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a ...

Five Poems

Günter Eich, translated by Michael​ Hofmann

25 March 2010
... I Live When I opened the window fishes swam into the room, herrings. A school of them must just have been passing. I saw some playing among the pear trees as well. There were more of them in the woods, over the conifer plantations and gravel-pits. They are a nuisance. But even more annoying are the sailors (some high-ranking ones among them too, helmsmen, captains), who keep coming up to the open ...

Two Poems

Michael​ Symmons Roberts

17 May 2017
... stage, ratchet back and back from every bloc until I am a law unto myself. It is a mystery to me why the warm summer heart of this city is so silent tonight. Maybe everyone has run off to the woods to watch our gods and goddesses disport themselves, now it’s a free-for-all. But there is live news on TV, quiet bars ravenous for custom, empty trams on time – the pointless daily liturgies ...

Giving Hysteria a Bad Name

Jenny Diski: At home with the Mellys

17 November 2005
Take a Girl like Me: Life with George 
by Diana Melly.
Chatto, 280 pp., £14.99, July 2005, 0 7011 7906 6
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Slowing Down 
by George Melly.
Viking, 221 pp., £17.99, October 2005, 0 670 91409 6
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... out dancing. Then Patrick got measles and I had to stop work. The money ran out and I sent Patrick, now two, to live with my aunt in Essex. After leaving Patrick, I went to live with a writer called Michael Alexander who took me to Afghanistan. Several ‘engagements’ (author’s inverted commas) on and she is living with Johnnie, but he wanted a child of his own before Patrick returned to live with ...

Three Poems

John Burnside

10 September 2014
... of trains running through in the dark, in a seasonless rain, and the faces in every compartment familiar and strange, with a sister’s disdain, or a grandmother’s folded smile. Confiteor for Michael Krüger I heard something out by the gate and went to look. Dead of night; new snow, the larch woods filling slowly, stars beneath the stars. A single cry it was, or so it seemed, though nothing ...

In the Shady Wood

Michael​ Neill: Staging the Forest

22 March 2018
TheShakespearean Forest 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 185 pp., £75, August 2017, 978 0 521 57344 3
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... all Hester Lees-Jeffries, who undertook to edit the surviving manuscript. Tactfully reordering and even rewriting a little where necessary, Lees-Jeffries has added a fine introduction, ‘Into the Woods’, pieced together from Barton’s draft original and from portions of a discarded chapter; she has also appended a comprehensive bibliographical essay of her own, bringing the reader up to date ...
18 September 1980
Selected Poems 
by Patricia Beer.
Hutchinson, 152 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 09 138450 8
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The Venetian Vespers 
by Anthony Hecht.
Oxford, 91 pp., £3.95, March 1980, 0 19 211933 8
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Nostalgia for the Present 
by Andrei Voznesensky.
Oxford, 150 pp., £3.50, April 1980, 0 19 211900 1
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Reflections on the Nile 
by Ronald Bottrall.
London Magazine Editions, 56 pp., £3.50, May 1980, 0 904388 33 6
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Summer Palaces 
by Peter Scupham.
Oxford, 55 pp., £3, March 1980, 9780192119322
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... and again description teeters into sugary gratifying abstraction. There is a sequence called ‘Natura’ with parts named after such phenomena as ‘Cottage Flowers’, ‘Sky’, ‘Lanes’, ‘Woods’. The poems subjoined are reveries of stodgy Latinate words; celebrations of pure and empty moments; rambles with a thesaurus. There is nothing going on. Not so much as a game of cricket ...

Where the Apples Come From

T.C. Smout: What Makes an Oak Tree Grow

29 November 2007
Woodlands 
by Oliver Rackham.
Collins, 609 pp., £25, September 2006, 0 00 720243 1
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Beechcombings: The Narratives of Trees 
by Richard Mabey.
Chatto, 289 pp., £20, October 2007, 978 1 85619 733 5
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Wildwood: A Journey through Trees 
by Roger Deakin.
Hamish Hamilton, 391 pp., £20, May 2007, 978 0 241 14184 7
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The Wild Trees: What if the Last Wilderness Is above Our Heads? 
by Richard Preston.
Allen Lane, 294 pp., £20, August 2007, 978 1 84614 023 5
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... are subtle and varied ecosystems that have evolved over millennia. Did some trees first spring from the coppice stool after being pushed over by mammoths in the last interglacial? How do our woods, and the ways we have used them, compare with woods in other countries, for example in Japan? The largest and oldest wooden buildings in the world are in the complexes of ancient Japanese temples ...

Impossible Wishes

Michael​ Wood: Thomas Mann

6 February 2003
The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Mann 
edited by Ritchie Robertson.
Cambridge, 257 pp., £45.50, November 2001, 9780521653107
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Thomas Mann: A Biography 
by Hermann Kurzke, translated by Leslie Willson.
Allen Lane, 582 pp., £30, January 2002, 0 7139 9500 9
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... is a fierce essay by Timothy Buck on the insufficiencies of Helen Lowe-Porter’s translations of Mann’s writing, and even of the recent versions of Buddenbrooks and The Magic Mountain by John Woods. The failings are apparently mostly lexical and syntactical: ‘Knopf have once again employed a translator whose knowledge of German appears inadequate to the task, and who is capable of careless ...

Unaccommodated Man

Christopher Tayler: Adventures with Robert Stone

18 March 2004
Bay of Souls 
by Robert Stone.
Picador, 250 pp., £16.99, February 2004, 0 330 41894 7
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... protean, infantile – but one would have to do.’ Life is about struggle; the struggle might be meaningless, but without it life would be meaningless as well. Or so the characters come to suspect. Michael Ahearn, the leading man of Stone’s new novel, Bay of Souls, starts out as one of these worldly protagonists. Quietly dissatisfied, fond of the bottle but sustained by the unexamined vestiges of ...

Woken up in Seattle

Michael​ Byers: WTO woes

6 January 2000
... development of the entire international system. From another perspective, however, it is a creature of US foreign policy, conceived and delivered in the aftermath of the Cold War. In 1944, at Bretton Woods, the US and its allies had attempted to create something similar, the International Trade Organisation, as the third pillar of an economic system that already included the International Monetary Fund ...

Feral Children

Michael​ Morgan

21 May 1981
The Forbidden Experiment 
by Roger Shattuck.
Secker, 220 pp., £6.95, August 1980, 0 436 45875 6
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... The Forbidden Experiment is about cases of children reared in isolation from other human beings and, in particular, about the celebrated ‘Wild Boy of Aveyron’, who emerged from the woods near Saint-Sernin in Southern France in 1800. What make cases of social deprivation of this kind so fascinating are the obvious questions they raise about the determinants of human nature. (See, for ...
27 November 1997
The Cattle Killing 
by John Edgar Wideman.
Picador, 212 pp., £16.99, August 1997, 0 330 32789 5
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Brothers and Keepers 
by John Edgar Wideman.
Picador, 243 pp., £6.99, August 1997, 0 330 35031 5
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... joke, terrible in every sense? The plot-line of the manuscript written and read by fathers and sons concerns a young wandering preacher in 18th-century Pennsylvania. He announces the gospel in the woods, has epileptic fits and visions, is almost killed in a snowstorm and then cared for by a kindly couple; tries to save the life of a young black servant made pregnant by her philanthropic and negro ...
21 February 1985
The Dark Hole Days 
by Una Woods.
Blackstaff, 127 pp., £3.50, December 1984, 0 85640 316 4
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Superior Women 
by Alice Adams.
Heinemann, 374 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 0 434 00631 9
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The Collected Stories 
by Frank Tuohy.
Macmillan, 410 pp., £12.95, December 1984, 0 333 38534 9
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The Apple in the Dark 
by Clarice Lispector, translated by Gregory Rabassa.
Virago, 361 pp., £10.95, January 1985, 0 86068 605 1
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Family Ties 
by Clarice Lispector and Giovanni Pontiero.
Carcanet, 140 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 0 85636 569 6
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... Places in fiction often have a curious dual nationality. They are entangled in historical events, marked on a solid social map. ‘It’s not exactly the moon I’m asking for,’ a girl thinks in The Dark Hole Days, ‘but surely all my dreams don’t end here: me in a duffle coat signing on the dole and walking in the debris of Belfast.’ Later she adds: ‘Belfast would fit into a corner of London ...

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