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Right Stuff

Alexander Cockburn

7 February 1991
An American Life 
by Ronald Reagan.
Hutchinson, 748 pp., £19.99, November 1990, 0 09 174507 1
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... As he neared the end of a recent diatribe against President Bush for plotting war secretly, and in defiance of the US Constitution, the American journalist Anthony Lewis felt impelled to add: ‘None of this argues that George Bush is a bad man. He is not.’ Years ago Roland Barthes wrote about the bourgeois propensity to think in essences, and nowhere is this more ...
19 January 1989
The Letters of Edith Wharton 
edited by R.W.B. Lewis and Nancy Lewis.
Simon and Schuster, 654 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 671 69965 2
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Women Artists, Women Exiles: ‘Miss Grief’ and Other Stories 
by Constance Fenimore Woolson, edited by Joan Myers Weimer.
Rutgers, 341 pp., $42, December 1988, 0 8135 1347 2
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... abundant friendships to which these letters attest nor the new record which they provide of her passionate affair in middle age finally alters the impression of her essential solitude. When R.W.B. Lewis published his biography of the novelist in 1975, its revelations about her adulterous affair with the American journalist, Morton Fullerton, inevitably attracted much attention: especially when ...

The Best Stuff

Ian Jack: David Astor

1 June 2016
David Astor: A Life in Print 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 400 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 0 224 09090 2
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... seeing; the house adverts by the subversive estate agent Roy Brooks that my brother read aloud (‘The décor is revolting … rain drips sadly onto the oilcloth … sacrifice £3500’). As Jeremy Lewis observes, it was a remarkably handsome newspaper, much more spacious in its page layouts and crisper in its black/white contrasts than its rival, the Sunday Times, which looked untidy and grey by ...

Self-Made Man

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Edith Wharton’s Domestic Arrangements

5 April 2007
Edith Wharton 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 853 pp., £25, February 2007, 978 0 7011 6665 6
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... most extensively documented relationships. Wharton’s complete letters have yet to be published, but only Berenson appears more frequently as a correspondent in the selection edited by R.W.B. and NancyLewis in 1988. ‘I beg instant cremation for this,’ she was writing to Fullerton almost from the start; but the fact that the erotically adventurous Fullerton had already been the victim of one ...

Whakapapa

D.A.N. Jones

21 November 1985
The Prague Orgy 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 89 pp., £5.95, October 1985, 0 224 02815 4
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Loyalties 
by Raymond Williams.
Chatto, 378 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 7011 2843 7
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Cousin Rosamund 
by Rebecca West.
Macmillan, 295 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 333 39797 5
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The Battle of Pollocks Crossing 
by J.L. Carr.
Viking, 176 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 670 80559 9
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The Bone People 
by Keri Hulme.
Hodder, 450 pp., £9.95, July 1985, 0 340 37024 6
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... a shower of technical bullshit, but sooner or later ... ’ Raymond Williams also offers a quick, two-sided sketch of a new sort of British security officer in 1984. (His story begins in 1936.) Gwyn Lewis, under security scrutiny, is surprised by the appearance of his interrogator: ‘the very expensive City suit, the healthy confidence of skin and voice, the profound self assurance of manner and ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Sport Poetry

23 January 1986
... the pen of F.M. Ford, an author who was compulsive in his need to turn friends into fiction. Ford’s labours, for example, hoist the unlikely figure of Arthur Marwood into joint fourth place with Nancy Cunard, which doesn’t seem quite fair. Ms Cunard’s marks are culled from a variety of sources, not the least of these being George Moore’s Ulick and Soracha, whose character Brigit apparently ...

Gatsby of the Boulevards

Hermione Lee: Morton Fullerton

8 March 2001
Mysteries of Paris: The Quest for Morton Fullerton 
by Marion Mainwaring.
New England, 327 pp., £23, March 2001, 1 58465 008 7
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... confidence-man’s relationship with his distinguished mistress; the story of the researcher’s pursuit of her subject; and the story of a biographer’s treatment of his researcher. In R.W.B. Lewis’s acclaimed and prize-winning biography of Edith Wharton, published in 1975, he describes having first heard the name Morton Fullerton when he started work on his book in 1967, and being told that ...

Grandiose Moments

Frank Kermode

6 February 1997
Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, Vol. II 
by Max Saunders.
Oxford, 696 pp., £35, September 1996, 0 19 212608 3
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... originally named The Saddest Story. Ashburnham, the romantic seducer who can’t keep his hands off a nursemaid in a train, is driven to suicide by the effort of repressing his desire for his ward Nancy Rufford (Saunders conjectures, from various dark hints in the text, that Nancy is Ashburnham’s illegitimate daughter). Dowell, the narrator, is another rather caricatured view of Ford, suffering ...
8 May 1997
Beyond the Frontier: the Politics of a Failed Mission, Bulgaria 1944 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin/Stanford, 120 pp., £12.95, December 1996, 0 85036 457 4
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... any conversation about his Indian campaigning. And when it came to literature, why, he had dealt with Belloc, Blunden, Bridges, Edith Sitwell, Graves, Sassoon, Meynell, W.J. Turner, Phillpotts, Day Lewis, Auden – to a tyro like myself, it did at times seem everyone – for the series of Benn’s ‘Sixpenny Poets’ which he edited. (In 1944, though I did not know it then, he was editing the poems ...
17 July 1980
The Wanton Chase 
by Peter Quennell.
Collins, 192 pp., £8.95, May 1980, 0 00 216526 0
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... a technique he has used earlier in his more skilfully linked occasional essays on literary and social themes, The Sign of the Fish. Many of his portraits are of the beau monde: Lady Cunard and Nancy, Lord Berners, the Duff Coopers, Mrs Fleming and her successive husbands Lord Rothermere and Ian Fleming (who ‘good-naturedly accepted me, no doubt because I was neither a wild bohemian nor a ...

Between Mussolini and Me

Lawrence Rainey: Pound’s Fascism

18 March 1999
... these accounts out of thin air and feared he had misled the poet badly.) Pound had gone on to Rome, where his days were spent in the Vatican Library and his evenings given over to socialising with Nancy Cox-McCormack, an American sculptor whom he had met two years before in Paris. Finally, after brief stops in Florence and Bologna, he arrived in Rimini. Besides visiting the Tempio, he had set his ...

An UnAmerican in New York

Lewis​ Nkosi: Eric Walrond

24 August 2000
Winds Can Wake Up the Dead: An Eric Walrond Reader 
edited by Louis Parascandola.
Wayne State, 350 pp., $24.95, December 1998, 0 8143 2709 5
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... of the various Modernisms has carefully documented, is the importance of the city to any form of Modernist sensibility. In the case of Harlem, one of the best recorders was the shipping heiress, Nancy Cunard, who wrote brilliantly about the ‘innumerable “skin-whitening” and “anti-kink” beauty parlours’; about the speakeasies and the Harlem Public Library ‘with its good collection of ...

Entitlement

Jenny Diski: Caroline Blackwood

18 October 2001
Dangerous Muse: A Life of Caroline Blackwood 
by Nancy​ Schoenberger.
Weidenfeld, 336 pp., £20, June 2001, 0 297 84101 7
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... give her biographer no end of clues to a wayward, drink-sodden, chaos-creating life. And the disordered, self and other-destructive life offers all manner of interpretations of the fiction. Nancy Schoenberger is not interested in literary criticism; Blackwood’s books are discussed entirely with reference to the life. To do this is to demean a writer, I would have thought, but perhaps ...

Consider Jack and Oskar

Michael Rossi: Twin Studies

7 February 2013
Born Together – Reared Apart: The Landmark Minnesota Twin Study 
by Nancy​ Segal.
Harvard, 410 pp., £39.95, June 2012, 978 0 674 05546 9
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... that it is environment – society, culture, upbringing, the random events that make up day to day life – and not heredity which has the greatest sway over the differences between individuals. Nancy Segal’s Born Together – Reared Apart tells the story of one effort to return to hereditarian accounts: the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart, or Mistra, which between 1979 and 1999 examined ...

‘Come, my friend,’ said Smirnoff

Joanna Kavenna: The radical twenties

1 April 1999
The Radical Twenties: Aspects of Writing, Politics and Culture 
by John Lucas.
Five Leaves, 263 pp., £11.99, January 1997, 0 907123 17 1
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... conveyed? How could art have a place in a brutal new age? One possibility was to side with newness, the strategy favoured by the Futurists, Egoists and Vorticists: Pound, Richard Aldington, Wyndham Lewis, Dora Marsden, Hilda Doolittle. Pound ‘took on’ technology: ‘what the analytical geometer does for space and form’ he compared to what ‘the poet does for the states of consciousness ...

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