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Smokejumpers

Chauncey Loomis, 10 March 1994

Young Men and Fire 
by Norman Maclean.
Chicago, 301 pp., £8.75, October 1993, 0 226 50062 4
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... Norman Maclean was born in western Montana in 1902. There landscapes are elemental: earth, air, water and sometimes fire are distinct and imposing presences. It’s mainly open country, with high mountains but also wide valleys, and the sky seems as immense as it does in deserts, although the valleys of western Montana are not desert but upland plain ...
... and with sudden delight, that we find those poets who later become vital to us. I knew Sorley MacLean by reputation before I felt his authority. His renovation of a poetic tradition, his cross-fertilisation of love and politics, of metaphysical technique and traditional Gaelic modes, of dan direach and personal destiny – I knew about all this at ...

Dialect with Army and Navy

David Wheatley: Douglas Dunn and Politovsky, 21 June 2001

The Donkey’s Ears: Politovsky’s Letters Home 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 176 pp., £7.99, May 2000, 0 571 20426 0
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The Year's Afternoon 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 81 pp., £7.99, October 2000, 0 571 20427 9
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... an air of premature senescence hangs over The Year’s Afternoon. ‘Three Poets’ elegises Norman MacCaig, Sorley MacLean and George Mackay Brown, a list to which he has added Iain Crichton Smith in the dedication of One Hundred 20th-Century Scottish Poems (2000), a sampler from his earlier Faber anthology. Again the ...

Voices

Seamus Deane, 21 April 1983

The Pleasures of Gaelic Poetry 
edited by Sean Mac Reamoinn.
Allen Lane, 272 pp., £8.95, November 1982, 0 7139 1284 7
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... effect of the bulk (not all) of English verse. ‘It almost seems,’ he says, ‘that since the Norman conquest, the temperature of the English language has been subtly raised by a warm front coming up from the Mediterranean.’ Thus for him, and for most of the other contributors, the infusion of Romance civility into the English language has ...

Losers

Ross McKibbin, 23 October 1986

The Politics of the UCS Work-In: Class Alliances and the Right to Work 
by John Foster and Charles Woolfson.
Lawrence and Wishart, 446 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 85315 663 8
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A Lost Left: Three Studies in Socialism and Nationalism 
by David Howell.
Manchester, 351 pp., £29.95, July 1986, 0 7190 1959 1
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The Miners’ Strike 1984-5: Loss without Limit 
by Martin Adeney and John Lloyd.
Routledge, 319 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 7102 0694 1
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Red Hill: A Mining Community 
by Tony Parker.
Heinemann, 196 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 434 57771 5
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Strike Free: New Industrial Relations in Britain 
by Philip Bassett.
Macmillan, 197 pp., £10.95, August 1986, 9780333418000
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... marginalised: James Connolly, Irish socialist executed for his part in the Easter Rebellion, John Maclean, idiosyncratic Scottish revolutionary socialist, and John Wheatley, an ILP’er from Glasgow and Minister of Health in the first Labour government. Like Foster and Woolfson, Howell is concerned with historical potentiality never realised, and is anxious ...

Smiles Better

Andrew O’Hagan: Glasgow v. Edinburgh, 23 May 2013

On Glasgow and Edinburgh 
by Robert Crawford.
Harvard, 345 pp., £20, February 2013, 978 0 674 04888 1
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... love cities the way Frank O’Hara loved New York. Crawford, like his nearest literary forebear Norman MacCaig, loves places both rural and urban: in his work, he can throw his voice ‘deep down the larynx of Glen Esk’, and he can marry Iona, or bring the reader into close contact with his ‘Inner Glasgow’, a place of abolished pit bings and empty ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... O’Brien is more Anglocentric: Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill is in facing-page English, but Sorley MacLean and Iain Crichton Smith, for example, occur only in English, and there is no Welsh-language poetry at all. On the other hand, O’Brien’s selection of English-language poetry casts a wider and more ambitious net. ‘Even as we study it, the map changes ...

Speaking in Tongues

Robert Crawford, 8 February 1996

The Poetry of Scotland: Gaelic, Scots and English 1380-1980 
edited and introduced by Roderick Watson.
Edinburgh, 752 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 7486 0607 6
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... Penguin have commissioned Mick Imlah to edit a new Scottish anthology. Will he allow Sorley MacLean’s voice to accompany MacDiarmid’s? To the best of my knowledge, nobody has been asked to do a new Oxford anthology, though the youngest poet in their extant volume, Iain Crichton Smith, is now a sprightly 68. Watson’s model is not the Oxford or the ...

Subversions

R.W. Johnson, 4 June 1987

Traitors: The Labyrinths of Treason 
by Chapman Pincher.
Sidgwick, 346 pp., £13.95, May 1987, 0 283 99379 0
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The Secrets of the Service: British Intelligence and Communist Subversion 1939-51 
by Anthony Glees.
Cape, 447 pp., £18, May 1987, 0 224 02252 0
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Freedom of Information – Freedom of the Individual? 
by Clive Ponting, John Ranelagh, Michael Zander and Simon Lee, edited by Julia Neuberger.
Macmillan, 110 pp., £4.95, May 1987, 0 333 44771 9
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... attitudes to the intelligence services are governed by two separate obsessions. The discovery of Maclean, Burgess, Philby and Blunt as Soviet agents has produced a long-lasting preoccupation with hunting down moles, ‘agents of influence’ and the like. Newspapers love it, the public are interested, and the whole business is endlessly stoked by the more ...

MacDiarmid and his Maker

Robert Crawford, 10 November 1988

MacDiarmid 
by Alan Bold.
Murray, 482 pp., £17.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4585 4
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A Drunk Man looks at the Thistle 
by Hugh MacDiarmid, edited by Kenneth Buthlay.
Scottish Academic Press, 203 pp., £12.50, February 1988, 0 7073 0425 3
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The Hugh MacDiarmid-George Ogilvie Letters 
edited by Catherine Kerrigan.
Aberdeen University Press, 156 pp., £24.90, August 1988, 0 08 036409 8
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Hugh MacDiarmid and the Russian 
by Peter McCarey.
Scottish Academic Press, 225 pp., £12.50, March 1988, 0 7073 0526 8
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... of Grieve’s early life, so that we see, not only Grieve the friend of Red Clydesiders John MacLean and James Maxton, but also the Grieve whose Scottish nationalism was encouraged by his rejection by English girls. Heady on his home-brew of Nietzsche, John Davidson, and almost any other literary material he could devour, this proto-MacDiarmid emerges as ...

V.G. Kiernan on treason

V.G. Kiernan, 25 June 1987

... of outlook. Then there have been three books concerned with another Canadian of our time, Herbert Norman, a Cambridge Communist who turned into a respected member of his country’s diplomatic service, was hunted by the Cold War pack, and ended, a suicide, at Cairo. He has become something of a symbol of Canadian independence from America, but scholars from ...

Misbehavin’

Susannah Clapp, 23 July 1987

A Life with Alan: The Diary of A.J.P. Taylor’s Wife, Eva, from 1978 to 1985 
by Eva Haraszti Taylor.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £14.95, June 1987, 0 241 12118 3
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The Painted Banquet: My Life and Loves 
by Jocelyn Rickards.
Weidenfeld, 172 pp., £14.95, May 1987, 0 297 79119 2
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The Beaverbrook Girl 
by Janet Aitken Kidd.
Collins, 240 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 00 217602 5
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... most of their evenings at the Gargoyle Club, dancing to ‘Oh, you beautiful doll’ while Donald Maclean got drunk. They had, she says, some ‘idyllic years’ together, though the man Cyril Connolly called ‘the London Freddyair’ had his glum moments, waking his partner as he sang in his sleep ‘I’m always on the outside, on the outside looking ...

Scots wha hae gone to England

Donald Davie, 9 July 1992

Devolving English Literature 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 320 pp., £35, June 1992, 9780198112983
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Scottish Poetry 
edited by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 424 pp., £17.50, July 1992, 9780571154319
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... consider his verdict on a disagreement between two Gaelic poets of our time, Sorley MacLean and Iain Crichton Smith, about a Gaelic poet of long ago, Rob Dunn (d. 1778). Judging from the poems in the anthology translated by themselves, I will trust MacLean’s opinion over Smith’s. But that isn’t the ...

Spying made easy

M.F. Perutz, 25 June 1987

Klaus Fuchs: The man who stole the atom bomb 
by Norman Moss.
Grafton, 216 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 246 13158 6
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... information here (lest the Russians get to know of it?), but the British told the Americans and Norman Moss found full details in their FBI files. Klaus Fuchs was born in 1911, the son of a German pastor with left-wing sympathies who taught his children the Lutheran precept of acting according to their own consciences rather than obeying established ...

The Ticking Fear

John Kerrigan: Louis MacNeice, 7 February 2008

Louis MacNeice: Collected Poems 
edited by Peter McDonald.
Faber, 836 pp., £30, January 2007, 978 0 571 21574 4
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Louis MacNeice: Selected Poems 
edited by Michael Longley.
Faber, 160 pp., £12.99, April 2007, 978 0 571 23381 6
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I Crossed the Minch 
by Louis MacNeice.
Polygon, 253 pp., £9.99, September 2007, 978 1 84697 014 6
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The Strings Are False: An Unfinished Autobiography 
by Louis MacNeice, edited by E.R. Dodds.
Faber, 288 pp., £9.99, September 2007, 978 0 571 23942 9
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... described by MacNeice’s poem is a nexus of relationships rather than a place apart. It has a Norman castle, a Scottish quarter and an Irish quarter (‘a slum for the blind and halt’). MacNeice, as ‘the rector’s son’, was ‘born to the anglican order,/Banned for ever from the candles of the Irish poor’. Up the lane, at the lodge of an army ...

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