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Madly Excited

John Bayley

1 June 1989
The Life of Graham Greene. Vol. I: 1904-1939 
by Norman Sherry.
Cape, 783 pp., £16.95, April 1989, 0 224 02654 2
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... Bogart, and the lean heroics turned wrong way round. And the end soured, of course. But the souring is so ritualised that it becomes the satisfyingly unhappy ending beloved by best-seller readers. NormanSherry’s highly readable biography brings out – possibly without intending to – the dense pattern of equivocation runing through Greene’s life and work and imparting the characteristic ...
19 December 1991
In Search of Conrad 
by Gavin Young.
Hutchinson, 304 pp., £17.99, October 1991, 0 09 173524 6
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... of Conrad’s travels and readings, thereby tying the fiction to real places and personages, and, whenever possible, actual books and ideas, that help explain the mysterious novels and stories. NormanSherry famously does this in Conrad’s Eastern World and Conrad’s Western World, remarkable works of sleuthing rediscovery that respectively cover Conrad’s Indian and Pacific Ocean voyages, and ...

Full of Teeth

Patricia Beer

20 July 1995
The Life of Graham Greene. Vol. II: 1939-55 
by Norman Sherry.
Cape, 562 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 224 02772 7
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Graham Greene: Three Lives 
by Anthony Mockler.
Hunter Mackay, 256 pp., £14.95, July 1994, 0 947907 01 7
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Graham Greene: Friend and Brother 
by Leopoldo Duran.
HarperCollins, 352 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 00 627660 1
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Graham Greene: The Man Within 
by Michael Shelden.
Minerva, 567 pp., £5.99, June 1995, 0 7493 1997 6
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... by readers when and if they have worked their way through the four, totally diverse, biographies of Graham Greene which originally appeared in the summer and autumn of last year. The biographers are NormanSherry, Anthony Mockler, Leopoldo Duran and Michael Shelden. The actual information they provide must by now be common knowledge among those who are at all interested in Greene, including those who ...
7 February 1980
Joseph Conrad: The Three Lives 
by Frederick Karl.
Faber, 1008 pp., £12.50, May 1980, 0 571 11386 9
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... Background, edited and introduced by Zdzislaw Najder (to which I think Professor Karl is indebted for much of his Polish material); the minute and meticulous tracings of Conrad’s every movement by NormanSherry, who not only told us when Conrad was in, say, Bangkok, but on which side of which streets he walked along; the more contentious but informative work of Jerry Allen; the Jungian account of ...
6 May 1982
Joseph Conrad: A Biography 
by Roger Tennant.
Sheldon Press, 276 pp., £12.50, January 1982, 0 85969 358 9
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Edward Garnett: A Life in Literature 
by George Jefferson.
Cape, 350 pp., £12.50, April 1982, 0 224 01488 9
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The Edwardian Novelists 
by John Batchelor.
Duckworth, 251 pp., £18, February 1982, 0 7156 1109 7
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The Uses of Obscurity: The Fiction of Early Modernism 
by Allon White.
Routledge, 190 pp., £12, August 1981, 0 7100 0751 5
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... amiably and quite deftly over the course, may have its uses. Not everybody has the time or the desire to tackle the thousand pages of Karl’s Joseph Conrad, or the shelf of books – Jocelyn Baines, NormanSherry, Zdzislaw Najder, Eloise Knapp Hay – that would provide a richer and more chaotic account of this mostly painful career; and not everybody will be put off by Mr Tennant’s not saying ...
3 May 1984
Joseph Conrad: A Chronicle 
by Zdzislaw Najder, translated by Halina Carroll-Najder.
Cambridge, 647 pp., £19.50, February 1984, 0 521 25947 9
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Conrad under Familial Eyes 
edited by Zdzislaw Najder, translated by Halina Carroll-Najder.
Cambridge, 282 pp., £19.50, February 1984, 9780521250825
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... biography’ but a work of ‘biographical criticism’. It is a distinction we need to ponder. Conrad is certainly not short of biographers, what with Baines’s book, Watt’s first volume, NormanSherry’s Conrad’s Eastern World (1966) and Conrad’s Western World (1971), Jerry Allen’s The Sea Years of Joseph Conrad (1965), Karl’s vast and wrist-breaking thousand-page Life, and now Zdzislaw ...
24 November 1994
The Gentle Art of Making Enemies 
by James McNeill Whistler.
Heinemann, 338 pp., £20, October 1994, 0 434 20166 9
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James McNeill Whistler: Beyond the Myth 
by Ronald Anderson and Anne Koval.
Murray, 544 pp., £25, October 1994, 0 7195 5027 0
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... Whistler took it into his head (‘in an afternoon’, according to his own account) to take ship to Valparaiso. But the full truth, as they admit, is still to be discovered; and short of sending NormanSherry to Valparaiso I suppose we shall never know it. I am not sure, all the same, that the authors’ broader claims can be said to stand up. One may take as a ‘control’ Stanley Weintraub’s ...
22 June 1989
Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays 1967-87 
by Chinua Achebe.
Heinemann, 130 pp., £10.95, January 1988, 0 435 91000 0
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... black inhabitants of the Congo in the middle of the 19th century. For instance, Achebe is offended by the presence of cannibals in Conrad’s story. But cannibals existed. Conrad did not invent them. NormanSherry quotes W. Holman Bentley’s Pioneering in the Congo on the joyfully cannibalistic Bangalas, one of whom said, when asked if he ate human flesh: ‘Ah! I wish I could eat everybody on earth ...


John Bayley

8 December 1988
The Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 244 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7195 4537 4
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The Faber Book of Letters 
edited by Felix Pryor.
Faber, 319 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 571 15269 4
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... Emily Dickinson is by far the most affected of these letter-writers: she must have made her admiring critic Colonel Higginson wriggle with her calculated and confiding archness (‘My eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves’), but she can also go straight to the point, as in her poems, and leave the reader quite breathless: ‘I have a brother and sister; my mother does not care for ...

Different Speeds, Same Furies

Perry Anderson: Powell v. Proust

19 July 2018
Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 509 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 241 14383 4
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... confine ourselves to Britain, Martin Stannard produced a thousand pages on Evelyn Waugh, who died when he was 62; Graham Greene, who survived him by a quarter of a century, received two thousand from NormanSherry. These are huge tomes. Even such a minuscule figure as Kingsley Amis has been encased in an obese 995 pages from Zachary Leader. Hilary Spurling’s Life of Anthony Powell breaks with this ...

His Own Prophet

Michael Hofmann: Read Robert Lowell!

11 September 2003
Collected Poems 
by Robert Lowell, edited by Frank Bidart and David Gewanter.
Faber, 1186 pp., £40, July 2003, 0 571 16340 8
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... Mary Winslow’ – Her Irish maids could never spoon out mush Or orange-juice enough; the body cools And smiles as a sick child Who adds up figures, and a hush Grips at the poised relations sipping sherry And tracking up the carpets of her four Room kingdom – is richly, and incriminatingly, detailed enough to have come out of Life Studies. ‘The Drunken Fisherman’ offers a scene that you might ...
30 November 2017
... the boundary of the English Pale: it tells of the worst days of misrule in this unhappy land, where, without conquering the proud hearts, or gaining the warm affections of the Irish, the Anglo-Norman barons, who, with mailed hearts as well as backs – neither civilising nor enriching the country – resided amongst us.’It is clear that Wilde is aware of the difficulties inherent in any effort ...

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