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Who they think they are

Julian Symons, 8 November 1990

You’ve had your time 
by Anthony Burgess.
Heinemann, 391 pp., £17.50, October 1990, 0 434 09821 3
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An Immaculate Mistake: Scenes from Childhood and Beyond 
by Paul Bailey.
Bloomsbury, 167 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 7475 0630 2
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... the material for half a dozen novels into a single one of three or occasionally six hundred pages. Paul Bailey was the immaculate mistake of his title, born in Battersea in 1937, the third and unintended child of a roadsweeper and a domestic help. ‘Unintended’ hence a mistake, ‘immaculate’ because that was a word often on his mother’s lips. The ...

Ten Days that Shook Me

Alan Bennett, 15 September 1988

... in Russia on a visit arranged by the Great Britain-USSR Society. My colleagues were the novelists Paul Bailey, Christopher Hope and Timothy Mo (who also writes for Boxing News), the poet Craig Raine (who doesn’t) and the playwright Sue Townsend of Adrian Mole fame. I had many misgivings about the trip, particularly in regard to creature comforts. I ...

Escape of a Half-Naked Sailor

P.N. Furbank: ‘Three Queer Lives’, 29 November 2001

Three Queer Lives: An Alternative Biography of Fred Barnes, Naomi Jacob and Arthur Marshall 
by Paul Bailey.
Hamish Hamilton, 242 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 241 13455 2
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... whereas Foppington has to be blissfully innocent of any shadow of self-criticism. The novelist Paul Bailey has produced a biography of three ‘Queer Lives’; that is to say, lives of the ‘queer’ or (as they have later come to be called) the ‘gay’.* The subject of the last of his studies is Arthur Marshall, famous as the reviewer of ...

Cinders

Ian Hamilton, 21 October 1982

Women Working: Prostitution Now 
by Eileen McLeod.
Croom Helm, 177 pp., £6.95, August 1982, 0 7099 1717 1
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An English Madam: The Life and Work of Cynthia Payne 
by Paul Bailey.
Cape, 166 pp., £7.50, October 1982, 0 224 02037 4
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All the Girls 
by Martin O’Brien.
Macmillan, 268 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 333 31099 3
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... literally) painstaking determination to ‘fix up’ her eccentric clientele? Her ‘biographer’ Paul Bailey clearly believes she has that fabled ‘heart of gold’, that she is a kind of Lady with the Red Lamp, imaginatively caring for the wanking-wounded, the casualties of the sex war. But there are many differences between her set-up in Streatham ...

Survivors

Graham Hough, 3 April 1980

Old Soldiers 
by Paul Bailey.
Cape, 120 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 224 01783 7
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Nocturnes for the King of Naples 
by Edmund White.
Deutsch, 148 pp., £3.95, February 1980, 0 233 97173 4
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Solo Faces 
by James Salter.
Collins, 220 pp., £5.50, February 1980, 0 00 221983 2
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Sol 
by Mario Satz, translated by Helen Lane.
Sidgwick, 432 pp., £7.95, February 1980, 0 283 98607 7
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... mood-changer. Here are two examples, one English and one American, both extremely accomplished. Paul Bailey, with several distinguished novels to his credit already, is a master of this mode. The action of Old Soldiers, the Aristotelian space from the beginning through the middle to the end, occupies only a couple of weeks (and 120 thinly printed ...

Bad Nights

D.A.N. Jones, 23 October 1986

The Casualty 
by Heinrich Böll, translated by Leila Vennewitz.
Chatto, 189 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780701129286
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Augustus 
by Allan Massie.
Bodley Head, 339 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 370 30757 7
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Gabriel’s Lament 
by Paul Bailey.
Cape, 331 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 224 02823 5
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The Mind and Body Shop 
by Frank Parkin.
Collins, 221 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 00 217695 5
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... When Heinrich Böll died, last year, we had come to respect him as a Roman Catholic pacifist, a Nobel Prizeman speaking measured words to young idealists. We may have forgotten the work of his youth, the two post-war novels based on his experience of service with the German Army in Russia. The 22 stories in The Casualty were written in the immediately post-war period, 1946 to 1952, so that they are ‘old’ stories, but satisfyingly youthful, physically aware of particulars, not seeking generalisations, hot-tempered, desperate and ashamed ...

Aunts and Uncles

Michael Hofmann, 19 November 1992

A Feast in the Garden 
by George Konrad, translated by Imre Goldstein.
Faber, 394 pp., £14.99, October 1992, 0 571 16623 7
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Wartime Lies 
by Louis Begley.
Picador, 198 pp., £5.99, August 1992, 0 330 32099 8
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Brothers 
by Carmelo Samona, translated by Linda Lappin.
Carcanet, 131 pp., £13.95, August 1992, 0 85635 990 4
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Rolling 
by Thomas Healy.
Polygon, 161 pp., £7.95, July 1992, 0 7486 6121 2
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... when it came out last year, and the paperback carries glowing tributes from Christopher Hope and Paul Bailey. I don’t find myself reaching for superlatives like them, but it certainly isn’t any old first novel. Wartime Lies is a stylish and gripping account of how a Jewish boy and his beautiful, resourceful aunt manage to stay alive and out of the ...

Getting it right

Tam Dalyell, 18 July 1985

The Ponting Affair 
by Richard Norton-Taylor.
Cecil Woolf, 144 pp., £5.95, June 1985, 0 900821 74 4
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Who Killed Hilda Murrell? 
by Judith Cook.
New English Library, 182 pp., £1.95, June 1985, 0 450 05885 9
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... This is no exaggeration. Simply a statement of fact. I am in a position to know. However right Paul Rogers, Lee Chadwick, Arthur Gavshon and I may have been, the fact is that without the sustained interest of Guardian readers, and, in my case, the Labour Party up and down the country, there was no way which the professors of Belgrano Studies, as David ...

Sitting it out

Paul Sieghart, 2 August 1984

Two men were aquitted 
by Percy Hoskins.
Secker, 221 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 0 436 20161 5
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... The trial of Dr John Bodkin Adams at the Old Bailey in 1957 was one of the causes célèbres of the post-war years. Apart from sex, it had everything. Adams was a fashionable Eastbourne doctor. Portly. With a chauffeur-driven Rolls. Charged with murdering one of his rich old women patients, for a chest of silver. There were strong hints she was not his only victim ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2014, 8 January 2015

... on a courtesy visit to the USSR, as it then was, in 1988, a party which included Craig Raine, Paul Bailey and Timothy Mo. I don’t remember laughing more on any trip before or since; we were a very silly group, so much so that we often mystified our hosts and sometimes behaved disgracefully. Sue – and I even noticed this in the photo the Guardian ...

Keith Middlemas on the history of Ireland

Keith Middlemas, 22 January 1981

Ireland: Land of Troubles 
by Paul Johnson.
Eyre Methuen, 224 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 413 47650 2
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Acts of Union 
by Anthony Bailey.
Faber, 221 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 571 11648 5
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Neighbours 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Faber, 96 pp., £2.95, November 1980, 0 571 11645 0
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Ireland: A History 
by Robert Kee.
Weidenfeld, 256 pp., £9.95, December 1980, 0 297 77855 2
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... cosmos, an integral factor in a prolonged, and possibly insoluble, post-colonial schizophrenia? Paul Johnson’s book is lively, well-informed and often provocative; his standpoint allows little space for nuances. His ‘crucial developments’ are the troubles themselves; the ‘shared experiences’ (one thinks of those thousands of Irishmen who ...
... audience including, presumably, many straight readers. Perhaps a few more gay male writers – Paul Monette, David Leavitt and Armistead Maupin in the US, Alan Hollinghurst, Paul Bailey, Adam Mars-Jones in Britain – enjoy this crossover status. International comparisons, however, can be misleading, since they ...

Don’t Move

Jeremy Noel-Tod: Fictional re-creations of Vermeer, 9 August 2001

Girl with a Pearl Earring 
by Tracy Chevalier.
HarperCollins, 248 pp., £5.99, July 2000, 0 00 651320 4
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Girl in Hyacinth Blue 
by Susan Vreeland.
Review, 242 pp., £6.99, May 2001, 9780747266594
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A View of Delft: Vermeer Then and Now 
by Anthony Bailey.
Chatto, 288 pp., £16.99, April 2001, 0 7011 6913 3
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Vermeer's Camera 
by Philip Steadman.
Oxford, 207 pp., £17.99, February 2001, 0 19 215967 4
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... creation, ‘invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his finger nails’. In 1934 Paul Claudel was celebrating ‘a pure gaze, bare, sterilised, washed of all substance, of an ingenuousness in some ways mathematical or angelic’. The fictional re-creations of Vermeer’s private life – elusive in much the same way as Shakespeare’s – by ...

My God, the Suburbs!

Colm Tóibín: John Cheever, 5 November 2009

Cheever: A Life 
by Blake Bailey.
Picador, 770 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 330 43790 5
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... was under so much strain that Cheever’s father invited an abortionist to dinner. As Blake Bailey writes in his biography: ‘It was a story that haunted Cheever the rest of his life … Not surprisingly, he saw fit to blame his mother for having the bad taste to tell him of the episode.’ The family was affluent at first, living in a large house in ...

Johnson’s Business

Keith Walker, 7 August 1980

A Dictionary of the English Language 
by Samuel Johnson.
Times, 2558 pp., £45, June 1980, 0 7230 0228 2
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Dictionary Johnson: Samuel Johnson’s Middle Years 
by James Clifford.
Heinemann, 372 pp., £10, February 1980, 0 434 13805 3
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... in the language. A simple record, with some jumbled senses, was all that was given by Nathaniel Bailey, Johnson’s immediate predecessor. In his 1736 edition, Bailey had 60,000 entries, about half as many again as Johnson. In 1747, Johnson, disappointed in his hopes of producing the edition of Shakespeare for which he ...

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