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Almighty Godwin

Paul Foot, 28 September 1989

The Godwins and the Shelleys: The Biography of a Family 
by William St Clair.
Faber, 572 pp., £20, June 1989, 0 571 15422 0
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... with us two hundred years later. It was reinforced the following year by the more readable Caleb Williams, Godwin’s first novel. The tyranny of society in general is symbolised by the aristocratic monomaniac Lord Falkland, the good sense and misery of its common people by the aristocrat’s servant, the narrator, who spends much of the book in ...

Vitality

John Cannon, 10 May 1990

A Polite and Commercial People: England 1727-1783 
by Paul Langford.
Oxford, 803 pp., £25, September 1989, 0 19 822828 7
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Voters, Patrons and Parties: The Unreformed Electorate of Hanoverian England, 1734-1832 
by Frank O’Gorman.
Oxford, 445 pp., £40, August 1989, 0 19 820056 0
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... agreeable thought to the new authors that their books will be selling deep into the 21st century. Paul Langford’s volume invites comparison with Basil Williams’s The Whig Supremacy, which appeared exactly fifty years ago. In many respects the new volume has the edge. It is quite beautifully produced, with some excellent ...

Kick over the Scenery

Stephanie Burt: Philip K. Dick, 3 July 2008

Four Novels of the 1960s: ‘The Man in the High Castle’, ‘The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch’, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’, ‘Ubik’ 
by Philip K. Dick.
Library of America, 830 pp., $35, May 2008, 978 1 59853 009 4
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Five Novels of the 1960s and 1970s: ‘Martian Time-Slip’, ‘Dr Bloodmoney’, ‘Now Wait for Last Year’, ‘Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said’, ‘A Scanner Darkly’ 
by Philip K. Dick.
Library of America, 1128 pp., $40, August 2008, 978 1 59853 025 4
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... the insular world of SF could give, but recognition from outside kept growing, especially after Paul Williams’s 1975 profile in Rolling Stone. Dick’s final years – less prolific but by no means sterile – brought attempts to explain ‘2-3-74’, in essays, in the more careful prose of the last novels and in the mammoth, unpublishable ...

What Philosophers Dream Of

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Bernard Williams, 2 July 2015

Essays and Reviews 1959-2002 
by Bernard Williams.
Princeton, 435 pp., £24.95, January 2014, 978 0 691 15985 0
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... going to say better than you understand it yourself’, Gilbert Ryle said of the young Bernard Williams, ‘and sees all the possible objections to it, all the possible answers to all the possible objections, before you’ve got to the end of your sentence’. Williams’s declared enemies in philosophy ...

War within wars

Paul Addison, 5 November 1992

War, Strategy and International Politics: Essays in Honour of Sir Michael Howard 
edited by Lawrence Freedman, Paul Hayes and Robert O’Neill.
Oxford, 322 pp., £35, July 1992, 0 19 822292 0
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... be employed for the protection of merchant shipping. The Admiralty also comes out badly from Paul Hayes’s analysis of its pre-1914 plans for a sudden descent on Germany. But for the resistance these plans encountered, he writes, ‘the catastrophe of the Gallipoli campaign might instead have been enacted in Friesland. The effects on morale, prestige ...

Human Welfare

Paul Seabright, 18 August 1983

Utilitarianism and Beyond 
edited by Amartya Sen and Bernard Williams.
Cambridge, 290 pp., £20, June 1982, 0 521 24296 7
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... that bear resemblance – in varying degrees – to its currently popular versions. Even Bernard Williams, who ten years ago incautiously expressed the hope that ‘the day cannot be too far off when we hear no more of it,’ has bowed to the inevitable and edited, with Amartya Sen, this substantial collection of essays by philosophers and economists. And ...

One Great Good True Thing

Thomas Powers: Tennessee Williams, 20 November 2014

Tennessee WilliamsMad Pilgrimage of the Flesh 
by John Lahr.
Bloomsbury, 765 pp., £30, September 2014, 978 1 4088 4365 9
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... To spend time​ with Tennessee Williams – for months on end in the case of Elia Kazan, the director who put his plays on the stage in the 1940s and 1950s; 12 years in the case of his latest and best biographer, John Lahr; or even as little as six weeks by me while reading Lahr’s absorbing Life, along with the work, and a big chunk of all the stuff Williams wrote and said about the work – is to learn and relearn how soberly Williams was speaking when he told Kazan: ‘I don’t know what it is to take anything calmly ...

Upwards and Onwards

Stefan Collini: On Raymond Williams, 31 July 2008

Raymond WilliamsA Warrior’s Tale 
by Dai Smith.
Parthian, 514 pp., £25, May 2008, 978 1 905762 56 9
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... When Raymond Williams died suddenly, aged 66, in January 1988, estimations of him were sharply divided. There were those who regarded him as a deservedly influential literary and cultural critic, a major socialist theorist and an exemplary instance of the union of intellectual seriousness and political purpose ...

On Lee Harwood

August Kleinzahler: Lee Harwood, 9 April 2015

TheOrchid Boat 
by Lee Harwood.
Enitharmon, 48 pp., £8.99, July 2014, 978 1 907587 53 5
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... in Athens during the Second World War; and yet another in a series of remembrances for the poet Paul Evans, who died in an accident while climbing with Harwood many years ago, in which Harwood places a stone in on a summit cairn ‘as ravens glide by, two buzzards circle,/and a flock of goats clatters across the scree below.’ The title of the book is to ...

One Click at a Time

Owen Hatherley, 30 June 2016

PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future 
by Paul Mason.
Allen Lane, 368 pp., £8.99, June 2016, 978 0 14 197529 0
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Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World without Work 
by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams.
Verso, 256 pp., £12.99, October 2015, 978 1 78478 096 8
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... Both​ Paul Mason’s PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future and Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’s Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World without Work advocate things that seemed to have disappeared from thinking on the left sometime in the late 1960s: technological optimism, futurism, the making of programmes and the issuing of demands as opposed to bearing witness through protest ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: How to Type like a Man, 10 May 2007

... an hour along Highway 91 through the Nevada desert. Shortly after five o’clock, the writer Mason Williams rolled down the passenger window, and threw out a Royal Model X typewriter. Patrick Blackwell photographed the results. Although Wershler-Henry devotes twenty pages or so to ‘the typewriter girl’ and ‘Remington priestesses’, and notes that ...

Beat the carpets later!

Michael Wood: Proust’s Noisy Neighbours, 8 May 2014

Lettres à sa voisine 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Estelle Gaudry and Jean-Yves Tadié.
Gallimard, 86 pp., £11.40, October 2013, 978 2 07 014224 8
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... the husband a dentist? The wife a delicate, suffering lady who plays the harp? Please. Marie Williams at the harp. Jean-Yves Tadié is enchanted by these artistic possibilities. In the letters, he says, Mme Marie Williams ‘appears to us as if she were a heroine in a novel by Maupassant, Notre coeur for ...

Literature and the Left

Marilyn Butler, 18 August 1983

English Literature in History: 1730-80: An Equal, Wide Survey 
edited by Raymond Williams, by John Barrell.
Hutchinson, 228 pp., £13.50, March 1983, 0 09 149820 1
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English Literature in History: 1350-1400: Medieval Readers and Writers 
edited by Raymond Williams, by Janet Coleman.
Hutchinson, 337 pp., £12, July 1981, 0 09 144100 5
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English Literature in History: 1780-1830: Pastoral and Politics 
edited by Raymond Williams, by Roger Sales.
Hutchinson, 247 pp., £13.50, March 1983, 0 09 149830 9
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The Cambridge Guide to English Literature 
by Michael Stapleton.
Cambridge/Newnes Books, 992 pp., £15, April 1983, 9780521256476
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... It is a surprise to find Raymond Williams, in the year of his retirement as Professor of Drama at Cambridge, editing a series called ‘Literature in History’. In a writing career that almost spans the post-war period, he has established himself as this country’s leading critic within academic English of the very concept of ‘Literature ...

Even My Hair Feels Drunk

Adam Mars-Jones: Joy Williams, 2 February 2017

The Visiting Privilege 
by Joy Williams.
Tuskar Rock, 490 pp., £16.99, November 2016, 978 1 78125 746 3
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Ninety-Nine Stories of God 
by Joy Williams.
Tin House, 220 pp., £16.95, July 2016, 978 1 941040 35 5
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... Hard to imagine​ a brisker, bleaker opening than this one from the title story of Joy Williams’s 2004 collection, Honoured Guest: She had been having a rough time of it and thought about suicide sometimes, but suicide was so corny in the eleventh grade and you had to be careful about this because two of her classmates had committed suicide the year before and between them they left 24 suicide notes and had become just a joke ...

Brought to book

Gordon Williams, 7 May 1981

Ronnie Biggs: His Own Story 
by Michael Joseph.
Sphere, 238 pp., £7.95, March 1981, 9780718119720
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A Sense of Freedom 
by Jimmy Boyle.
Pan, 264 pp., £1.25, September 1977, 0 330 25303 4
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... and Jim Hussey come across socially as chaps to go into the jungle with, although novelist Piers Paul Read might demur: despite being warned by Biggs that he was being wound up, he more or less accepted the robbers’ concocted revelation that the robbery was financed by Otto Skorzeny the scar-faced Nazi daredevil. Men who pull off a world-record ...

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