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What Philosophers Dream Of

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Bernard Williams

1 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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... He​ ‘understands what you’re 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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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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... a beam of pink light directly at him, at his head, his eyes’. Dick had by then all the recognition the insular world of SF could give, but recognition from outside kept growing, especially after PaulWilliams’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 ...

Avoid the Orient

Colm Tóibín: The Ghastly Paul​ Bowles

4 January 2007
Paul​ Bowles: A Life 
by Virginia Spencer Carr.
Peter Owen, 431 pp., £19.95, July 2005, 0 7206 1254 3
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... Long before the sin of Orientalism was discovered, Paul Bowles had frequently been guilty of it, in word, in thought and in deed. In his first stories, for example, the natives are shining examples of naked otherness, created partly to refresh our view ...

One Click at a Time

Owen Hatherley

29 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 ...

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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... World War with the almost fatal doctrine that the system of convoy was out of date and could no longer 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 ...

Very like St Paul

Ian Sansom: Johnny Cash

9 March 2006
The Man Called Cash: The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend 
by Steve Turner.
Bloomsbury, 363 pp., £8.99, February 2006, 0 7475 8079 0
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Walk the Line 
directed by James Mangold.
November 2005
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... Little House on the Prairie (and of course The Simpsons) and doing numerous voice-overs and adverts for car manufacturers. He was also the author of a novel, Man in White (1986), about the life of St Paul, with whom he liked to compare himself: ‘Also interesting, for me at least,’ he writes in Cash (1997), ‘were the parallels between Paul and myself. He went out to conquer the world in the name ...

Beat the carpets later!

Michael Wood: Proust’s Noisy Neighbours

7 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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... complaining about the noise: how could this not be a parody? And isn’t it too broad a stroke to make 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 ...
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 ...

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 ...
15 September 1983
George Borrow: Eccentric 
by Michael Collie.
Cambridge, 275 pp., £19.50, November 1982, 0 521 24615 6
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A World of his Own: The Double Life of George Borrow 
by David Williams.
Oxford, 178 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 19 211762 9
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Eothen: Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East 
by Alexander Kinglake and Jan Morris.
Oxford, 279 pp., £2.95, November 1982, 0 19 281361 7
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Eothen 
by Alexander Kinglake and Jonathan Raban.
Century, 226 pp., £6.95, September 1982, 0 7126 0031 0
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... do. In 1835, aged 32, he was in St Petersburg, arranging the printing of a translation of the English Bible into Chinese. (‘He boned up feverishly on Manchu,’ enthuses his other biographer, David Williams, in his schoolboyish way.) Borrow had to argue in Russian with the Tsar’s board of censors, hire and supervise ill-educated Estonian compositors to set up Mongolian print (which, he said ...

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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... grubbier knees, such as economists, whose policy prescriptions frequently rest on theories 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 ...

On Lee Harwood

August Kleinzahler: Lee Harwood

8 April 2015
TheOrchid Boat 
by Lee Harwood.
Enitharmon, 48 pp., £8.99, July 2014, 978 1 907587 53 5
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... to a recording of the Greek bouzouki player Vassilis Tsitsanis singing ‘Cloudy Sunday’, written 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 ...

Bustin’ up the Chiffarobe

Alex Abramovich: Paul​ Beatty

7 January 2016
The Sellout 
by Paul​ Beatty.
Farrar, Straus, 288 pp., £17, March 2015, 978 0 374 26050 7
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... The pure products​ of America go crazy, William Carlos Williams wrote, but he was only half right: America’s crazy, and so sometimes its pure products go sane. Consider the eponymous narrator of Paul Beatty’s novel The Sellout. When we first meet him, in the Supreme Court’s ‘cavernous chambers’, the sellout’s hands are cuffed behind his back. His right to silence ‘long since waived ...

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