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Happy Few

Patricia Beer

23 May 1991
Told in Gath 
by Max Wright.
Blackstaff, 177 pp., £11.95, January 1991, 0 85640 449 7
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... of real education, however acquired, often did it. The potential of the Brethren as subject-matter has of course been exploited by writers in all genres, but seldom with much credibility; the picture PeterCarey gives of them in Oscar and Lucinda, for example, is what might politely be called a travesty. Edmund Gosse is the nearest to an exception. In Father and Son he does not tell the whole truth and ...

How confident should she be?

Richard Lloyd Parry: Aung San Suu Kyi

26 April 2012
The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi 
by Peter​ Popham.
Rider, 446 pp., £20, November 2011, 978 1 84604 248 5
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... Sein’s reforms, but within the constrained world of the opposition movement, the policy revolution initiated by Suu Kyi, and obediently agreed by the NLD executive, has been just as unexpected. Peter Popham’s life of Aung San Suu Kyi is gripping, partisan and emotional, a welcome complement to the only other serious biography in English, Justin Wintle’s assiduously comprehensive Perfect ...
12 November 1987
For Love and Money: Writing, Reading, Travelling 1969-1987 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins Harvill, 350 pp., £11.50, November 1987, 0 00 272279 8
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Original Copy: Selected Reviews and Journalism 1969-1986 
by John Carey.
Faber, 278 pp., £9.95, August 1987, 0 571 14879 4
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... they are never ephemeral and are occasionally remarkable, like the longish piece on Mayhew. He’s not a slasher – though there is a very severe notice of the autobiographies of Anthony Powell and Peter Quennell – and he seems to enjoy being generous to other reviewers, as when he justly praises John Updike. He is full of gratitude to literary editors, commemorating Ian Hamilton’s work on the ...

Best Things

Alan Hollinghurst

20 August 1981
Viewpoints: Poets in Conversation with John Haffenden 
Faber, 189 pp., £7.50, June 1981, 0 571 11689 2Show More
A Free Translation 
by Craig Raine.
Salamander, 29 pp., £4.50, June 1981, 0 907540 02 3
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A German Requiem 
by James Fenton.
Salamander, 9 pp., £1.50, January 1981, 0 907540 00 7
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Caviare at the Funeral 
by Louis Simpson.
Oxford, 89 pp., £4.50, April 1981, 0 19 211943 5
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... of a taste for Raine’s work has been a conspicuous feature of British literary life during the last three years. Soloists with the chorus of praise have been distinguished and influential: Peter Porter, John Carey, John Bayley – and Raine himself has by no means been indisposed with laryngitis. His position in literary journalism and his access to the popularising media have played their ...

I had no imagination

Christian Lorentzen: Gerald Murnane

4 April 2019
Tamarisk Row 
by Gerald Murnane.
And Other Stories, 281 pp., £10, February, 978 1 911508 36 6
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Border Districts 
by Gerald Murnane.
And Other Stories, 144 pp., £8.99, January, 978 1 911508 38 0
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... Boyd as well as the Hungarian Gyula Illyés; references in his work suggest that Hardy, Lawrence and Nabokov have also occupied his attention significantly. He seems to loathe Norman Mailer and PeterCarey.) There was a hiatus of 14 years between the stories in Emerald Blue (1995) and the publication of Barley Patch (2009), the first of four books Murnane classifies not as novels or stories but ...

Wife Overboard

John Sutherland: Thackeray

20 January 2000
Thackeray 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 494 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 7011 6231 7
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... irrelevant: ‘This is not a critical biography – critics criticise, biographers write biographies.’ And, one mutters, reviewers carp. For all this, Taylor has a critical parti pris. Like John Carey, whom he admires, he subscribes to the simplifying (and Ray-reversing) view that Thackeray is a one-book author. Or, as Carey brutally puts it: ‘Thackeray’s career as a leading novelist began and ...

Was Ma Hump to blame?

John Sutherland: Aldous Huxley

11 July 2002
Aldous Huxley: An English Intellectual 
by Nicholas Murray.
Little, Brown, 496 pp., £20, April 2002, 0 316 85492 1
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TheCat's Meow 
directed by Peter​ Bogdanovich.
April 2002
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... to describe a man who so resolutely avoided the discomforts of his home country. But the subtitle signals the critical thrust of Murray’s book. He opposes the ‘new orthodoxy’ expounded by John Carey in his 1992 polemic, The Intellectuals and the Masses. This biography aims to vindicate Huxley as a humane thinker and artist rather than the crypto-fascist, eugenicist, public-school snob, or (in ...

Bunnymooning

Philip French

6 June 1996
The Fatal Englishman: Three Short Lives 
by Sebastian Faulks.
Hutchinson, 309 pp., £16.99, April 1996, 0 09 179211 8
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... on the other hand, died without producing a single book or any extended writing of consequence. This idea of Wolfenden as a wash-out and the squanderer of a prodigious talent persuaded John Carey, one of his Oxford contemporaries, to find him ‘the least interesting’ of Faulks’s subjects. Not only does Carey challenge Faulks’s claim that ‘in some minor way he represented a generation ...
22 February 1996
The Collected Works of James Hogg. Vol. I: The Shepherd’s Calendar 
edited by Douglas Mack.
Edinburgh, 287 pp., £29.50, July 1995, 9780748604746
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Collected Works of James Hogg. Vol. II: The Three Perils of Woman 
edited by David Groves, Antony Hasler and Douglas Mack.
Edinburgh, 466 pp., £32.50, July 1995, 9780748604746
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Collected Works of James Hogg. Vol. III: A Queer Book 
edited by P.D. Garside.
Edinburgh, 278 pp., £29.50, July 1995, 0 7486 0506 1
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... almost exclusively as the author of The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, which has been reprinted in two editions since the war, with introductions by André Gide and John Carey. It is arguably Carey’s edition that has been chiefly responsible not only for the high reputation of the Memoirs and Confessions in England but also for the assumption that none of Hogg’s other ...
26 September 1991
The Faber Book of Madness 
edited by Roy Porter.
Faber, 572 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 571 14387 3
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... us see the Blakean contradictions: all those élitist mouthings-off about Reason, all that hypochondriacal cool, all those dancing lessons, all culminating, two hundred years later, in nonsense like Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract, with all the while the bitter reality of the taxman, the press-gang, the whore, the rope, the dead child, the waste, the stolen apple. And all those books ...
24 September 1992
Woman of an Inner Sea 
by Thomas Keneally.
Hodder, 284 pp., £14.99, July 1992, 0 340 53148 7
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... too, is explained. It was used ‘for rare ash-scatterings over the sea, now that Catholics were permitted to cremate themselves. This had enabled him to get the whole thing off tax.’ When I read PeterCarey’s Oscar and Lucinda it seemed to me Carey had begun with an ambitious concluding image – the glass church floating down the Bellinger River – and worked backwards to contrive it. I have ...

Always the Same Dream

Ferdinand Mount: Princess Margaret

4 January 2018
Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret 
by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, 423 pp., £16.99, September 2017, 978 0 00 820361 0
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... You need​ to be over seventy now to remember the awful thrill of the announcement: ‘I would like it to be known that I have decided not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend.’ For the older generation, Princess Margaret was the unlucky princess. She was our Diana: capricious, passionate, vindictive, doomed to fall in love with rotters, the breakaway royal who ...
7 November 1985
London Reviews 
edited by Nicholas Spice.
Chatto, 222 pp., £5.95, October 1985, 0 7011 2988 3
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The New Review Anthology 
edited by Ian Hamilton.
Heinemann, 320 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 31330 0
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Night and Day 
edited by Christopher Hawtree, by Graham Greene.
Chatto, 277 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 07 011296 7
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Lilliput goes to war 
edited by Kaye Webb.
Hutchinson, 288 pp., £10.95, September 1985, 9780091617608
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Penguin New Writing: 1940-1950 
edited by John Lehmann and Roy Fuller.
Penguin, 496 pp., September 1985, 0 14 007484 8
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... not commission even as disguised book reviews. The verse is of a high standard. We see poems that helped establish the reputations of James Fenton and Craig Raine; poems by Heaney and Lowell; and Peter Porter’s ‘An Australian Garden’, which counts among his best things. Of the short stories, ‘Solid Geometry’ is a reminder that TNR played host to Ian McEwan when he was still regarded as a ...

California Noir

Michael Rogin: Destroying Los Angeles

19 August 1999
Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster 
by Mike Davis.
Picador, 484 pp., £18.99, June 1999, 9780330372190
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... imagination of disaster shifting the blame from the assault on the environment to racial and extraterrestrial aliens. (Nor is this particular combination confined to Los Angeles, as is illustrated by Peter Brimelow’s borrowing of the title of the 1988 science fiction film, Alien Nation, for the anti-immigrant tract he published seven years later.) Congresswoman Seastrand invokes Sodom and Gomorrah ...

Brave as hell

John Kerrigan

21 June 1984
Enderby’s Dark Lady, or No End to Enderby 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 160 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 09 156050 0
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Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Modern Edition 
edited by A.L. Rowse.
Macmillan, 311 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 333 36386 8
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... book; and, in the hundred-or-so central pages, Burgess has Enderby script a musical on the poet’s love life. Ghastly from the start, Enderby’s lyrics are further debased when he arrives at the Peter Brooke Theater, Terrebasse, Indiana (‘To be or not to be/Smitten by you/Bitten by you ...’), and Shakespeare, outraged, fights back. Enderby is not surprised. ‘We were all warned,’ he says ...

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