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Coruscating on Thin Ice

Terry Eagleton: The Divine Spark, 24 January 2008

Creation: Artists, Gods and Origins 
by Peter Conrad.
Thames and Hudson, 529 pp., £24.95, September 2007, 978 0 500 51356 9
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... however, could never withstand much critical scrutiny. It certainly doesn’t receive much in Peter Conrad’s encyclopedic new study of artistic creation. For one thing, God’s act of creation is from nothing, which can scarcely be said of Mansfield Park or Dead Babies. Like cooking or carpentry, art requires raw materials. ...

Modern Masters

Frank Kermode, 24 May 1990

Where I fell to Earth: A Life in Four Places 
by Peter Conrad.
Chatto, 252 pp., £16, February 1990, 0 7011 3490 9
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May Week was in June 
by Clive James.
Cape, 249 pp., £12.95, June 1990, 0 224 02787 5
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... if he lived all he could, did so in what seems to have been an altogether more sedentary fashion. Conrad, who lists only nine previous books, is nevertheless a long way ahead of his somewhat late-developing Polish namesake, but then going to sea is among the few aids to introspection he seems not yet to have tried. Manifestly well though this James and this ...

Peter Conrad’s Flight from Precision

Richard Poirier, 17 July 1980

Imagining America 
by Peter Conrad.
Routledge, 319 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7100 0370 6
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... they intended to find. Though he doesn’t mention Rosenberg, or any other critic for that matter, Peter Conrad, Fellow of Christ Church, Oxford, is convinced that a similar destiny was in store for the English writers of the 19th and 20th centuries who ‘imagined’ America during their visits to it. They imagined it not freely but in obedience to ...

Newsreel History

Terry Eagleton: Modern Times, Modern Places by Peter Conrad, 12 November 1998

Modern Times, Modern Places 
by Peter Conrad.
Thames and Hudson, 752 pp., £24.95, October 1998, 0 500 01877 4
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... now as drearily familiar a discourse as the Elizabethan world picture, if somewhat more accurate. Peter Conrad’s monumental study of Modernism falls foul of such platitudes from time to time, not least in its tendency to a kind of newsreel history. ‘The 19th century, powered by the internal combustion engine, was a time of hectic, propulsive ...

Illustrating America

Peter Campbell, 21 March 1985

Willem de Kooning: Drawings, Paintings, Sculpture 
by Paul Cummings, Jorn Merkert and Claire Stoullig.
Norton, 308 pp., £35, August 1984, 0 393 01840 7
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Abstract Expressionist Painting in America 
by William Seitz.
Harvard, 490 pp., £59.95, February 1984, 0 674 00215 6
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About Rothko 
by Dore Ashton.
Oxford, 225 pp., £15, August 1984, 0 19 503348 5
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The Art of the City: Views and Versions of New York 
by Peter Conrad.
Oxford, 329 pp., £15, June 1984, 0 19 503408 2
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... of de Kooning’s paintings does it appear as subject-matter (or at least give title-material). Peter Conrad, whose subject is versions and visions of New York, thus has no place for Rothko or de Kooning in his book: with the Pop artists – like Oldenburg – he finds work which can illustrate his theme. In each of his chapters he shows how different ...

Heads and Hearts

Patrick Parrinder, 28 May 1992

Underworld 
by Peter Conrad.
Chatto, 252 pp., £14.99, April 1992, 0 7011 3895 5
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A Case of Curiosities 
by Allen Kurzweil.
Hamish Hamilton, 358 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 0 241 13235 5
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Rotten Times 
by Paul Micou.
Bantam, 266 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 593 02621 7
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The Republic of Love 
by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 366 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 1 872180 88 4
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... Last week, in another part of the city, a human head turned up.’ The severed head which opens Peter Conrad’s first novel suggests that contemporary fiction might be defined by its increasing convergence with the weird tale, the story based on a deliberate disruption of the natural order. The head is anonymous, sealed in a plastic bag, and being used as a football by a group of boys ...

Firm Lines

Hermione Lee, 17 November 1983

Bartleby in Manhattan, and Other Essays 
by Elizabeth Hardwick.
Weidenfeld, 292 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 297 78357 2
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... of Kipling). Indeed, the last essay in Bartleby in Manhattan is an attack on an English critic, Peter Conrad, for trying his hand at just this sort of thing. In these American observers and explainers two characteristics recur. The first is a close attention to the significance of detail (‘no ideas but in things’) which is often left to speak for ...

Founding Moments

Stuart Macintyre, 11 March 1993

The Oxford History of Australia. Vol. II, 1770-1860: Possessions 
by Jan Kociumbas.
Oxford, 397 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 19 554610 5
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The Rule of Law in a Penal Colony: Law and Power in Early New South Wales 
by David Neal.
Cambridge, 266 pp., £30, March 1992, 9780521372640
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Waterloo Creek: The Australia Day Massacre of 1838, George Gipps and the British Conquest of New South Wales 
by Roger Milliss.
McPhee Gribble, 965 pp., February 1992, 0 86914 156 2
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Living in a New Country: History, Travelling and Language 
by Paul Carter.
Faber, 214 pp., £14.99, July 1992, 0 571 16329 7
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... Tasmania’s prodigal son, Peter Conrad, suggested recently that his island-state had ‘unwritten its own history’ in accordance with ‘a self-protective incuriosity about origins’. Tasmania’s origins lay in an act of genocidal conquest and a penal experiment, both of which were so recent and so omnipresent in their effect as to make recollection intolerable ...

At Tate Britain

John Barrell: Late Turner, 18 December 2014

... with the feast of colour in the gallery. ‘Emerging from Turner’s heliocentric cathedral,’ Peter Conrad wrote in the Observer, ‘I felt I had cataracts: it takes time to re-accustom your dazzled eyes to the wan, monochrome mock-up we call reality.’ Turner, and his great advocate Ruskin, would surely have sighed with impatience at these ...

Diary

Blake Morrison: On the Independent on Sunday , 27 May 1993

... Greene, Claire Tomalin on Coleridge, Anthony Burgess on Fielding, other reviews by Anita Brookner, Peter Conrad, Roy Foster and Hilary Mantel), and as the limits on the new paper’s resources became apparent I thought how hard it would be to put together pages of comparable stature. There was one solace: the Independent on Sunday would be run by ...

Conrad and Prejudice

Craig Raine, 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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... Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist.’ This quotation is taken from ‘An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness’, a lecture delivered by the Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe as long ago as 1974 and now collected in Hopes and Impediments. In City Without Walls, W ...

Magnifico

David Bromwich: This was Orson Welles, 3 June 2004

Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life 
by Peter Conrad.
Faber, 384 pp., £20, September 2003, 0 571 20978 5
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... up his sleeve. This was an illusion he encouraged, and there was some pleasure in sharing it. Peter Conrad’s Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life does not treat the actual life of Welles or its salient circumstances: his collaborations with John Houseman and Joseph Cotten and Michéal Mac Liammóir; his affairs with Dolores Del Rio and Lena ...
... think I don’t need to. My first reading, before any reviews appeared, concurs with what I took Peter Ackroyd to be saying on Kaleidoscope, that the bulk of the narrative can be read and enjoyed in a moderately literal way as a mystery story set in London, even though the mystery turns out to be not soluble at this level. My second reading was helped by the ...

Gobsmacked

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare, 16 July 1998

Lyric Wonder: Rhetoric and Wit in Renaissance English Poetry 
by James Biester.
Cornell, 226 pp., £31.50, May 1997, 0 8014 3313 4
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Reason Diminished: Shakespeare and the Marvellous 
by Peter Platt.
Nebraska, 271 pp., £42.75, January 1998, 0 8032 3714 6
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Shakespeare and the Theatre of Wonder 
by T.G. Bishop.
Cambridge, 222 pp., £32.50, January 1996, 0 521 55086 6
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The Genius of Shakespeare 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 386 pp., £20, September 1997, 0 330 35317 9
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... there in these millennial times ought not to surprise us. This batch of studies finds, in the USA, Peter Plan and T.G. Bishop combing the plays for miracles and James Biester finding the key to Renaissance courtly poetry in its strategies for eliciting astonishment. Back home, Jonathan Bate is gobsmacked by the sheer Genius of Shakespeare. It’s perhaps as ...

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