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Diary

Peter Hill: From the Lighthouse, 6 June 1996

... trailer while the principal keeper started up the Massey Ferguson tractor and pulled us up a steep hill to the beacon. To my relief, I found that the tower of the light was surrounded by numerous outhouses in which we would live, eat and sleep. Later, I would hear tales of other lights, such as the legendary Skerryvore where the keeper lived in a tower: the ...

Most people think birds just go pi-pi-pi

James Fletcher, 4 April 1996

The Messiaen Companion 
edited by Peter Hill.
Faber, 581 pp., £40, March 1995, 0 571 17033 1
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Olivier Messiaen: Music and Colour. Conversations with Claude Samuel 
translated by Thomas Glasow.
Amadeus, 296 pp., $29.95, May 1994, 0 931340 67 5
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... which oddly passes without comment in the useful discography by Christopher Dingle that concludes Hill’s book. The Germans were not unsympathetic to these musical endeavours. The camp commander supplied Messiaen with manuscript paper, and found a cello, with one string missing, for Pasquier. A German officer gave Messiaen the complete Beethoven Piano ...

The Case for Geoffrey Hill

Tom Paulin, 4 April 1985

Geoffrey HillEssays on his Work 
edited by Peter Robinson.
Open University, 259 pp., £18, March 1985, 0 335 10588 2
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... Geoffrey Hill’s second collection of poems, King Log, was published in 1968, that year of student radicalism and disappointment. Hill’s title is reactionary in its implications and derives from Aesop’s fable of the frogs who desired a king. In my edition of L’Estrange’s royalist version of Aesop the fable runs like this: The Frogs, living an easy, free life everywhere among the lakes and ponds, assembled together, one day, in a very tumultuous manner, and petitioned Jupiter to let them have a King ...

Half-Way up the Hill

Frank Kermode, 7 July 1988

Young Betjeman 
by Bevis Hillier.
Murray, 457 pp., £15.95, July 1988, 0 7195 4531 5
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... about family and school. Born at Gospel Oak, Betjeman moved up with his parents to better-off West Hill; fans will remember his touching invocation of the house there (‘Deeply I loved thee, 31 West Hill!’), as well as some very subtle verses (‘Lissenden Mansions! And my memory sifts/Lilies from lily-like electric ...

Bang, Bang, Smash, Smash

Rosemary Hill: Beatrix Potter, 22 February 2007

Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature 
by Linda Lear.
Allen Lane, 584 pp., £25, January 2007, 978 0 7139 9560 2
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... that was so tight it gave her a headache. Difficulties with clothes occur in many of her books. Peter Rabbit’s expression of resigned discomfort as his mother buttons his coat up too tightly under his chin, Tom Kitten’s wide-eyed dismay as the buttons fly off his Sunday suit, and numerous accidents to pinafores are among the details that give the tales ...

England and Other Women

Edna Longley, 5 May 1988

Under Storm’s Wing 
by Helen Thomas and Myfanwy Thomas.
Carcanet, 318 pp., £14.95, February 1988, 0 85635 733 2
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... in The Art of Edward Thomas open out the issues, but a whiff of poet’s corner lingers on. Pace Peter Levi, it is not quite enough to celebrate Thomas as ‘certainly genuine, authentic, a true poet’. Under Storm’s Wing is a welcome reprint of Helen Thomas’s As it was and World without End, first published in 1926 and 1931. It also contains a ...

The Redeemed Vicarage

John Lennard, 12 May 1994

Pictures of Perfection 
by Reginald Hill.
HarperCollins, 303 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 00 232392 3
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... There was little to suggest, twenty-odd years ago, that Superintendent Andrew Dalziel and Sergeant Peter Pascoe would develop as they have, except Reginald Hill’s unusual and wise decision never to write consecutive novels about them.* Their debut in A Clubbable Woman (1970) came eight years after Julian Symons had first pronounced the ‘detective story’ dead; as late as 1989 T ...

Short Cuts

Christian Lorentzen: L is Lorentzen, 23 January 2014

... from Ellis Island – as Stratoberdha. My father believes the name means ‘military camp on the hill’; no one has spoken Albanian in my family since Elias’s generation. In A Dictionary of Albanian Religion, Mythology and Folk Culture I found a reference to an Orthodox village of that name, one of five in the vicinity of Korçë where those who suffer ...

Jokes

Donald Davie, 11 June 1992

In the Circumstances: About Poems and Poets 
by Peter Robinson.
Oxford, 260 pp., £35, May 1992, 0 19 811248 3
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... It seems now that there was always something odd about Peter Robinson’s being the editor, in 1985, of Geoffrey Hill: Essays on His Work, from the Open University Press. Robinson’s sensibility, particularly as one had encountered it in his poems, pointed away from the aloofness of Hill’s attitude to his public, and away from Hill’s lofty and recherché diction, towards something plainer, more demotically awkward, more (the word presented itself) Wordsworthian ...

Montereale

Christopher Hill, 6 November 1980

The Cheese and the Worms: the Cosmos of a 16th-Century Miller 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by John Tedeschi and Anne Tedeschi.
Routledge, 177 pp., £7.95, October 1980, 0 7100 0591 1
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... refuted and denounced them. Only in the present generation have historians like Robert Mandrou and Peter Burke seriously attempted to ascertain what was going on beneath the surface. In Montaillou Le Roy Ladurie utilised one lucky cache of evidence. Professor Ginzburg has found another. Domenico Scandella, known as Menocchio, lived from 1532 to 1599 or ...

Sucking up

Michael Rogin, 12 May 1994

Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War 
by John MacArthur.
California, 274 pp., £10, January 1994, 0 520 08398 9
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Live from the Battlefield: From Vietnam to Baghdad – 35 Years in the World’s War Zones 
by Peter Arnett.
Bloomsbury, 463 pp., £17.99, March 1994, 0 7475 1680 4
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... reporter as American hero – Neil Sheehan, David Halberstam, Seymour Hersch, Jonathan Schell, Peter Arnett. They reported not only the war the government did not want its citizens to see, but also the government efforts to invent a war for domestic consumption. ‘Part of the Vietnamese Seventh Infantry Division was being assigned to make a ...

Kinsella in His Hole

Hilary Mantel, 19 May 2016

... you, Mr Kinsella.’ She picked up her bag and gave us a hard stare. Then she set off down the hill to have her dinner with the other teachers. We had our dinner in a Nissen hut in those days. They called it ‘the dining hall’, as if we were dukes. At the end was a partition, and behind it the teachers ate. Not the nuns – they went home to their own ...

Foxy

Peter Campbell, 21 January 1988

Running with the fox 
by David Macdonald.
Unwin Hyman, 224 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 04 440084 5
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... distances they travel to find a new territory averages four to six territory widths. In Boar’s Hill, one of the areas Macdonald has studied, the average size of territory is under a hundred acres, and the smallest only a quarter that size. In such country a fox may spend years within an area it can cross in a minute. In woodland, territories are ...

Strange, Angry Objects

Owen Hatherley: The Brutalist Decades, 17 November 2016

A3: Threads and Connections 
by Peter Ahrends.
Right Angle, 128 pp., £18, December 2015, 978 0 9532848 9 4
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Raw Concrete: The Beauty of Brutalism 
by Barnabas Calder.
Heinemann, 416 pp., £25, April 2016, 978 0 434 02244 1
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Space, Hope and Brutalism: English Architecture 1945-75 
by Elain Harwood.
Yale, 512 pp., £60, September 2015, 978 0 300 20446 9
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Concrete Concept: Brutalist Buildings around the World 
by Christopher Beanland.
Frances Lincoln, 192 pp., £18, February 2016, 978 0 7112 3764 3
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This Brutal World 
by Peter Chadwick.
Phaidon, 224 pp., £29.95, April 2016, 978 0 7148 7108 0
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Modern Forms: A Subjective Atlas of 20th-Century Architecture 
by Nicolas Grospierre.
Prestel, 224 pp., £29.99, February 2016, 978 3 7913 8229 6
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Modernist Estates: The Buildings and the People Who Live in Them 
by Stefi Orazi.
Frances Lincoln, 192 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 0 7112 3675 2
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Architecture an Inspiration 
by Ivor Smith.
Troubador, 224 pp., £24.95, November 2014, 978 1 78462 069 1
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... For us​ ,’ Steffen Ahrends told his son Peter, who was born in Berlin in 1933, ‘the history of architecture started with the Soviet 1917 revolution.’ It wasn’t entirely a joke. For many designers in the Weimar Republic, and for subsequent generations of modernist hardliners, 1917 had made possible a reconstruction of life on collective, egalitarian and, above all, planned lines ...

In New Zealand

Peter Campbell: Timber-frame, 21 February 2002

... I am in Wellington, where I spent my first twenty years. I have walked, as I used to then, down the hill from Wadestown. The pines are now taller and blacker and the glossy mounded foliage of native shrubs covers the banks of cuttings more densely. In those days, after heavy rain, there were landslips. It has been very wet this year but only one yellow patch shows where a few tons of rotten rock and clay slid down to spill over the road ...

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