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A Bit of Ginger

Theo Tait: Gordon Burn, 5 June 2008

Born Yesterday: The News as a Novel 
by Gordon Burn.
Faber, 214 pp., £15.99, April 2008, 978 0 571 19729 3
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... book, Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son (1984), was a painstaking re-creation of the life of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper. He topped that with an account of Fred and Rosemary West’s killing careers, Happy like Murderers (1998). The first resembles a documentary; the second is more like a novel in the sense of being more artfully shaped and ...

Incriminating English

Randolph Quirk, 24 September 1992

Language, Self and Society: A Social History of Language 
edited by Peter Burke and Roy Porter.
Polity, 358 pp., £45, December 1991, 0 7456 0765 9
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Images of English: A Cultural History of the Language 
by Richard Bailey.
Cambridge, 329 pp., £16.95, March 1992, 0 521 41572 1
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The Oxford Companion to the English Language 
edited by Tom McArthur and Feri McArthur.
Oxford, 1184 pp., £25, September 1992, 9780192141835
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The History of the English Language: A Source Book 
by David Burnley.
Longman, 373 pp., £25, January 1992, 0 582 02522 2
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The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol. I: Beginnings to 1066 
edited by Richard Hogg and Norman Blake.
Cambridge, 609 pp., £60, August 1992, 9780521264747
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... deal in depth with English linguistic history. For example, the collection of papers edited by Peter Burke and Roy Porter, Language, Self and Society. This, you’d think (I thought), is just what is needed to excite a fresh interest in the history of English. Well, I thought wrong. The volume is too miscellaneous in topic and treatment to fulfil the ...

Retro-Selfies

Iain Sinclair: Ferlinghetti, 17 December 2015

I Greet You at the Beginning of a Great Career: The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, 1955–97 
edited by Bill Morgan.
City Lights, 284 pp., £11.83, July 2015, 978 0 87286 678 2
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Writing across the Landscape: Travel Journals 1960-2010 
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, edited by Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson.
Liveright, 464 pp., £22.99, October 2015, 978 1 63149 001 9
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... the meaning of nakedness, anticipated by a decade or so the Ginsberg party trick that shocked John Lennon and George Harrison at the dawn of Swinging London. When I interviewed one of the Six Gallery poets, Michael McClure, in 2011, he recalled earlier episodes of Dionysian frenzy with Gerd Stern and a thrash of ‘belly dancers and bongo drums’. Nights that ...

Don’t Look Down

Nicholas Spice: Dull Britannia, 8 April 2010

Family Britain 1951-57 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 776 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 7475 8385 1
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... with a bottle of bright pink cough mixture always at hand’), put it to Peter Wildeblood, one of the co-defendants, that his lover Edward McNally was ‘infinitely his social inferior’, as though this social miscegenation were as much an offence as the act of buggery itself. ‘Nobody ever flung it at me during the war that I was ...

Museums of Melancholy

Iain Sinclair: Silence on the Euston Road, 18 August 2005

... bodies could not be reassembled, bones picked from the mud. ‘The government of the time,’ Peter Ashley wrote in his English Heritage booklet, Lest We Forget (2004), ‘refused to acknowledge the concept of the repatriation of the dead, so these monuments became the focal points for grief.’ The fallen of King’s Cross are uniformly capitalised: a ...

Call a kid a zebra

Daniel Smith: On the Spectrum, 19 May 2016

In a Different Key: The Story of Autism 
by John Donvan and Caren Zucker.
Allen Lane, 670 pp., £25, January 2016, 978 1 84614 566 7
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NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter about People Who Think Differently 
by Steve Silberman.
Allen and Unwin, 534 pp., £9.99, February 2016, 978 1 76011 364 3
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... organisation. In 1965 she helped open the world’s first school for autistic children (John Lennon was a major donor). She wrote the first, and still definitive, guide for parents of autistic children. But she is best remembered for the term she coined in 1981, in the journal Psychological Science: Asperger’s syndrome. As she acknowledged much ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2000, 25 January 2001

... of the two images he would have found all that was wrong with England. 2 October. Finish Peter Nichols’s Diaries, a good read and hard to put down. He’s blessed, as Osborne was, with droves of relatives to whom he seems far more attentive and considerate than ever I managed to be to my few. Still they repay the attention and are a good source of ...

Sisyphus at the Selectric

James Wolcott: Undoing Philip Roth, 20 May 2021

Philip Roth: The Biography 
by Blake Bailey.
Cape, 898 pp., £30, April, 978 0 224 09817 5
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Philip Roth: A Counterlife 
by Ira Nadel.
Oxford, 546 pp., £22.99, May, 978 0 19 984610 8
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Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth 
by Benjamin Taylor.
Penguin, 192 pp., £18, May 2020, 978 0 525 50524 2
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... Columbia professor who would court infamy with his scabrous biographies of Elvis Presley and John Lennon), the theatre critic Robert Brustein, and others – that helped crack open the shell that released Alex Portnoy into the urban wild. The glum littérateur acquired the gleam of an asylum escapee. Pranked at a breakfast shop by Roth, who mimicked the voice ...

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