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‘Look, look, what ails the ship, she is upsetting’

Peter Nichols: The ship ‘Essex’, 8 March 2001

The Loss of the Ship ‘Essex’, Sunk by a Whale 
by Thomas Nickerson and Owen Chase, edited by Nathaniel Philbrick and Thomas Philbrick et al.
Penguin, 231 pp., £7.99, June 2000, 0 14 043796 7
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... On 7 May 1841, the whaling ship Acushnet, newly built at Fairhaven, Massachusetts, fell in with the whaler William Wirt, of Nantucket, near the Pacific island of Juan Fernández (Alexander Selkirk’s lonely home during the years 1704-9), off the coast of Chile. One of the Acushnet’s fo’c’sle crew was the young Herman Melville. The two ships hove to for a few hours while their masters visited each other, and the 22-year-old Melville caught sight of the Wirt’s captain ...

Groupie

Robert Morley, 21 June 1984

Personal Mark 
by Alec McCowen.
Hamish Hamilton, 236 pp., £7.95, May 1984, 9780241112632
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Feeling you’re behind: An Autobiography 
by Peter Nichols.
Weidenfeld, 242 pp., £10.95, May 1984, 0 297 78392 0
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... as seen through his own and St Mark’s eyes. He thinks that St Mark’s primary source was St Peter, whose memory of the good old days was by this time somewhat blurred. Mr McCowen believes that in the last days of Christ’s life Mark accompanied the group and suggests that the Last Supper was held in the home of a close relative. I have used the word ...

Catholics and Marxists

Malcolm Deas, 19 March 1981

Christianity in the Southern Hemisphere: The Churches in Latin America and South Africa 
by Edward Norman.
Oxford, 230 pp., £12.50, February 1981, 0 19 821127 9
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The Pope’s Divisions 
by Peter Nichols.
Faber, 382 pp., £10, March 1981, 0 571 11740 6
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... writing with every semblance of scruple about distant parts of the world. The Times correspondent, Peter Nichols, recently told his readers that El Salvador was a microcosm of Latin America, and he is the author of a book that lovingly details the varieties of the Italian peninsula. His The Pope’s Divisions scorns any such discrimination for the ...

Made for TV

Jenny Diski, 14 December 1995

Fight & Kick & Bite: The Life and Work of Dennis Potter 
by W. Stephen Gilbert.
Hodder, 382 pp., £18.99, November 1995, 0 340 64047 2
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Dennis Potter: A Life on Screen 
by John Cook.
Manchester, 368 pp., £45, October 1995, 0 7190 4601 7
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... in both broadsheet and tabloid press, and ‘even a tribute from the then Heritage Secretary Peter Brooke MP’ was ‘final proof and vindication that Potter as television writer had been successful in his aim of trying to cut across the lines in British society. Through television, his writing and ideas had reached out to a far greater range of ...

Et in Alhambra ego

D.A.N. Jones, 5 June 1986

Agate: A Biography 
by James Harding.
Methuen, 238 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 413 58090 3
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Subsequent Performances 
by Jonathan Miller.
Faber, 253 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 571 13133 6
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... a new idea. It is easiest to make such changes when the playwright is dead. John Osborne and Peter Nichols did not want Miller to alter their plays, but he was more fortunate when he directed Robert Lowell’s version of Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound. Since Miller did not want to set this play in the Caucasus, with an actor tied to a rock, he ...

Cut-Ups

Robert Crawford, 7 December 1989

Perduta Gente 
by Peter Reading.
Secker, £5, June 1989, 0 436 40999 2
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Letting in the rumour 
by Gillian Clarke.
Carcanet, 79 pp., £4.95, July 1989, 9780856357572
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Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Woman 
by Grace Nichols.
Virago, 58 pp., £4.99, July 1989, 1 85381 076 2
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Studying Grosz on the Bus 
by John Lucas.
Peterloo, 64 pp., £4.95, August 1989, 1 871471 02 8
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The Old Noise of Truth 
by Joan Downar.
Peterloo, 63 pp., £4.95, August 1989, 1 871471 03 6
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... Till recently, I’ve dodged most of Peter Reading’s work. He seemed so much the darling of the TLS and of a metropolitan circle whose powerfully disseminated views it is often essential to evade in the interests of finding a position which affords a degree of independence. Seeing stray poems by him in magazines, I thought of him as having a gift of designer outrage, whose appeal to the sophisticated might be suspect ...

Falling Stars

Alan Coren, 5 November 1981

Richard Burton 
by Paul Ferris.
Weidenfeld, 212 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77966 4
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Peter Sellers 
by Alexander Walker.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77965 6
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... which is the better book. Richard Burton was printed by Butler and Tanner Limited, Peter Sellers by the Fakenham Press, and since the one establishment is in Somerset and the other in Norfolk, it is fair to absolve both of them from the sort of catchpenny opportunist hustling which these days has the publishing world of London by the ...

Games-Playing

Patrick Parrinder, 7 August 1986

The Golden Gate 
by Vikram Seth.
Faber, 307 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13967 1
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The Haunted House 
by Rebecca Brown.
Picador, 139 pp., £8.95, June 1986, 0 330 29175 0
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Whole of a Morning Sky 
by Grace Nichols.
Virago, 156 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 86068 774 0
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The Piano Tuner 
by Peter Meinke.
Georgia, 156 pp., $13.95, June 1986, 0 8203 0844 7
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Tap City 
by Ron Abell.
Secker, 273 pp., £10.95, July 1986, 0 436 00025 3
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... lives, rubble, debris, unopened parachutes and emptied and discarded duty-free bottles. Grace Nichols’s Whole of a Morning Sky is a very much more straightforward portrayal of a disoriented childhood. The setting is the former colony of British Guiana during the early 1960s, during the run-up to independence. The forces of disintegration ...

The Myth of 1940

Angus Calder, 16 October 1980

Collar the lot! How Britain Interned and Expelled its Wartime Refugees 
by Peter Gillman and Leni Gillman.
Quartet, 334 pp., £8.95, May 1980, 0 7043 2244 7
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A Bespattered Page? The Internment of ‘His Majesty’s Most Loyal Enemy Aliens’ 
by Ronald Stent.
Deutsch, 282 pp., £7.95, July 1980, 0 233 97246 3
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... both have interviewed ex-internees. Yet their work has been less overlapping than complementary. Peter Gillman is a member of the Sunday Times ‘Insight’ team, and he and his wife, scenting conspiracy in top places, offer a detailed narrative of Government policies in the making. Mr Stent, himself a former internee, knows far less about Whitehall’s ...

The Undesired Result

Gillian Darley: Betjeman’s bêtes noires, 31 March 2005

Betjeman: The Bonus of Laughter 
by Bevis Hillier.
Murray, 744 pp., £25, October 2004, 0 7195 6495 6
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... it, neatly: ‘John’s generation was given to premature autobiography.’ Precocious Beverley Nichols headed the field with Twenty-Five while Christopher Isherwood and Cyril Connolly wisely allowed another ten years of their lives to elapse before they wrote, respectively, Lions and Shadows and Enemies of Promise. Hillier publishes long sections of ...

Absolute Modernity

Paul Driver, 26 September 1991

Gabriel Fauré: A Musical Life 
by Jean-Michel Nectoux, translated by Roger Nichols.
Cambridge, 646 pp., £45, April 1991, 0 521 23524 3
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Pierre Boulez 
by Dominique Jameux, translated by Susan Bradshaw.
Faber, 422 pp., £25, March 1991, 9780571137442
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Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship 
by Pierre Boulez, translated by Stephen Walsh.
Oxford, 316 pp., £40, August 1991, 0 19 311210 8
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... his own ‘late’ period) with direct or indirect consequences for composers from Frank Bridge to Peter Maxwell Davies and Alexander Goehr (both the last mentioned have matured into a style informed by a concept of modal tonality), and from Messiaen to Pierre Boulez – whose orchestral Rituel in memoriam Maderna (1974) rescinds ‘total ...

Terror on the Vineyard

Terry Castle: Boss Ladies, Watch Out!, 15 April 1999

A Likely Story: One Summer with Lillian Hellman 
by Rosemary Mahoney.
Doubleday, 273 pp., $23.95, November 1998, 9780385479318
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... stiffly’ at Mahoney when she brings coffee in on a serving tray, but otherwise ignore her. Mike Nichols and John Hersey win grudging approval – the former for giving her a nice tip, the latter for his kindly, slightly alcoholic smile (‘He had the look of a person who understood other people, who wanted to hear what they had to say’). Joseph ...

Scarisbrick’s Bomb

Peter Gwyn, 20 December 1984

Reformation and Revolution 1558-1660 
by Robert Ashton.
Granada, 503 pp., £18, February 1984, 0 246 10666 2
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The Reformation and the English People 
by J.J. Scarisbrick.
Blackwell, 203 pp., £14.50, March 1984, 0 631 13424 7
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... is not very many – certainly not by that date. Instead, there were many more people like John Nichols of Boddington in Northamptonshire, who, when he died in 1535, ‘left 2s. to the Rood light, to Our Lady’s and St John’s lights, 2s. to other “torches” and 2s. to the bells in his parish church’. He also left fourpence apiece to all four orders ...

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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... circumstances – and Messiaen’s widow, the pianist Yvonne Loriod, remarks in an interview with Peter Hill that he was locked in a wash-house all day, not as a disciplinary measure, but with a supply of paper, pencils and dry bread, so that he could compose undisturbed. No one seems to have been at all concerned that he was studying the ...

Saving Masud Khan

Wynne Godley, 22 February 2001

... one feature common to every one of them: Khan had got the better of someone. He had rescued Mike Nichols from a man with a fierce dog in New York. He had fought physically with Peter O’Toole, using a broken bottle. He had got the overflow from his lavatory to pour a jet of water onto the head of a woman who was making ...

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