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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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... audiences in theatres rather than churches. In Personal Mark he writes about the life of Jesus, 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 ...
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 ...
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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... point. The general reader is unaware of how easy it is to get away with wild inaccuracies when writing with every semblance of scruple about distant parts of the world. The Times correspondent, PeterNichols, 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 ...

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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... respectable gifts. For Cook, the fact that his death was covered by national TV news, obituaries 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 ...

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 ...
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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... and then there may be an entirely different date which Miller has superimposed to give the audience a new idea. It is easiest to make such changes when the playwright is dead. John Osborne and PeterNichols 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 ...

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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... It is not easy to determine 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 ...

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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... drawing us into the imagery of the heroine’s private nightmares. It is a poetic evocation of smashed 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 ...

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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... Summoned by Bells, Betjeman’s self-portrait in blank verse, was published in 1960. As Hillier puts 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 ...

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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... under her jaded eye. James Taylor and Carly Simon, Hellman’s guests one sunny afternoon, ‘smile 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 ...

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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... each attempting a full account. Both the Gillmans and Ronald Stent have looked at official papers, 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 ...
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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... irate father. The question, of course, is how many William Maldens there were. Scarisbrick’s answer 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 ...
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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... poised on the threshold of the modern period who is doing compositional things (and not just in 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 ...
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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... A German officer gave Messiaen the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas – a considerable gift in any 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 ...

What does she think she looks like?

Rosemary Hill: The Dress in Your Head

28 March 2018
... This sent the critics, particularly male critics, scuttling to and fro wondering whether it was a feminist, post-feminist or anti-feminist film, or just in some baffling way French. In the Guardian, Peter Bradshaw went for ‘provocative’, before deciding it was a ‘startlingly strange rape-revenge black comedy’. I didn’t think it was as strange as all that and I did think it was funny, but ...

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