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Brocaded

Robert Macfarlane: The Mulberry Empire by Philip Hensher

4 April 2002
The Mulberry Empire 
by Philip Hensher.
Flamingo, 560 pp., £17.99, April 2002, 0 00 711226 2
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... Several years ago, PhilipHensher decided that he wanted ‘to do something impossible: to write a 19th-century novel’. To that end, he has composed each of the many chapters of The Mulberry Empire, which fictionalises the First ...

Sinister Blandishments

Edmund White: Philip Hensher

3 September 1998
Pleasured 
by Philip Hensher.
Chatto, 304 pp., £14.99, August 1998, 0 7011 6728 9
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... Friedrich, the young protagonist of PhilipHensher’s third novel, Pleasured, lives the sort of dismal half-life that was possible in Berlin before the Wall came down, the period when West Germans received subventions just for taking up residence ...

When the Costume Comes Off

Adam Mars-Jones: Philip Hensher

14 April 2011
King of the Badgers 
by Philip Hensher.
Fourth Estate, 436 pp., £18.99, March 2011, 978 0 00 730133 1
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... of the human collectivity, but an important one, suspected where it does not exist, flaunting itself, insolent and immune, where its existence is never guessed’ (that’s Proust, of course). With PhilipHensher, there’s no question of having to crank up an interest outside his constituency, since homosexuality has until now played a relatively small part in his fiction. The Northern Clemency (2008 ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Handwriting

8 November 2012
... We are fighting a losing battle,’ PhilipHensher writes in The Missing Ink, his funny, exasperated book in defence of handwriting.* He has no difficulty spotting the enemy. Consider the advice from the Indiana Department of Education last year that ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Telly

9 August 2001
... is a high risk of being assaulted, abducted, even killed. I have read in the papers of many such incidences.’ Perhaps they were thinking of the non-story of last year in which someone who wasn’t PhilipHensher didn’t get hit by someone who wasn’t James Thackara, after Hensher, reviewing Thackara’s first novel, said he couldn’t ‘write “Bum” on a wall’. At least Norman Mailer did head ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Nephews and Daughters

23 January 2003
... month, to muted fanfare. Interestingly, the people who were least enthusiastic about the list appeared to be the people who’d compiled it. The Today programme tried to get a dispute going between PhilipHensher (37), one of the chosen writers, and Ian Jack (57), the editor of Granta and chair of the judges, after Hensher said he thought it was silly and arbitrary that novelists had to be under 40 to ...

A Turn for the Woowoo

Theo Tait: David Mitchell

4 December 2014
The Bone Clocks 
by David Mitchell.
Sceptre, 595 pp., £20, September 2014, 978 0 340 92160 9
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... of Calvino or Murakami; there is also one historical novel in the approved modern style (much densely researched, gruesome detail and ‘period’ dialogue; love affairs across ethnic boundaries). PhilipHensher amusingly panned that book, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (2010), which was set on a Dutch trading post in Nagasaki Bay in 1799, as ‘an exotically situated romance of astounding ...

swete lavender

Thomas Jones: Molesworth

17 February 2000
Molesworth 
by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle.
Penguin, 406 pp., £8.99, October 1999, 0 14 118240 7
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... hilarious, it is necessary to have read it as a child. Wendy Cope claims to ‘hav been reading this stuff and roaring with larffter since i was 11 yrs old’ (which, if nothing else, endorses PhilipHensher’s assertion in the introduction to this edition that those who attempt to imitate Molesworth’s style always ‘come a cropper’). Hensher, too, at ‘inexplicable moments’, has had to ...

Unreal Food Uneaten

Julian Bell: Sitting for Vanessa

13 April 2000
The Art of Bloomsbury 
edited by Richard Shone.
Tate Gallery, 388 pp., £35, November 1999, 1 85437 296 3
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First Friends 
by Ronald Blythe.
Viking, 157 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 670 88613 0
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Bloomsbury in France 
by Mary Ann Caws and Sarah Bird Wright.
Oxford, 430 pp., £25, December 1999, 0 19 511752 2
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... To suppose that 85 years later the derisive clichés it provokes might make way for a rethink is to underestimate the tenacity of cultural stereotypes and the stale-mindedness of press writers like PhilipHensher (who twice rehashed Leavis’s line that the ‘set’ were not artists but self-publicists) and Waldemar Januszczak (‘Bloomsbury. Just tapping out these ten tedious letters has brought on ...

Up from the Cellar

Nicholas Spice: The Interment of Elisabeth Fritzl

5 June 2008
Greed 
by Elfriede Jelinek, translated by Martin Chalmers.
Serpent’s Tail, 340 pp., £7.99, July 2008, 978 1 84668 666 5
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... in the English-speaking world will ever recover. It would have been better to have left the novel untranslated. Reviewers of Greed have met it at best with polite puzzlement, at worst with disdain. PhilipHensher said it was ‘atrocious’. And he was right – Greed is unreadable. But it is not the same book as Gier. What has also been atrocious has been the failure of anyone reviewing it to go back ...

‘I worry a bit, Joanne’

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘The Casual Vacancy’

25 October 2012
The Casual Vacancy 
by J.K. Rowling.
Little, Brown, 503 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 4087 0420 2
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... thermals that no longer have any lifting power. He also comes across as rather too good to be true. It’s not just Victorian models that make The Casual Vacancy seem a bit thin and monochrome. PhilipHensher’s King of the Badgers, published last year, also has a West Country setting (frankly Devonian), not to mention a self-consciously pretty town trying to set itself apart from a larger ...

The Strange Death of Municipal England

Tom Crewe: Assault on Local Government

15 December 2016
... no longer the disaster du jour – which will nonetheless grind on, its victims unheard amid the squabbling and its effects quietly naturalised as part of Theresa May’s new political settlement. Philip Hammond’s first Autumn Statement, delivered to Parliament on 23 November, confirmed that this is the ambition: none of Osborne’s major planned cuts was reversed, an overall budget surplus remains ...

Who Are They?

Jenny Turner: The Institute of Ideas

8 July 2010
... and promised a weekend of ‘real journalists, not just celebrity columnists’. The Battle had its big names too: Paul Mason from Newsnight, Suzanne Moore from the Mail on Sunday, the novelist PhilipHensher. Some people refuse to stand on an IoI platform, considering them clandestine and creepy. Others are a bit doubtful, but take part in the events in the interests of free debate. Others again ...

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