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Beebology

Stefan Collini: What next for the BBC?, 21 April 2022

The BBC: A People’s History 
by David Hendy.
Profile, 638 pp., £25, January, 978 1 78125 525 4
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This Is the BBC: Entertaining the Nation, Speaking for Britain? 1922-2022 
by Simon J. Potter.
Oxford, 288 pp., £20, April, 978 0 19 289852 4
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... conditions. Many of its activities were moved out of London in 1939, the bulk of them to Wood Norton Hall near Evesham. Soon, around a thousand items a week were being produced from the depths of rural Worcestershire, though announcers continued to say ‘This is London calling’ (clearly, ‘This is Wood ...

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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... combed the cobwebs from our hair: the starship arrival of Blake Bailey’s authorised biography of Philip Roth, Philip Roth: The Biography. The ‘the’ of the subtitle said: accept no substitutes. Another biography of Roth was in the offing, Ira Nadel’s Philip Roth: A Counterlife, a ...

Gentlemen Travellers

Denis Donoghue, 18 December 1986

Between the Woods and the Water 
by Patrick Leigh Fermor et al.
Murray, 248 pp., £13.95, October 1986, 0 7195 4264 2
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Coasting 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 301 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 00 272119 8
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The Grand Tour 
by Hunter Davies.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11907 3
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... at Dartmouth let him recall horrible schooldays at Worcester, at Hull he had a Lebanese meal with Philip Larkin. ‘But I like mushy food, it’s the only food I really enjoy now,’ Larkin maintained. There is no evidence that Raban discovered, on land or sea or sky, what makes his country tick. He made such discoveries hard for himself in advance by being ...
Talking Blues: The Police in their Own Words 
by Roger Graef.
Collins Harvill, 512 pp., £15, May 1989, 0 00 272436 7
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... about the death of another man, Colin Roach, in a police station; £48,699 to Stephen Dowsett and Philip Tape who were walking home from a dance a little drunk when they were bundled into a police van, taken to a police station and so terribly beaten that Dowsett’s jaw had to be re-set in two places; £17,500 to Manit Schemir, a mechanical engineer who was ...

Do your homework

David Runciman: What’s Wrong with Theresa May, 16 March 2017

Theresa May: The Enigmatic Prime Minister 
by Rosa Prince.
Biteback, 402 pp., £20, February 2017, 978 1 78590 145 4
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... Farmhouse, a members’ club, a little piece of the metropolis that is a haven for the Chipping Norton set. Both May’s maternal and paternal grandmothers were in service and one of her great-grandfathers was a butler. As Rosa Prince writes, perhaps unnecessarily, Cameron’s ancestors ‘were more likely to employ maids than to work as servants’.May ...

Last in the Funhouse

Patrick Parrinder, 17 April 1986

Gerald’s Party 
by Robert Coover.
Heinemann, 316 pp., £10.95, April 1986, 0 434 14290 5
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Caracole 
by Edmund White.
Picador, 342 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 330 29291 9
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Lake Wobegon Days 
by Garrison Keillor.
Faber, 337 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 571 13846 2
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In Country 
by Bobbie Ann Mason.
Chatto, 245 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 7011 3034 2
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... States, thanks to the inclusion of a short story of his, ‘The Babysitter’, in the appropriate Norton anthology. (I have taught it myself, and it is splendid seminar material.) The principal characters of ‘The Babysitter’ are a married couple going out to an evening party, their children, the babysitter, Jack (her boyfriend) and Jack’s buddy ...

Women of Quality

E.S. Turner, 9 October 1986

The Pebbled Shore 
by Elizabeth Longford.
Weidenfeld, 351 pp., £14.95, August 1986, 0 297 78863 9
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Leaves of the Tulip Tree 
by Juliette Huxley.
Murray, 248 pp., £7.95, June 1986, 9780719542886
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Enid Bagnold 
by Anne Sebba.
Weidenfeld, 317 pp., £15, September 1986, 0 297 78991 0
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... thought much about it’. After this avowal of broad-mindedness (the tale has already been told in Philip Williams’s Hugh Gaitskell) she was fit to be introduced to (Sir) Maurice Bowra and all the other intellectual roisterers. Was it really as simple and half-baked as this? Gaitskell, we learn, was ‘eager to fix his own identity through instructing others ...

Mingling Freely at the Mermaid

Blair Worden: 17th-century poets and politics, 6 November 2003

The Crisis of 1614 and the Addled Parliament: Literary and Historical Perspectives 
edited by Stephen Clucas and Rosalind Davies.
Ashgate, 213 pp., £45, November 2003, 0 7546 0681 3
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The Politics of Court Scandal in Early Modern England: News Culture and the Overbury Affair 1603-60 
by Alastair Bellany.
Cambridge, 312 pp., £45, January 2002, 0 521 78289 9
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... to Elizabeth which repeated the language of the play and which one of its authors, the MP Thomas Norton, was delegated to read to her. The second episode produced the meditations on tyranny and misgovernment in Sidney’s Arcadia and Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calender and Mother Hubberds Tale. Michelle O’Callaghan’s essay in The Crisis of 1614 ...

I gotta use words

Mark Ford: Eliot speaks in tongues, 11 August 2016

The Poems of T.S. Eliot: Volume I: Collected & Uncollected Poems 
edited by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue.
Faber, 1311 pp., £40, November 2015, 978 0 571 23870 5
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The Poems of T.S. Eliot: Volume II: Practical Cats & Further Verses 
edited by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue.
Faber, 667 pp., £40, November 2015, 978 0 571 23371 7
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... reading and writing, in the conclusion to The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (his 1932-33 Norton Lectures), Eliot discusses the mysterious processes which give certain phrases or images what he calls ‘personal saturation value’; by this he means that they come to represent or incarnate ‘depths of feeling into which we cannot peer’. The model ...

Saint Shakespeare

Barbara Everett, 19 August 2010

... of his half-sister Mary Tudor, who died childless (though married to the Spanish Catholic Philip II, some 30 years before the Armada). And Mary was succeeded by her half-sister, the Protestant Elizabeth Tudor (held by Rome to be a bastard well deserving execution and displacement by her cousin, the Catholic Mary Stuart of Scotland). Only 30 or 40 ...

Philosophical Vinegar, Marvellous Salt

Malcolm Gaskill: Alchemical Pursuits, 15 July 2021

The Experimental Fire: Inventing English Alchemy, 1300-1700 
by Jennifer M. Rampling.
Chicago, 408 pp., £28, December 2020, 978 0 226 71070 9
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... fairytale trappings still hinder its restoration to the pre-modern intellectual mainstream. In Philip Pullman’s Lyra’s Oxford (2003), Sebastian Makepeace slaves away in ‘a hot, close, sulphurous room lit only by the flames of a great iron furnace in one corner. Benches along each wall were laden with glass beakers and retorts, with crucibles and sets ...

In the Tart Shop

Murray Sayle: How Sydney got its Opera House, 5 October 2000

The Masterpiece: Jørn Utzon, a Secret Life 
by Philip Drew.
Hardie Grant, 574 pp., AUS $39.95, October 1999, 1 86498 047 8
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Jørn Utzon: The Sydney Opera House 
by Françoise Fromonot, translated by Christopher Thompson.
Electa/Gingko, 236 pp., £37.45, January 1998, 3 927258 72 5
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... the Danish master Jørn Utzon; the inside by a confused committee, or, as the Australian critic Philip Drew sourly calls them, ‘a conspiracy of nobodies’. It is a bittersweet story, and one that goes far to explain why most modern architecture is so awful. Like Sydney, the Opera House was a British idea. Sir Eugene Goossens, the violinist and ...

How do you spell Shakespeare?

Frank Kermode, 21 May 1987

William Shakespeare. The Complete Works: Original-Spelling Edition 
edited by Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor.
Oxford, 1456 pp., £75, February 1987, 9780198129196
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William Shakespeare: The Complete Works 
edited by Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor.
Oxford, 1432 pp., £25, October 1986, 0 19 812926 2
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... edition of that play in five years, following hard upon Harold Jenkins’s magisterial Arden and Philip Edwards’s serious Cambridge version.1 It may well be asked by non-Shakespearians and non-publishers whether all this editorial activity is needed, and by whom, and the Oxford team anticipates the question by asserting the boldness as well as the ...

Gobsmacked

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare, 16 July 1998

Lyric Wonder: Rhetoric and Wit in Renaissance English Poetry 
by James Biester.
Cornell, 226 pp., £31.50, May 1997, 0 8014 3313 4
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Reason Diminished: Shakespeare and the Marvellous 
by Peter Platt.
Nebraska, 271 pp., £42.75, January 1998, 0 8032 3714 6
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Shakespeare and the Theatre of Wonder 
by T.G. Bishop.
Cambridge, 222 pp., £32.50, January 1996, 0 521 55086 6
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The Genius of Shakespeare 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 386 pp., £20, September 1997, 0 330 35317 9
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... by the sword, taking rhetorical risks sometimes almost as fatal (in career terms at least) as Sir Philip Sidney’s neglect of his thigh-armour at Zutphen. He is particularly good on the dangers young would-be courtiers ran into in the 1590s when the dominant literary modes for pursuing advancement shifted from love poetry and pastoral to a mock-rebellion ...

Distraction v. Attraction

Barbara Everett: Ashbery, Larkin and Eliot, 27 June 2002

... American-born Eliot (who hated Whitman, though he, too, was haunted by his rhythms), in ‘Burnt Norton’, the first of his Quartets, took his fellow London Tube-travellers through their usual endless Inner Circle of non-being. Five years later, these travellers would reappear in ‘East Coker’ on a more spiritual journey ‘into the dark’: the vacant ...

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