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Frank Kermode: Britten, 28 January 2010

Journeying Boy: The Diaries of the Young Benjamin Britten 
edited by John Evans.
Faber, 576 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 571 23883 5
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... of Britten’s letters and diaries, entitled Letters from a Life and edited by Donald Mitchell and Philip Reed, appeared in 1991, and its first volume covers the same period as this new collection; but there was plenty of work for the new editor, John Evans. The diaries were begun when Britten was 15 and ended, rather abruptly, when he was 25. They were ...

Bernie’s War

Philip Purser, 23 May 1991

A German Requiem 
by Philip Kerr.
Viking, 306 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 0 670 83516 1
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... Philip Kerr’s detective hero Bernie Gunther is Sam Spade with raw herring on his breath and a smattering of German or Germanic slang (‘Kripo’ for the Criminal Police, ‘bulls’ for policemen, ‘chocoladies’ for those of dubious virtue) stirred into his tough private-eye talk. He drags on a cigarette, keeps a bottle in his desk, has a way with women but not much luck with them ...

Britten when young

Frank Kermode, 29 August 1991

Letters from a Life: The Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten Vol. I 1923-39, Vol. II 1939-45 
edited by Donald Mitchell and Philip Reed.
Faber, 1403 pp., £75, June 1991, 9780571152216
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... We may nowadays he chary about using the word ‘genius’, but we still have a good idea what is meant by it. For example, there are great numbers of very gifted musicians who are admired but not called geniuses. But there are others manifestly prodigious, performing, often at extraordinarily early ages, a variety of feats so complex that the musical layman could hardly imagine, even with the most desperate labour, accomplishing any one of them, while even musicians are astonished: and we then reach for the good, handy, vague Enlightenment word and call them geniuses ...

Impossible Conception

T.J. Reed: ‘Death in Venice’, 25 September 2014

Deaths in Venice: The Cases of Gustav von Aschenbach 
by Philip Kitcher.
Columbia, 254 pp., £20.50, November 2013, 978 0 02 311626 1
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... palatable to the middle classes’. The novella’s effect was all the stronger for not being – Philip Kitcher misreads it – about ‘a closet homosexual’ who has ‘refused to acknowledge his sexual inclinations’. Unlike his fully self-aware creator, who, though never a practising homosexual (‘how can one sleep with men?’ he asked in a 1950 diary ...

Subject, Spectator, Phantom

J. Hoberman: The Strangest Personality Ever to Lead the Free World, 17 February 2005

Nixon at the Movies: A Book about Belief 
by Mark Feeney.
Chicago, 422 pp., £19.50, November 2004, 0 226 23968 3
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... with skin as biliously green as the Wicked Witch of the West and, in a riotous series of drawings, Philip Guston transformed the president’s ski nose and heavy jowls into a glumly expressive set of male genitalia. Nixon’s personality was even richer. Gore Vidal parodied him in his 1960 play The Best Man and, beginning in the late 1960s, an impressive ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: ‘Inside the Dream Palace’, 6 February 2014

... 1979 and wrote out his last years there. The Chelsea’s presiding spirit in the 19th century was Philip Gengembre Hubert, the son of a French Fourierist who took him to America as the New World phalansteries were breaking up. Hubert, a French teacher, went on to sell his patent for a self-fastening button to the US government for $120,000 and became an ...

Marvellous Boys

Mark Ford, 9 September 1993

The Ern Malley Affair 
by Michael Heyward.
Faber, 278 pp., £15, August 1993, 0 571 16781 0
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... Penguins. Angry Penguins was edited by Max Harris, a student at Adelaide University, and John Reed, who was 10 years Harris’s senior and lived just outside Melbourne. Independently wealthy, Reed was committed to sponsoring any form of artistic originality that caught his eye; on meeting the 22-year-old Harris, who was ...

Firm Lines

Hermione Lee, 17 November 1983

Bartleby in Manhattan, and Other Essays 
by Elizabeth Hardwick.
Weidenfeld, 292 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 297 78357 2
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... belief. This is the second note very often struck by alienated Americans writing about America. Philip Roth in 1961: The American writer in the middle of the 20th century has his hands full in trying to understand, describe, and then make credible much of American reality. It stupefies, it sickens, it infuriates, and finally it is even a kind of ...

Short Cuts

Marina Warner: The Flood, 6 March 2014

... I face More of the epic would be discovered under the sand as time went on. In 1990 Stephanie Dalley added more lines to her edition from newly recovered pieces, but most of what’s left has probably been smashed in the course of the Iraq wars. It seems proper that a place of fire and dust, its skin scarred by warfare, should be the origin of the story of the Flood today: devastation in negative, flood and drought bound together ...

Turncoats and Opportunists

Alexandra Walsham: Francis Walsingham, 5 July 2012

The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I 
by John Cooper.
Faber, 400 pp., £9.99, July 2012, 978 0 571 21827 1
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... two children. His sole surviving daughter, Frances, married the poet and Protestant courtier Sir Philip Sidney. Cooper acknowledges the problems these gaps in the record pose to a biographer, but doesn’t shy away from sifting Walsingham’s motives and gauging the nature and depth of his religious beliefs. For Cooper, Walsingham is a man of principle ...
The ego is always at the wheel 
by Delmore Schwartz.
Carcanet, 146 pp., £6.95, May 1987, 0 85635 702 2
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A Nest of Ninnies 
by John Ashbery and James Schuyler.
Carcanet, 191 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 85635 699 9
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... full-page promotional ads approving quotes from Tate, Stevens, MacNeice, R.P. Blackmur, Ransom, Philip Rahv, Auden, Mark Van Doren, Philip Wheelwright and Dudley Fitts. The ‘American Auden’ label that was to haunt him later in life as the most damning evidence of his unfulfilled promise was in fact part of the New ...

At Tate Modern

Eleanor Nairne: Nam June Paik, 21 November 2019

... just as ambitious. Bye Bye Kipling – another rebuttal – brought together live footage of Lou Reed, kabuki theatre, Issey Miyake, Philip Glass and a marathon in South Korea; it was shown simultaneously in Seoul, Tokyo and New York during the 1986 Asian Games (East could meet West, after all).Satellite art was a natural ...

On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move, 13 September 2018

Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... was ‘a Cambridge passion for Eng. Lit… . combined with a rather taking bully-boy strut’. Philip Hobsbaum, also alert to Gunn, took the view that the poem ‘Carnal Knowledge’ was ‘slick’ and ‘execrable’. Alvarez, as Wootten notes, reviewed Gunn’s first book twice. In one review, he called the collection ‘for my money, the most ...

Dwarf-Basher

Michael Dobson, 8 June 1995

Edmond Malone, Shakespearean Scholar: A Literary Biography 
by Peter Martin.
Cambridge, 298 pp., £40, April 1995, 0 521 46030 1
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... who in a single month, June 1789, discovered not only the papers of the theatrical entrepreneur Philip Henslowe, on which most of our knowledge of the working practices of the Elizabethan theatre is based, but the records of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels from 1622 to 1642, a complementary treasure-trove on Jacobean and Caroline court ...

Something about her eyes

Patricia Beer, 24 June 1993

Daphne du Maurier 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 455 pp., £17.99, March 1993, 0 7011 3699 5
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... not the driving force of her narrative. In her long list of star-spangled acknowledgments (Prince Philip, Lord Carrington ...) she apologises to du Maurier’s children for exposing ‘events in their mother’s life which were unknown to them and which have proved painful for them to discover’. The apology is seemly, but she must have had qualms when ...

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