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I and I

Philip Oltermann: Thomas Glavinic, 14 August 2008

Night Work 
by Thomas Glavinic, translated by John Brownjohn.
Canongate, 384 pp., £8.99, July 2008, 978 1 84767 051 9
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... The ringing tone, he notices, is ‘different from the Austrian one, lower and consisting of two short purring sounds’. After listening to it for the tenth time, he hangs up. Ten pages later, after several unanswered emergency calls and a mad dash through the city centre, he still hasn’t seen a soul. An alien abduction? An Alpine tsunami? A nuclear ...

Who was in Tomb II?

James Romm: Macedon, 6 October 2011

Heracles to Alexander the Great: Treasures from the Royal Capital of Macedon, a Hellenic Kingdom in the Age of Democracy 
by Angeliki Kottaridi et al.
Ashmolean, 264 pp., £25, April 2011, 978 1 85444 254 3
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A Companion to Ancient Macedonia 
edited by Joseph Roisman and Ian Worthington.
Wiley-Blackwell, 668 pp., £110, November 2010, 978 1 4051 7936 2
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Brill’s Companion to Ancient Macedon: Studies in the Archaeology and History of Macedon, 650 BC–300 AD 
edited by Robin Lane Fox.
Brill, 642 pp., €184, June 2011, 978 90 04 20650 2
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... between 35 and 55 and of a younger woman, a pair Andronikos soon identified as the Macedonian king Philip II – father of Alexander the Great, builder of the army and the European empire that gave his son the means to conquer the world – and one of his seven wives. But it was not long before different candidates were proposed, as experts started to examine ...

Dirty Jokes

Julian Symons, 13 September 1990

Brief Lives 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 217 pp., £12.95, August 1990, 0 224 02747 6
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Deception 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 208 pp., £12.95, September 1990, 0 224 03000 0
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Homeboy 
by Seth Morgan.
Chatto, 390 pp., £12.95, August 1990, 0 7011 3664 2
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... did have a way with words.’ The commonplaces are right for the people and the situations. This short, subtle, beautifully organised and orchestrated novel positively gains from the deliberate restraint and detachment of the writing. We are given no example of the dirty talk with which Julia embarrasses her circle, and the apparent openness of Fay’s ...

Damp-Lipped Hilary

Jenny Diski: Larkin’s juvenilia, 23 May 2002

Trouble at Willow Gables and Other Fictions 
by Philip Larkin, edited by James Booth.
Faber, 498 pp., £20, May 2002, 0 571 20347 7
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... Life is too short to read Philip Larkin’s juvenilia. Reading ‘Trouble at Willow Gables’ and ‘Michaelmas Term at St Brides’ is up there with stuffing mushrooms: there is a part of me which, as I read – or stuff – has precognition of the moment of my death and the very last conscious thought, which is the blinding awareness of the precious hours wasted on Larkin’s schoolgirl stories or mushrooms when I might have done something more positive with them such as sleeping or filing my nails ...

Desk Job

Deborah Friedell: Bernard Malamud, 15 November 2007

Bernard Malamud: A Writer’s Life 
by Philip Davis.
Oxford, 377 pp., £18.99, September 2007, 978 0 19 927009 5
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... In Philip Roth’s novel The Ghost Writer, 23-year-old Nathan Zuckerman, ‘already contemplating my own massive Bildungsroman’, makes a jaunty pilgrimage to the clapboard farmhouse of Emanuel Lonoff, the great Jewish-American writer whose work Zuckerman admires but aims to surpass. Although Lonoff writes about Jews, he has secluded himself in the goyish New England countryside in the hope of being left alone: ‘I turn sentences around ...

Short Cuts

Simon Wren-Lewis: Magic Money Trees, 13 July 2017

... there is no economic problem with ending austerity.One political problem is that the chancellor, Philip Hammond, recently described the current deficit of 2.5 per cent as ‘not sustainable’. Hammond, probably with support from senior Treasury civil servants, wants to start reducing the government debt to GDP ratio as soon as possible. For the moment he ...

Dying Falls

John Lanchester, 23 July 1987

Temporary Shelter 
by Mary Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 231 pp., £11.95, July 1987, 0 7475 0006 1
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Bluebeard’s Egg 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 287 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 224 02245 8
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The Native 
by David Plante.
Chatto, 122 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 7011 3247 7
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The March of the Long Shadows 
by Norman Lewis.
Secker, 232 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 436 24620 1
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... towards which their fictions tend. If they do have such a cadence, it will be more apparent in short fictions than in their longer work, for very prosaic reasons: because the beginning and the ending of a short story are more likely to be read in the same sitting, and because you get more endings per volume to judge ...

‘OK, holy man, try this

Ian Hamilton: The Hypothetical Philip Roth, 22 June 2000

The Human Stain 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 361 pp., £16.99, May 2000, 0 224 06090 2
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... Philip Roth likes, or has liked, to describe himself as a ‘suppositional’ novelist. Much of his writing practice, he has said, takes off from a ‘what if?’ What if Franz Kafka had made it to America and there lived on to become a New Jersey schoolmaster? What if Anne Frank had survived and found out about the publication of her diary from a chance reading of Time magazine? What if a man could actually become a breast? What if a decent, shamefaced Jewish boy were to extol the joys of masturbation? And what if we, Roth’s readers, could join in and ask, for instance, what if an earnest young Jewish novelist of the 1950s were to find himself unfairly chastised for his disloyalty to Jews? And what if this same novelist decided to respond by handing his chastisers something they could really, and fairly, get to work on? What if he were to zap them with Portnoy’s Complaint and proceed to sell half a million copies of said horror to the Gentiles? And what if he were then to find himself outlawed and reviled, not just by tribal religious types but even by wise, novel-reading intellectuals? What if one of these intellectuals were to call Portnoy ‘the book of which all anti-semites have been dreaming?’ And what if yet another were to dismiss this earnest young Jewish novelist of the 1950s as a mere pedlar of cheap gags? ‘The cruellest thing anybody can do to Portnoy’s Complaint is to read it twice,’ said Irving Howe – and this was just about the cruellest thing he could do to Philip Roth ...

The First Career Politician

James Romm: Demosthenes, 20 June 2013

Demosthenes of Athens and the Fall of Classical Greece 
by Ian Worthington.
Oxford, 382 pp., £22.50, January 2012, 978 0 19 993195 8
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... from the start’. Plutarch’s account does not always bear out his own thesis, however. It is short and elliptical compared to his other Lives, and in its later chapters raises the disquieting possibility that some of Demosthenes’ crucial policy decisions were bought with bribes. The layers of rhetorical spin are only one of the problems for a modern ...

The Great Percy

C.H. Sisson, 18 November 1982

Stranger and Brother: A Portrait of C.P. Snow 
by Philip Snow.
Macmillan, 206 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 333 32680 6
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... to take a look at them, nonetheless, for we now have this account of the man by his brother, Philip Snow. ‘Brothers seldom write about each other,’ as the publisher says, and one may think that in general they are wise not to do so. C. P. Snow, however, knew that Philip would write this book ‘and welcomed it; his ...

Their Witness

Donald Davie, 27 February 1992

The Poetry of Survival: Post-War Poets of Central and Eastern Europe 
edited by Daniel Weissbort.
Anvil, 384 pp., £19.95, January 1992, 0 85646 187 3
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... included A. Alvarez and Ted Hughes, along with Daniel Weissbort) to look for, and claim to find, a short cut. Philip Larkin’s art, not to speak of Basil Bunting’s or Norman MacCaig’s, was too intricate for them to master. There must be a simpler way! And, brilliantly, they found that there was indeed one such simpler ...

Who, me?

Philip Purser, 3 December 1992

The Sieve of Time: Memoirs 
by Leni Riefenstahl.
Quartet, 669 pp., £30, September 1992, 0 7043 7021 2
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... woman until I have completed my task?’ Bewildered, I made no reply. Meanwhile Dr Goebbels gets short shrift when he grabs her breast, pins her against the wall of his office and tries to kiss her. Leni resourcefully edges along until she can press her back against a bell-push summoning an adjutant. ‘When I left his offices,’ she reflects, ‘I knew ...

Nicely! Nicely!

Jenny Turner, 13 May 1993

Operation Shylock 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 398 pp., £14.99, March 1993, 0 224 03009 4
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... anything like me, you will find yourself having to fight off a sort of sinking feeling as the new Philip Roth comes thudding into your life. What If A Lookalike Stranger Stole Your Name, Usurped Your Biography, And Went Around The World Pretending To Be You? the jacket flap blares: oh God help us, here we go again. You know there will be a lot of paranoid ...

Reputation

Peter Burke, 21 May 1987

The Count-Duke of Olivares: The Statesman in an Age of Decline 
by J.H. Elliott.
Yale, 733 pp., £19.95, August 1986, 0 300 03390 7
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Philip IV and the Decoration of the Alcazar of Madrid 
by Steven Orso.
Princeton, 227 pp., £36.70, July 1986, 0 691 04036 2
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... his major task. As for Elliott’s studies of the court and palaces of the Count-Duke’s master, Philip IV, and of the revolt of the Catalans against their joint regime, they complement rather than compete with the book now under review. There are two obvious reasons for this neglect of a major Spanish statesman. The first is that he failed, while his rival ...

Whitlam Fictions

Zachary Leader, 16 February 1989

Kisses of the Enemy 
by Rodney Hall.
Faber, 622 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 0 571 15091 8
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Postcards from Surfers 
by Helen Garner.
Bloomsbury, 180 pp., £11.95, January 1989, 0 7475 0272 2
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Forty-Seventeen 
by Frank Moorhouse.
Faber, 175 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 571 15210 4
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... claimed – is the robust health of its fiction, notably of two contrasting fictional modes: the short story and the massive novel of national identity. Poetry, the dominant genre of the late Sixties and early Seventies, no longer holds undisputed pride of place, a development attributed in part to the proliferation of state and academic subsidy, in ...

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