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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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... It is perhaps unkind to disturb the ashes of C. P. Snow. They have so recently been placed in the Fellows’ Garden at Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he is commemorated beside John Milton. There is occasion to take a look at them, nonetheless, for ...


Dick Wilson

27 October 1988
Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train through China 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 494 pp., £14.95, September 1988, 0 241 12547 2
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Discos and Democracy: China in the Throes of Reform 
by Orville Schell.
Pantheon, 384 pp., $19.95, June 1988, 9780394568294
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The Star Raft: China’s Encounter with Africa 
by Philip Snow.
Weidenfeld, 250 pp., £14.95, June 1988, 0 297 79081 1
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Ancestors: Nine Hundred Years in the Life of a Chinese Family 
by Frank Ching.
Harrap, 528 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 245 54675 8
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... of modernisation without entirely losing their Chineseness, and may therefore help us to predict China’s outcome. Schell treats the preoccupations of China’s intellectuals as the central reality. PhilipSnow defines his China in terms of a contrast, between what Kang Yuwei, the late 19th-century reformer, used to call the gold and the black. Few people are less like Chinese than Africans, and The ...

Two Poems

Frederick Seidel

11 April 2013
... Here’s what. Here’s who needs to be made up. Here’s who I would do. The make-up artist is hard at work in the Oval Office. The fireplace fire is lit with the air-conditioning on full blast. To Philip Roth, for His Eightieth I’m Mussolini, And the woman spread out on my enormous Duce desk looks teeny. The desk becomes an altar, sacred. The woman’s naked. I call the woman teeny only because I ...


Julian Loose

12 May 1994
Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow 
by Peter Høeg, translated by F. David.
Harvill, 412 pp., £9.99, September 1993, 0 00 271334 9
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... though our feelings of fear and cold are in some way interchangeable. Yet outlandishly low temperatures alone cannot account for the tremendous success of Peter Høeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, even if it does open with a bleak Copenhagen December, and go on to describe a still colder place – Greenland, covered by an icecap up to a mile thick, with a climate so severe that if you need to ...

Sinister Blandishments

Edmund White: Philip​ Hensher

3 September 1998
by Philip​ Hensher.
Chatto, 304 pp., £14.99, August 1998, 0 7011 6728 9
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... Friedrich, the young protagonist of Philip Hensher’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 ...
16 October 1980
Three Honest Men: Edmund Wilson, F.R. Leavis, Lionel Trilling 
edited by Philip​ French.
Carcanet, 120 pp., £6.95, July 1980, 0 85635 299 3
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F.R. Leavis 
by William Walsh.
Chatto, 189 pp., £8.95, September 1980, 0 7011 2503 9
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... Can you name the author who set you thinking? For Philip French, at a Bristol grammar school in the 1950s, the enlighteners were Edmund Wilson, F.R. Leavis and Lionel Trilling. For me, at a Wimbledon grammar school in the 1950s, Bertrand Russell filled the ...

‘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 ...


Philip​ Horne

28 September 1989
The Pale Companion 
by Andrew Motion.
Viking, 164 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 670 82287 6
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... are frequent: Francis watches Keith ‘scoop’ his ‘cock’ clear of the waistband of his tracksuit before sex; his sister’s hair later ‘framed her face in burning scoops’; and at the end in snow ‘a few large scoops and scallops of green cleared like whole islands’. We can wonder if the echoes are meant, and, if so, what they mean. There is evidently a diction in use, and readers will ...
25 March 1993
Philip​ Larkin: Writer 
by James Booth.
Harvester, 192 pp., £9.95, March 1992, 0 7450 0769 4
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... and not the sex in the head. Being, in one sense, a better artist in this context than he wished to be, Lawrence none the less succeeded, as we know, in exciting many of his readers. One of them was Philip Larkin, who always liked and admired Lawrence, considering him a criterion for the literary ‘non-bogus’. But Lawrence would not at all have cared for Larkin’s own use of the pornographic, in ...

A Town Called Mørk

Adam Mars-Jones: Per Petterson

6 November 2014
I Refuse 
by Per Petterson, translated by Don Bartlett.
Harvill Secker, 282 pp., £16.99, October 2014, 978 1 84655 781 1
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... the heavy work, the heavy horses, no boss required, everyone just came, everyone knew what to do. They looked out of the window in the early morning and realised the neighbourhood was so deep under snow that it had to be dealt with, and they all turned out. A stranger took a picture one year, and when it appeared in the paper the caption underneath read: ‘We’re not waiting for the council’s ...
2 March 1989
Louis MacNeice: A Study 
by Edna Longley.
Faber, 178 pp., £4.95, August 1988, 0 571 13748 2
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Louis MacNeice: Selected Poems 
edited by Michael Longley.
Faber, 160 pp., £4.95, August 1988, 0 571 15270 8
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A Scatter of Memories 
by Margaret Gardiner.
Free Association, 280 pp., £15.95, November 1988, 1 85343 043 9
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... into a china bowl or of shuffling one’s feet through dead leaves when they are crisp or to the noise of rain or the crackling of a newly lit fire or the jokes of a street-hawker or the silence of snow in moonlight or the purring of a powerful car. This is a catalogue of the sensory pleasures that any Londoner might know (and note how carefully all five of the senses are brought into it). But it ...

Dear Lad

Penelope Fitzgerald

19 March 1981
The Simple Life: C.R. Ashbee in the Cotswolds 
by Fiona MacCarthy.
Lund Humphries, 204 pp., £7.95, January 1981, 0 85331 435 7
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Philip​ Mairet: Autobiographical and Other Papers 
edited by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 266 pp., £7.95, February 1981, 0 85635 326 4
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... at Campden in November, though he does appear to have given them plenty to drink. Then, as a socialist, he took a poll – one man, one vote. One of the apprentices walked eight miles through the snow to bring Ashbee the result. It is interesting to learn that the cabinet-makers, the most unionised of all the workshops, were decisively in favour of the Move. C.R.A. was born in 1863, the son of ...

I have written as I rode

Adam Smyth: ‘Brief Lives’

7 October 2015
‘Brief Lives’ with ‘An Apparatus for the Lives of Our English Mathematical Writers’ 
by John Aubrey, edited by Kate Bennett.
Oxford, 1968 pp., £250, March 2015, 978 0 19 968953 8
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John Aubrey: My Own Life 
by Ruth Scurr.
Chatto, 518 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 0 7011 7907 6
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... like this sense of a past on the very edge of oblivion is the force that haunts and animates much of John Aubrey’s 17th-century writing. ‘My great Uncle … remembred him,’ Aubrey wrote of Philip Sidney, dead for three generations, ‘and sayd that he was wont, as he was hunting on our pleasant plaines, to take his Table booke out … and write downe his notions as they came into his head ...

What happened to Flora?

Michael Wood: Nabokov’s Cards

7 January 2010
The Original of Laura: (Dying is Fun) A Novel in Fragments 
by Vladimir Nabokov.
Penguin, 278 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 14 119115 7
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... opening five chapters, concerns a 24-year-old woman called Flora, her charm, her physical attraction, her scatterbrained promiscuity and her early life. The other story is about a neurologist called Philip Wild, a man of a certain age and an even more certain obesity. He writes in the first person of what he calls ‘the art of self-slaughter’, not suicide but a form of mental magic, in which he ...

Pictures of Malamud

Philip​ Roth

8 May 1986
... clock on a November morning. I also remembered the exertion that had killed him – near financial disaster and physical collapse, he nonetheless goes out at night to shovel six inches of fresh March snow from the sidewalk in front of the imprisoning store. When I got home that evening, I reread the pages describing the grocer’s last great effort to do his job. To his surprise the wind wrapped him ...

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