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Manly Love

John Bayley

28 January 1993
Walt Whitman: From Moon to Starry Night 
by Philip Callow.
Allison and Busby, 394 pp., £19.99, October 1992, 0 85031 908 0
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The Double Life of Stephen Crane 
by Christopher Benfey.
Deutsch, 294 pp., £17.99, February 1993, 0 233 98820 3
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... resemblance of the aged Walt Whitman to ‘a great old Angora Tom’. The marvellous old poet, with his soft white hair and snowy silken ruff of beard, would have been delighted by the compliment. PhilipCallow’s book is the most imaginative re-creation yet made of the poet’s daily physical being, and the photographs of the poet at all ages, from early manhood and the strange Piero Christlikeness ...
2 December 1993
Patrick Hamilton: A Life 
by Sean French.
Faber, 327 pp., £20, November 1993, 0 571 14353 9
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... His work was praised by Greene, Priestley, Lessing, Powell; but if he survives today it is for a couple of memorably macabre dramas – Rope and Gaslight – which Hamilton himself scorned as callow sensationalism. Rope, a savage homo-erotic farce by Orton out of Wilde, made his name and fortune, and was filmed without cuts by Hitchcock in a celebrated cinematic experiment. Gaslight, first ...


Donald Davie

21 March 1991
The Oxford Book of Essays 
edited by John Gross.
Oxford, 680 pp., £17.95, February 1991, 0 19 214185 6
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... the Earl of Birkenhead did for mine, I don’t know what he and the marketing managers at Oxford University Press think they are doing. What readers can they think they are catering for, if not such callow and eagerly attentive 18-year-olds as I was fifty years ago? Of course I find this heartening as well as surprising. If the book sells, I shall he on the sidelines cheering. Rather mutedly, though ...
4 March 1982
Auchinleck: The Lonely Soldier 
by Philip​ Warner.
Buchan and Enright, 288 pp., £10.50, November 1981, 9780907675006
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Das Reich: Resistance and the March of the 2nd SS Panzer Division through France, June 1944 
by Max Hastings.
Joseph, 264 pp., £9.95, November 1981, 0 7181 2074 4
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... previous biographers, John Connell and Roger Parkinson, and Correlli Barnett, who, in The Desert Generals (1960), went so far as to describe Montgomery’s Alamein as ‘an unnecessary battle’. Now Philip Warner has attempted a reassessment of Auchinleck’s career in the light of newly-available sources, including revelations of the significant part played by Ultra intelligence in the later stages of ...


E.S. Turner

1 October 1987
The war the Infantry knew 1914-1919: A Chronicle of Service in France and Belgium 
by Captain J.C. Dunn, introduced by Keith Simpson.
Jane’s, 613 pp., £18, April 1987, 0 7106 0485 8
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Passchendaele: The Story behind the Tragic Victory of 1917 
by Philip​ Warner.
Sidgwick, 269 pp., £13.95, June 1987, 0 283 99364 2
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Poor Bloody Infantry: A Subaltern on the Western Front 1916-17 
by Bernard Martin.
Murray, 174 pp., £11.95, April 1987, 0 7195 4374 6
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... the doomed onset in the mud which has often prompted exclamations of ‘They’d never get troops to go through that again.’ In his Passchendaele, which marks the 70th anniversary of that occasion, Philip Warner argues that the worst feature of the battle was that it so ‘disheartened the democracies’ that they ‘became less willing to preserve peace by preparing for war’. Yet in the military ...

A Taste for the Obvious

Brian Dillon: Adam Thirlwell

22 October 2009
The Escape 
by Adam Thirlwell.
Cape, 322 pp., £16.99, August 2009, 978 0 224 08911 1
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... The book enraged so many middling and middle-aged reviewers – some of whom actually took Thirlwell to task for the crime of being young – that one badly wanted to warm to its refreshingly callow, hectoring and capacious take on the history of fiction. Sadly, Miss Herbert was not what it seemed, and over the long (600-page) haul Thirlwell’s mild nostrums about the primacy of world over word ...

Gorgon in Furs

D.D. Guttenplan: Paula Fox

12 December 2002
Borrowed Finery: A Memoir 
by Paula Fox.
Flamingo, 256 pp., £12, August 2002, 0 00 713724 9
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... yet acute introduction to the new US edition of the novel. Some have objected to his claim that Desperate Characters is ‘obviously superior to any novel by Fox’s contemporaries John Updike, Philip Roth and Saul Bellow’. My own reservations lie not with the superlatives, but with the implicit grounds for comparison. If Fox is, in Franzen’s phrase, ‘inarguably great’ – and I believe ...

Newsreel History

Terry Eagleton: Modern Times, Modern Places by Peter Conrad

12 November 1998
Modern Times, Modern Places 
by Peter Conrad.
Thames and Hudson, 752 pp., £24.95, October 1998, 0 500 01877 4
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... of allusions lacks conceptual depth. Analysis gives way to metaphorical resemblances – a flurry of analogies which, as in the Martian school of poetry, are some times coruscating and sometimes callow. In this, Modern Times, Modern Places is more Post-Modern than Modern. Modernist art may be allergic to absolute meanings, but it cannot rid itself of a dream of depth, plagued as it is by a ...

Outfoxing Hangman

Thomas Jones: David Mitchell

11 May 2006
Black Swan Green 
by David Mitchell.
Sceptre, 371 pp., £16.99, May 2006, 0 340 82279 1
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... the reader in a bewildering welter of names: Dean Moran, Nick Yew, Gilbert Swinyard, Nicholas Briar, Floyd Chaceley, Neal Brose, Pete Redmarley, Ross Wilcox, Gary Drake, ‘Squelch’, Grant Burch, Philip Phelps, Lee Biggs, the Tookey brothers, Ant Little, Darren Croome. There are too many to take in, but almost all of them feature more or less prominently later in the novel, and one of the ...

Simile World

Denis Feeney: Virgil’s Progress

4 January 2007
Virgil: Georgics 
translated by Peter Fallon, with notes by Elaine Fantham.
Oxford, 109 pp., £7.99, July 2006, 0 19 280679 3
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Virgil: The Aeneid 
translated by Robert Fagles.
Penguin, 486 pp., £25, November 2006, 0 7139 9968 3
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... Virgil looks back in rueful wonderment at what he had achieved in his first revolutionary work, when he had been ‘bold in my youth’ (audax iuuenta, oddly miscued by Peter Fallon as ‘still a callow youth’). Again, it is amazing that the poet who embarked on the Aeneid had seven or eight years earlier published a poem in which his desire to write an epic was suavely depreciated by Apollo, the ...

Visible Woman

James Shapiro: Sticking up for Shakespeare

4 October 2007
Shakespeare’s Wife 
by Germaine Greer.
Bloomsbury, 406 pp., £20, September 2007, 978 0 7475 9019 4
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... Lear and Hamlet). Greer doesn’t need to insist that Ann ‘must have been the original for the shepherd’s wife in The Winter’s Tale’ or wonder whether Shakespeare was remembering ‘his own callow wooing’ of her in Love’s Labour’s Lost, because she marshals a much more convincing body of evidence: local archives that provide a rich social context for the lives of men and women like Ann ...
29 September 1988
... fields Will ease my heart. The effort of owing one’s life to others Strikes at the root of life. O, loved as you are, Have you any rights at all? Well, that is enough of that. I will move from the callow glory of ‘Khamsin: A Sequence’, and the earlier poem about trees, to a general point. When I look at these two samples now, I discover that when I used a tight metrical or rhyme scheme, I could ...

Bravo, old sport

Christopher Hitchens

4 April 1991
Critical Crossings: The New York Intellectuals in Post-War America 
by Neil Jumonville.
California, 291 pp., £24.95, January 1991, 0 520 06858 0
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... that Bellow is from Chicago and Susan Sontag from Los Angeles), several streams have originated. The dissident Left – as opposed to the proto-Communist Left – symbolised by Dwight Macdonald, Philip Rahv and others. The Cold War hardliners, such as Melvyn Lasky, Irving Kristol, James Burnham, Sidney Hook and later Norman Podhoretz. The ‘End of Ideology’ liberal professoriat: Daniel Bell ...


Barbara Everett

2 April 1987
... how unlike temperaments of near-equivalent talent may be drawn together by unanimity of literary principle. This unanimity should therefore be worth looking into, especially in the case of work like Philip Larkin’s, always more reserved and elusive than it seems. I want to consider his writing in juxtaposition with that of Kingsley Amis, close friend of the poet’s for over forty years; and to begin ...

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