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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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... A two-volume collection of Britten’s letters and diaries, entitled Letters from a Life and edited by Donald Mitchell and PhilipReed, 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 ...

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 ...
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 ...

Impossible Conception

T.J. Reed: ‘Death in Venice’

24 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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... His arch-enemy Alfred Kerr was not far wrong with his sneer that Mann had ‘made pederasty 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 ...

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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... cast him as a villainous polecat in the comic strip Pogo; Andy Warhol produced a silk-screened Nixon 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 ...
9 September 1993
The Ern Malley Affair 
by Michael Heyward.
Faber, 278 pp., £15, August 1993, 0 571 16781 0
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... on the Australian literary scene, mainly thanks to the only avant-garde journal of the time, Angry 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 ...

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 years after they married in 1564, and then in 1566 to the widow Ursula Worseley, with whom he had 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 ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: ‘Inside the Dream Palace’

6 February 2014
... protégé, was living there – presumably composing – in the 1990s. James Schuyler arrived in 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 ...

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 ...

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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... terrible for comment, can turn into an almost amused bafflement at things which are too grotesque for 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 ...
24 June 1993
Daphne du Maurier 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 455 pp., £17.99, March 1993, 0 7011 3699 5
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... a nymphomaniac. In the book Forster keeps her head; her subject’s sexual preferences are 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 ...

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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... the slightest interest in Shakespeare and his times owes a great deal to Edmond Malone. It was Malone 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 ...

Diary

Adam Shatz: Ornette Coleman

15 July 2015
... with Willem de Kooning, Allen Ginsberg, Yoko Ono, Robert Frank and the great figurative painter Bob Thompson, who shared his love of jazz. He was a pivotal influence on a student at Syracuse, Lou Reed; another close listener was a composition student at Juilliard, Philip Glass. Yet his most electrifying effect was on young black jazz musicians, who looked to him as a model of artistic integrity ...

Caretaker/Pallbearer

James Wolcott: Updike should stay at home

1 January 2009
The Widows of Eastwick 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 308 pp., £18.99, October 2008, 978 0 241 14427 5
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... uncritical celebration of this self-absorption both in themselves and in their characters.’ A decade later, Wallace is no longer with us, but two of the Great Male Narcissists he cited, Updike and Philip Roth, are still displaying their self-absorbency and depriving tender young empaths of valuable column inches. With an almost audible sigh, Updike concedes that the pups have a point. ‘He or she ...

The Man in the Clearing

Iain Sinclair: Meeting Gary Snyder

24 May 2012
... and presence of the actor Jon Hamm in Mad Men. Welch, a troubled man, a drinker, was tall, red-haired, a cross-country driver of legendary finesse and a military-trained marksman. He had been at Reed College in Portland with Snyder and Philip Whalen, a formidable Pacific Rim triumvirate of youthful poets and seekers. Heavily dosed on Gertrude Stein, and fired up by a chance encounter with William ...

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