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Ferrets can be gods

Katherine Rundell

10 August 2016
Gabriel-Ernest and Other Tales 
by Saki and Quentin Blake.
Alma Classics, 156 pp., £6.99, October 2015, 978 1 84749 592 1
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... of fairy tales, those in which Red Riding Hood is eaten, and Cinderella’s stepmother decapitated with the lid of a trunk – and proposes a candidate for Saki’s heir by way of its illustrator, QuentinBlake. The spikiness of Blake’s line suits the spikiness of Saki’s universe, but also suggests a kinship between Saki and the writer most associated with Blake: Roald Dahl. Saki, photographed ...

In a Bookshop

Peter Campbell: Penguin by Illustrators

10 September 2009
... a picture on the theme of the book but a scene or character from it – can also carry you in, but that kind of illustration, which would once have defined the word, is now quite uncommon. The covers QuentinBlake did for Penguin fiction in the 1960s fall into this category. He writes of the books he worked on that ‘they had to be read with a certain degree of inwardness and what I produced was, for ...

Pretty Things

Peter Campbell

21 February 1980
by Kit Williams.
Cape, 32 pp., £3.50, September 1980, 0 224 01617 2
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Beauty and the Beast 
by Rosemary Harris and Errol Le Cain.
Faber, 32 pp., £3.50, October 1980, 0 571 11374 5
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Mazel and Shlimazel 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer and Margot Zemach.
Cape, 42 pp., £3.95, November 1980, 0 224 01758 6
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La Corona 
by Russell Hoban and Nicola Bayley.
Cape, 32 pp., £3.50, September 1980, 0 224 01397 1
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by Anthony Taber.
Gollancz, 80 pp., £4.50, September 1980, 0 575 02664 2
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Comic and Curious Cats 
by Angela Carter and Martin Leman.
Gollancz, 32 pp., £3.50, April 1980, 0 575 02592 1
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The Wild Washerwomen 
by John Yeoman and Quentin Blake.
Hamish Hamilton, 32 pp., £3.75, October 1980, 0 241 89928 1
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... and eats everything Earnestly.’ The words are by Angela Carter. It is a cute joke, a book to go with the pretty china on the dresser. So one is almost too grateful to turn to John Yeoman’s and QuentinBlake’s The Wild Washerwomen, and should say at once that the drawings show no astounding virtuosity in the re-creation of textures, that the words have no overtones of poetry, that it aims only to ...

Sweet Porn

Michael Irwin

1 October 1981
George’s Marvellous Medicine 
by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake.
Cape, 96 pp., £3.95, April 1981, 0 224 01901 5
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... The publisher’s note on the jacket of George’s Marvellous Medicine says that ‘Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was voted No 1 (above Winnie the Pooh, Lord of the Rings and Alice in Wonderland) in a Sunday Times survey to find the best ten children’s books.’ Even if the word ‘best’ is translated into reasonable terms (‘currently most popular’?), the claim remains impressive ...


John Sutherland: The pushiness of young men in a hurry

5 May 2005
by Tom Maschler.
Picador, 294 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 330 48420 6
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British Book Publishing as a Business since the 1960s 
by Eric de Bellaigue.
British Library, 238 pp., £19.95, January 2004, 0 7123 4836 0
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Penguin Special: The Life and Times of Allen Lane 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Viking, 484 pp., £25, May 2005, 0 670 91485 1
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... he came up with the idea and then found a means of funding it). Any literate British adult has reason to be grateful to Maschler. Children, too: it was his inspiration to pair up Roald Dahl and QuentinBlake. His thumbprints are everywhere on British literary culture. It is evident from letters quoted in his book that Maschler inspires loyalty and affection from his authors – not least from Blake ...
7 May 1981
... have helped me greatly.Other People was published on 5 March. Almost exactly three weeks later, I have seen just under two dozen reviews and interviews, including two reviews of reviews by ‘Quentin Oates’ in the Bookseller, and seen or heard several broadcast interviews and discussions. Time-limits ruled out an exhaustive listing even, I suspect, of material which actually appeared before I ...

Very like St Paul

Ian Sansom: Johnny Cash

9 March 2006
The Man Called Cash: The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend 
by Steve Turner.
Bloomsbury, 363 pp., £8.99, February 2006, 0 7475 8079 0
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Walk the Line 
directed by James Mangold.
November 2005
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... chart in 1969), lyrics by Shel Silverstein, is more joke than song, about a man who gives his son a girl’s name, because he thinks it’ll toughen him up. When Cash sings it live, on At San Quentin, you can hear the prison inmates go wild; goodness only knows what they’d have done had he decided to perform his version of the excruciatingly sentimental barbershop favourite, ‘Daddy Sang Bass ...


Terry Eagleton: Anonymity

22 May 2008
Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature 
by John Mullan.
Faber, 374 pp., £17.99, January 2008, 978 0 571 19514 5
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... works are peculiarly portable. They can be lifted from one interpretative situation to another, and may change their meaning in the course of this migration. Waiting for Godot as performed in San Quentin prison is not quite the same play as Peter Hall’s first London production. We cannot simply put Auschwitz out of our minds while watching The Merchant of Venice. Writerly meaning does not always ...

Malfunctioning Sex Robot

Patricia Lockwood: Updike Redux

10 October 2019
Novels, 1959-65: ‘The Poorhouse Fair’; ‘Rabbit, Run’; ‘The Centaur’; ‘Of the Farm’ 
by John Updike.
Library of America, 850 pp., £36, November 2018, 978 1 59853 581 5
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... work is ideally read. That would be over the course of a lifetime, accompanied by countless cups of coffee, by a man exactly his own age and with the same long clowning lines and flared nostrils of a QuentinBlake drawing, smiles and cigarillos in a well-defended study, a thatch of white hair. ‘New Updike,’ he might think, with a little uptick of a tricky heart, as he came across a trifling piece in ...


P.N. Furbank

18 November 1982
The English World: History, Character and People 
edited by Robert Blake.
Thames and Hudson, 268 pp., £14.95, September 1982, 0 500 25083 9
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The English Gentleman: The Rise and Fall of an Ideal 
by Philip Mason.
Deutsch, 240 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 9780233974897
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... here means everything and nothing, and it is left entirely to the reader to give it definition. I am being unfair, for many of the essays in the volume – on the development of Parliament (Robert Blake), ‘War and Peace with Wales, Scotland and Ireland’ (Hugh Trevor-Roper), art and popular taste (Quentin Bell), the evolution of the English landscape (Richard Muir) – are excellent and briskly ...
22 May 2008
... own man, unwilling to bend the supple knee to anyone at all. Once this consideration is given due weight, it becomes more difficult to dismiss with complete assurance the suggestion that, as William Blake wonderfully expressed it, Milton may have been of the devil’s party without knowing it ...
16 July 1998
Mary Butts: Scenes from the Life 
by Nathalie Blondel.
McPherson, 539 pp., £22.50, February 1998, 0 929701 55 0
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The Taverner Novels: ‘Armed with Madness’, ‘Death of Felicity Taverner’ 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 374 pp., £10, March 1998, 0 929701 18 6
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The Classical Novels: ‘The Macedonian’, ‘Scenes from the Life of Cleopatra’ 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 384 pp., £10, March 1998, 0 929701 42 9
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‘Ashe of Rings’ and Other Writings 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 374 pp., £18.50, March 1998, 0 929701 53 4
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... appeared in the April number of Modernism/Modernity. Born in 1890, Mary Butts grew up at Salterns, the family house in Dorset. Her great-grandfather, Isaac Butts, had been the patron of William Blake, and her father gave her daily lessons in observation in the Blake Room, which housed 34 of his water-colours, engravings, portraits and sketches. In 1905, however, her father died and nine months ...

Leave me alone

Terry Eagleton: Terry Eagleton joins the Yeomen

30 April 2009
What Price Liberty? How Freedom Was Won and Is Being Lost 
by Ben Wilson.
Faber, 480 pp., £14.99, June 2009, 978 0 571 23594 0
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... men meant active participation in the life of the nation, rather than simply being freed from constraint. Wilson is by no means wholly allergic to communal ideas of liberty. In fact, he follows Quentin Skinner in claiming that negative freedom will remain precarious unless citizens have the power to hold rulers to account, which requires some more positive notion of political rights. He also sees ...

Making It Up

Raphael Samuel

4 July 1996
Raymond Williams 
by Fred Inglis.
Routledge, 333 pp., £19.99, October 1995, 0 415 08960 3
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... a pleasant Oxford lunch in which Fred and I managed to discuss everything except the supposed occasion for our meeting – were not necessarily about Raymond Williams at all. With the exception of Quentin Skinner, with whom, by his own account, Inglis seems to be in more or less continuous converse, the interviews are almost all one-off affairs, a procedure increasingly unacceptable to the oral ...
17 April 1986
...  the vocabulary of ancient Athenian politics as against that of Jefferson, the moral vocabulary of St Paul as against that of Freud, the jargon of Newton versus that of Aristotle, the idiom of Blake rather than that of Dryden – it is difficult to think of the world as making one of these better than another, of the world as deciding between them. When the notion of ‘description of the world ...

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