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Sisyphus at the Selectric

James Wolcott: Undoing Philip Roth, 20 May 2021

Philip Roth: The Biography 
by Blake Bailey.
Cape, 898 pp., £30, April, 978 0 224 09817 5
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Philip Roth: A Counterlife 
by Ira Nadel.
Oxford, 546 pp., £22.99, May, 978 0 19 984610 8
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Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth 
by Benjamin Taylor.
Penguin, 192 pp., £18, May 2020, 978 0 525 50524 2
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... Roth chose Blake Bailey, the well-regarded biographer of Charles Jackson (The Lost Weekend), Richard Yates and John Cheever, three alcohol-plagued novelists whose torments kept late hours. As it happened Atlas would outlive Roth only by a year, dying in September 2019 from complications of a lung condition. At the close of Remembering Roth, he bids ...
Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Oxford, 205 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812980 7
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Representing the English Renaissance 
edited by Stephen Greenblatt.
California, 372 pp., $42, February 1988, 0 520 06129 2
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... from sacred to profane representation’. One is reminded of the argument of the late Frances Yates, popularised by Sir Roy Strong, about the replacement of the image of the Virgin Mary by that of the Virgin Queen. This brief summary does less than justice to the richness of Greenblatt’s interpretation, or to his skill in interweaving 16th-century texts ...

Bunny Hell

Christopher Tayler: David Gates, 27 August 2015

A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me 
by David Gates.
Serpent’s Tail, 314 pp., £12.99, August 2015, 978 1 78125 491 2
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Jernigan 
by David Gates.
Serpent’s Tail, 339 pp., £8.99, August 2015, 978 1 78125 490 5
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... with the open aim of reaching the sizeable audience that resurrected John Williams’s Stoner and Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road. All three books share an interest in sad marriages and a certain amount of diffuse self-pity, but strenuous Flaubertian realism as practised on a mid-20th-century American campus, provided in spades by Williams and ...

Mirror Images

Jenny Diski: Piers Morgan, 31 March 2005

The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade 
by Piers Morgan.
Ebury, 484 pp., £17.99, March 2005, 0 09 190506 0
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... entirely about being taken seriously by Elton John, Princess Diana, George Michael, Anthea Turner, Richard Branson, Paul McCartney, Patsy Kensit, Ian Botham, Jordan, Mohammed al Fayed, Cherie Blair, Alastair Campbell, Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair. (If there are names in that list you haven’t heard of, don’t worry, none of them matters as much as they ...

The Manners of a Hog

Christopher Tayler: Buchan’s Banter, 20 February 2020

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan 
by Ursula Buchan.
Bloomsbury, 479 pp., £25, April 2019, 978 1 4088 7081 5
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... Between​ the wars, the journalist Richard Usborne recalled in 1953, there was a feeling that John Buchan was good for you. ‘If not exactly the author set for homework, Buchan was certainly strongly recommended to the schoolboy by parent, uncle, guardian, pastor and master,’ he wrote in Clubland Heroes, a study of the thrillers he had enjoyed as a child ...

Act One, Scene One

David Bromwich: Don’t Resist, Oppose, 16 February 2017

... These men and women had been noticed before: they were the ‘silent majority’ invoked by Richard Nixon. The speechwriter who coined that phrase, Pat Buchanan, would become the insurgent Republican of the 1992 primaries, and at the 1992 party convention he gave a speech that seems the prototype for Trump’s inaugural. In fact, Trump delivered no ...

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