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No False Modesty

Rosemary Hill: Edith Sitwell

20 October 2011
Edith Sitwell: Avant-Garde Poet, English Genius 
by Richard Greene.
Virago, 532 pp., £25, March 2011, 978 1 86049 967 8
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... the Chelsea dressmaker Nina Astier with cleverly chosen off the peg hats from Whiteley’s (for many years her local department store in Bayswater) – is one of several interesting points on which RichardGreene has nothing to say in this disappointingly flat biography. Why she did it she explained herself. It was, like so much in her life and work, the result of a famously (if productively) unhappy ...
6 October 1983
A Variety of Lives: A Biography of Sir Hugh Greene 
by Michael Tracey.
Bodley Head, 344 pp., £15, September 1983, 0 370 30026 2
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... Described as a biography, this is also a detective story. Repeatedly Hugh Greene’s BBC colleagues are quoted, anonymously, as being unsure as to what were or are his values, his principles, his philosophy. Occasionally someone doubts if there were or are any. Once, we are told ...

Cervantics

Robert Taubman

7 October 1982
Monsignor Quixote 
by Graham Greene.
Bodley Head, 221 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 370 30923 5
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... There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’ Perhaps rather carefully, the words at the head of Graham Greene’s new novel are ascribed to William Shakespeare rather than to Hamlet, but inevitably it’s Hamlet they bring to mind. Very Hamlet, this complete scepticism – but not, surely, very Graham Greene ...

Female Bandits? What next!

Wendy Doniger: The incarnations of Robin Hood

22 July 2004
Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography 
by Stephen Knight.
Cornell, 247 pp., £14.50, May 2003, 0 8014 3885 3
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... myth and the life of a mythic person. Does it follow that there wasn’t a historical Robin Hood? Many people firmly believe there was. We owe the widespread belief that Robin lived in the time of Richard I (1157-1199) to William Stukeley (1687-1765), an eccentric scholar of ancient British history who fabricated for him a crazy family pedigree going back to the Normans. Knight argues that the search ...

Poetry to Thrill an Oyster

Gregory Woods: Fitz-Greene​ Halleck

16 November 2000
The American Byron: Homosexuality and the Fall of Fitz-Greene​ Halleck 
by John W.M. Hallock.
Wisconsin, 226 pp., £14.95, April 2000, 0 299 16804 2
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... When the American poet Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790-1867) travelled to Europe in 1822 he was carrying letters of introduction to Byron, Scott, Southey, Wordsworth, Lafayette and Talleyrand, though he never actually met any of them – ...
19 May 1983
The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 284 pp., £9.95, January 1983, 0 19 503102 4
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... fierce, blustering way, to challenge the conceptions of trendy-left and radical-chic folk, explaining to them that a boy who tries to obey Scout Laws, whatever else he does, will not grow up like Richard Nixon. (In Britain, of course, where Scoutcraft entails wiliness, such a boy might well grow up like Harold Wilson.) On Fussell’s cover is a picture of a keen-eyed lad with ‘Boy Scouts of America ...

A Spanish girl is a volcano

John Pemble: Apostles in Gibraltar

9 September 2015
John Kemble’s Gibraltar Journal: The Spanish Expedition of the Cambridge Apostles, 1830-31 
by Eric Nye.
Macmillan, 416 pp., £100, January 2015, 978 1 137 38446 1
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... and the cranks.’ Ezra Pound said the enemy wasn’t Franco, but big-time international finance: ‘You are all had. Spain is an emotional luxury to a gang of sap-headed dilettantes.’ Graham Greene hadn’t replied to the Left Review because he couldn’t make up his mind. As a Catholic he was sickened equally by Republican atrocities against nuns and priests, and by Franco’s brutal ...

My Stars

Graham Hough

21 March 1985
The Magical Arts 
by Richard​ Cavendish.
Arkana, 375 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 1 85063 004 6
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Astrology and the Third Reich: A Historical Study of Astrological Beliefs in Western Europe since 1700 and in Hitler’s Germany 1933-45 
by Ellic Howe.
Aquarian, 253 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 85030 397 4
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The Astrology of Fate 
by Liz Greene.
Allen and Unwin, 370 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 04 133012 9
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Dreams, Illusion and Other Realities 
by Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty.
Chicago, 361 pp., £21.25, June 1984, 0 226 61854 4
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Fruits of the Moon Tree: The Medicine Wheel and Transpersonal Psychology 
by Alan Bleakley.
Gateway Books, 311 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 946551 08 1
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... own immediate family there are no less than five copies of the I Ching, and every village in England has its quota of resident yogins, astrologers and cabalists. Guidebooks to these regions abound. Richard Cavendish in The Magical Arts makes an ambitious survey of the whole field – numerology, the Cabala, alchemy, astrology – and then, crossing the boundary between the dubiously permissible and the ...

Diary

Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett

7 November 1985
... contact with the English literary establishment, which I have nonetheless managed to enter with the publication of a novel called Wales’ Work.1 In Paris, where I have lived even longer than Graham Greene, avoiding literature is not on. Whether he chooses to or not, the Parisian swims in literature the way his motor-car bathes in traffic. It is not possible to round a corner on a Paris street without ...

Diary

Ruth Dudley Edwards: Peddling Books

21 January 1988
... published ‘for the fun of the thing’, was brilliant at producing and marketing books and, although in some ways rather proper, had a taste for the risqué: his literary adviser in the early days, Richard Le Gallienne, poetaster, philanderer and drinker, had an instinct for the mood of the times. The Bodley Head rapidly became a succès de scandale as well as modestly profitable for some years. Aubrey ...
1 October 1981
Pretender to the Throne: The Further Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin 
by Vladimir Voinovich, translated by Richard​ Lourie.
Cape, 358 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 9780224019668
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The Temptation of Eileen Hughes 
by Brian Moore.
Cape, 224 pp., £6.50, October 1981, 0 224 01936 8
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Silver’s City 
by Maurice Leitch.
Secker, 181 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 436 24413 6
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The Christmas Tree 
by Jennifer Johnston.
Hamish Hamilton, 167 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 0 241 10673 7
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... still enveloped in its miasma. The violence is only glimpsed on the fringe of these life-stories: Belfast stands for boredom, frustration, suffocating routine, aborted loves and fetid pieties. Graham Greene is quoted as saying that Brian Moore is his favourite living novelist, and one can see why. All those Pelagian notions anathema to Mr Greene – that man might save himself by his own efforts, or ...
25 October 1979
Darkness Visible 
by William Golding.
Faber, 256 pp., £4.95, January 1979, 0 571 11646 9
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... this type of magician – the shamans there are grander, more worldly, more pretentious – and the German-style version of Hesse or Grass is too instinctively metaphysical, not homespun enough. Richard Hughes was one of our most effective local magicians; John Fowles has become one; William Golding has had the status a long time. His new novel confirms him as a master craftsman in his particular ...

Answering back

James Campbell

11 July 1991
The Intended 
by David Dabydeen.
Secker, 246 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 436 20007 4
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Cambridge 
by Caryl Phillips.
Bloomsbury, 185 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 0 7475 0886 0
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Lucy 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Cape, 176 pp., £11.99, April 1991, 0 224 03055 8
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... and Dilsey in The Sound and the Fury. The Americans, under the guidance first of the great W.E.B DuBois, then of the poets Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown, and next a line of novelists headed by Richard Wright, began the task of reclamation about two generations earlier than the Caribbean writers who identified – if one can nowadays put it that way – with Europe, specifically England. Their ...

I am them

Richard​ Wollheim

7 October 1993
Love of Beginnings 
by J.-B. Pontalis, translated by James Greene and Marie-Christine Régius.
Free Association, 260 pp., £13.95, May 1993, 9781853431296
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... J.-B. Pontalis is a Parisian intellectual de pur sang. Born into a wealthy upper-middle-class family, he was brought up in Neuilly, and, as a child, spent long summers at a family house in Cabourg, Proust’s Balbec. He studied philosophy under Sartre, and taught it for some years. He entered psychoanalysis under the aegis of Lacan, and having weaned himself from that unfortunate affiliation, is now ...

Back to Isfahan

Richard​ Lloyd Parry

27 April 2000
A Good Place to Die 
by James Buchan.
Harvill, 343 pp., £10.99, September 1999, 1 86046 648 6
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... baffling to Buchan’s books. His first novel, A Parish of Rich Women, is the story of a lost young man who escapes the nullness of life in posh London to become a scared, amateur spook in Beirut. Richard, the hero of Heart’s journey in Winter, is another ambiguous journalist-spy, this time in Cold War Germany. John Pitt’s historical moment – Iran during the Revolution – is the most dramatic ...

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