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American English

Robert Ilson, 6 May 1982

Oxford American Dictionary 
Oxford, 816 pp., £9.95, March 1981, 0 19 502795 7Show More
Longman New Generation Dictionary 
Longman, 798 pp., £3.95, July 1981, 0 582 55626 0Show More
Funk and Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary 
Harper and Row, 890 pp., £4.95, February 1981, 0 06 180254 9Show More
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... Robert Burchfield, Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, made a bid to unite two nations divided by a common language by unveiling the Oxford American Dictionary, which includes such words as gridlock (“urban traffic jam”). ’ So proclaimed the Sunday Telegraph Magazine. British and American English do indeed differ in all sorts of ways, as the following list of equivalent pairs will remind any doubters: lift/elevator, push-chair/stroller, bonnet/hood, boot/trunk, windscreen/windshield ...

Silent Pleasures

A.W.F. Edwards, 15 July 1982

... delight he became World Champion in Spain in 1952. The following year he published On Being a Bird, which quickly established itself as the most beautiful gliding book ever written: for Wills could not only draw on the experiences of an astonishing twenty years which took gliding, and him with it, from a broomstick-and-bungey affair at the Wasserkuppe and ...

Some Names for Robert Lowell

Karl Miller, 19 May 1983

Robert Lowell: A Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Faber, 527 pp., £12.50, May 1983, 0 571 13045 3
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... Robert Lowell is not difficult to represent as the mad poet and justified sinner of the Romantic heritage. He is the dual personality who breaks the rules, kicks over the traces: he did this in the course of a series of manic highs which came and went from maturity, if not before, until the end of his life in 1977 at the age of 60 ...

Accidents of Priority

John Redmond, 22 August 1996

Can You Hear, Bird 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 128 pp., £9.95, February 1996, 9781857542240
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The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 
by Jorie Graham.
Carcanet, 220 pp., £12.95, March 1996, 1 85754 225 8
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Selected Poems 
by Barbara Guest.
Carcanet, 220 pp., £12.95, May 1996, 1 85754 158 8
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Selected Poems 1976-1996 
by George Szirtes.
Oxford, 126 pp., £9.99, March 1996, 0 19 283223 9
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Adam’s Dream 
by Peter McDonald.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £6.95, March 1996, 1 85224 333 3
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... or psychoanalyst’s. In ‘The Problem of Anxiety’, one of the clearer poems in Can You Hear, Bird, Ashbery, with his Waspish reticence, asks the reader (perhaps the psychoanalyst part of himself) how he would represent himself given the opportunity: Suppose this poem were about you, would you put in the things I’ve carefully left out: descriptions of ...

Most people think birds just go pi-pi-pi

James Fletcher, 4 April 1996

The Messiaen Companion 
edited by Peter Hill.
Faber, 581 pp., £40, March 1995, 0 571 17033 1
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Olivier Messiaen: Music and Colour. Conversations with Claude Samuel 
translated by Thomas Glasow.
Amadeus, 296 pp., $29.95, May 1994, 0 931340 67 5
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... of a pair of super-imposed isorhythmic sequences on piano and cello decorated with snatches of bird-song: the violin does a nightingale, the clarinet a blackbird. The movement does not develop in any way; the isorhythmic sequences continue for a time, the birds chatter and gurgle. Then it stops. It is as if one had been shown a sample of acoustic eternity ...

Diary

Gaby Wood: How to Draw an Albatross, 18 June 2020

... slashes of its vast folded wings. Diomedea exulans, the wandering albatross, was an improbable bird, seemingly assembled from the disparate parts of others: a dodo here, a seagull there, a wingspan from something prehistoric. You didn’t need to know what it was, or to be reminded of the albatross’s association with luck or guilt or human burden, or ...

Great Tradition

Robert Barnard, 18 December 1980

Plaster Sinners 
by Colin Watson.
Eyre Methuen, 160 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 413 39040 3
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Photo-Finish 
by Ngaio Marsh.
Collins, 262 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 00 231857 1
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The Predator 
by Russell Braddon.
Joseph, 192 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 7181 1958 4
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... there any straight ones in Flaxborough?), a thoroughly repulsive doctor and his teenage dolly-bird, and a rabbit-faced crook of well-tried incompetence – all good Flaxborough figures. If Colin Watson enjoys abundant affection from crime-readers but not quite the esteem that Mesdames Rendall and James reap, it may be because his solutions are sometimes ...

How to make seal-flipper pie

Janette Turner Hospital, 10 February 1994

The Shipping News 
by E. Annie Proulx.
Fourth Estate, 337 pp., £14.99, November 1993, 9781857022056
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... that scientists don’t know whether or when major cod and haddock stocks will recover ... Robert Hache of the Association des Pêcheurs Professionels Acadiens said that the conclusions in the report are shocking even to fishermen used to declining stocks. ‘We see something that has never happened before in the northwest Atlantic,’ he said. ‘We ...

Abortion, Alienation, Anomie

Peter Medawar, 2 December 1982

Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary 
by Robert Nisbet.
Harvard, 318 pp., £12.25, November 1982, 0 674 70065 1
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... it strange to read an entry headed ‘Anomie’ that made no mention of Emile Durkheim or of Robert Merton. ‘Anomy’ is declared obs. by the OED but the French variant anomie stands for a sort of sociological deficiency disease: it refers to the ‘lost’ and rootless state of an individual or community that lacks norms of behaviour and behavioural ...

Sperm’s-Eye View

Robert Crawford, 23 February 1995

Dock Leaves 
by Hugo Williams.
Faber, 67 pp., £6.99, June 1994, 0 571 17175 3
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Spring Forest 
by Geoffrey Lehmann.
Faber, 171 pp., £6.99, September 1994, 0 571 17246 6
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Everything is Strange 
by Frank Kuppner.
Carcanet, 78 pp., £8.95, July 1994, 1 85754 071 9
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The Queen of Sheba 
by Kathleen Jamie.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £6.95, April 1994, 1 85224 284 1
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... eventually, a Nazi obsession. In the Fifties, it returns as something brighter. The voice of Robert Lowell’s Life Studies grew out of a negotiation between European and American traditions, not least English and American traditions, with the balance of power tilting decisively towards America. Lowell, coming from an East Coast Wasp society, is ...

Diary

Tim Dee: Derek Walcott’s Birthday Party, 22 May 2014

... writers are in the exhibition: William Empson, Seamus Heaney, Charles Tomlinson, Salman Rushdie, Robert Lowell, Geoffrey Hill. The only other bare feet besides Walcott’s belong to a corpse on a dissecting table in front of Keith Simpson, the forensic pathologist. An illegible name-tag is attached to a big toe. St Lucia may not be the Isle of Man, but legs ...

Fire the press secretary

Jerry Fodor, 28 April 2011

Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind 
by Robert Kurzban.
Princeton, 274 pp., £19.95, January 2011, 978 0 691 14674 4
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... age. Anyhow, the version of anti-intellectualism that’s current is Psychological Darwinism, and Robert Kurzban’s new book is a typical instance. I’ll take a paragraph or two to sketch the connection between what Psychological Darwinists say and the anti-intellectualist thesis that there aren’t any minds. After that, I’ll focus on the latter, as does ...

Drinking and Spewing

Sally Mapstone: The Variousness of Robert Fergusson, 25 September 2003

‘Heaven-Taught Fergusson’: Robert Burns’s Favourite Scottish Poet 
edited by Robert Crawford.
Tuckwell, 240 pp., £14.99, August 2002, 1 86232 201 5
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... Robert Fergusson died in Edinburgh’s Bedlam on 17 October 1774. He was 24 years old. He had been admitted to the asylum three months before, against his will, because his mother could no longer look after him. Having been persuaded by some friends that he was being taken out in a sedan chair to visit another acquaintance, he was conveyed instead to a cell in the asylum, a sepulchrous building abutting the old city wall ...

Diary

Jane Campbell: The Rarest Bird in the World, 5 July 2018

... belonging to David Wingate. We were going to Nonsuch Island, the home of the cahow, an oceanic bird that was believed extinct for more than 300 years. Invisible most of the time and, like most Bermudians, off at sea as often as possible, it is unique to Bermuda and now one of the rarest birds in the world. We met at Flatt’s Inlet and set off along the ...

Dolorism

Robert Tombs: Biography, 28 October 1999

Le Monde retrouvó de Louis-François Pinagot: Sur let Traces d’un Inconnu, 1798-1876 
by Alain Corbin.
Flammarion, 344 pp., frs 135, November 1998, 2 08 212520 3
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... the historic actor, seems to walk on air as in a Chinese painting ... As is the nest, so is the bird.’ But, at the same time, ‘history itself is an enormous, and too often underestimated, moral fact ... Thus goes each people, making itself, engendering itself, mixing, amalgamating the elements ... In human progress, the essential part is the living ...

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