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Golden Boy

Denis Donoghue, 22 December 1983

W.H.Auden: The Critical Heritage 
edited by John Haffenden.
Routledge, 535 pp., £19.95, September 1983, 0 7100 9350 0
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Auden: A Carnival of Intellect 
by Edward Callan.
Oxford, 299 pp., £12.50, August 1983, 0 19 503168 7
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Drawn from the Life: A Memoir 
by Robert Medley.
Faber, 251 pp., £12.50, November 1983, 0 571 13043 7
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... a sadly reduced income.’ But, in general, American critics said yes to whatever Auden gave them. Robert Lowell in 1967 expressed his gratitude for Auden’s many-sided gifts: ‘I am most grateful for three or four supreme things: the sad Anglo-Saxon alliteration of his beginnings, his prophecies that seemed the closest voice to our disaster, then the ...

Young Wystan

Ian Hamilton, 8 September 1994

Juvenilia: Poems 1922-28 
by W.H. Auden, edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Faber, 263 pp., £25, July 1994, 0 571 17140 0
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... can be, and what a torture of guilt it makes breaking away.’ Auden was 15 when his schoolfriend Robert Medley suggested that he might try his hand at writing poems. Kicking a little stone, he turned to me And said, ‘Tell me, do you write poetry?’ I never had, and said so, but I knew That very moment what I wished to do. At 15, Auden ...

Read it on the autobahn

Robert Macfarlane: Vanishing Victorians, 18 December 2003

The Discovery of Slowness 
by Sten Nadolny, translated by Ralph Freedman.
Canongate, 311 pp., £10.99, September 2003, 1 84195 403 9
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... developing voice of the central character. The chapters describing Franklin’s early years are a medley of fragments, rhetorical questions, associative jumps and exclamation marks. In the later sections recounting Franklin’s first Arctic expedition, Nadolny brilliantly sets the narrative pace to the rhythms of the frozen landscape, and to the ‘slowness ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 1998, 21 January 1999

... makes the scene even more touching. 6 February. I am reading a history of the Yorkshire Dales by Robert White, one of a series, Landscape through Time, published by English Heritage. During the enclosures of the 18th and 19th centuries, most of the land enclosed was added to existing farms, but in 1809 John Hulton used the land allotted to him from the ...

Ceaseless Anythings

James Wood: Robert Stone, 1 October 1998

Damascus Gate 
by Robert Stone.
Picador, 500 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 37058 8
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... American realism, once a belief, is now an idle liberty. Writers such as Robert Stone, Joan Didion, John Irving and even Don DeLillo, are praised for their ‘realism’, for the solidity of their plots, the patience of their characterisation, the capillary spread of their social portraits, the leverage of their political insight ...

w00t

Christopher Tayler: The Fabulous Elif Batuman, 17 February 2011

The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them 
by Elif Batuman.
Granta, 296 pp., £16.99, April 2011, 978 1 84708 313 5
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... be read in English from 1855, Tolstoy had British and American disciples, and Dostoevsky was, in Robert Louis Stevenson’s view, ‘a devil of a swell, to be sure’. But the English-speaking world’s received ideas about Russian literature were mostly laid down in the 1910s and 1920s, the great age of Western interest in the Russian soul – ‘its ...

Retripotent

Frank Kermode: B. S. Johnson, 5 August 2004

Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of B.S. Johnson 
by Jonathan Coe.
Picador, 486 pp., £20, June 2004, 9780330350488
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‘Trawl’, ‘Albert Angelo’ and ‘House Mother Normal’ 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 472 pp., £14.99, June 2004, 0 330 35332 2
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... numerical coding of the chapters, Coe can describe the book as ‘diverse and fragmentary’. The medley includes concrete poems, extracts from Erich Neumann’s The Great Mother, and an elaborate account of the progress of a foetus (himself) from conception to birth, so Coe’s stricture seems just, if a little severe. It is part of Johnson’s charm that he ...

Raining

Donald Davie, 5 May 1983

Later Poems 
by R.S. Thomas.
Macmillan, 224 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 333 34560 6
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Thomas Hardy Annual, No 1 
edited by Norman Page.
Macmillan, 205 pp., £20, March 1983, 0 333 32022 0
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Tess of the d’Urbervilles 
by Thomas Hardy, edited by Juliet Grindle and Simon Gatrell.
Oxford, 636 pp., £50, March 1983, 0 19 812495 3
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Hardy’s Love Poems 
by Thomas Hardy, edited by Carl Weber.
Macmillan, 253 pp., £3.95, February 1983, 0 333 34798 6
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The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy. Vol. I: Wessex Poems, Poems of the Past and the Present, Time’s Laughingstocks 
edited by Samuel Hynes.
Oxford, 403 pp., £19.50, February 1983, 0 19 812708 1
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... difficult terrains in any case) than there appeared in 1978 The Older Hardy, the second volume of Robert Gittings’s biography, which had the effect of vindicating, exhaustively and unforgivingly, Edward Clodd’s epitaph. Ever since, the Trade Union has been on the defensive. The first move was to prefer to Gittings’s biography a later one by Michael ...

How one has enjoyed things

Dinah Birch: Thackeray’s daughter, 2 December 2004

Anny: A Life of Anne Thackeray Ritchie 
by Henrietta Garnett.
Chatto, 322 pp., £18.99, January 2004, 0 7011 7129 4
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... publisher’s nightmare: the genial George Smith ruefully recalled that her manuscripts were ‘a medley of pieces of paper of all shapes and sizes, written here and there and fastened together with a needle and thread’. These disorderly ways were the product of a conviction that she need not distract herself with life’s smallnesses. As Thackeray’s ...

Miserable Creatures

C.H. Sisson, 2 August 1984

The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Vol. IV: 1909-1913 
edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 337 pp., £21, March 1984, 0 19 812621 2
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The Letters and Prose Writings of William Cowper. Vol. IV: 1792-1799 
edited by James King and Charles Ryskamp.
Oxford, 498 pp., £48, March 1984, 0 19 812681 6
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The Land and Literature of England: A Historical Account 
by Robert M. Adams.
Norton, 555 pp., £21, March 1984, 0 393 01704 4
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The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy. Vol. II 
edited by Samuel Hynes.
Oxford, 543 pp., £35, June 1984, 0 19 812783 9
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... having theories about how to read books than about how to understand his friends. The Foreword to Robert M. Adams’s The Land and Literature of England gives some indication that this merely humane view of literature is now felt to be under threat. His bland intention is ‘to set forth the outlines of English history so that they may serve as background for ...

Smokejumpers

Chauncey Loomis, 10 March 1994

Young Men and Fire 
by Norman Maclean.
Chicago, 301 pp., £8.75, October 1993, 0 226 50062 4
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... became a cult classic of sorts, especially among fly-fishermen, before it gained general fame when Robert Redford released his film of it in 1992, two years after Maclean had died at the age of 87. At his death he had left an almost completed manuscript, Young Men and Fire, which the editors of the Chicago University Press prepared for ...

Entitlement

Jenny Diski: Caroline Blackwood, 18 October 2001

Dangerous Muse: A Life of Caroline Blackwood 
by Nancy Schoenberger.
Weidenfeld, 336 pp., £20, June 2001, 0 297 84101 7
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... alone in their London flat without any money. (She was trying to get away from her third husband, Robert Lowell, who was mad at the time.) It is taken as inevitable that patterns are inevitably repeated. Blackwood becomes a lifelong drunk given to hysterical and unsuccessful relationships, and it is no surprise that Natalya dies of a heroin overdose at the ...

Laertes has a daughter

Bee Wilson: The Redgraves, 6 June 2013

The Redgraves: A Family Epic 
by Donald Spoto.
Robson, 361 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 1 84954 394 1
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The House of Redgrave: The Lives of a Theatrical Dynasty 
by Tim Adler.
Aurum, 336 pp., £20, July 2012, 978 1 84513 623 9
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... 1978 he and four other actors toured Canada, South Africa, the US, Europe and South America with a medley of scenes from Shakespeare. ‘His voice was quiet,’ Donald Spoto writes in his new study of the Redgrave family, but still expressive, and his gait often unsteady, but audiences seemed to provide him with a shot of adrenalin, and spectators were ...

Diary

August Kleinzahler: My Last Big Road Trip, 2 December 2010

... keyboard. He keeps his hand in by studying piano with Mr Natural, or the individual on whom Robert Crumb’s comic-strip character Mr Natural is based. Mr Natural teaches out of a storefront in the Haight in San Francisco, where the Maestro and I are long-time neighbours. The Maestro regularly drives between San Francisco and Madison, Wisconsin, where ...

Pseud’s Corner

John Sutherland, 17 July 1980

Duffy 
by Dan Kavanagh.
Cape, 181 pp., £4.95, July 1980, 0 224 01822 1
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Moscow Gold 
by John Salisbury.
Futura, 320 pp., £1.10, March 1980, 0 7088 1702 5
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The Middle Ground 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 297 77808 0
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The Boy Who Followed Ripley 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 292 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 434 33520 7
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... Sun, there was no secret made about the fact. Nonetheless Amis wrote under the pseudonym ‘Robert Markham’. Presumably this indicates some sort of functional schizophrenia, a way of not being Amis while writing a very un-Amis-like book, yet at the same time receiving royalties into the Amis bank account. (Fleming, of course, was the biggest earner ...

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