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22 May 1986
The Lamberts: George, Constant and Kit 
by Andrew Motion.
Chatto, 388 pp., £13.95, April 1986, 0 7011 2731 7
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... instance, follows Shead’s anecdote by anecdote); the musical analysis is directly quoted, and Shead’s sources are rifled. The extracts from letters that appear in Motion are in Shead; the Angus Morrison unpublished chapter made available to Shead and the Anthony Powell memoir which prefaced Shead’s book are re-quarried. And Motion never cites references – a major irritation of this biography ...
5 November 1981
Michael Foot: A Portrait 
by Simon Hoggart and David Leigh.
Hodder, 216 pp., £8.95, September 1981, 0 340 27600 2
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... minister in the Lloyd George war coalition, had at that time been tipped by the Observer as a future Labour prime minister. MacDonald was elected chairman and leader, as the press at the time, and Robert Mackenzie much later, stressed. MacDonald had the charisma, he had the contacts with the Left, and he profited from the general disenchantment with the war and those associated with it. That said, it ...
6 February 1986
Travels with a Superior Person 
by Lord Curzon, edited by Peter King.
Sidgwick, 191 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 283 99294 8
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The Ladies of Castlebrae 
by A. Whigham Price.
Alan Sutton, 242 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 86299 228 1
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Lizzie: A Victorian Lady’s Amazon Adventure 
by Tony Morrison, Anne Brown and Ann Rose.
BBC, 160 pp., £9.95, November 1985, 0 563 20424 9
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Miss Fane in India 
by [author], edited by John Pemble.
Alan Sutton, 246 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 86299 240 0
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Explorers Extraordinary 
by John Keay.
Murray/BBC Publications, 195 pp., £10.95, November 1985, 0 7195 4249 9
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A Visit to Germany, Italy and Malta 1840-41 
by Hans Christian Andersen, translated by Grace Thornton.
Peter Owen, 182 pp., £12.50, October 1985, 0 7206 0636 5
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The Irish Sketch-Book 1842 
by William Makepeace Thackeray.
Blackstaff, 368 pp., £9.95, December 1985, 0 85640 340 7
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Mr Rowlandson’s England 
by Robert​ Southey, edited by John Steel.
Antique Collectors’ Club, 202 pp., £14.95, November 1985, 0 907462 77 4
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... much domestic dross from her letters, and the book screams for the blue pencil, which should also be applied to the vertical rules confining the text. Good background information is provided by Tony Morrison, who has himself endured those deep white clouds of insects descending ‘like a hair shirt’. If Lizzie scratched and sweated, so did Isabella Fane, the Commander-in-Chief’s daughter who followed ...

Cut-Ups

Robert​ Crawford

7 December 1989
Perduta Gente 
by Peter Reading.
Secker, £5, June 1989, 0 436 40999 2
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Letting in the rumour 
by Gillian Clarke.
Carcanet, 79 pp., £4.95, July 1989, 9780856357572
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Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Woman 
by Grace Nichols.
Virago, 58 pp., £4.99, July 1989, 1 85381 076 2
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Studying Grosz on the Bus 
by John Lucas.
Peterloo, 64 pp., £4.95, August 1989, 1 871471 02 8
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The Old Noise of Truth 
by Joan Downar.
Peterloo, 63 pp., £4.95, August 1989, 1 871471 03 6
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... be possible to write interestingly about him as bard of a society in cancerous decline, harkening to the Muse of Death, like the George MacBeth who saw England as The Cleaver Garden or the Blake Morrison who heard The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper. Yet what sets Reading apart is that he has constantly signalled that he is fascinated as much by cut-ups of the text as by cut-ups of the body, as much ...

When you’d started a world war

Blake Morrison: Walter Kempowski

20 June 2019
Homeland 
by Walter Kempowski, translated by Charlotte Collins.
Granta, 240 pp., £14.99, November 2018, 978 1 78378 352 6
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... in the last days of the war. After the war Kempowski found work at a US supplies store in Wiesbaden and made contact with the American counterintelligence corps (forerunner of the CIA): his brother Robert had bills of lading which proved that the Russians were stripping East German factories and sending materials back to the Soviet Union. In 1948, on a trip home to Rostock, Kempowski was arrested by ...

The Word on the Street

Elaine Showalter

7 March 1996
Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics 
by Anonymous.
Chatto, 366 pp., £15.99, February 1996, 0 7011 6584 7
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... a suspect) called Primary Colors ‘an absolutely dazzling book, the best political novel in many years’. In Newsweek, Walter Shapiro found it ‘the best aide’s-eye view of politics since Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men’. In the New Republic, Matthew Cooper, after revealing (‘full disclosure’) that he himself is now dating Mandy Grunwald, who held the position in the ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen

11 October 2018
... Elena Ferrante was before the editors of the New York Review of Books did? Or how much Martin Amis drinks these days, and where? These scenarios seem unlikely. But perhaps they keep a file on Toni Morrison, who – as a photo that recently went viral made clear – hung out with Angela Davis in the early 1970s, and surely Don DeLillo’s speculations on Lee Harvey Oswald in Libra merited attention ...
7 May 1981
... Forum), and two on TV (The South Bank Show, Did you see?), the second of the latter reviewing the first. The South Bank Show was also reviewed in the Spectator by Richard Ingrams, as follows:[Robert] Redford was followed onto the show by young Martin Amis, a rather scruffy looking man without a tie. I was baffled as to why his new novel should be given about half an hour of publicity when there ...

Long live the codex

John Sutherland: The future of books

5 July 2001
Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future 
by Jason Epstein.
Norton, 188 pp., £16.95, March 2001, 0 393 04984 1
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... Auden, Dr Seuss and John O’Hara are recalled here in vivid anecdotes. A bunch of his authors line up to offer puffs for Book Business: ‘brilliant, moving and profoundly insightful’ (Toni Morrison); ‘a putative classic … fine and impeccable style’ (Norman Mailer); ‘an extremely important literary document, elegantly written and impeccably argued’ (E.L. Doctorow). Norton should ...

Advised by experts

David Worswick

21 December 1989
The Economic Section, 1939-1961: A Study in Economic Advising 
by Alec Cairncross and Nita Watts.
Routledge, 372 pp., £40, May 1989, 0 415 03173 7
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The Robert​ Hall Diaries. Vol. I: 1947-1953 
edited by Alec Cairncross.
Unwin Hyman, 400 pp., £40, May 1989, 9780044452737
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... worked, how much of its advice was taken, and whether that advice was good. These two books, the one a history of the Economic Section up to 1961, and the other the first instalment of the diaries of Robert Hall, who was head of the Economic Section from 1947, throw a good deal of light on these questions. Both authors of the history worked in the Section, Alec Cairncross briefly in 1940-41, and again ...
18 November 1993
New York Days 
by Willie Morris.
Little, Brown, 400 pp., £19.45, September 1993, 0 316 58421 5
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... Martin Luther King is alive. Bobby Kennedy is alive. James Baldwin is alive. Janis Joplin is alive. Jack Kerouac is alive. Jimi Hendrix is alive. Lyndon Johnson is alive. James Jones is alive. Jim Morrison and Robert Penn Warren are alive. Richard Nixon is dead; and a Soviet-bloc skier named Ivana Trump – someone overhears Sixties psychic Jeanne Dixon saying – will assign her name to a novel she ...

Tricky Business

Megan Vaughan: The Middle Passage

12 December 2002
The Diligent: A Voyage through the Worlds of the Slave Trade 
by Robert​ Harms.
Perseus, 466 pp., £17.99, February 2002, 1 903985 18 8
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... came to 80,000 livres – more than four times the price of the ship itself, and this before insurance. The Billy brothers were expecting big profits from the sale of Africans they would never see. Robert Harms has based his riveting account of the ‘worlds of the slave trade’ on a journal kept by a young lieutenant on the Diligent, Robert Durand, a document sold in the 1980s to the Beinecke ...

Sons and Heirs

Robert​ Vitalis: The bin Ladens and Their Money

4 December 2008
The Bin Ladens: The Story of a Family and Its Fortune 
by Steve Coll.
Allen Lane, 671 pp., £25, April 2008, 978 1 84614 124 9
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... in to protect the company, which was then laying roads to new military bases, by appointing a set of trustees to run it. In 1970 his government encouraged the Idaho dam-turned-military-base builders, Morrison Knudsen, bin Laden’s partner in operations on the volatile Yemen-Saudi border, to take a stake in the business. Coll says that the deal foundered when the Saudis balked, as might have been expected ...
30 December 1982
The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry 
edited by Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 208 pp., £1.95, October 1982, 0 14 042283 8
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The Rattle Bag 
edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.
Faber, 498 pp., £10, October 1982, 0 571 11966 2
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... is a certain truth in this if it is assumed that the ‘poetic taste’ of the reader was formed only by the previous Penguin of 1962, The New Poetry, selected and introduced by A. Alvarez. Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion are well aware that there is something comically factitious about the stance that has to be adopted by each new spokesman on the poetry scene – ‘we are not,’ they say, ‘the ...

Bevan’s Boy

John Campbell

20 September 1984
The Making of Neil Kinnock 
by Robert​ Harris.
Faber, 256 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 571 13266 9
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Neil Kinnock: The Path to Leadership 
by G.M.F. Drower.
Weidenfeld, 162 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 297 78467 6
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... in the 24 years since his death has been far greater than it ever was in life. For thirty years he railed in vain against the leadership, first of MacDonald, Snowden and Jimmy Thomas, then of Attlee, Morrison, Bevin and the upstart Gaitskell, antagonising the union bosses and the PLP equally, the darling only of the constituencies. He was expelled from the party in 1939 and very nearly again in 1955, and ...

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