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The Female Accelerator

E.S. Turner, 24 April 1997

The Bicycle 
by Pryor Dodge.
Flammarion, 224 pp., £35, May 1996, 2 08 013551 1
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... supposed that bicycles played such a part in the gold rushes in Australia and the Yukon? Why did Robert Service and his fellow poets not tell us about the rigours of the 400-mile cycle trail from Dawson City to Whitehorse? Or of the thousand-mile ride from Dawson City to Nome in Alaska undertaken by Edward Jesson, who narrowly avoided cycling on to a stretch ...

All Reputation

Hermione Lee: Eliza and Clara, 17 October 2002

The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch 
by Anne Enright.
Cape, 230 pp., £12.99, September 2002, 0 224 06269 7
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Clara 
by Janice Galloway.
Cape, 425 pp., £10.99, June 2002, 0 224 05049 4
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... the wires are tangled into a fence and sing a little, when the wind is high. The hammers and their moss of green felt must be long decayed, but perhaps a few keys remain scattered in a broken smile, to choke the cattle or confuse the plough.’ This surreal and glamorous image sums up the difference between Eliza Lynch and Clara, where the pianos we first see ...

Landlord of the Moon

David Craig: Scottish islands, 21 February 2002

Sea Room: An Island Life 
by Adam Nicolson.
HarperCollins, 391 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 00 257164 1
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... is still mantled in dense green turf, backed by an outcrop for building stone, with a peat moss just yards away. The best houses were roomy, with vegetable fields enclosed by stone dykes. A stand of aspens chatters on the bluff above a river flowing out of a circular tidal lochan which would have made an ideal fish-trap. Stemreway was one of six ...

Browning and Modernism

Donald Davie, 10 October 1991

The Poems of Browning. Vol. I: 1826-1840 
edited by John Woolford and Daniel Karlin.
Longman, 797 pp., £60, April 1991, 0 582 48100 7
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The Poems of Browning. Vol. II: 1841-1846 
edited by John Woolford and Daniel Karlin .
Longman, 581 pp., £50, April 1991, 9780582063990
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... Yonder’s a plum-tree, with a crevice An owl would build in, were he but sage; For a lap of moss, like a fine point-levis In a castle of the middle age, Joins to a lip of gum, pure amber; When he’d be private, there might he spend Hours alone in his lady’s chamber: Into this crevice I dropped our friend. Splash, went he, as under he ducked. – I ...

Sad Stories

Adam Begley, 5 January 1989

Capote: A Biography 
by Gerald Clarke.
Hamish Hamilton, 632 pp., £16.95, July 1988, 0 241 12549 9
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Jean Stafford: A Biography 
by David Roberts.
Chatto, 494 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7011 3010 5
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... as a brilliant writer faded with the years; sadly, she is now remembered as much for having been Robert Lowell’s first wife as for her novels and short stories. It is testimony to Capote’s uncanny knack for self-promotion that at the time of the Life feature, he had produced only a handful of short stories: his first novel, Other Voices, Other ...

What became of Modernism?

C.K. Stead, 1 May 1980

Five American Poets 
by John Matthias, introduced by Michael Schmidt.
Carcanet, 160 pp., £3.25, November 1979, 0 85635 259 4
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The New Australian Poetry 
edited by John Tranter.
Makar Press, 330 pp., £6.50, November 1979
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Carpenters of Light 
by Neil Powell.
Carcanet, 154 pp., £6.95, November 1979, 0 85635 305 1
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Mirabell: Books of Number 
by James Merrill.
Oxford, 182 pp., £3.25, June 1979, 0 19 211892 7
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The Book of the Body 
by Frank Bidart.
Faber, 44 pp., £4.50, October 1979, 0 374 11549 4
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Skull of Adam 
by Stanley Moss.
Anvil, 67 pp., £2.50, May 1979, 0 85646 041 9
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Poems 1928-1978 
by Stanley Kunitz.
Secker, 249 pp., £6.50, September 1979, 0 436 23932 9
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... will strive beyond his means. (I feel this in some poems by all five, and particularly in those of Robert Hass.) But it produces also a sense of spaciousness and energy in and beyond the language of the poem. James McMichael has a fine delicate touch in brief evocative lyrics and can open out into longer forms. John Matthias at his best achieves a steady ...

So Ordinary, So Glamorous

Thomas Jones: Eternal Bowie, 5 April 2012

Starman: David Bowie, the Definitive Biography 
by Paul Trynka.
Sphere, 440 pp., £9.99, March 2012, 978 0 7515 4293 6
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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s 
by Peter Doggett.
Bodley Head, 424 pp., £20, September 2011, 978 1 84792 144 4
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... issue of French Vogue, dedicated to ‘Noël en Musique’, had on its cover a photograph of Kate Moss done up as Ziggy Stardust. The picture is a monument to improbable staying power. It’s more than two decades since Moss was photographed by Corinne Day for the Face, those instantly iconic black and white images of a ...

Long Goodbye

Derek Mahon, 20 November 1980

Why Brownlee left 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 48 pp., £3, September 1980, 0 571 11592 6
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Poems 1956-1973 
by Thomas Kinsella.
Dolmen, 192 pp., £7.50, September 1980, 0 85105 365 3
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Constantly Singing 
by James Simmons.
Blackstaff, 90 pp., £3.95, June 1980, 0 85640 217 6
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A Part of Speech 
by Joseph Brodsky.
Oxford, 151 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 19 211939 7
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Collected poems 1931-1974 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 350 pp., £9, September 1980, 0 571 18009 4
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... himself. The translation of the title poem is his own, and there is even one poem, ‘Elegy for Robert Lowell’, originally written in English. It works too, if only as a fluent assemblage of Lowell properties: planes at Logan thunder off from the brown mass of industrial tundra with its bureaucratic moss. Huge ...

Physicke from Another Body

Michael Neill: Cannibal Tinctures, 1 December 2011

Medicinal Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture 
by Louise Noble.
Palgrave Macmillan, 241 pp., £52, March 2011, 978 0 230 11027 4
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Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: The History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians 
by Richard Sugg.
Routledge, 374 pp., £24.99, June 2011, 978 0 415 67417 1
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... them Queen Elizabeth’s surgeon, John Banister, as well as Francis Bacon, Sir Kenelm Digby and Robert Boyle. Mummy continued to be dispensed well into the 18th century, when Robert James’s Pharmacopeia Universalis (1747) advised: Mummy resolves coagulated Blood, and is said to be effectual in purging the Head, against ...

Funny Mummy

E.S. Turner, 2 December 1982

The Penguin Stephen Leacock 
by Robertson Davies.
Penguin, 527 pp., £2.95, October 1981, 0 14 005890 7
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Jerome K. Jerome: A Critical Biography 
by Joseph Connolly.
Orbis, 208 pp., £7.95, August 1982, 0 85613 349 3
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Three Men in a Boat 
by Jerome K. Jerome, annotated and introduced by Christopher Matthew and Benny Green.
Joseph, 192 pp., £12.50, August 1982, 0 907516 08 4
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The Lost Stories of W.S. Gilbert 
edited by Peter Haining.
Robson, 255 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 86051 200 2
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... became a highly-paid lecturer. He died in 1944. Leacock held his own in the world of Will Rogers, Robert Benchley, James Thurber, the early Wodehouse, A.P. Herbert and ‘Beachcomber’. Americans, or some of them, accepted him as a successor to Mark Twain. His Yankee-style hyperbole did not, for once, upset the British, for he practised the tricks of ‘sly ...

People shouldn’t be fat

Zachary Leader, 3 October 1996

Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu 
by Simon Callow.
Cape, 640 pp., £20, March 1995, 0 224 03852 4
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Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles 
by David Thomson.
Little, Brown, 460 pp., £20, September 1996, 0 316 91437 1
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... As Thomson recounts, it was a scene shot live in a nightclub of chorus girls in skimpy clothes. Moss [the manager] had visited Welles in Rio once, the day they filmed that scene. ‘So he took me aside,’ said Moss, and he said, “I’ve fucked that one ... and that one ... and that one.” He’s not coming ...

Weirdo Possible Genius Child

Daniel Soar: Max Porter, 23 May 2019

Lanny 
by Max Porter.
Faber, 213 pp., £12.99, March 2019, 978 0 571 34028 6
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... is now writing a soon-to-be-bestselling crime novel with plenty of sex and murder. Her husband, Robert, often rudely called ‘Rob’ by unthinking friends, is a highly adapted commuting machine who works in Canary Wharf and times his drive to the station to perfection. She is interesting, he is not. And they have a child, Lanny, who is both interesting and ...

Thee, Thou, Twixt

Mark Ford: Walter de la Mare, 24 March 2022

Reading Walter de la Mare 
edited by William Wootten.
Faber, 320 pp., £14.99, June 2021, 978 0 571 34713 1
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... la Mare, although his illustrious admirers have ranged from Virginia Woolf to Derek Walcott, from Robert Frost to W.H. Auden, from Thomas Hardy to T.S. Eliot, not to speak of confrères such as Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke and Henry Newbolt. Ezra Pound, although savage in his denunciation of the use of idioms or phrases such as ‘dim lands of ...

Born in a Land where Yoghurt Rules the Roost

Paul Driver: Sibelius, 26 November 1998

Sibelius. Vol. III: 1914-57 
by Erik Tawaststjerna, edited by Robert Layton.
Faber, 384 pp., £30, January 1997, 0 571 19085 5
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... in the present version of Tawaststjerna’s book. Aping Sibelius’s own habits of compression, Robert Layton has run the last two Swedish Finnish volumes into one, truncating or omitting the musicological I chapters that counterpoint the biographical narrative throughout and unbalancing his own English version, which retains them in Volumes I (a ...

Great American Disaster

Christopher Reid, 8 December 1988

To Urania: Selected Poems 1965-1985 
by Joseph Brodsky.
Penguin, 174 pp., £4.99, September 1988, 9780140585803
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... claims made on his behalf, Michael Hofmann’s recent hailing of Brodsky as the true successor to Robert Lowell and great American poet of our age has at least the virtue of unambivalence. We may not agree with it, but the terms are clear. Hitherto, through no fault of his own, the poet has seemed to occupy a position of statelessness somewhere between ...

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