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Jeremy Harding: The Wyatt Continuum, 20 November 2014

... Robert Wyatt​ is one of the last survivors of the 1960s pop music scene in Britain. He has been recording for nearly half a century. He was said to be reckless and unfocused for most of his life, but he’s also the best sort of slow-burner moving along at his own pace. Having gone for it late in the day, he hung on to his ‘tankie’ party card – Communist Party of Great Britain – beyond the call of duty, but only because he’d steered his very own Centurion into a deep thicket, opened the hatch and taken a lengthy breather before deciding the game was up ...

Magical Orange Grove

Anne Diebel: Lowell falls in love again, 10 August 2016

Robert Lowell in Love 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Massachusetts, 288 pp., £36.50, December 2015, 978 1 62534 186 0
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... In the summer​ of 1935, when he was 18, Robert Lowell and two friends from St Mark’s School – Blair Clark and Frank Parker – rented a house in Nantucket. Under Lowell’s direction, they studied the Bible (with special attention to the Book of Job) and ate cereal with raw honey and ‘badly’ cooked eels ...

The World of School

John Bayley, 28 September 1989

The Brideshead Generation: Evelyn Waugh and his Friends 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Weidenfeld, 523 pp., £17.95, September 1989, 0 297 79320 9
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Osbert: A Portrait of Osbert Lancaster 
by Richard Boston.
Collins, 256 pp., £17.50, August 1989, 0 00 216324 1
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Ackerley: A Life of J.R. Ackerley 
by Peter Parker.
Constable, 465 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 09 469000 6
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... Carpenter skilfully weaves the friends – Connolly, Betjeman, Anthony Powell, Brian Howard, Robert Byron – into a completed composition, the others serve chiefly to start a scene or two and swell the progress of Waugh himself. Of course this gives a misleading picture of period and individuals, but that is in a sense the object of the exercise, for ...

That’s Liquor!

Nick James, 7 March 1996

Leaving Las Vegas 
directed by Mike Figgis.
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... magnifier for all that 30-foot-tall emoting. As Alan Rudolph’s lugubrious 1995 biopic of Dorothy Parker, Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle, illustrates, it was Prohibition that made boozing an essential act of transgression among the Hollywood crowd of the Twenties and Thirties, matching the literary hard drinking of the ...

From Script to Scream

Richard Mayne, 18 December 1980

Caligari’s Children 
by S.S. Prawer.
Oxford, 307 pp., £8.95, March 1980, 9780192175847
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The Cinema of Loneliness: Penn, Kubrick, Coppola, Scorsese, Altman 
by Robert Phillip Kolker.
Oxford, 395 pp., £8.50, April 1980, 0 19 502588 1
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... S. S. Prawer is Taylor Professor of German Language and Literature at Oxford. Robert Phillip Kolker is Associate Professor of Film Studies (in the Department of Communication Arts and Theatre) at the University of Maryland, College Park. But don’t let the insignia fool you. Both gentlemen, I suspect, are movie fans at heart ...

Pound & Co.

August Kleinzahler: Davenport and Kenner, 26 September 2019

Questioning Minds: Vols I-II: The Letters of Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner 
edited by Edward Burns.
Counterpoint, 1817 pp., $95, October 2018, 978 1 61902 181 5
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... editor in the early 1960s. It must have seemed strange to read the poetry of Pound, Williams, Robert Duncan, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Robert Creeley and Louis Zukofsky in a right-wing political journal. ‘Don’t worry about the Birch boys,’ Kenner wrote to Davenport in 1961, trying to persuade him to contribute to the ...

He speaks too loud

David Blackbourn: Brecht, 2 July 2014

Bertolt Brecht: A Literary Life 
by Stephen Parker.
Bloomsbury, 704 pp., £30, February 2014, 978 1 4081 5562 2
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... as an émigré, and returned to Berlin only to clash with the East German apparatchiks. Stephen Parker’s superb biography of a great iconoclastic writer is impressively sourced, rich in detail, well-paced, highly readable yet serious. His Brecht was chastened by the dark times, but remained what his friend and stage designer Caspar Neher called him in his ...

Anglo-Irish Occasions

Seamus Heaney, 5 May 1988

... in Belfast as part of a series that included Seamus Deane, Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, Stewart Parker, James Simmons, and several other Northern Irish poets whose voices were beginning to raise themselves in the mid-Sixties. To hear John Carey now, almost a quarter of a century later, go farther still along that road of praise is consequently all the more ...

Crypto-Republican

Simon Adams: Was Mary Queen of Scots a Murderer?, 11 June 2009

Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I 
by Stephen Alford.
Yale, 412 pp., £25, May 2008, 978 0 300 11896 4
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... Cecils’ used to destroy their enemies. The Ridolphi Plot was re-examined by Geoffrey Parker in a 2001 lecture on ‘The Place of Tudor England in the Messianic Vision of Philip II of Spain’. Parker could find no evidence that Ridolphi was an English agent, but Guy continued to maintain that he was. Alford is ...

Shapeshifter

Ian Penman: Elvis looks for meaning, 24 September 2014

Elvis Has Left the Building: The Day the King Died 
by Dylan Jones.
Duckworth, 307 pp., £16.99, July 2014, 978 0 7156 4856 8
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Elvis Presley: A Southern Life 
by Joel Williamson.
Oxford, 384 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 19 986317 4
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... His older twin, Jesse Garon, was stillborn. (There was ugly gossip later that the doctor, William Robert Hunt, might have had a drink; that he might have saved Jesse if he hadn’t been so preoccupied with the surprise appearance of a second child. But the Presleys were satisfied with his work and Dr Hunt received his standard $15 payment from the county.) In ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Miles Ahead’, 18 May 2016

Miles Ahead 
directed by Don Cheadle.
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... New York, the names were John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bill Evans and a few others, heirs to Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, spoken of with awe in every version of the story. Something called West Coast jazz, thought by many to be an oxymoron, was making itself heard in the persons of Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Shelly Manne and Dave Brubeck. Davis made the ...

At the Barbican

Saul Nelson: Jean-Michel Basquiat, 4 January 2018

... a jagged strip of canvas left bare at the top. It’s reminiscent of Clyfford Still, or one of Robert Motherwell’s blue paintings: the old Abstract Expressionist elite, New York’s first artistic avant-garde, are seldom far from Basquiat’s large-scale works. His favourite painter, apart from Cy Twombly, was Franz Kline. But, as in Twombly’s ...

There are some limits Marlowes just won’t cross

Christopher Tayler: Banville’s Marlowe, 2 April 2014

The Black-Eyed Blonde 
by Benjamin Black.
Mantle, 320 pp., £16.99, February 2014, 978 1 4472 3668 9
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... Britons, a species Banville loves to scrutinise. And Banville has always written well about drink. Robert B. Parker, the last novelist to try on Chandler’s shoes, was a three-books-a-year man – his main hero was a private eye called Spenser – who’d done a PhD on hardboiled literature. His first effort, Poodle Springs ...

No snarling

Fatema Ahmed: P.G. Wodehouse, 3 November 2005

Wodehouse 
by Joseph Connolly.
Haus, 192 pp., £9.99, September 2004, 1 904341 68 3
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Wodehouse: A Life 
by Robert McCrum.
Penguin, 542 pp., £8.99, September 2005, 0 14 100048 1
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... of two and lived with a succession of relatives; at the age of five he went to boarding-school. Robert McCrum calculates that ‘in total, Wodehouse saw his parents for barely six months between the ages of three and 15.’ After he left Dulwich College, to which he remained deeply attached for the rest of his life, his father got him a job at the Hong Kong ...

Diary

Adam Shatz: Ornette Coleman, 15 July 2015

... the Five Spot was to free jazz of the bop conventions it had settled into. Coleman loved Charlie Parker’s music – he wrote a tune called ‘Bird Food’3 and could mimic Parker brilliantly – but, as he put it in the liner notes to Change of the Century, he felt that ‘the idolisation of Bird … has finally come to ...

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