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The Other Half

Robert Melville, 4 July 1985

Kenneth Clark: A Biography 
by Meryle Secrest.
Weidenfeld, 310 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 9780297783985
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... Suddenly I thought: ‘My God, he’s going to speak to me!’ ‘Am I right in thinking you’re Robert Melville?’ he said. ‘My name is Clark.’ ‘Indisputably, Sir Kenneth,’ I answered. I remember the word I used, because as soon as I said it I realised that it was ludicrously inappropriate. And I went on quickly: ‘It’s a fine Pasmore, isn’t ...

Mecca Bound

Robert Irwin, 21 July 1994

The Hajj: Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places 
by F.E. Peters.
Princeton, 399 pp., £19.95, July 1994, 0 691 02120 1
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Pilgrims and Sultans: The Hajj under the Ottomans 
by Suraiya Faroqhi.
Tauris, 244 pp., £34.50, May 1994, 1 85043 606 1
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The Hadj: A Pilgrimage to Mecca 
by Michael Wolfe.
Secker, 331 pp., £19.99, January 1994, 0 436 58404 2
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... In the section of The Anatomy of Melancholy devoted to the perils of religious enthusiasm, Robert Burton pauses briefly to comment on the complex and meritorious rituals of the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca: their fastings, their running till they sweat, their long prayers, Mahomets temple, tombe, and building of it, would aske a whole volume to dilate: and for their paines taken in this holy pilgrimage, all their sins are forgiven, and they are reputed so many saints ...

On Robert Silvers

Andrew O’Hagan: Remembering Robert Silvers, 20 April 2017

... on West 60th Street and held the menu up to the light, scrutinising it as if it was a precious stone. He ordered iced tea and turned to me. ‘I come here all the time,’ he said. ‘It means you can sit next to your friend and hear what they’re saying. It’s good to hear what your friend is saying.’ ‘Maybe half the time,’ I said. He laughed and ...

Three Poems

Robert Crawford, 24 June 2004

... down Maes Howe’s Five-thousand-year-old chute, Walked unbowed down its entrance passage Whose stone slabs weigh forty-five cars. Nine chased Nine with dog-track speed Round Orphir’s circular kirk, Dropped down rung after midnight rung Metres into Wideford Hill. Nine and Seven bounced and drummed On the capstone over Brough of Birsay’s Pictish ...

Croy. Ee. Gaw. Lonker. Pit

Robert Crawford, 19 July 2001

... Croy. Ee. Gaw. Thrawnly as a couple long and long for a child, Hopelessly, edgily, until their own stone opens. Croy. Ee. Gaw. Lonker. Pit. Pit: to dig holes, marking an edge. Pit: a portion, or a piece of land, a homestead, Pittenweem, Pitmillie, Pittodrie, Pittencrieff. Pit: the only syllable we know Was born from the obliterated Pictish language – One ...

Four Poems

Robert Crawford, 16 November 2000

... at Eye-level. Here’s the whole shebang that is Time, place and climate, ebbing, dancing, set In stone and motion, calmly at the ready Before and after, purled in helices, Every last atom pregnant with an A. Oan Paip J2 Genua cui patrem, genitricem Graecia, partum pontus et unda dedit, num bonus esse potes? fallaces Ligures, et mendax Graecia, ponto nulla ...

Still Defending the Scots

Katie Stevenson: Robert the Bruce, 11 September 2014

Robert the Bruce: King of the Scots 
by Michael Penman.
Yale, 443 pp., £25, June 2014, 978 0 300 14872 5
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... wants to be William Wallace.’ ‘No,’ Martin corrected him. ‘Alex Salmond wants to be Robert the Bruce.’ Wallace has been cast as ‘the people’s champion’, a role he played in the 1975 novel The Wallace by the prolific Nigel Tranter and, twenty years later, in Braveheart. But Martin was right that the appeal of Bruce would be significantly ...

Us and Them

Robert Taubman, 4 September 1980

The Secret Servant 
by Gavin Lyall.
Hodder, 224 pp., £5.50, June 1980, 0 340 25385 1
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The Flowers of the Forest 
by Joseph Hone.
Secker, 365 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 0 436 20087 2
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A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie 
by Robert Barnard.
Collins, 203 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 00 216190 7
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Enter the Lion: A Posthumus Memoir of Mycroft Holmes 
by Michael Hodel and Sean Wright.
Dent, 237 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 460 04483 4
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Dorothy I. Sayers: Nine Literary Studies 
by Trevor Hall.
Duckworth, 132 pp., £12.50, April 1980, 9780715614556
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Milk Dime 
by Barry Fantoni.
Hodder, 192 pp., £5.50, May 1980, 0 340 25350 9
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... private secretary is given a family set of rooms in Albany where, ‘coming in off the chilly stone staircase, Maxim and Agnes had walked through a time gate, back seventy-five years to the days when the Empire was built of solid dark mahogany and pictures of dead animals.’ A Secret Service chief disappears in Joseph Hone’s The Flowers of the Forest ...

Hiveward-Winging

Robert Irwin, 3 July 1997

Quarantine 
by Jim Crace.
Viking, 243 pp., £16.99, June 1997, 0 670 85697 5
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... painstaking figure, made thin and watery by the rising, mirage heat, as if someone had thrown a stone into the pool of air through which it walked and ripples diluted it.’ Crace’s insubstantial Jesus is barely glimpsed by the others. It is hard not to think of another place of rock and no water. Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I ...

How to Hiss and Huff

Robert Alter: Mann’s Moses, 2 December 2010

The Tables of the Law 
by Thomas Mann, translated by Marion Faber and Stephen Lehmann.
Haus, 113 pp., £10, October 2010, 978 1 906598 84 6
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... at the beginning of the book: ‘He himself had taken a fancy to his father’s blood kin, as the stone-carver fancies the shapeless block from which he intends to carve a fine, noble shape, the work of his hands.’ The metaphor of the sculptor recurs, obviously triggered by the fact that Moses will carve the ten ‘words’ (as the Hebrew puts it) in ...

Fill it with fish

Helen Cooper: The trail of the Grail, 6 June 2002

Parzival and the Stone from Heaven: A Grail Romance Retold for Our Time 
by Lindsay Clarke.
HarperCollins, 239 pp., £14.99, September 2001, 0 00 710813 3
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Merlin and the Grail: ‘Joseph of Arimathea’, ‘Merlin’, ‘Perceval’ The Trilogy of Arthurian Romances Attributed to Robert de Boron 
translated by Nigel Bryant.
Boydell and Brewer, 172 pp., £30, May 2001, 0 85991 616 2
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Le Livre du Graal. Tome I: ‘Joseph D’Arimathie’, ‘Merlin’, ‘Les Premiers Faits du Roi Arthur’ 
edited by Daniel Poirion and Philippe Walter.
Gallimard, 1993 pp., £50.95, April 2001, 2 07 011342 6
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... it is an end in itself, as it is not for that other object of infinite search, the philosopher’s stone. Alchemists at least knew what they wanted, how to set about looking for it, and what it would do once it had been discovered. The writers of Grail romances often barely knew what their knights were to look for, or how they should reach it, let alone what ...

Three Poems

Robert Crawford, 4 November 2004

... shone. A comet. A meteor. Shone, His shell a re-entering rocket, a capsule straight down like a stone From outer peace. Och, plunged in the innermost space Of the dream, he was sure he had lost, and so sure he had won In his way, and would have his day, the Spring Day Of the Slow Start. He played his part Well. He sang his dream and in the spring its claim ...

A Small, Sharp Stone

Ange Mlinko: Lydia Davis’s Lists, 2 December 2021

Essays One 
by Lydia Davis.
Hamish Hamilton, 512 pp., £20, November 2019, 978 0 241 37147 3
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Essays Two 
by Lydia Davis.
Hamish Hamilton, 571 pp., £20, December, 978 0 241 55465 4
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... Do you ease a scruple? Or do you calm a scruple? A scruple, etymologically, is a small, sharp stone. I often think of that etymology when I have an actual small, sharp stone in my shoe.’I’m unsure. The pieces in Essays One – divided into categories on ‘The Bible, Memory and the Passage of Time’, ‘The ...

‘I’m English,’ I said

Christopher Tayler: Colin Thubron, 14 July 2011

To a Mountain in Tibet 
by Colin Thubron.
Chatto, 227 pp., £16.99, February 2011, 978 0 7011 8379 0
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... into transcendental meditation and gets written up as a Muscovite avatar of a character out of Robert Stone or Joan Didion: Often silences fell between us. Much of the time I felt that she was not in my company at all, nor I in hers. She would close her eyes for long, still minutes, smiling crookedly … I don’t know how she conceived of me. She ...

His Peach Stone

Christopher Tayler: J.G. Farrell, 2 December 2010

J.G. Farrell in His Own Words: Selected Letters and Diaries 
edited by Lavinia Greacen.
Cork, 464 pp., €19.95, September 2010, 978 1 85918 476 9
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... it should have both these things – but whatever it is at the centre must be substantial like the stone in a peach and it must exist before one can ever begin to start thinking constructively. In May he decided to have a break and, on a friend’s recommendation, took a boat from Narragansett to Block Island. There he saw the charred remains of the Ocean ...

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