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Mark Ford: Donald Justice, 16 November 2006

Collected Poems 
by Donald Justice.
Anvil, 289 pp., £15, June 2006, 0 85646 386 8
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... Words by Weldon Kees’, ‘Variations on a Theme from James’, ‘After a Phrase Abandoned by Wallace Stevens’, ‘Variations on a Text by Vallejo’, ‘A Variation on Baudelaire’s “La Servante au grand coeur”’. ‘American Scenes (1904-1905)’ is quarried almost entirely from Henry James’s account of his return to his homeland and the ...

Drinking and Spewing

Sally Mapstone: The Variousness of Robert Fergusson, 25 September 2003

‘Heaven-Taught Fergusson’: Robert Burns’s Favourite Scottish Poet 
edited by Robert Crawford.
Tuckwell, 240 pp., £14.99, August 2002, 1 86232 201 5
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... Robert Fergusson died in Edinburgh’s Bedlam on 17 October 1774. He was 24 years old. He had been admitted to the asylum three months before, against his will, because his mother could no longer look after him. Having been persuaded by some friends that he was being taken out in a sedan chair to visit another acquaintance, he was conveyed instead to a cell in the asylum, a sepulchrous building abutting the old city wall ...

Coup de Guinness

Robert Morley, 5 December 1985

Blessings in Disguise 
by Alec Guinness.
Hamish Hamilton, 238 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 241 11681 3
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... on the tight rope before the Tsar. A visit to the Coliseum gave him his first glimpse of Nellie Wallace. Afterwards he insisted on foregoing the ice-cream proffered by his hostess, to spend the money instead on flowers which he left at the stage door. He got the ice-cream as well, however, and spent a month in bed afterwards and was fairly ill on and off ...

Bard of Friendly Fire

Robert Crawford: The Radical Burns, 25 July 2002

Robert Burns: Poems 
edited by Don Paterson.
Faber, 96 pp., £4.99, February 2001, 0 571 20740 5
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The Canongate Burns: The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns 
edited by Andrew Noble and Patrick Scott Hogg.
Canongate, 1017 pp., £40, November 2001, 0 86241 994 8
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... Aberdeen philosopher Thomas Blackwell was writing that Homer was a ‘stroling indigent Bard’. Robert Burns liked that idea. In ‘Love and Liberty’ a bard sings alongside prostitutes and tinkers, and pronounces himself ‘Homer like’. Burns’s footnote (Burns enjoyed footnotes) points out cheekily that ‘Homer is allowed to be the oldest ...

The Only Way

Mark Leier, 8 March 2001

Canada’s Tibet: The Killing of the Innu 
by Colin Samson and James Wilson et al.
Survival International, 51 pp., £5, November 1999, 0 7567 0419 7
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Give Me My Father’s Body: The Life of Minik, the New York Eskimo 
by Kenn Harper.
Profile, 277 pp., £9.99, August 2000, 1 86197 252 0
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... 1897, six Greenland Inuit, including six-year-old Minik and his father, Qisuk, were taken by Robert Peary to New York City and put on display. Peary needed money for further expeditions to the North Pole, and the Inuit, together with an iron-rich meteorite he stole from them, would attract investment for his Arctic adventures. The Inuit were, for a short ...

Incandescences

Richard Poirier, 20 December 1979

The Powers that Be 
by David Halberstam.
Chatto, 771 pp., £9.95
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... own, scorned by the opinion-makers, and written off by the pollsters, Truman defeated Dewey (and Wallace) in 1948 by talking to crowds from the back of a train on a whistle-stop tour across the country, and by holding together the old coalition of labour, the South and the big-city machines. There are some amusing vignettes which reveal the efforts of ...

On Nicholas Moore

Peter Howarth: Nicholas Moore, 23 September 2015

... venue for Dylan Thomas and the New Apocalypse poets, but his real coup had been to get several Wallace Stevens poems published in Britain, much to Stevens’s pleasure. Meanwhile, his own poems kept coming, and by 1944 a Selected, The Glass Tower, came out, expensively illustrated by Lucian Freud. He got married to a woman called Priscilla Craig, whom he ...

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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... different, are unimaginable without Pound, early Eliot, William Carlos Williams and perhaps Wallace Stevens as forerunners. This is the main stream of modern American poetry. In England the picture is very different. Pound is grudgingly acknowledged, distrusted, kept at a distance. Eliot holds his place, but not the revolutionary Eliot. Eliot didn’t ...

Diary

Zachary Leader: Oscar Talk at the Huntington, 16 April 1998

... have a large collection of Monets (say) than that Buffalo University should have a collection of Robert Graves manuscripts (say). I view with unconcern the drift of British manuscripts to America, where our language is spoken and our literature studied. So one must travel to California to read, for example, Amis’s several unpublished novels: the ...

Snakes and Leeches

Rosemary Hill: The Great Stink, 4 January 2018

One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli and the Great Stink of 1858 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Yale, 352 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 300 22726 0
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... weaves together the lives of the famous, the obscure and the forgotten. Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning plan their elopement. Samuel Rogers entertains the Gräfin Hahn-Hahn, a romantic novelist who has come to meet her English public and disappoints them by turning out to have false teeth and a glass eye. The painter Benjamin Haydon approaches a ...

Visitors! Danger!

Lorraine Daston: Charles Darwin, 8 May 2003

Charles Darwin. Vol. II: The Power of Place 
by Janet Browne.
Cape, 591 pp., £25, November 2002, 0 224 04212 2
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... one crucial difference between Darwin and the co-discoverer of natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace, it was what Wallace himself praised as the ‘vast accumulation of evidence’ mustered in the Origin. Over the years, Darwin had drawn together an encyclopedia of facts to support his argument, and those facts had in ...

What the Public Most Wants to See

Christopher Tayler: Rick Moody, 23 February 2006

The Diviners 
by Rick Moody.
Faber, 567 pp., £12.99, January 2006, 0 571 22946 8
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... the ‘Research and Development’ arm of American fiction – the tradition of Thomas Pynchon, Robert Coover, William Gaddis and Don DeLillo. That might not sound hard if you think of R&D as a matter of surface effects: pop-cultural references, metafictional gestures, glazed irony and so on. But for Moody (b.1961), as for Jonathan Franzen (b.1959) and ...

Deny and Imply

J. Robert Lennon: Gary Shteyngart, 16 December 2010

Super Sad True Love Story 
by Gary Shteyngart.
Granta, 331 pp., £12.99, September 2010, 978 1 84708 103 2
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... Lethem’s stoned underachievers, with their mad ideas that turn out to be right. David Foster Wallace gave us protagonists who shunned the physical world in favour of the knottier, more intractable challenges of the mind; George Saunders offers comic heroes who fail excellently. Turn the book over, lift up the flap. We don’t look too bad in black and ...

Transcendental Criticism

David Trotter, 3 March 1988

The Renewal of Literature: Emersonian Reflections 
by Richard Poirier.
Faber, 256 pp., £14.95, March 1988, 0 571 15013 6
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... Sense of Henry James (1960) through A World Elsewhere (1966) and The Performing Self (1971) to Robert Frost: The Work of Knowing (1977), Poirier has pursued a consistent and inventive enquiry into literary language, and into the politics of literary language. ‘When a writer is most strongly engaged by what he is doing, as if struggling for his identity ...

Bogwogs

Paul Foot, 19 April 1990

War without Honour 
by Fred Holroyd and Nick Bainbridge.
Medium, 184 pp., £6.95, November 1989, 1 872398 00 6
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... soon afterwards in a series of cases which brought Holroyd into open revolt. An SAS officer called Robert Nairac gave Holroyd a Polaroid photograph of the dead body of an IRA leader called John Green. Nairac, later to be shot himself, told Holroyd he had taken the picture after personally shooting Green. Nairac said that he and two Protestant terrorists had ...

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