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Cardinal’s Hat

Robert​ Blake

23 January 1986
Cardinal Manning: A Biography 
by Robert Gray.
Weidenfeld, 366 pp., £16.95, August 1985, 0 297 78674 1
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... The history of Cardinal Manning’s biographies is a remarkable one. When he died, on 14 January 1892, ‘no reputation ever appeared more secure,’ as Mr Gray rightly says. His death occurred on the same day as that of the Duke of Clarence, who, had he lived, would have become King of England. Normally the passing of the next heir to the throne would ...

Unpranked Lyre

John Mullan: The Laziness of Thomas Gray

13 December 2001
Thomas GrayA Life 
by Robert​ Mack.
Yale, 718 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 300 08499 4
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... It is said that, the night before the capture of Quebec from the French in 1759, General Wolfe read Gray’s Elegy aloud to his officers as they crossed the St Lawrence River. ‘I would rather have been the author of that piece than beat the French tomorrow,’ he is supposed to have said. Presumably ...

Gray’s Elegy

Jonathan Coe

8 October 1992
Poor Things 
by Alasdair Gray.
Bloomsbury, 317 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 7475 1246 9
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... This is Alasdair Gray’s funniest novel, his most high-spirited, and his least uneven. All of which does not necessarily make it his best, but certainly means that we have a nice surprise on our hands when you consider ...

Flattery and Whining

William Gass: Prologomania

5 October 2000
The Book of Prefaces 
edited by Alasdair Gray.
Bloomsbury, 639 pp., £35, May 2000, 0 7475 4443 3
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... Alasdair Gray has opened his Book of Prefaces with what he calls an Advertisement and followed that with an essay ‘On What Led to English Literature’. Since he deliberately does not distinguish between the ...

Lithe Pale Girls

Robert​ Crawford: Richard Aldington

22 January 2015
Richard Aldington: Poet, Soldier and Lover 1911-29 
by Vivien Whelpton.
Lutterworth, 414 pp., £30, January 2015, 978 0 7188 9318 7
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... her love of Greek, wrote poetry, was erotically experienced and had determinedly changed his name. She didn’t like her own name much either. Some years earlier she had written stories as ‘Edith Gray’; most often, though, in literature and in life, she was called H.D. The story of the love affair has been told before, and was set in its wider English and American contexts especially thoroughly ...

Two Poems

August Kleinzahler

4 January 2007
... creamy emulsions, sticking like putrefactive velcro. The refrigerator switches on in the darkness, a murmuring, perfervid sadhu close at hand. Turbidity, gases, a silky clouding over – gray slime spreads across hot dog casings, a sour reechiness transpires below. However much by day we shore up our defenses, darling, over time they find their way back to slowly assail our dwindling ...

Because We Could

David Simpson: Soldiers and Torture

18 November 2010
None of Us Were Like This Before: American Soldiers and Torture 
by Joshua Phillips.
Verso, 237 pp., £16.99, September 2010, 978 1 84467 599 9
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... American soldiers he does discuss tend to follow the same sequence: homecoming, deep regret, depression, sometimes suicide. His two principal homecoming narratives certainly follow this pattern. Adam Gray was a sergeant in the tank regiment in which his friend Jonathan Millantz was a combat medic. There is strong evidence that both committed suicide, although their deaths were ruled accidental by the ...
17 July 1980
Imagining America 
by Peter Conrad.
Routledge, 319 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7100 0370 6
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... a friend in London, who was going to put them with a “safe” friend to have them typed. The friend collapsed and they are hung up. I don’t want to go to an ordinary typist.’ he wrote to Cecil Gray. Peter Conrad’s readings of Lawrence are utterly tone-deaf, and not to be able to listen to Lawrence, to move with the cadences of his voice, is not to know what he is saying. As a characteristic ...

Heliotrope

John Sutherland

3 December 1992
Robert​ Louis Stevenson: Dreams of Exile 
by Ian Bell.
Mainstream, 295 pp., £14.99, November 1992, 1 85158 457 9
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... that, however moist-eyed, they carry with them an undimmed recollection of how awful the place was and how right any sane person is to get out and stay out: ‘There is no special loveliness in that gray country, with its rainy, sea-beat archipelago; its fields of dark mountains; its unsightly places, black with coal; its treeless, sour, unfriendly-looking cornlands; its quaint, gray, castled city ...

Last in the Funhouse

Patrick Parrinder

17 April 1986
Gerald’s Party 
by Robert​ Coover.
Heinemann, 316 pp., £10.95, April 1986, 0 434 14290 5
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Caracole 
by Edmund White.
Picador, 342 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 330 29291 9
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Lake Wobegon Days 
by Garrison Keillor.
Faber, 337 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 571 13846 2
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In Country 
by Bobbie Ann Mason.
Chatto, 245 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 7011 3034 2
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... academic honours and large royalty cheques. The heavy price which novelists since Henry James had had to pay for being labelled as experimental artists was, it seemed, no longer being exacted. Robert Coover, born in 1932, certainly has no reason to complain of neglect. ‘America’s most outrageous novelist presents a new, wildly comic and erotic entertainment,’ screamed the paperback edition ...

We simply do not know!

John Gray: Keynes

19 November 2009
Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism 
by George Akerlof and Robert​ Shiller.
Princeton, 230 pp., £16.95, February 2009, 978 0 691 14233 3
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... few of those who urge that we go back to him seem to have understood why he believed this. Apart from a brief postscript to one of the chapters and a few remarks in the preface, George Akerlof and Robert Shiller’s Animal Spirits was written before the current crisis. Yet, based on research undertaken over many years, it can be read as prefiguring the current disillusionment with economics. The ...

The Right to Murder

Gaby Wood: ‘In a Lonely Place’

22 March 2018
In a Lonely Place 
by Dorothy B. Hughes.
NYRB, 224 pp., $14.95, August 2017, 978 1 68137 147 4
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In a Lonely Place 
directed by Nicholas Ray.
Criterion Collection, £14.99
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... just petulance. A couple of feeble jokes.’ Dix doesn’t let up. ‘I grant you, the jokes could have been better, but I don’t see why the rest should worry you.’ Enter his alibi: Laurel Gray, a neighbour who saw him come home with Atkinson. At the threshold of the captain’s office she raises an eyebrow, just slightly, and over the next few moments it becomes clear that, for the ...

Beauty + Terror

Kevin Kopelson: Robert​ Mapplethorpe

29 June 2016
Robert​ Mapplethorpe: The Archive 
by Frances Terpak and Michelle Brunnick.
Getty Research Institute, 240 pp., £32.50, March 2016, 978 1 60606 470 2
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Robert​ Mapplethorpe: The Photographs 
by Paul Martineau and Britt Salvesen.
Getty Museum, 340 pp., £40, March 2016, 978 1 60606 469 6
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... if not also envy, of the almost impossible beauty of these men – all of them white men – shown naked on the page. Self-portrait for the ‘Don’t Touch Here’ exhibition announcement by Robert Mapplethorpe (1973) If you were also very shy, as Robert Mapplethorpe was (born in 1946, he was in the 1960s still a very young artist making jewellery, collages and assemblages inspired by Joseph ...

Bad Shepherd

Robert​ Crawford: James Hogg

5 April 2001
The Collected Works of James Hogg. Vol. VIII: The ‘Spy’ 
edited by Gillian Hughes.
Edinburgh, 641 pp., £60, March 2000, 9780748613656
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... Blind Hary’s Wallace; and in the brassy Reformation of John Knox it blares even in the sophisticated George Buchanan’s over-the-top ‘Elegy for Jean Calvin’. The volume remains high in some of Robert Fergusson’s sophistic-performative street-talk, Burns’s on-off, rip-roaring ‘Tam o’Shanter’, MacDiarmid’s last trump blawing ‘tootle-ootle-oo’, Edwin Morgan’s Loch Ness Monstering ...

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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... as a bard. In the next century, the idea of the bard became linked to Homeric epic. By 1735 the 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 ...

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