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His One Eye Glittering

August Kleinzahler: Creeley’s Chatter, 20 May 2021

The Selected Letters of Robert Creeley 
edited by Rod Smith, Peter Baker and Kaplan Harris.
California, 467 pp., £25, March 2020, 978 0 520 32483 1
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... Logorrhoea:​ Charles Olson, Robert Duncan and Robert Creeley were all afflicted with it. I only ever witnessed Duncan’s performances – free-form, extended, mostly improvised soliloquies. The one I remember best was at the poet Carl Rakosi’s house. It was many years ago, but I think he touched on Plato, Beethoven, Milton, Tom Thumb, Lysistrata, the genus Asterias (starfish) and the song ‘Penny Lane ...

Carers or Consumers?

Barbara Taylor: 18th-Century Women, 4 November 2010

Women and Enlightenment in 18th-Century Britain 
by Karen O’Brien.
Cambridge, 310 pp., £17.99, March 2009, 978 0 521 77427 7
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... context of a rapidly commercialising society emphatically was; and it made womanhood a lightning rod for attitudes to capitalist modernity. What Adam Smith’s pupil John Millar decried as the ‘habits of avarice’ of ‘polished nations’ generated much moral disquiet in 18th-century Britain. People fretted about ...

Ways to Be Pretentious

Ian Penman, 5 May 2016

M Train 
by Patti Smith.
Bloomsbury, 253 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6768 6
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Collected Lyrics 1970-2015 
by Patti Smith.
Bloomsbury, 303 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6300 8
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... to remember punk but a neo-hippy these days – recently mentioned she’d been to see Patti Smith, who was touring her 1975 album, Horses, for its 40th anniversary. ‘Patti, yeah! Went to see her at the Roundhouse. Paid £30, which I didn’t think was too bad … Didn’t stay that long, though’ – snip, snip – ‘Went up the front and had a ...

State of the Art

John Lanchester, 1 June 1989

Manchester United: The Betrayal of a Legend 
by Michael Crick and David Smith.
Pelham, 246 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 7207 1783 3
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Football in its Place: An Environmental Psychology of Football Grounds 
by David Canter, Miriam Comber and David Uzzell.
Routledge, 173 pp., £10.95, May 1989, 0 415 01240 6
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... degeneration. Luckily the hearties don’t have it all their own way. Michael Crick’s and David Smith’s book describes how, at the same time as Stan Cullis was assembling his Wolves team, Matt Busby at Manchester United was embarking on a managerial career uniquely committed to attractive attacking football. The triumph’n tragedy saga of United under ...

On Spanking

Christopher Hitchens, 20 October 1994

AGuide to the Correction of Young Gentlemen or, The Successful Administration of Physical Discipline to Males, by Females 
by a Lady, with illustrations by a Former Pupil.
Delectus, 140 pp., £19.95, August 1994, 1 897767 05 6
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... And here also was a good test, because Thatcher had attacked the two-party consensus on the Smith-Muzorewa deal, suggesting that if elected she would lift sanctions on Salisbury.At once we were in an argument. Of Joshua Nkomo I remember her saying: ‘I think Joshua is absolutely sweet.’ That was the least of our disagreements. On one point of ...


Conor Gearty: Various Forms of Sleaze, 24 November 1994

... successor in Finchley, Hartley Booth, have left office under a moral cloud. Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith are part of a long Tory tradition. If we throw our minds back to the Thatcher age, various forms of sleaze are associated with the names of Cecil Parkinson, Nicholas Fairbairn and Patrick Nicholls. Leaving aside the proper ‘constitutional’ resignations ...

Excellent Enigmas

Christopher Reid, 24 January 1980

Lies and Secrets 
by John Fuller.
Secker, 70 pp., £3.50, October 1980, 0 436 16753 0
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by John Matthias.
Anvil, 125 pp., £3.25, October 1980, 0 85646 035 4
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Growing Up 
by Michael Horovitz.
Allison and Busby, 96 pp., £4.95, October 1980, 0 85031 232 9
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Report to the Working Party. Asylum. Otiose [preceded by] After 
by Anthony Barnett.
Nothing Doing, 121 pp., £4.80, August 1980, 0 901494 17 8
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... hectically rhetorical, and too often mawkish or twee. The drawings are very much School of Stevie Smith, but even worse than hers, and the lay-out of the book brings to mind those reactionary underground magazines of the Sixties, where clutter and muddle were the major aesthetic aims. The title, Report to the Working Party. Asylum. Otiose [preceded ...

Mondeo Man in the Driving Seat

Ross McKibbin: Blair’s Government at Mid-Term (1999), 30 September 1999

... see, reform of the House hasn’t progressed much beyond the dropping of one gold stick or black rod (or something) from the ceremonial opening of Parliament. In fact, in its approach to the political system and ‘modernisation’, the Blair Government is much more like John Major’s than people have noticed. The attack, both rhetorical and actual, on ...

Tit for Tat

Margaret Anne Doody, 21 December 1989

Eighteenth-Century Women Poets: An Oxford Anthology 
edited by Roger Lonsdale.
Oxford, 555 pp., £20, September 1989, 0 19 811769 8
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... as his Preface notes, women found inspiration in the work of female predecessors. Kissing the Rod: An Anthology of 17th-Century Women’s Verse (1988), edited by Germaine Greer and others, an anthology which does not modernise the ‘incidentals’, is a valuable supplement to Lonsdale’s collection. To begin in 1700 is to begin in the midst of ...

Hopeless Warriors

Michael Gorra: Sherman Alexie’s novels, 5 March 1998

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven 
by Sherman Alexie.
Vintage, 223 pp., £6.99, September 1997, 9780749386696
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Reservation Blues 
by Sherman Alexie.
Minerva, 306 pp., £6.99, September 1996, 0 7493 9513 3
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Indian Killer 
by Sherman Alexie.
Secker, 420 pp., £9.99, September 1997, 0 436 20433 9
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... can’t manage the necessary tonal shift out of what has largely been a comic novel; it’s as if Rod Stewart were to try on Die Winterreise. Indian Killer is in every sense a bigger book than its predecessors: longer and yet tighter in structure, far more ambitious and far less good-humoured. The novel’s initial premise suggests a powerful literary ...

Watermonster Blues

William Wootten: Edwin Morgan, 18 November 2004

Edwin Morgan: Inventions of Modernity 
by Colin Nicholson.
Manchester, 216 pp., £40, October 2002, 0 7190 6360 4
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translated by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 118 pp., £6.95, November 2002, 1 85754 588 5
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by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 128 pp., £6.95, November 2002, 1 85754 617 2
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... club. So Morgan’s decision to stay outside the gates, to identify with the demon with his metal rod rather than Aeneas and his golden bough, neatly subverts tradition and the wish to be Virgilian. Morgan seems happy to leave greatness to others and to stay on the side of the lively, noisy, monstrous and mischievous. Demon music may not always sound ...

Short Cuts

Peter Geoghegan: At NatCon London, 1 June 2023

... doesn’t work. Totalitarian leftism doesn’t work either.’ The conservative commentator Rod Dreher tweeted: ‘Sounds like he is absorbing the Viktor Orbán lesson.’ Among the speakers at NatCon London was Frank Furedi, the former leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party who currently heads the Brussels branch of a private Hungarian college ...

Get off your knees

Ferdinand Mount: An Atheist in the House, 30 June 2011

Dare to Stand Alone: The Story of Charles Bradlaugh, Atheist and Republican 
by Bryan Niblett.
Kramedart, 391 pp., £19.99, January 2011, 978 0 9564743 0 8
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... in attitudes, practices and institutions. As a journalist, he was in trouble from the start. W.H. Smith, by the 1850s a presence at every large railway station, refused to stock the National Reformer, out of a hostility towards subversive publications which the firm has sturdily maintained throughout the succeeding 150 years. In 1868, the attorney-general ...

England rejects

V.G. Kiernan, 19 March 1987

The Fatal Shore: A History of the Transportation of Convicts to Australia, 1787-1868 
by Robert Hughes.
Collins Harvill, 688 pp., £15, January 1987, 0 00 217361 1
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Rights of Passage: Emigration to Australia in the 19th Century 
by Helen Woolcock.
Tavistock, 377 pp., £25, September 1986, 9780422602402
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... the end, most judges, bishops, statesmen, continued firmly opposed to any thought of sparing the rod. Two notables who figure in these pages in a very unfavourable light are that fun-loving clergyman, Sydney Smith, and the then unregenerate Tory, Gladstone. George Arthur, governor of Van Diemen’s Land or Tasmania from ...

In Time of Schism

Fraser MacDonald, 16 March 2023

... lugubrious TV cleric, the Reverend I.M. Jolly, to the non-fictional ‘Ferry Reverend’, Angus Smith, whose protest against the introduction of Sunday sailings to Skye in 1965 came to an end when police carted him off the slipway. Such images inspired Tom Nairn’s counterblast that ‘Scotland won’t be free until the last minister is strangled with the ...

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