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The Cool Machine

Stephen Walsh: Ravel

25 August 2011
by Roger Nichols.
Yale, 430 pp., £25, April 2011, 978 0 300 10882 8
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... Trying to pin Ravel down,’ RogerNichols writes in his penultimate paragraph, ‘is about as futile as trying to catch Scarbo in a bucket.’ It may seem a disconcerting admission to find at the end of a 350-page biography; but in fact it ...
26 September 1991
Gabriel Fauré: A Musical Life 
by Jean-Michel Nectoux, translated by Roger Nichols.
Cambridge, 646 pp., £45, April 1991, 0 521 23524 3
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Pierre Boulez 
by Dominique Jameux, translated by Susan Bradshaw.
Faber, 422 pp., £25, March 1991, 9780571137442
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Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship 
by Pierre Boulez, translated by Stephen Walsh.
Oxford, 316 pp., £40, August 1991, 0 19 311210 8
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... melodies, and finds more interest in Fauré’s orchestration (often assumed to be non-existent, since much of it was farmed out) than have many commentators. He informs us that, ‘according to Roger Ducasse, Debussy admired the orchestration of [the opera] Pénélope and compared it with that of Parsifal,’ and concludes his discussion with an italicised allusion to Debussy’s description of ...
4 April 1996
The Messiaen Companion 
edited by Peter Hill.
Faber, 581 pp., £40, March 1995, 0 571 17033 1
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Olivier Messiaen: Music and Colour. Conversations with Claude Samuel 
translated by Thomas Glasow.
Amadeus, 296 pp., $29.95, May 1994, 0 931340 67 5
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... hymn-like melodies of glacial austerity and near-immobility. The fifth is for cello and the eighth for violin, each accompanied throughout by the simplest possible throb of chords on the piano. As RogerNichols wrote twenty years ago, ‘the two accompanied solos for stringed instruments and the third movement for clarinet alone cannot be appreciated by, and could not have been written by, a man in ...

Rogering in Merryland

Thomas Keymer: The Unspeakable Edmund Curll

13 December 2007
Edmund Curll, Bookseller 
by Paul Baines and Pat Rogers.
Oxford, 388 pp., £30, January 2007, 978 0 19 927898 5
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... he published (his trenchant notes survive from a tour of Oxfordshire churches, where he met ‘Mr Tuder of Checkendon, Rich Large, Lame, Lecherous and Impertinent’), and he was credited by John Nichols in the 19th century ‘for his Industry in preserving our National Remains’. Curll published good as well as bad scholarship and criticism (the manuscript reference to ‘Home Defended, an ...


Christopher Ricks

22 November 1990
Bloomsbury Dictionary of Dedications 
edited by Adrian Room.
Bloomsbury, 354 pp., £17.99, September 1990, 0 7475 0521 7
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Unauthorised Versions: Poems and their Parodies 
edited by Kenneth Baker.
Faber, 446 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 0 571 14122 6
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The Faber Book of Vernacular Verse 
edited by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 407 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 571 14470 5
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... obsequious, unkind, mawkish, ego-boosting and (again) pedantic. He rather relishes pointing out the occasions when a dedication got overtaken by events like divorce and re-marriage. Beverley Nichols, the wastrel, is said to have gone in for ‘sniping’. If you want a good book on dedications, look out for a second-hand copy of Henry B. Wheatley’s The Dedication of Books to Patron and Friend ...

Made for TV

Jenny Diski

14 December 1995
Fight & Kick & Bite: The Life and Work of Dennis Potter 
by W. Stephen Gilbert.
Hodder, 382 pp., £18.99, November 1995, 0 340 64047 2
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Dennis Potter: A Life on Screen 
by John Cook.
Manchester, 368 pp., £45, October 1995, 0 7190 4601 7
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... culture, a force for the good, which might use the excitement of art to unify a rigidly stratified nation. The BBC bureaucrats, for their part, looked on the likes of Potter and David Mercer, Peter Nichols and David Rudkin as the means of fulfilling their commitment to public service broadcasting, which, of necessity included ‘the arts’. Somewhere in between, the executive producer Sydney Newman ...

Best Remain Seated

Jeremy Harding: Travel guides

1 January 1998
by Hugh Finlay and Geoff Crowther.
Lonely Planet, 376 pp., £11.99, April 1997, 0 86442 460 4
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by Robert Pelton Young.
Fielding, 632 pp., £13.95, December 1995, 1 56952 026 7
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Asia's Top Dive Sites 
edited by Fiona Nichols and Michael Stachels.
Fielding, 228 pp., £13.95, December 1996, 1 56952 129 8
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South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland 
by Jon Murray et al.
Lonely Planet, 658 pp., £13.99, January 1998, 0 86442 508 2
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Southern Africa 
by Richard Cox.
Thornton Cox, 474 pp., £11.95, July 1995, 0 7818 0388 8
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The World's Most Dangerous Places 
by Robert Pelton Young.
Fielding, 1048 pp., £13.95, December 1997, 1 56952 104 2
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South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland 
by Barbara McCrea et al.
Rough Guides, 697 pp., £12.99, October 1997, 1 85828 238 1
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The Good Honeymoon Guide 
by Lucy Horne.
Trailblazer, 320 pp., £11.95, March 1997, 1 873756 12 7
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Amnesty International Report 1997 
Amnesty International, 378 pp., £18, June 1997, 0 86210 267 7Show More
by Barnaby Rogerson.
Cadogan, 596 pp., £12.99, December 1997, 1 86011 043 6
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... who wants his readers to get their noses out of his books and start walking. The prudent armchair traveller will turn at once to more interesting accounts of Central Africa by Westerners (Conrad, Roger Casement, Hergé, Redmond O’Hanlon, anything but RPY). But this guide for people who live in a fog of adrenaline scores high by including the United States on its list, proudly sandwiched between ...

Sudden Elevations of Mind

Colin Burrow: Dr Johnson

17 February 2011
The Works of Samuel Johnson, Vols XXI-XXIII: The Lives of the Poets 
edited by John Middendorf.
Yale, 1696 pp., £180, July 2010, 978 0 300 12314 2
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... but whose pastiche of the Johnsonian style painfully illustrates how hard that style is to emulate. Even with these short cuts, and even with the assistance of the aspiring young antiquary John Nichols, Johnson could not keep pace with the expectations of the commercial press. The prefaces, indeed, became postfaces: the first 22 lives appeared in 1779, after the volumes of poems to which they were ...

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