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Mostly Hoping, Not Planning

James Camp: Russell Banks

10 May 2012
Lost Memory of Skin 
by Russell Banks.
Clerkenwell, 416 pp., £12.99, March 2012, 978 1 84668 576 7
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... In the America of RussellBanks’s novels, men risk ruin to buy a new speedboat. A man who punches his wife tells himself he’s not actually a wife beater. Drunk driving is just one of those ‘little things’, but speaking ...
24 June 1993
Capitalism, Culture and Decline in Britain 1750-1990 
by W.D. Rubinstein.
Routledge, 182 pp., £25, April 1993, 0 415 03718 2
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British Multinational Banking 
by Geoffrey Jones.
Oxford, 511 pp., £48, March 1993, 0 19 820273 3
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Going for Broke: How Banking Mismanagement in the Eighties Lost Thousands of Billions of Pounds 
by Russell​ Taylor.
Simon and Schuster, 384 pp., £17.50, April 1993, 0 671 71128 8
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... industry, on the one hand, and finance and commerce, on the other. As Geoffrey Jones points out in his clear, sober and authoritative history of British multinational banking, the strength of those banks in the 19th century rested on British economic and political pre-eminence. Their core market was British business, whose requirements they serviced. Those who worked in finance and commerce were not ...

Wadham and Gomorrah

Conrad Russell

6 December 1984
The Poems of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester 
edited by Keith Walker.
Blackwell, 319 pp., £35, September 1984, 0 631 12573 6
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... Marvell, Horace, Ovid and others. Occasionally, a historian may wish he had considered other, less literary, sources: we may wonder, for example, whether the image of the river overflowing its banks in ‘The Advice’ owes anything to Strafford’s defence to Article Four of his impeachment, a source which would surely have been known to Rochester. A historian may make a bigger contribution by ...

Casualty Reports

Robert Taubman

5 February 1981
The White Hotel 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 240 pp., £6.95, January 1981, 0 575 02889 0
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Riddley Walker 
by Russell​ Hoban.
Cape, 220 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 224 01851 5
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The Last Crime 
by John Domatilla.
Heinemann, 155 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 434 20090 5
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... old narrator, the hangings and blindings in a benighted part of Kent (recalling King Lear), the ambiguous – both powerful and powerless – government officials, or merely the behaviour of dogs. Russell Hoban’s forecast of the future thus depends on the past, and his characters are aware of us. The men of How Fents make their living from digging our iron engines out of the mud, and Riddley Walker ...
8 November 2018
... had a better view of French troop positions outside Verdun. ‘Do something beautiful,’ Paul Cret, chair of the steering group of the American Battle Monuments Committee, told the architect, John Russell Pope, in 1925: ‘This is the most important monument and for this reason it has been entrusted to you.’ Pope was one of the most successful and visible American architects of the era – he ...

An American Genius

Patrick Parrinder

21 November 1991
The Runaway Soul 
by Harold Brodkey.
Cape, 835 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 224 03001 9
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... in the world behind the not entirely glass bell of my existence’, but The Runaway Soul resembles nothing so much as an airless bell-jar. A recent essay by a younger Midwestern writer, Scott Russell Sanders, deplores the virtual absence of any thorough-going representation of the non-human world – of nature and the cosmos – in contemporary American fiction. The first, and the least typical ...

Not a Damn Thing

Nick Laird: In Yeats’s wake

18 August 2005
Collected Poems 
by Patrick Kavanagh, edited by Antoinette Quinn.
Allen Lane, 299 pp., £25, September 2004, 0 7139 9599 8
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... John Bull’s Other Island. Kavanagh, predictably, thought Shaw a ‘bogus Irishman’. Kavanagh first arrived in 1931, symbolically and actually, on the Dublin doorstep of the poet and editor George Russell (Æ), having walked the sixty-odd miles from Inniskeen in his patched-up workclothes. He had already published a poem, ‘Ploughman’, in the Irish Statesman, a journal edited by Russell which ...

More than ever, and for ever

Michael Rogin: Beauvoir and Nelson Algren

17 September 1998
Beloved Chicago Man: Letters to Nelson Algren 1947-64 
by Simone de Beauvoir, edited by Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir.
Gollancz, 624 pp., £25, August 1998, 0 575 06590 7
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America Day by Day 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Carol Cosman.
California, 355 pp., $27.50, January 1999, 0 520 20979 6
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... in the new journalism, Algren wrote affecting pieces on losers – Bonnie and Clyde, the Chicago Black Sox, Gregorio Cortez. Such writers as Terry Southern, Kurt Vonnegut, Studs Turkel and RussellBanks were his partisans (the last three introducing posthumous reissues of the fiction). But Nelson Algren speaks for the Forties: he did not write a major work after the Cold War defeat of the American ...


Jonathan Coe

26 March 1992
Six Memos for the Next Millennium 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Patrick Creagh.
Cape, 124 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 224 03311 5
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Under the Jaguar Sun 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Cape, 86 pp., £10.99, February 1992, 0 224 03310 7
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The Fountains of Neptune 
by Rikki Ducornet.
Dalkey Archive, 220 pp., $19.95, February 1992, 0 916583 96 1
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Small Times 
by Russell​ Celyn Jones.
Viking, 212 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 670 84307 5
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... less than fascinating. It should be hunted down hungrily. ‘Water, both real and metaphorical, is in evidence everywhere,’ writes Nicolas at one point, and this observation certainly applies to Russell Celyn Jones’s second novel Small Times, much of which takes place alongside London’s canal ways and the banks of the Thames. Turning to this book involves a sudden sea-change, because we are back ...
16 August 1990
Sir Huge: The Life of Huw Wheldon 
by Paul Ferris.
Joseph, 307 pp., £18.99, June 1990, 0 7181 3464 8
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... and make his hero, implausibly, a presenter of short art films in the cinema. Wheldon could be extraordinarily insensitive. I remember the silver wedding party given by dear friends who lived on the banks of the Thames in an idyllic setting but where the architecture ran to the kind of bungalow celebrated by Kingsley Amis in The Riverside Villa Murder. Deputed to propose the couple’s health, Huw ...
18 February 2016
... alone change, this unjust system is crushed by the weight of a vast private-public bureaucracy, encompassing the police, the courts, the prison system, the civil service, large property-owners and banks, all embodied in the ruthless figure of a bureaucrat-aristocrat, personification of the careerist-capitalist elite, the sheriff of Nottingham. Two figures stand between the sheriff and the poor. One ...


Gerald Hammond: At the Races

3 July 1997
... money of up to £1750 in 1902, closed in 1961, its members’ stand now forming the reception building of Salford University. The next year, Hurst Park closed: a lovely, hospitable course on the banks of the Thames, not far from Hampton Park; where its winning post was, there is now a supermarket. In America such losses would hardly matter, since all their tracks are roughly the same, monotonous ...

Frayed Edges

Tessa Hadley: Pat Barker

19 November 2015
by Pat Barker.
Hamish Hamilton, 272 pp., £18.99, August 2015, 978 0 241 14606 4
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... grass on the other side of a long field. I couldn’t make out what it was: some reflection of the clouds, I thought at first, but then I realised the river was coming to meet me. It had burst its banks and flooded the low ground. Or, Elinor and Neville are in Russell Square together, and although they aren’t touching, he seems to feel the sensations of her touch along his body. ‘Could you ...

The Last Witness

Colm Tóibín: The career of James Baldwin

20 September 2001
... upbringing more important than his reading of the American masters? Were his sadness and anger more important than his love of laughter, his delight in the world? Did his prose style, as the novelist RussellBanks claimed that evening, take its bearings from Emerson, or was it, as the writer Hilton Als put it, ‘a high-faggot style’, or did it originate, as John Edgar Wideman claimed, from a mixture ...

Get a Real Degree

Elif Batuman: Down with Creative Writing

23 September 2010
The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing 
by Mark McGurl.
Harvard, 480 pp., £25.95, April 2009, 978 0 674 03319 1
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... discourse by ‘writers on writing’. As McGurl astutely observes, the ‘facts of literary history’ belie Mukherjee’s claim: it has been largely ‘white writers like William Styron and RussellBanks and Robert Olen Butler and Neal Stephenson who … assert the privilege of other-narration’, while ‘minority writers … have typically been asked to slot themselves into a single ethnos ...

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