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11 June 1992
The Wreck of the Deutschland 
by Sean Street.
Souvenir, 208 pp., £15.99, March 1992, 0 285 63051 2
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Hopkins: A Literary Biography 
by Norman White.
Oxford, 531 pp., £35, March 1992, 0 19 812099 0
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... of the Deutschland’ was almost certainly not uttered by Sister Henrica Fassbaender. But in fact Sean Street’s book The Wreck of the Deutschland, which makes much of this incident, is engrossing from start to finish. It has the further appeal of sounding sympathetic. The author’s motivation throughout the fifteen years he devoted to assembling and ...

You, You, You, You, You, You, and Mom

Curtis Sittenfeld: Sean Wilsey’s memoir

1 December 2005
Oh the Glory of It All 
by Sean Wilsey.
Viking, 482 pp., £14.99, September 2005, 0 670 91601 3
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... Sean Wilsey’s father, Al, was orphaned as a teenager, dropped out of college, and made a fortune in dairy, real estate and other business ventures. Over fifty when Sean was born, Al flew a helicopter, charmed women and inspired in his son an apparently unquenchable desire for approval ...

Some of them can read

Sean Wilsey: Rats!

17 March 2005
Rats: A Year with New York’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants 
by Robert Sullivan.
Granta, 242 pp., £12.99, January 2005, 1 86207 761 4
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... New York City coroner’s office. Rats have attacked and killed homeless people sleeping on the streets of Manhattan. There are more rodents currently infected with plague in North America (mostly in rural western states: Wyoming, Montana, Colorado) than there were in Europe at the time of the Black Death. Whenever we see a rat, it’s a weak rat, forced ...

In Regent Street

Peter Campbell: A Mile of Style

10 May 2007
... façades (or, if you like, enlivens them). A Mile of Style: 180 Years of Luxury Shopping on Regent Street at the Guildhall Art Gallery until 30 June covers both buildings and shopping. It illustrates an awkward relationship. Architecturally, Regent Street has changed its appearance in a wholesale way only once. It was ...


Richard Lloyd Parry: Alex Garland

15 October 1998
The Beach 
by Alex Garland.
Penguin, 439 pp., £5.99, June 1997, 0 14 025841 8
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The Tesseract 
by Alex Garland.
Viking, 215 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 670 87016 1
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... Bagging. Klicks. Grunts. Gooks. Charlie. MIA. KIA. LZ. DMZ. FNG.’ Walking along the streets of a South-East Asian city (it is Bangkok, but this hardly matters), the narrator passes a bootleg tape stall where Creedence Clearwater and Jimi Hendrix are being played, and this provokes a stream of associations: ‘Platoon. Jimi Hendrix, dope and ...

The Greeter

Sean Wilsey: With Cantor Fitzgerald

19 September 2002
... each other?’ ‘We met in college, through a mutual friend I knew in high school. Yeah, man, Sean – that was his name.’ He shook his head and smiled. ‘He was a total derelict.’ Pause. ‘What’s crazy is that he’s got an identical twin and I don’t think anyone here knows about that. He’s just like him. And he’s coming out here ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Milk’

1 January 2009
... Gus Van Sant’s new film, Milk, is thoughtful, patient, funny and touching, and both Sean Penn and James Franco should get Oscars, but it doesn’t answer the questions any biopic raises for me: what’s it for and why now? Or perhaps it does have the answers, but we have to do our own digging for them. Harvey Milk was an elected official of the city of San Francisco, said to be the first openly gay man to hold public office in the United States ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Tree of Life’

28 July 2011
The Tree of Life 
directed by Terrence Malick.
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... pretty bad too. The date seems to be the present, there are glassy skyscrapers everywhere, and Sean Penn seems to be a mid-career architect. We can’t be sure of this because he doesn’t do anything, just sits in meetings thinking about his murderous Oedipal days as a boy, and occasionally wandering through mental landscapes represented by deserts and ...
24 January 2013
... story. A Game of Dialysis The home team appears in a blue strip, while the visitors keep on their street clothes. We find our positions from the file with our name on it placed beside our bed. Now all we can do is wait for the opposition to make a move. We don’t like our chances. The action commences with the home team wandering about, or making a tour of ...

My Darlings

Colm Tóibín: Drinking with Samuel Beckett

5 April 2007
... There is a peculiar intensity about some streets in Dublin which becomes more gnarled and layered the longer you live in the city and the greater the stray memories and associations you build up. Sometimes this sense of the city can be greatly added to by history and by books; sometimes, however, the past – I mean the distant past – and the books hardly matter, seem a strange irrelevance ...
21 February 1991
... on roofs, left me hollow with unease. There was an infectious apathy to the few people left on the streets. Many families had already left for country towns by 15 January. Those who remained were turned out by Ba’ath Party officials to demonstrate defiance. Courteous Iraqi house-owners brought me into their homes and led me upstairs to film the crowd from ...
2 August 1984
... Wamps wag once said of him that when he comes shambling along to the club the very dogs in the street stop smelling one another and bow to him. And then, that Olympian name! Removed from fame by a bare letter. Before the poet died many a Wamp must have felt a small thrill of pride at some country cousin’s question: ‘The poet?’ Not that Lennox ever ...


Sean Maguire: In Sarajevo

10 September 1992
... through small windows into basement living-quarters where pale children who haven’t run down the street in months sit drawing pictures of Bosnian Army soldiers. Ancic is a historian. He was very proud of his small book-crammed study and apologised for the fact that we had to clamber through the rubble of his mortar-wrecked apartment to get to it. As we stood ...


Sean Maguire: In Sarajevo

28 January 1993
... rattle of machine-gun fire evaporates in unlocatable confusion and unless you happen to be in the street where a grenade lands it might as well be an event in another war. The shelling can be both fiercely local and exasperatingly distant. In Otes we found the epicentre of the bombardment that was rumbling through the city. I felt like a trench rat that had ...


Sean Maguire: In Vilnius

26 September 1991
... the ink still drying on their Baltic visas, failed to discover people dancing in the streets. There were no mad hooplas of joy, no exultations over victory. The Baltic Republics understand – and fear – the irony in their success. The power of Moscow evaporated, and that enabled them to seize their prize. But the lack of even a symbolic ...

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