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Thomas Jones: Silly mistakes and blood for Bush

4 December 2003
... that Vintage, the major paperback imprint of Random House, should not have had the book properly proofread. If the budget really wouldn’t stretch to it, they’d have done better to dispense with Sebastian Faulks’s introduction.It is a minor disgrace that an edition of one of the better novels of the 20th century should be so strewn with typographical errors. But it’s hardly a disgrace of the same ...

Gruesomeness is my policy

Richard J. Evans: German Colonialism

9 February 2012
German Colonialism: A Short History 
by Sebastian Conrad.
Cambridge, 233 pp., £17.99, November 2011, 978 1 107 40047 4
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... origins of racial science and on representations of colonial subjects in literature. The growing interest in cultural memory led to studies of postcolonial memories and commemorations in Germany. SebastianConrad’s succinct book sums up this new literature and places it in the context of globalisation, which has led to a revival of interest in the empire. With its many excellent illustrations and ...
6 December 1979
The Nabokov-Wilson Letters, 1940-1971 
edited by Simon Karlinsky.
Weidenfeld, 346 pp., £12.50, October 1979, 0 297 77580 4
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Vladimir Nabokov: A Tribute 
edited by Peter Quennell.
Weidenfeld, 139 pp., £6.95
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...  as one might expect, not without pain; he particularly disliked the account of Lenin as basically a rather nice man. Wilson, a full year after Nabokov entered his life, read The Real Life of Sebastian Knight and found it ravishing. At his best, Wilson was almost the perfect man of letters, the model reviewer, for he read indefatigably, was susceptible to talent, and had a useful vein of pedantry ...

An Octopus at the Window

Terry Eagleton: Dermot Healy

19 May 2011
Long Time, No See 
by Dermot Healy.
Faber, 438 pp., £12.99, April 2011, 978 0 571 21074 9
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... done magnificently from the inside (Healy lives in County Sligo, which is within hailing distance of the North) but a good deal more cold-eyed than anything one would expect to find in the work of Sebastian Barry. Like Jack Ferris, the drunken protagonist of A Goat’s Song, Ireland binged for a few euphoric years, then woke up with an almighty hangover. The champions of progress have accordingly been ...

My Feet Are Cut Off

Barbara Newman: Lives of the Saints

3 December 2009
Gilte Legende Vol. I 
edited by Richard Hamer and Vida Russell.
Early English Text Society (Oxford), 496 pp., £65, November 2006, 0 19 920577 9
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Gilte Legende Vol. II 
edited by Richard Hamer and Vida Russell.
Early English Text Society (Oxford), 1036 pp., £65, August 2007, 978 0 19 923439 4
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... of the throat. More often, though, patronage depends on the saint’s method of martyrdom: St Lucy was invoked as patron of the blind, St Agatha of breast cancer, and St Apollonia of toothache. St Sebastian, shot full of arrows ‘like a hedgehog’, came to be the patron of archers but also of the Black Death, perhaps by assimilation to Apollo, perhaps because his wounds suggested plague sores ...

Diary

Blake Morrison: On the Independent on Sunday 

27 May 1993
... the life of Sylvia Plath, Alison Lurie’s obituary of Mary McCarthy, Salman Rushdie on Graham Greene, Claire Tomalin on Coleridge, Anthony Burgess on Fielding, other reviews by Anita Brookner, Peter Conrad, Roy Foster and Hilary Mantel), and as the limits on the new paper’s resources became apparent I thought how hard it would be to put together pages of comparable stature. There was one solace: the ...
31 October 1996
Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909-17 
by T.S. Eliot, edited by Christopher Ricks.
Faber, 428 pp., £30, September 1996, 0 571 17895 2
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... The temptation to self-censorship must, for Charlotte Eliot’s son, have been a constant one. And yet he resisted it admirably, and wrote such daring (if unpublished) poems as ‘The Love Song of St Sebastian’, in which the speaker and the beloved appear equally masochistic: I would come in a shirt of hair ... I would flog myself until I bled ... Until my blood should ring the lamp And glisten in the ...

A Gutter Subject

Neal Ascherson: Joachim Fest

25 October 2012
Not Me: Memoirs of a German Childhood 
by Joachim Fest, translated by Martin Chalmers.
Atlantic, 316 pp., £20, August 2012, 978 1 84354 931 4
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... around him knew what was on the paper and was sniggering, crumpled it up and, with great difficulty, ate it. Fest, stagnating in a prison camp near Laon in France, broadened his reading to discover Conrad, Maugham, Musil, Flaubert and even the disloyal Manns. He started work on a study of Renaissance history. By now his relations with some of the American camp staff were friendly, and he was ...
29 September 1988
Eliot’s New Life 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Oxford, 356 pp., £15, September 1988, 0 19 811727 2
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The Letters of T.S. Eliot 
edited by Valerie Eliot.
Faber, 618 pp., £25, September 1988, 0 571 13621 4
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The Poetics of Impersonality 
by Maud Ellmann.
Harvester, 207 pp., £32.50, January 1988, 0 7108 0463 6
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T.S. Eliot and the Philosophy of Criticism 
by Richard Shusterman.
Duckworth, 236 pp., £19.95, February 1988, 0 7156 2187 4
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‘The Men of 1914’: T.S. Eliot and Early Modernism 
by Erik Svarny.
Open University, 268 pp., £30, September 1988, 0 335 09019 2
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Eliot, Joyce and Company 
by Stanley Sultan.
Oxford, 326 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 19 504880 6
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The Savage and the City in the Work of T.S. Eliot 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 251 pp., £25, December 1987, 9780198128694
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T.S. Eliot: The Poems 
by Martin Scofield.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 521 30147 5
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... unexpectedly and embarrassingly into parties where everybody could see her. As for the poem, it seems to have been a fitful series of mildly obscene verses included in letters to such friends as Conrad Aiken. Gossips are not on oath. While these oral versions of biography paid tribute to the celebrity of the poet, the poetry was usually treated as quite impersonal. It had come, in the post-war ...

Mad Monkey

Jackson Lears: ‘Matterhorn’

23 September 2010
Matterhorn 
by Karl Marlantes.
Corvus, 600 pp., £16.99, August 2010, 978 1 84887 494 7
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... heroism. But the publisher’s strategy has succeeded. American reviewers have greeted the book as if it were the second coming of All Quiet on the Western Front. In the New York Times Book Review, Sebastian Junger described Matterhorn as ‘one of the most profound and devastating novels ever to come out of Vietnam – or any war’; it ‘may well serve’, he said, ‘as a final exorcism for one of ...

Darkness and so on and on

Adam Mars-Jones: Kate Atkinson

6 June 2013
Life after Life 
by Kate Atkinson.
Doubleday, 477 pp., £18.99, March 2013, 978 0 385 61867 0
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... right sounds like a description of the writing process, but you wouldn’t know it from these pages. Despite a steady supply of literary references and quotations that suggest high standards (Mann, Conrad, Forster, Shakespeare, both Eliots, Colette, Dante, James, Ibsen, Shaw, Proust, Shelley, Burke, Milton) her sentences are generally lethargic. Here’s some of Sylvie’s back story: ‘They sank ...

In the Hyacinth Garden

Richard Poirier: ‘But oh – Vivienne!’

3 April 2003
Painted Shadow: A Life of Vivienne Eliot 
by Carole Seymour-Jones.
Constable, 702 pp., £9.99, September 2002, 1 84119 636 3
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... earth and stimulated by manure’, a foreshadowing of the lines in ‘East Coker’ (1942) where he associates ‘the coupling of man and woman’ with ‘Dung and death’. In ‘The Love Song of St Sebastian’ (1914), the young man in the first stanza pictures himself as a ‘neophyte’ preparing to join his lover, but must first whip himself till he bleeds, and only then, after ‘hour and hour of ...

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