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Scenes from British Life

Hugh Barnes, 6 February 1986

Stroke Counterstroke 
by William Camp.
Joseph, 190 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 7181 2669 6
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Redhill Rococo 
by Shena Mackay.
Heinemann, 171 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 434 44046 9
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Striker 
by Michael Irwin.
Deutsch, 231 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 233 97792 9
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... affection, in the gentle manner of Yes, Minister. Like Sir Humphrey in the television programme, Simon Goldstone fears action might prove ‘counter-productive’ – an odd word to choose since there isn’t any productivity to be countered. Likewise Camp’s politicians are united by suspicion of altruism or crusades. They also exhibit a paradoxical ...

Consequences

Christopher Reid, 15 May 1980

Renga 
by Octavio Paz, Jacques Roubaud, Edoardo Sanguineti and Charles Tomlinson.
Penguin, 95 pp., £1.95, November 1979, 0 14 042268 4
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Kites in Spring 
by John Hewitt.
Blackstaff, 63 pp., £2.95, February 1980, 0 85640 206 0
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The Island Normal 
by Brian Jones.
Carcanet, 91 pp., £2.95, February 1980, 9780856353406
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New Poetry 5 
edited by Peter Redgrove and Jon Silkin.
Hutchinson, 163 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 09 139570 4
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... here. This work, the result of five days’ collaboration in the basement of the Hôtel St Simon on the left Bank, has both oriental and occidental ancestry. The ceremonial meeting of poets to enact a ritual of elegance and refinement (more elegant and refined, perhaps, in nostalgic imagination than in humdrum reality) was admittedly an attempt to ...

All change. This train is cancelled

Iain Sinclair: The Dome, 13 May 1999

... boats from nostalgic black and white photographs. It was an unoptioned metaphor with its own poet, Simon Armitage, hired to knock up a thousand-line tribute. Time drifted. The 12 minutes of the virtual reality journey in the brochures was actually the time between trains, the time spent enjoying the strange termini in which potential travellers are ...

The Politics of Good Intentions

David Runciman: Blair’s Masochism, 8 May 2003

... was the fact that the working classes of Europe had spent the last four years trying to blow each other to bits. Eisner was not a man to ignore an elephant in the room; rather, he dressed it up in ribbons and bows and tried to pass it off as a peace offering. Germany was to blame for the horrors of the war, he readily acknowledged. But because ...

Downhill Racer

John Sutherland, 16 August 1990

Lying together 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 255 pp., £13.95, June 1990, 0 575 04802 6
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The Neon Bible 
by John Kennedy Toole.
Viking, 162 pp., £12.99, March 1990, 0 670 82908 0
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Solomon Gursky was here 
by Mordecai Richler.
Chatto, 576 pp., £13.95, June 1990, 0 394 53995 8
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Death of the Soap Queen 
by Peter Prince.
Bloomsbury, 277 pp., £13.99, April 1990, 0 7475 0611 6
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... Nadia’s husband turns up in Lying together, having tried (I think I’m right in this) to blow up London with nuclear missiles from the Soviet submarine he commands. He rapes a version of Rozanov’s blind student (now a blind film-director) who – with her handicap – fondly thinks she is merely being made forceful love to by a version of ...

How frightened should we be?

John Lloyd, 10 February 1994

Russia 2010 
by Daniel Yergin and Thane Gustafson.
Random House, 302 pp., $32, October 1993, 0 679 42995 6
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What About the workers: Workers and the Transition to Capitalism in Russia 
by Simon Clarke.
Verso, 248 pp., £34.95, September 1993, 0 86091 650 2
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After the Soviet Union: From Empire to Nation 
edited by Timothy Colton and Robert Levgold.
Norton, 208 pp., $24.95, November 1992, 0 393 03420 8
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... to history as the Dozhdev line. The time is finally right for a currency reform, which at one blow eliminates state debt and converts enterprise and farm debt at a steep rate. Subsidies ... are sharply cut back and a tough bankruptcy law is enacted. Inflation falls to a moderate 20 per cent per annum ... economic growth responds sharply. By 2003 the ...

Story: ‘Offences against the Person’

Hilary Mantel, 20 March 2008

... I said. ‘Offences against the person.’ ‘Yes, that sort of lark. Plus I understand young Simon offered her the extra hundred a year.’ ‘Probably luncheon vouchers,’ I said. ‘I shouldn’t wonder.’ ‘Occam’s Razor shaves you closer,’ I said. I had only begun to suspect something when he began multiplying explanations. My foot shot out ...

Playboy’s Paperwork

Patrick Collinson: Historiography and Elizabethan politics, 11 November 1999

The World of the Favourite 
edited by J.H. Elliott and L.W.B. Brockliss.
Yale, 320 pp., £35, June 1999, 0 300 07644 4
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The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: The Political Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1585-97 
by Paul Hammer.
Cambridge, 468 pp., £45, June 1999, 0 521 43485 8
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... which are thought to have existed between the leading members of the regime. Thanks to the work of Simon Adams, to whom we look for the definitive biography of Leicester, we now know that Naunton misled us in suggesting that the principal note of the reign was faction, whether deliberately contrived or not. Burghley and Leicester did not always get on, but ...

Very Nasty

John Sutherland, 21 May 1987

VN: The Life and Art of Vladimir Nabokov 
by Andrew Field.
Macdonald, 417 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 356 14234 5
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... first émigré period’. Even more damagingly, Field has evidently been forbidden to quote from Simon Karlinsky’s edition of The Nabokov-Wilson Letters (1979), thus fatally impoverishing his account of the author’s most important literary relationship. (Karlinsky, incidentally, has his little say about Field’s ‘enormous blunders’ in the preface to ...

The Scandalous Charm of Luis Buñuel

Gavin Millar, 1 September 1983

... of the painting Guernica (which he helped to hang, though he would have preferred to blow it up). He hated the painting for bringing politics into art. So this business of exploding the social order via art, albeit scandalous art, is more complex, clearly, than we had thought. Surely there must be a thin line somewhere, visible to Buñuel, but ...

Eternal Feminine

Ian Gregson, 7 January 1993

Landlocked 
by Mark Ford.
Chatto, 51 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 7011 3750 9
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The English Earthquake 
by Eva Salzman.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, May 1992, 1 85224 177 2
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Bleeding Heart Yard 
by William Scammell.
Peterloo, 63 pp., £6.95, May 1992, 1 871471 28 1
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The Game: Tennis Poems 
by William Scammell.
Peterloo, 48 pp., £6, June 1992, 1 871471 27 3
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Marconi’s Cottage 
by Medbh McGuckian.
Bloodaxe, 110 pp., £6.95, May 1992, 1 85224 197 7
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... this context, and in their use of it Ford’s poems have affinities with those of Glyn Maxwell and Simon Armitage. The habit all three poets have of paraphrasing rather than quoting the speech of their characters tends to upset stable perspectives by mingling the voices of author and character and so raising the question of whose point of view is influencing ...

Following the Fall-Out

Alexander Star: Rick Moody, 19 March 1998

Purple America 
by Rick Moody.
Flamingo, 298 pp., £16.99, March 1998, 0 00 225687 8
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... crisis, the local husbands dutifully take the commuter train to Manhattan; when they return, they blow smoke rings of marijuana and praise the economic theories of Milton Friedman. ‘America rose and fell on the melodies of New Canaan’s songs about the economy. Songs sung by a Jewish economist and mimicked by Wasps who would have thought twice before ...

Eunice’s Story

Hilary Mantel, 20 October 1994

The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America 
by John Demos.
Knopf, 325 pp., $25, July 1994, 0 394 55782 4
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... passages of reconstruction, of supposition, of – let us spit the word out – fiction. Like Simon Schama he is dealing in ‘dead certainties’ and ‘unwarranted speculations’. But within the text the line is clearly drawn. The critic cannot claim to be confused. On the afternoon of 29 February, John Williams and the other Deerfield prisoners were ...

No Dancing, No Music

Alex Clark: New Puritans, 2 November 2000

All Hail the New Puritans 
edited by Nicholas Blincoe and Matt Thorne.
Fourth Estate, 204 pp., £10, September 2000, 1 84115 345 1
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... Blincoe, be ‘the beginning of a new wave’ and present its adherents with ‘a chance to blow the dinosaurs out of the water’. This tongue-in-cheekiness, which from time to time comes across as a swaggering disrespect for all other contemporary writers, infects and distorts the editors’ ‘Pledge’, or manifesto, which opens the book and frames ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: The p-p-porn ban, 4 April 2019

... and illicit knowledge. The formal teaching I received was shoddy. I remember conceiving of blow jobs as the purposeful application of air to the genitals. The first time I masturbated, I had to look up in the dictionary ‘wanking’ (the word I’d overheard), ‘masturbation’, ‘orgasm’, ‘ejaculation’ and ‘semen’ before I knew how to go ...

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