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Robert Blake

18 December 1980
Harold NicolsonA Biography: Vol. 1, 1886-1929 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 429 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 7011 2520 9
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Harold Nicolson Diaries 1930-1964 
by Stanley Olson.
Collins, 436 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 00 216304 7
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... Harold Nicolson was a diarist of genius who would have loved to make a success of public life or literature. He was an able but not outstanding diplomat who retired at 43, a journalist and broadcaster of talent, an MP for ten years and a junior minister in 1940-41. His literary achievements were voluminous, but few of his forty-odd books have lasted, apart from his study of Curzon, his lives of King George V and of Tennyson, and his Byron, The Last Phase ...

Dame Cissie

Penelope Fitzgerald

12 November 1987
Rebecca West: A Life 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Weidenfeld, 288 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 297 79084 6
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Family Memories 
by Rebecca West and Faith Evans.
Virago, 255 pp., £14.95, November 1987, 0 86068 741 4
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... It is a fine biography, which for several reasons can’t have been easy to write. To start with, Stanley Olson, who became a friend of Dame Rebecca’s in 1974, was entrusted with the full-length Life. To conform with this, Victoria Glendinning decided to cut down on the later years. Rebecca lived to be 90, and the elision somewhat weakens the sense of ...

On Michael O’Brien

August Kleinzahler: Michael O’Brien

16 February 2017
... man who lives in Warren Street settles in his duck blind. Four men stand like empties outside the Stanley Employment Agency. A television set left on in a shop tips its huge alphabet into the street. It is not speech but the parts of speech. Likeness joins what was separate, then the unwanted information pours in; a surd, a swarm …O’Brien’s city ...

The Man in the Clearing

Iain Sinclair: Meeting Gary Snyder

24 May 2012
... variety. It’s like a shockingly obvious solution to a Zen koan. Bang! I recall Jack Nicholson’s cameo in Easy Rider. The manic white-gleam orthodontics at the campfire, before the redneck attack that will kill him. He mouths Terry Southern’s dialogue against a racket of cicadas and lone dogs. ‘You ever talk to bullfrogs in the middle of the ...

The Coat in Question

Iain Sinclair: Margate

20 March 2003
All the Devils Are Here 
by David Seabrook.
Granta, 192 pp., £7.99, March 2003, 9781862075597
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... as proposed by the geographer Carl Sauer (a great favourite of that poet of place Charles Olson). Sauer, like Seabrook, deals in awkward particulars, grit under the eyelid. Areal is what you finish up with when there’s no way out, economically, emotionally, spiritually – with Connex and Railtrack operating the only escape chute. With Quatermass ...

Upriver

Iain Sinclair: The Thames

25 June 2009
Thames: Sacred River 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Vintage, 608 pp., £14.99, August 2008, 978 0 09 942255 6
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... Crozier’s Ferry Press, Ackroyd knew more than enough about the glittering particulars of Charles Olson and William Carlos Williams to give them their due, while gliding effortlessly in another direction. One of the characters in The Great Fire of London calms his rising panic by swimming lap after lap in a neighbourhood pool, a facility conscious of its ...

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