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Thomas Jones: Evolution versus Metamorphosis, 1 September 2005

... has broken into his house is prevented from committing an act of violence by a recital of ‘Dover Beach’. In The Literary Animal, McEwan discusses Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, and the evidence it provides for a universal human nature. This leads on to the insight that the ‘human essence’ of Penelope’s reaction to ...

Making up

Julian Symons, 15 August 1991

Lipstick, Sex and Poetry 
by Jeremy Reed.
Peter Owen, 119 pp., £14.95, June 1991, 0 7206 0817 1
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A poet could not but be gay 
by James Kirkup.
Peter Owen, 240 pp., £16.95, June 1991, 0 7206 0823 6
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There was a young man from Cardiff 
by Dannie Abse.
Hutchinson, 211 pp., £12.99, April 1991, 0 09 174757 0
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String of Beginners 
by Michael Hamburger.
Skoob Books, 338 pp., £10.99, May 1991, 1 871438 66 7
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... with ‘a red gash of lipstick’ on his mouth, pondering whether to take the ten steps down to a beach where men sunbathe nude. He is androgynous, 16, ‘looking for a new species’. James Kirkup also admits to androgyny and to a passion for make-up, from childhood when he experimented with his mother’s make-up box, through the time when, as head of the ...

Ruining the Daal

Thomas Jones: Ardashir Vakil, 19 June 2003

One Day 
by Ardashir Vakil.
Hamish Hamilton, 292 pp., £12.99, February 2003, 9780241141328
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... difficulty with writing his second book – it’s six years since the publication of his first, Beach Boy, ‘about’ a boy growing up in Bombay, in which food figures prominently – but, more important, it’s symbolic of Ben and Priya’s blocked East/ West marriage. They go to a therapist together, but both of them hold things back. The trauma ...

Not a Nasty

Thomas Jones: Peter Ho Davies, 24 May 2007

The Welsh Girl 
by Peter Ho Davies.
Sceptre, 344 pp., £12.99, May 2007, 978 0 340 93825 6
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... Eighteen years old, recently promoted to corporal, he is manning a gun emplacement on a Normandy beach when the Allies invade. He and his men are among the first – possibly, the very first – Germans to surrender. The shame of it, the stigma of cowardice, is something he isn’t able to live down among the other prisoners in any of the POW camps he finds ...

A Wild Inhabitation

John Gibbens, 3 June 1982

... and bird-headed craft on Braystones’ milling pebbles, at Silecroft overlooked by dunes, on a beach of suave slick mud up an inlet at Ravenglass. A summer day. Standing on a green grave watching a breeze slowly heave and then pass, stifled among yews, looking at their cross, carved rust-red sandstone honed on hot blue sky. The fells mount up, Atlantic ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Master’, 11 October 2012

... People weren’t walking out in droves from the suburban cinema in which we saw Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film The Master because there weren’t droves there: just perhaps eight or nine people. But they did all walk out, in a slow trickle that started about halfway through the film. Staying there made us feel like loyalists in a lost cause – the future of film perhaps – but I’m not sure we were less bewildered or even less bored than those who had left ...

Like Apollinaire

Michael Wood, 4 April 1996

Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids 
by Kenzaburo Oë, translated by Paul St John Mackintosh and Maki Sugiyama.
Boyars, 189 pp., £14.95, May 1995, 0 7145 2997 4
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A Personal Matter 
by Kenzaburo Oë, translated by John Nathan.
Picador, 165 pp., £5.99, January 1996, 0 330 34435 8
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Hiroshima Notes 
by Kenzaburo Oë, translated by David Swain and Toshi Yonezawa.
Boyars, 192 pp., £14.95, August 1995, 0 7145 3007 7
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... have an unusual flavour of missives cast into the sea long ago, only now arriving on our island beach. Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids was published in Japan in 1958, and is now translated for the first time. A Personal Matter was published in Japan in 1964, and in an American translation, here reprinted, in 1969. Hiroshima Notes was ...


Tim Dee: Derek Walcott’s Birthday Party, 22 May 2014

... working on some new songs. One night she was snapped in shorts and a flimsy top, crawling from the beach to a tourist diner. In the garish flashlight she looks like a body excavated from Vesuvian ash. When she reached the holidaymakers’ tables she tried to relieve them of their drinks. This was a real case of leglessness. After she died in 2011 a bar in ...

Memories of New Zealand

Peter Campbell, 1 December 2011

... end of the day it could go yellowish. Sometimes a Canaletto reminds me of home. Out of town at the beach the sun heated bare sand to the point that you had to skip through it or burrow down into the cool layer below. The climate was not enervating, weather changed fast. The ingredients of the landscape which still sit firmly in my memory are, first, the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Inherent Vice’, 5 February 2015

Inherent Vice 
directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
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... actor. In a sluggish movie we keep looking at our watch and it seems to have stopped. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice is more slow than sluggish but pretty sluggish all the same. Anderson wrote the adaptation himself and clearly loves the 2009 Thomas Pynchon novel he is adapting. He follows its plot and ...

Man without a Fridge

Thomas Jones: Haruki Murakami, 17 April 2003

After the Quake 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin.
Vintage, 132 pp., £6.99, March 2003, 1 84343 015 0
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Earthshaking Science: What We Know (and Don’t Know) about Earthquakes 
by Susan Elizabeth Hough.
Princeton, 238 pp., £17.95, May 2002, 0 691 05010 4
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... on the Pacific coast, north of Tokyo, ‘because this place gets more driftwood than any other beach I know’. Junko is a teenage girl who has also run away: ‘She was sick to death of school and couldn’t stand the sight of her father.’ (‘Most Japanese novelists,’ Murakami said in an interview in 1991, ‘are addicted to the beauty of the ...

Embalming Father

Thomas Lynch, 20 July 1995

... in a Midwinter Conference of my own for a long time now. Enough is enough, I need to walk on the beach now and contemplate my next move. My father was a funeral director and three of my five brothers are funeral directors; two of my three sisters work pre-need and book-keeping in one of the four funeral homes around the metro area that bear our name, our ...

The German Ocean

D.J. Enright: Suffolk Blues, 17 September 1998

The Rings of Saturn 
by W.G. Sebald, translated by Michael Hulse.
Harvill, 296 pp., £15.99, June 1998, 1 86046 398 3
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... of Modern German Literature at the University of East Anglia, had read that the skull of Sir Thomas Browne, antiquary, lover of mysteries, connoisseur of odds and ends, was kept in the museum of that same hospital. He failed to find it, or the museum, and it turned out that the skull had subsequently been buried with the rest of Browne’s body in the ...


Stephanie Burt: D.A. Powell’s poems, 24 September 2009

Chronic: Poems 
by D.A. Powell.
Graywolf, 79 pp., $20, February 2009, 978 1 55597 516 6
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... in his sometime melodrama, his lush wordscapes, his focus on eros and elegy – is Dylan Thomas. Powell has (as Thomas did not) a love for rough edges, an attention (sometimes unwilling) to popular culture and an ear for other people’s speech: but he has, too, Thomas’s ...

Hug me till you drug me

Alex Harvey: Aldous Huxley, 5 May 2016

After Many a Summer 
by Aldous Huxley.
Vintage, 314 pp., £8.99, September 2015, 978 1 78487 035 5
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Time Must Have a Stop 
by Aldous Huxley.
Vintage, 305 pp., £9.99, September 2015, 978 1 78487 034 8
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The Genius and the Goddess 
by Aldous Huxley.
Vintage, 127 pp., £8.99, September 2015, 978 1 78487 036 2
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... sunlight helped him to see. Once, during another picnic, Huxley was strolling along Santa Monica beach with his wife, Maria, and Thomas and Katia Mann, when Maria pointed out some long white shapes moving in a vaguely suggestive fashion. Aldous saw them as flowers, blowing in the wind. Maria realised that they were ...

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