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The Long War

Andrew Bacevich: Motives behind the Surge, 26 March 2009

The Gamble: General Petraeus and the Untold Story of the American Surge in Iraq 
by Thomas E. Ricks.
Allen Lane, 394 pp., £25, February 2009, 978 1 84614 145 4
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... Thomas Ricks’s Fiasco, published in 2006, was a scathing account of the invasion and occupation of Iraq; The Gamble covers the ‘surge’ that pulled Iraq back from the edge of the abyss. By 2006, with Bush still insisting that the war was going swimmingly and the Pentagon keen to hand the war over to the Iraqis, it seemed that the US was heading for a catastrophic defeat ...

Forget the Dylai Lama

Thomas Jones: Bob Dylan, 6 November 2003

Dylan's Visions of Sin 
by Christopher Ricks.
Viking, 517 pp., £25, October 2003, 9780670801336
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... criticism. Among the most deep and distinguished of this last kind of interpreter is Christopher Ricks, whose previous books include Milton’s Grand Style, Keats and Embarrassment, T.S. Eliot and Prejudice and Beckett’s Dying Words. Dylan’s Visions of Sin is the culmination of at least three decades’ critical engagement with the songs of Bob Dylan (he ...

Leases of Lifelessness

Denis Donoghue, 7 October 1993

Beckett’s Dying Words 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 218 pp., £17.50, July 1993, 0 19 812358 2
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... of language. Many of the words are quoted from Beckett’s fiction, but in several passages Ricks nearly forgets Beckett, and fixes his attention on Philip Larkin, Hardy, Swift, Coleridge, Sydney Smith, Christina Rossetti or another. I can’t believe that he chose to deliver these Clarendon Lectures as a hodge-podge. It is more probable that he ...

Beddoes’ Best Thing

C.H. Sisson, 20 September 1984

The Force of Poetry 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 447 pp., £19.50, September 1984, 0 19 811722 1
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... This is,’ as Professor Ricks says, in his rather baroque manner, ‘a gathering of essays, not a march of chapters’; each essay ‘attends to an aspect, feature, or resource of the language manifested in poetry’. The book is true to this prospectus insofar as the subject of most of the essays is some point to which the critic wishes to ‘give salience’, rather than the poet whose name appears in the title ...

The Verity of Verity

Marilyn Butler, 1 August 1996

Essays in Appreciation 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 363 pp., £25, March 1996, 0 19 818344 5
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... Christopher Ricks’s new book makes available many of his distinguished lectures given in the Eighties and Nineties. The essays retain a sense of occasion, and of a star performance on Ricks’s part, while the book has been designed with the aggressive sobriety that signals a class act ...

It’s the Oil

Jim Holt: Iraq’s Lucrative Mess, 18 October 2007

... perspective, it is none of these things. Indeed, the US may be ‘stuck’ precisely where Bush et al want it to be, which is why there is no ‘exit strategy’. Iraq has 115 billion barrels of known oil reserves. That is more than five times the total in the United States. And, because of its long isolation, it is the least explored of the world’s ...

The Uses of al-Qaida

Richard Seymour, 13 September 2012

... the attempt in 2009 by the ‘underwear bomber’, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, to blow up a plane en route from Amsterdam to Detroit. AQAP was one of the most alarming new franchises identified in a briefing given to Congress by the Federation of American Scientists in 2005, one of a rash of new ‘presences’ and ‘affiliates’ of al-Qaida emerging from ...

Hallo Dad

Christopher Ricks, 2 October 1980

Mr Nicholas Sir Henry and Sons Daymare 
by Thomas Hinde.
Macmillan, 271 pp., £6.95, August 1980, 0 333 29539 0
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... The last word of the reissue of Mr Nicholas, Thomas Hinde’s exquisitely glum and fearingly funny novel of 1952, is probably a misprint. At least, it is minutely different from the last word in the Penguin book in 1962, the issue which brought Hinde’s consummate first novel to an even more widely appreciative public ...

I gotta use words

Mark Ford: Eliot speaks in tongues, 10 August 2016

The Poems of T.S. Eliot: Volume I: Collected & Uncollected Poems 
edited by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue.
Faber, 1311 pp., £40, November 2015, 978 0 571 23870 5
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The Poems of T.S. Eliot: Volume II: Practical Cats & Further Verses 
edited by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue.
Faber, 667 pp., £40, November 2015, 978 0 571 23371 7
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... nearly a century on, of Faber’s two all-comprehending new tomes, edited by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue. The editors promise to ‘elucidate the difficulties’ of Eliot’s work by tracing every possible verbal overlap between the words used in his poems and the words used by other writers, both famous and obscure, in texts that range from ...

Umpteens

Christopher Ricks, 22 November 1990

Bloomsbury Dictionary of Dedications 
edited by Adrian Room.
Bloomsbury, 354 pp., £17.99, September 1990, 0 7475 0521 7
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Unauthorised Versions: Poems and their Parodies 
edited by Kenneth Baker.
Faber, 446 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 0 571 14122 6
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The Faber Book of Vernacular Verse 
edited by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 407 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 571 14470 5
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... admiration for this as a dedication. There can be no intrinsic objection to such a dedication as Thomas Moore’s, of Lalla Rookh: – To Samuel Rogers, Esq., this Eastern Romance is inscribed by his very grateful and affectionate friend, Thomas Moore. But one may object that is not so interesting or original in its ...

Provincialism

Denis Donoghue: Karlin’s collection of Victorian verse, 4 June 1998

The Penguin Book of Victorian Verse 
edited by Danny Karlin.
Allen Lane, 851 pp., £25, October 1997, 9780713990492
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... as a whole. His major precursors are Quiller-Couch, Yeats, Auden, George MacBeth, Christopher Ricks and Ian Fletcher. I don’t intend a Shopper’s Guide, but I’ll start with two small complaints. Unlike Fletcher, Karlin doesn’t give explanatory notes, except for a few dialect words and phrases in foreign languages. Reading Davidson’s ‘Thirty Bob ...

Spruce

John Bayley, 2 June 1988

A.E. Housman: Collected Poems and Selected Prose 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Allen Lane, 528 pp., £18.95, April 1988, 0 7139 9009 0
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... inward smile? Such a speculation is one of the numerous minor pleasures to be had when reading Ricks’s notes to this fine edition of the poems, and most of the prose. Ricks, too, is a rigorous scholar, who can be almost as acerbic as Housman himself, but he notes the mistake and the correction without comment. That ...

Donald Davie and the English

Christopher Ricks, 22 May 1980

Trying to Explain 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 213 pp., £6.95, April 1980, 0 85635 343 4
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... knowing where the two actors in the poem are standing (indoors, that is, or out-of-doors)’; on Ed Dorn’s magical misspellings, which are sometimes ‘exhuberant’ and more often ‘queezy’, but which can pack a portmanteau which is worth the carriage, as in ‘The creatures of ice feignt and advance’ (or the truest poetry is the most feigning); on ...

Good enough for Jesus

Charlotte Brewer, 25 January 1990

The State of the Language: 1990 Edition 
edited by Christopher Ricks and Leonard Michaels.
Faber, 531 pp., £17.50, January 1990, 9780571141821
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Clichés and Coinages 
by Walter Redfern.
Blackwell, 305 pp., £17.50, October 1989, 0 631 15691 7
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Rhetoric: The Wit of Persuasion 
by Walter Nash.
Blackwell, 241 pp., £25, October 1989, 0 631 16754 4
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... perhaps, is that the 1980s were judged by the two editors, Leonard Michaels and Christopher Ricks, to be likely to rate correctness of language above its political and social implications, while the 1990s will reverse these priorities. There is little point in taking issue with this, since in practice such divisions don’t hold fast: most of the ...

Elegant Extracts

Leah Price: Anthologies, 3 February 2000

The Oxford Book of English Verse 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 690 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 19 214182 1
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The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume One 
edited by M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt.
Norton, 2974 pp., £22.50, December 1999, 0 393 97487 1
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The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume Two 
edited by M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt.
Norton, 2963 pp., £22.50, February 2000, 9780393974911
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The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume One 
edited by David Damrosch.
Longman, 2963 pp., $53, July 1999, 0 321 01173 2
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The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume Two 
edited by David Damrosch.
Longman, 2982 pp., $53, July 1999, 0 321 01174 0
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Night & Horses & The Desert: An Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature 
edited by Robert Irwin.
Allen Lane, 480 pp., £25, September 1999, 0 7139 9153 4
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News that Stays News: The 20th Century in Poems 
edited by Simon Rae.
Faber, 189 pp., £9.99, October 1999, 0 571 20060 5
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Time’s Tidings: Greeting the 21st Century 
by Carol Ann Duffy.
Anvil, 157 pp., £7.95, November 1999, 0 85646 313 2
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Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the 20th Century in Poetry 
edited by Peter Forbes.
Penguin, 640 pp., £12.99, February 1999, 9780140588996
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... gift books already piling up on remainder tables, 1999 marked the appearance of Christopher Ricks’s successor to Arthur Quiller-Couch’s Oxford Book of English Verse, published a hundred years ago, revised in 1939, and followed in 1972 by Helen Gardner’s New Oxford Book; of the Longman Anthology of British Literature, a brashly devolutionary ...

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