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Thomas Jones: ‘Scouting for Boys’, 4 March 2004

... out all dirty matter from inside your stomach . . . by having a "rear” daily’. A remarkably frank passage on the perils of self-abuse – ‘you all know what it is to have at times a pleasant feeling in your private parts’ – was left out of the original edition on the insistence of the publisher, much to the disappointment of Baden-Powell’s ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Anti-Socialism, 25 September 2003

... Frank Field has been Birkenhead’s MP since 1979. He was, for the first year of Blair’s Administration, the Minister for Welfare Reform in Harriet Harman’s DSS. Harman and Field didn’t get on very well, and both were anyway sacked after 15 months. Not being a minister has given the former Young Conservative more time for writing ...

Conrad’s Complaint

Frank Kermode, 17 November 1983

The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. I: 1861-1897 
edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies.
Cambridge, 446 pp., £19.50, September 1983, 0 521 24216 9
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... a hundred-odd to Galsworthy, the same quantity to Ford Madox Ford, ‘several dozen’ to Thomas Wise, an unspecified but obviously vast number to the agent Pinker, and so on. Moreover, the core collection of Jean-Aubry is unreliable, because of ‘unprofessional editing and omissions’, the latter caused by an understandable desire not to give ...

Improving the Story

Frank Kermode: Philip Pullman’s Jesus, 27 May 2010

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ 
by Philip Pullman.
Canongate, 245 pp., £14.99, April 2010, 978 1 84767 825 6
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... followed suit. Apocryphal gospels are quite rich in additional stories about Pilate, Doubting Thomas and Judas. Judas Iscariot is in some ways an odd presence both in the Bible story and the Apocrypha. The earliest New Testament reference to the betrayal of Christ was the work of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11.23-26, a letter written a generation or so before ...

Blackberry Apocalypse

Nicholas Guyatt: Evangelical Disarray, 15 November 2007

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America 
by Chris Hedges.
Cape, 254 pp., £12.99, February 2007, 978 0 224 07820 7
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... been plenty for evangelicals to complain about even since the triumphs of Bush and Karl Rove. As Thomas Frank argued in 2004 in his book What’s the Matter with Kansas?, the striking thing about the Republican alliance with evangelicals has been the thinness of their legislative achievements: abortion is still legal, campaigners for gay rights have ...

Balls in Aquaria

Thomas Crow: Joseph Rykwert, 23 October 2008

The Judicious Eye: Architecture against the Other Arts 
by Joseph Rykwert.
Reaktion, 496 pp., £29.95, June 2008, 978 1 86189 358 1
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... power and cultural philanthropy, fed by oil revenues, set against backdrops provided by Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas or Jean Nouvel. Though Rykwert mentions none of these architects by name, their work plainly lies behind his guiding assumption that the ‘privatisation’ of political and financial power in modern times has led to a wave ...

Medawar’s Knack

N.W. Pirie, 27 September 1990

A Very Decided Preference: Life with Peter Medawar 
by Jean Medawar.
Oxford, 256 pp., £15, August 1990, 0 19 217779 6
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The Threat and the Glory: Reflections on Science and Scientists 
by Peter Medawar, edited by David Pyke.
Oxford, 291 pp., £15, August 1990, 0 19 217778 8
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... for example-and her own work in Family Planning get adequate space. She is sometimes surprisingly frank about her failings; and her comments on the failings of some hotels and more or less identifiable restaurants, doctors and nurses are equally frank and usually entertaining. Wives may, as in this book, be a little too ...

Feast of St Thomas

Frank Kermode, 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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... The idea that Eliot’s poetry was rooted in private aspects of his life has now been accepted,’ says Lyndall Gordon in the Foreword to her second volume of biographical rooting among these aspects. This acceptance, which she evidently approves, has undoubtedly occurred, as a root through the enormous heap of books about the poet, now augmented by the centenary of his birth, will quickly demonstrate ...

Did It Happen on 9 April?

Frank Kermode, 20 March 2008

The Resurrection 
by Geza Vermes.
Penguin, 168 pp., £7.99, March 2008, 978 0 14 103005 0
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... appearance of the risen Lord to a company of apostles; but John alone has the story of doubting Thomas, surely a strong apologetic fiction designed to demonstrate that the entire body, wounds and all, has been resurrected. At some point, either in the evening of Easter Sunday or forty days later, having forewarned the apostles of the visitations that are to ...


Patricia Craig, 19 September 1985

But for Bunter 
by David Hughes.
Heinemann, 223 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 434 35410 4
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Bunter Sahib 
by Daniel Green.
Hodder, 272 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 340 36429 7
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The Good Terrorist 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 370 pp., £9.50, September 1985, 0 224 02323 3
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Unexplained Laughter 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 155 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 7156 2070 3
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Polaris and Other Stories 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 237 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 340 33227 1
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... schoolfellows make allowances for him. Aitken, in the Hughes novel, complains about the travesty Frank Richards made of his character – obese he may have been, obtuse never. There’s the History Prize he won in 1910 to testify to his possession of actual brains in place of the low cunning ascribed to Bunter. It may also be meant to remind us of Aitken’s ...

Formulaic Thrills

Thomas Jones: A mathematical murder mystery, 20 January 2005

The Oxford Murders 
by Guillermo Martínez, translated by Sonia Soto.
Abacus, 197 pp., £9.99, January 2005, 0 349 11721 7
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... series, the murders will cease. There is a difficulty here, however, illustrated by the story of Frank Kalman, a friend of Seldom’s who has for some time now been in a coma in hospital. It used to be Kalman’s job to set questions for school IQ tests: ‘He spent his whole life preparing logical series, of the most basic kind . . . given three symbols ...

Noticing and Not Noticing

John Mullan: Consciousness in Austen, 20 November 2014

The Hidden Jane Austen 
by John Wiltshire.
Cambridge, 195 pp., £17.99, April 2014, 978 1 107 64364 2
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... Then, in Mansfield Park, these words start being used in a new way. The stiff pater familias, Sir Thomas Bertram, returns from Antigua to find that his niece Fanny has progressed from ugly duckling to swan. He can’t help perceiving ‘in a grand and careless way’ that the thoroughly eligible Henry Crawford – rich, elegant, every inch a gentleman – is ...

Dirty Little Secret

Fredric Jameson: The Programme Era, 22 November 2012

The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing 
by Mark McGurl.
Harvard, 466 pp., £14.95, November 2012, 978 0 674 06209 2
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... which are neither those of traditional literary history (even though the story wends its way from Thomas Wolfe through Nabokov and John Barth, Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates, all the way to Raymond Carver), nor those of traditional aesthetics and literary criticism, which raise issues of value and try to define true art as this rather than that. The ...

Philip Roth’s House of Fiction

Michael Mason, 6 December 1979

The Ghost Writer 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 180 pp., £4.95
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... Amy is that she is herself a fantasist, and that she imagines herself to be none other than Anne Frank (in the interlocking fashion of the novel, Anne Frank has earlier been extolled by Nathan’s father as the ideal Jewish author). The reader is extraordinarily disconcerted when the narrative returns to the real Amy the ...

Convenient Death of a Hero

Arnold Rattenbury, 8 May 1997

Beyond the Frontier: the Politics of a Failed Mission, Bulgaria 1944 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin/Stanford, 120 pp., £12.95, December 1996, 0 85036 457 4
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... to a high military officer of a Warsaw Pact country, then watch it.’ On 31 May 1944, Major Frank Thompson, wearing the British uniform that should have protected him, was captured along with the Bulgarian Partisans to whom he was attached, near Likatova, north of Sofia, found guilty at a staged trial, and publicly shot on 5 June. His bearing throughout ...

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