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At the Shore

Inigo Thomas

30 August 2018
... two-hundred-year-old idea, roughly speaking. John Nash finished his expansion of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton in 1822. A few years later, Boulogne, on the other side of the Channel, became an early beach resort: ‘You will find whatever you are looking for there,’ Manet wrote to a friend. A postcard of Brighton Beach c.1890. Going to the beach – by train on the new railways – swiftly ...

Call It Capitalism

Thomas​ Jones: Pynchon

10 September 2009
Inherent Vice 
by Thomas​ Pynchon.
Cape, 369 pp., £18.99, August 2009, 978 0 224 08948 7
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... the National Book Award in 1974, its famously reclusive author surprised everyone by turning up at the ceremony to collect the prize. Except that the rambling, shambling figure at the podium wasn’t Thomas Pynchon at all, but a comedian and actor, ‘Professor’ Irwin Corey, who had been hired by Pynchon’s publisher to impersonate the novelist. The audience gradually got the joke as Corey, who was ...

At the National Gallery

Peter Campbell: French Landscape Painting

27 August 2009
... first room are notes made on the spot. There are no concessions to high style: Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes’s Cow-shed and Houses on the Palatine Hill is composed as stolidly as a picture postcard; Thomas Jones’s A Wall in Naples is as uncompromisingly frontal as a surveyor’s photograph for an insurance claim: all you see is a wall, a door, a window, the top of what looks like a fig tree, some ...

Short Cuts

Bill Pearlman: Hanging with Pynchon

17 December 2009
... Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles County is part of the so-called South Bay, south of Santa Monica. It was mostly populated by middle-class white people when I grew up there in the 1950s, and was a good place in many ...

The Other Thomas

Charles Nicholl

8 November 2012
... The tale of the apostle Thomas is a sea unspeakably vast.’ Thus the Syriac poet Jacob of Sarugh, who lived in upper Mesopotamia in the late fifth and early sixth centuries. The words are stirring but to our ears perhaps ...

Two Poems

Robert VanderMolen

9 October 2003
... Sand Water muscling to shore at twilight, Muscling over her ribs, the water so warm For September. Thomas Paine said, We just couldn’t stay boys (regarding the colonists) Or something to that effect. Ladybugs gather, covering a pear, Gulls screech about the deserted lighthouse. How agreeable to ...

At the Pool

Inigo Thomas

21 June 2018
... for the swimming perhaps, and more because as a material goddess she could. I went to a book party at the hotel years ago (the American Booksellers Association jamboree was in nearby Miami’s South Beach that year). Will Self and his American publisher, Morgan Entrekin, arrived as I was leaving. The vast expanse of water and the huge hotel behind it made Self momentarily speechless. ‘Belly of an ...

Short Cuts

Thomas​ Jones: Shipping containers

9 February 2006
... immigrants and terrorist bombs.’ A former US Coast Guard commander has estimated that 35,000 customs inspectors would be required to check every container arriving at Los Angeles and Long Beach each day: clearly impossible. But the container system presents problems for smugglers, too: it’s all very well for a worker in the glass factory in Guangzhou to load a few kilos of heroin in with ...

Short Cuts

Thomas​ Jones: Mobile phones

10 July 2003
... of attitude – as much a result as a cause of the encroaching state of permanent communicability. Orange’s advertising their products with the grotesque promise that ‘you can e-mail from the beach’ shows how far we’ve come, or gone. As a sociological precedent, Agar suggests the pocket watch. In the 17th century the device was a ‘rarity’: a hundred years later, it was ‘baroque high ...

Short Cuts

Thomas​ Meaney: In Cologne

4 February 2016
... Bild was hedging on the asylum question. It ran side-by-side photos of Syrian refugees and Germans fleeing the GDR a week before it printed the photo of three-year-old Alan Kurdi dead on a Turkish beach. But the commitment to the refugees was always conditional. The worthies of the German press are now rushing to make clear their new vigilance. The mainstream Munich magazine Focus printed a photo of ...


Peter Campbell

5 January 1989
The Letter of Marque 
by Patrick O’Brian.
Collins, 284 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 9780241125434
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by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 347 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 241 12527 8
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From Rockaway 
by Jill Eisenstadt.
Penguin, 214 pp., £3.99, September 1988, 0 14 010347 3
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The High Road 
by Edna O’Brien.
Weidenfeld, 180 pp., £10.95, October 1988, 0 297 79493 0
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Loving and Giving 
by Molly Keane.
Deutsch, 226 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 223 98346 2
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by Louise Erdrich.
Hamish Hamilton, 226 pp., £11.95, October 1988, 9780241125434
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... more straightforward ability to use smart writing to make a teen plot seem a true account of the place she grew up in. Patrick O’Brian’s stories of Napoleonic sea war have a vivacity which Hugh Thomas’s more fitfully imaginative book lacks, but both have virtues which come directly from the fact that the substantial historical scaffolds which they have erected give their players room to move ...


Maya Jasanoff: In Sierra Leone

11 September 2008
... After a jolting truck ride, I found myself at the edge of a concrete pier, watching the sun-set through the haze, waiting for the boat. Fishermen poled their pirogues onto the brown strip of beach. A couple of women slouched over baskets of mangos. A boy wandered by to ask for money, then posed for a photo, droop-lidded and smirking, his dog-tags glinting in the twilight. Shiny SUVs with ...

Two Poems

Mark Ford

8 February 2007
... settlement and clearing, mocked by the melancholy loon. Off, off, again off, ye buckskin garments! How it glints, my rifle, in the sun, as it arcs towards the lake. And listen – on the stony beach the ripples whisper, Oh hurryHurry Harry, oh Harry, hurry, hurry . . . The Death of Hart Crane Sir/Madam, I was intrigued by the letter in your last issue from a reader that recounted his meeting ...

Impossible Conception

T.J. Reed: ‘Death in Venice’

24 September 2014
Deaths in Venice: The Cases of Gustav von Aschenbach 
by Philip Kitcher.
Columbia, 254 pp., £20.50, November 2013, 978 0 02 311626 1
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... The double centenary​ in 2012 of the publication of Kafka’s The Judgment and Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice was marked only, to my knowledge, by a single conference, in California. Yet these two stories represented crucial breakthroughs for writers who came to dominate the German ...

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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... The first page of Jeremy Reed’s ‘autobiographical exploration of sexuality’ finds him 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 ...

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