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My Books

Ian Patterson, 4 July 2019

... of envelopes. Books bought in Cambridge from the libraries of Raymond Williams, Dadie Rylands, Tony Tanner, Jack Lindsay and other luminaries. Even the most unassuming books prompted recollections. They composed a sort of biography, each one acting like a door in an advent calendar, opening on to some moment in the past.Still, they had to go. From a ...

On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move, 13 September 2018

Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... pool’; ‘You cannot guess the weed I hold,/Clara Green, Acapulco Gold.’ (In a letter to Tony Tanner from May 1968, he wrote: ‘I have a lot of the best ever grass – it is known as Acapulco Gold and is $15 a lid, it is that good.’) He was always interested in the body and the bodiless, or of the body transforming, being taken over by ...

Whisky out of Teacups

Stefan Collini: David Lodge, 19 February 2015

Quite a Good Time to Be Born: A Memoir, 1935-75 
by David Lodge.
Harvill Secker, 488 pp., £25, January 2015, 978 1 84655 950 1
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Lives in Writing: Essays 
by David Lodge.
Vintage, 262 pp., £10.99, January 2015, 978 0 09 958776 7
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... of American formalism such as Wayne Booth. He shared interests with near contemporaries such as Tony Tanner while his literary doppelgänger (and closest friend) was Malcolm Bradbury. Like Kermode and Tanner, Lodge was initially receptive to new theoretical ideas coming from Europe, particularly Russian formalism in ...

Daisy packs her bags

Zachary Leader: The Road to West Egg, 21 September 2000

Trimalchio: An Early Version of ‘The Great Gatsby’ 
by F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by James L.W. West III.
Cambridge, 192 pp., £30, April 2000, 0 521 40237 9
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... superiority to Trimalchio. This ‘Whiggish’ judgment has many adherents, among them the late Tony Tanner, in an essay on Gatsby in The American Mystery: American Literature from Emerson to DeLillo. For Tanner, perhaps the most distinguished of British ‘Americanists’, Fitzgerald’s revisions are ‘almost ...

Speaking British

Thomas Jones, 30 March 2000

The Third Woman 
by William Cash.
Little, Brown, 318 pp., £14.99, February 2000, 0 316 85405 0
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Greene on Capri: A Memoir 
by Shirley Hazzard.
Virago, 149 pp., £12.99, January 2000, 1 86049 799 3
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... adultery’, but all his ideas on this subject owe a large (acknowledged) ‘creative debt’ to Tony Tanner (who was Cash’s supervisor at Cambridge). He reveals himself as a pretty poor close-reader in an anecdote about meeting Greene. He subsequently sent the novelist a short story he’d written (‘about an adulterous summer holiday affair that ...

In the Body Bag

Adam Mars-Jones: Ian McEwan’s ‘Nutshell’, 6 October 2016

by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 198 pp., £16.99, September 2016, 978 1 911214 33 5
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... the problems. The book is structured by protruding absences, like negative flying buttresses. Tony Tanner in his Prefaces to Shakespeare refers to the ‘ripples of ontological unease’ produced by Hamlet’s staging of The Mousetrap, but there are also uneasy ripples when we’re confronted not by a play-within-a-play but a ...

On Being Left Out

Adam Phillips: On FOMO, 20 May 2021

... one of his ‘favourite books’. These are paradigmatic works about characters who are left out. Tony Tanner once asserted that all novels are about adultery. More fundamentally, we may wonder what literature there is that is not about exclusion. And if all literature is about exclusion, the question is why?It is true​ of both Hamlet and Milton’s ...

What Henry Knew

Michael Wood: Literature and the Taste of Knowledge, 18 December 2003

... Understand’. The whole beauty of the thing is that we can’t know for sure what Maisie knows. Tony Tanner has said that ‘in a sense the book hinges on what Maisie does not know’ – especially what she doesn’t know about sex. But by the same token she can, as Tanner also suggests, deeply know all kinds of ...

The Importance of Aunts

Colm Tóibín, 17 March 2011

... biographer Claire Tomalin sees Mrs Norris as ‘one of the great villains of literature’; Tony Tanner thought she was ‘one of Jane Austen’s most impressive creations and indeed one of the most plausibly odious characters in fiction’. All this is clear, at times rather too clear. What is not clear is what the reader should feel about the ...


Tony Harrison, 24 January 1985

... The cunts who lieth’ere wor unemployed? This lot worked at one job all life through. Byron, ‘Tanner’, ‘Lieth ’ere interred’ They’ll chisel fucking poet when they do you and that, yer cunt, ’s a crude four-letter word. ‘Listen, cunt!’ I said, ‘before you start your jeering the reason why I want this in a book ’s to give ungrateful ...


Denis Donoghue, 6 November 1986

Write on: Occasional Essays ’65-’85 
by David Lodge.
Secker, 211 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 436 25665 7
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... sensibility’ of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Blake Morrison’s The Movement, Martin Amis’s Success, Tony Tanner’s Adultery in the Novel, Graham Greene’s Ways of Escape, Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, Truman Capote’s Music for Chameleons, the Oxford American Dictionary, two books – by Dan Jacobson and Robert Alter – on Biblical ...


John Sutherland: Conrad’s letters, 4 December 2003

The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. VI: 1917-19 
edited by Laurence Davies, Frederick R. Karl and Owen Knowles.
Cambridge, 570 pp., £80, December 2002, 0 521 56195 7
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... against the old-style collected edition. On the dustjacket of this (and previous) volumes is Tony Tanner’s compliment: ‘These letters are impeccably edited and presented . . . To anyone interested in the history of fiction writing, or the emergence of Modernism, they are indispensable.’ If they are indispensable shouldn’t the letters appear ...

The Subtleties of Frank Kermode

Michael Wood, 17 December 2009

... that world as a now fragmented and perhaps never really tenable historical fantasy. Writing of Tony Tanner’s intricate study of adultery in the novel (‘there is hardly a page that lacks some original and enriching perception’), he worries about whether critical works like this ‘will ever make much contribution to the common wisdom’. ‘We ...

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