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Rochet and Chimère

V.S. Pritchett, 6 March 1980

... For forty years, in person and in writing, Raymond Mortimer was an ornament of English literary journalism. He was at his best, I think, in the querulous Thirties and Forties when he was Literary Editor of the New Statesman. In the preface to his only book, a collection of essays with the typically Edwardian title of Channel Packet, he described himself ‘without humility’ as a journalist and not an author ...

Escaping from Belfast

V.S. Pritchett, 5 February 1981

Green Avenue: The Life and Writings of Forrest Reid 1875-1947 
by Brian Taylor.
Cambridge, 218 pp., £12.50, October 1980, 0 521 22801 8
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... Early in 1923, when I was a very naive and untrained newspaper correspondent in Dublin, it was my duty to take a regular trip to Belfast and to find out what was going on politically in that depressing and bigoted city of linen mills and shipyards. The Orangemen were contemptuous of the Southern Irish and had a blustering condescension to Englishmen like myself, and one of the few people whose talk was a relief from this was Forrest Reid, a novelist and critic in his late forties, admired by Yeats, Forster and Walter de la Mare, but almost ignored in his own city at that time ...

The Case for Negative Thinking

V.S. Pritchett, 20 March 1980

Peacock Displayed: A Satirist in his Context 
by Marilyn Butler.
Routledge, 361 pp., £10.95, October 1979, 0 7100 0293 9
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... One of the pleasures of reading Peacock in the Thirties, when I first read him, was that he was without acrimony. He enabled us to relive the great battles of ideas in the 19th century without an aching head. His conversation was spirited and diverting and he had sceptical hopes of human nature. Born in 1785 and dying in 1866, Peacock lived through 80 years of rancorous social change ...

Falling in love with Fanny

V.S. Pritchett, 5 August 1982

Memoirs of a Midget 
by Walter de la Mare.
Oxford, 392 pp., £3.50, May 1982, 0 19 281344 7
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... A way into secrecy frisked a pampered mouse’ – a curdled Georgian sentence that leads one straight into one of Walter de la Mare’s most plain and chilling tales about a boy’s initiation into horror. The story is ‘An Ideal Craftsman’. In this genre he was a master – albeit a very literary master – of the riddles of sado-masochism, the dark underside of his ‘magic ...

In Memoriam: V.S. Pritchett

John Bayley, 24 April 1997

... That has an ominous sound. None of these suggestions seems to fit the way in which V.S. Pritchett wrote his novels and stories. Many are absolute masterpieces, no doubt about that: but the master who wrote them did not think his own process deserved any extended comment. Never had a great craftsman, and one who was universally admitted to be ...

In Praise of Pritchett

Martin Amis, 22 May 1980

On the Edge of the Cliff 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 179 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 7011 2438 5
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The Tale Bearers: Essays on English, American and Other Writers 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 223 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 7011 2435 0
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... V.S. Pritchett’s short stories are retrospective, provincial, formless and feminine. His is an art that does not care how peripheral it sometimes seems. There are no twists, payoffs, reverses, jackpots or epiphanies. Pritchett never rubs life up the wrong way, and is happy to leave only a faint shine on its fur ...

Ars Brevis, Vita Longa

Dan Jacobson, 16 July 1981

The Oxford Book of Short Stories 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Oxford, 547 pp., £9.50, June 1981, 0 19 214116 3
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The Short Story in English 
by Walter Allen.
Oxford, 413 pp., £9.50, February 1981, 0 19 812666 2
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... or event – these seem to be the defining characteristics of the short story for both V.S. Pritchett, in his introduction to The Oxford Book of Short Stories, and Walter Allen, in his critical survey, The Short Story in English. ‘The short story,’ writes Allen, is ‘rooted in a single incident or perception’; its effect ‘is nearer to that of ...

A Sense of England

Graham Bradshaw, 17 February 1983

Collected Stories 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 520 pp., £12.50, June 1982, 0 7011 3904 8
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... In 1976, V.S. Pritchett remarked that ‘what has always struck me in Irish writing is the sense of Ireland itself, its past or its imagined future, as a presence or invisible character.’ He added that in English short stories ‘the sense of England as an extra character is very rarely felt.’ Allowing Kipling as one obvious exception, Pritchett was too modest to mention what is probably the finest and most ambitious of his own longer stories, ‘When my girl comes home ...

Barbara Pym’s Hymn

Karl Miller, 6 March 1980

... authors have died in the course of Britain’s current and by now customary hard winter. V.S. Pritchett writes, nearby, about one of them, and I would like to write about another – the novelist, Barbara Pym. To think of her in relation to a literary world, with its apparatus of publicity and reward, gives a sense of incongruity, but, of ...

Victor Ludorum

Julian Symons, 20 December 1990

The Complete Short Stories 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 1220 pp., £25, November 1990, 0 7011 3712 6
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Lasting Impressions 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 171 pp., £15.99, November 1990, 0 7011 3606 5
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... the question of the degree and nature of commitment nagged like an aching tooth. In 1948, V.S. Pritchett set out his views of the problem in the course of an exchange of letters being written for publication. Writers, he said, enlarged the knowledge of human nature, but in the present time was that enough? Ought they not, perhaps, to be putting their ...

Diary

John Bayley: On V.S. Pritchett, the Man of Letters, 30 January 1992

... illuminate, intrigue and divert at the same time, which is why a master of the genre like V.S. Pritchett is himself both critic and creator. As man of letters and critic, Pritchett covered all the ground. His collected criticism.† a rich and massive volume, examines as a many authors as all 12 volumes of Scrutiny; and ...

Not all that Keen

John Bayley, 16 March 1989

Chekhov: A Spirit Set Free 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Hodder, 235 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 0 340 37409 8
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... In what is by far the best study yet of the ways his stories and plays work and got written, V.S. Pritchett shows how simply and naturally Chekhov gravitated to the stage while remaining all the while a story-writer. No more than his hero does Pritchett contrast or separate the two. Himself one of the best of modern ...

Things happen all the time

James Wood, 8 May 1997

Selected Stories 
by Alice Munro.
Chatto, 412 pp., £16.99, November 1996, 0 7011 6521 9
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... by seeing it through them. In this category are Tolstoy, Chekhov; and in our age the late V.S. Pritchett and Alice Munro. Alice Munro is such a good writer that nobody bothers anymore to judge her goodness, as people long ago stopped judging Pritchett’s – her reputation is like a good address. She is surely ...

No Tricks

Frank Kermode: Raymond Carver, 19 October 2000

Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Prose 
by Raymond Carver.
Harvill, 300 pp., £15, July 2000, 1 86046 759 8
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... to advice, especially from John Gardner but also, more remotely, from Hemingway, Chekhov and V.S. Pritchett. One of the things he learned was the need for arduous revision, draft after draft. Another lesson was that the writer needs to trust the tale. Lawrence notoriously advised the reader to do so, but the writer has to trust it because it will collaborate ...

Trips

Graham Coster, 26 July 1990

In Xanadu: A Quest 
by William Dalrymple.
Collins, 314 pp., £14.95, July 1989, 0 00 217948 2
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The Gunpowder Gardens 
by Jason Goodwin.
Chatto, 230 pp., £14.95, March 1990, 0 7011 3620 0
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Silk Roads: The Asian Adventures of André and Clara Malraux 
by Axel Madsen.
Tauris, 299 pp., £14.95, April 1990, 1 85043 209 0
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At Home and Abroad 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 332 pp., £14.95, February 1990, 0 7011 3620 0
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Great Plains 
by Ian Frazier.
Faber, 290 pp., £14.99, March 1990, 0 571 14260 5
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... hardly measures up to this panegyric to megalomania. No such slackly gushing verbiage in V.S. Pritchett’s collection of travel essays, At Home and Abroad: Every adjective in place, every sentence balanced and settled, every judgment considered, every piece a model of composure, whether Pritchett is disserting on ...

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