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At the Barbican

Peter Campbell: Martin Parr

4 April 2002
Martin Parr 
by Val Williams.
Phaidon, 354 pp., £45, February 2002, 0 7148 3990 6
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... photograph: a history which begins with the first ethnographic records and ends with confessional snapshots. It is a progress which has been advanced by technology and marked by transgression. ValWilliams’s exemplary text allows one to follow both Parr’s technical path and his move from being an implicitly engaged, sympathetic, amused commentator to one whose camera, like a roving spotlight, lets ...
5 September 1985
The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams 
by Donald Spoto.
Bodley Head, 409 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 370 30847 6
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Tennessee Williams​ on File 
by Catherine Arnott.
Methuen, 80 pp., £7.95, May 1985, 0 413 58550 6
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... Ayckbourn-and-Frayn tragicomedians. Poverty, disease and disability we encounter in abundance, but as the occasion for either morbidity or schmaltz. The slow but sure revival of interest in Tennessee Williams – this summer Harold Pinter directing Sweet Bird of Youth, and brilliantly – suggests a general awareness that there may currently be a hole where our theatre’s heart should be. That ...
8 March 1990
The Wimbledon Poisoner 
by Nigel Williams.
Faber, 307 pp., £12.99, March 1990, 0 571 14242 7
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The Other Occupant 
by Peter Benson.
Macmillan, 168 pp., £12.95, February 1990, 0 333 52509 4
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Possession 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 511 pp., £13.95, March 1990, 0 7011 3260 4
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... Henry Farr is – or, as it turns out, is not – the ‘Wimbledon Poisoner’ of Nigel Williams’s title. He is a Pooterish solicitor, middling and muddling his way through life; the plot concerns his repeated farcical failure to murder his awful wife, bumping off (he thinks) other innocent ...

Punch-up at the Poetry Reading

Joanna Kavenna: Dorothy Porter’s verse novel

7 May 1998
The Monkey's Mask 
by Dorothy Porter.
Serpent’s Tail, 264 pp., £9.99, October 1997, 1 85242 549 0
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... which is too much for the recipients to stand. The constant motion of the detective between centrality and exclusion has made the genre ripe for feminist and lesbian reworking. Sara Paretsky, Val McDermid, Elizabeth George, Mary Wings and Katherine Forrest have re-created the detective as a single or Sapphic thirty-something woman, brandishing a handgun. The shape-shifting and self ...

Nothing for Ever and Ever

Frank Kermode: Housman’s Pleasures

5 July 2007
The Letters of A.E. Housman 
edited by Archie Burnett.
Oxford, 1228 pp., £180, March 2007, 978 0 19 818496 6
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... but coldly, that they could go ahead provided they changed no word of the poem concerned. He refused all offers of payment but insisted on the observance of the ban on omission or alteration; Vaughan Williams transgressed, and Housman seems never to have forgiven him. Repeated requests from anthologists for poems from A Shropshire Lad were turned down flat. A great many of these letters say ‘no’, very ...

I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters

24 January 2013
Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... written about Styron’s clarion debut novel, Lie Down in Darkness, for Mademoiselle, asked the young author to a little thing he was hosting. Who was there? Oh, you know, the usual crew: Tennessee Williams, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, and Hemingway’s great chum, the one he called ‘the Kraut’: Marlene Dietrich. ‘You could have knocked me over with a pin,’ Styron wrote to his aunt Edith ...

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