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A whole lot of faking

Valentine Cunningham, 22 April 1993

by John Banville.
Secker, 245 pp., £14.99, April 1993, 0 436 19991 2
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... The philosopher asks: Can the style of an evil man have any unity?’ It’s a wonderfully sharp question, marrying morals to aesthetics in a challenging new-old fashion. And it’s a question, as ever with John Banville, within other questions. Who, for instance, you’re made to wonder at this point in Ghosts, is actually asking? Some anonymous narrator? The author? The novel’s own enigmatic ‘evil man’, the one who does so much of its telling and, it turns out, has a lot morally to answer for? You never know ...


Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows, 7 October 1993

... as a young man was a novel of yours. I’d never seen anything like it.’ My interlocutor was Valentine Cunningham and he had been invited to the party because I’d quoted in my memoir a remark of his, in the TLS, about a subsequent book of mine: ‘There is even a case to be made for Giles Gordon being the only true inheritor of the late ...

Touching and Being Touched

John Kerrigan: Valentine Cunningham, 19 September 2002

Reading after Theory 
by Valentine Cunningham.
Blackwell, 194 pp., £45, December 2001, 0 631 22167 0
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... his lover to us. I was reminded of the power of this passage, in all its strange tactility, by Valentine Cunningham’s too brief discussion of it at the climax of Reading after Theory. For the most part his book is a polemical but unsurprising survey of the strengths and drawbacks of Theory as it has influenced literary study in the last few ...


Frank Kermode: Being a critic, 27 May 1999

... journalists, men of astonishing energy and dedication like Churton Collins (here dealt with by Valentine Cunningham) were fighting for appointment to the newly created chairs of English literature. John Sutherland provides a historical sketch to show that the literary as opposed to the linguistic appointments at UCL have often gone to people with a ...

Loose Canons

Edward Mendelson, 23 June 1988

History and Value: The Clarendon Lectures and the Northcliffe Lectures 1987 
by Frank Kermode.
Oxford, 160 pp., £15, June 1988, 0 19 812381 7
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by Stephen Haggard and Frank Kermode.
Oxford, 475 pp., £5.95, June 1988, 0 19 282135 0
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British Writers of the Thirties 
by Valentine Cunningham.
Oxford, 530 pp., £30, February 1988, 0 19 212267 3
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... Using the same set of ‘indeterminate, disject facts’ that Kermode shaped into a love story, Valentine Cunningham constructs something very different. British Writers of the Thirties marshals everything there is to know about the literary Thirties into an extraordinary and indispensable resource. Cunningham has ...

Grendel gongan

Richard North, 10 October 1991

The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature 
by Malcolm Godden and Michael Lapidge.
Cambridge, 298 pp., £30, June 1991, 0 521 37438 3
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... English Faculty in Oxford. In a recent piece in the Oxford Magazine called ‘Reading English’ Valentine Cunningham proposes the abolition of compulsory Old English as part of a reform of the post-Medieval syllabus. Those who think as he does appear to see Old and Modern as implacable rivals, or at least as de rigueur alternatives. It is a spurious ...
The Restraint of Beasts 
by Magnus Mills.
Flamingo, 215 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 00 225720 3
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... a bus driver for the sake of publicity,’ he said, ‘I shall despise them.’ The Booker judge Valentine Cunningham explained that ‘all the women liked the bus driver’ and sneeringly described the book as ‘quite ordinary and evening-class’. The novel is ill-served by these caricatures and is quite a bit more interesting than its ...


Michael Church, 9 October 1986

The Children of the Souls: A Tragedy of the First World War 
by Jeanne Mackenzie.
Chatto, 276 pp., £14.95, June 1986, 9780701128470
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Voices from the Spanish Civil War: Personal Recollections of Scottish Volunteers in Republican Spain 1936-39 
edited by Ian MacDougall, by Victor Kiernan.
Polygon, 369 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 948275 19 7
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The Shallow Grave: A Memoir of the Spanish Civil War 
by Walter Gregory, edited by David Morris and Anthony Peters.
Gollancz, 183 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 575 03790 3
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Spanish Front: Writers on the Civil War 
edited by Valentine Cunningham.
Oxford, 388 pp., £15, July 1986, 0 19 212258 4
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The Spanish Cockpit 
by Franz Borkenau.
Pluto, 303 pp., £4.95, July 1986, 0 7453 0188 6
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The Spanish Civil War 1936-39 
by Paul Preston.
Weidenfeld, 184 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 297 78891 4
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Images of the Spanish Civil War 
by Raymond Carr.
Allen and Unwin, 192 pp., £14.95, July 1986, 0 04 940089 4
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... whether of the Daily Worker or of the Daily Mail’. The Daily Worker’s role in Spain was one of Valentine Cunningham’s targets in the astringent introduction to his earlier anthology The Penguin Book of Spanish Civil War Verse. Cuningham noted the paper’s slavering desire for martyrs and its cynical distortion of facts, and he held up for scorn the ...

In the Company of Confreres

Terry Eagleton: ‘Modern British Fiction’, 12 December 2002

On Modern British Fiction 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 328 pp., £14.99, October 2002, 0 19 924932 6
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... was a lady or a woman is hard to say. In a busily energetic, impressively wide-ranging chapter, Valentine Cunningham lavishes the customary critical praise on her conception of human life as sprawling, contingent and delightfully muddled. This delight in messiness was not in fact confined to her art, as Martin Amis points out in a brief, reprinted ...

The Essential Orwell

Frank Kermode, 22 January 1981

George Orwell: A Life 
by Bernard Crick.
Secker, 473 pp., £10, November 1980, 9780436114502
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Class, Culture and Social Change: A New View of the 1930s 
edited by Frank Gloversmith.
Harvester, 285 pp., £20, July 1980, 0 85527 938 9
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Culture and Crisis in Britain in the Thirties 
edited by Jon Clark, Margot Heinemann, David Margolies and Carole Snee.
Lawrence and Wishart, 279 pp., £3.50, March 1980, 0 85315 419 8
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... interesting pieces: one by John Coombes on Orwell’s despised Popular Front, and one by Valentine Cunningham on the famous pamphlet ‘Authors take sides in the Spanish War’. The second collection is much more interesting because it contains material by survivors: in fact, it is dedicated to a vindication of the ‘radical culture’ of the ...

Rain, Blow, Rustle

Nick Richardson: John Cage, 19 August 2010

No Such Thing As Silence: John Cage’s 4'33" 
by Kyle Gann.
Yale, 255 pp., £16.99, April 2010, 978 0 300 13699 9
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... what he was doing, Cage’s marriage was falling apart. He had fallen in love with Merce Cunningham, whom he had first met back at Cornish. In a vain concession to marital fidelity the two men attempted a ménage à trois with Xenia, but Cage’s sexual preference was all too obvious, and she was slowly, inexorably frozen out. Cage’s compunction ...

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