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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 ...


Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows

7 October 1993
... t met,’ the smiling proprietor of the face, bearded too, said to me. ‘The first book I reviewed as a young man was a novel of yours. I’d never seen anything like it.’ My interlocutor was ValentineCunningham 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 ...

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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... that creates a shudder but the slip from ‘thou’ to ‘you’, as though the poet were reaching past his lover to us. I was reminded of the power of this passage, in all its strange tactility, by ValentineCunningham’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 ...

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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... reading of literature as an act of transgressive and forbidden love seems both valuable and true. Using the same set of ‘indeterminate, disject facts’ that Kermode shaped into a love story, ValentineCunningham 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 ...

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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... Yet it is just this statutory match of Old and Modern in one term that is now under scrutiny in the English Faculty in Oxford. In a recent piece in the Oxford Magazine called ‘Reading English’ ValentineCunningham 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 ...


Frank Kermode: Being a critic

27 May 1999
... London, an early 19th-century foundation, between these poles. There was a heroic age when very learned journalists, men of astonishing energy and dedication like Churton Collins (here dealt with by ValentineCunningham) 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 ...
26 November 1998
The Restraint of Beasts 
by Magnus Mills.
Flamingo, 215 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 00 225720 3
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... do to make every taxi driver think they had a novel in them. ‘If the judges give the Booker Prize to a bus driver for the sake of publicity,’ he said, ‘I shall despise them.’ The Booker judge ValentineCunningham 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 ...


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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... heard about it in England, he said, was ‘lies, because the propaganda is conducted by politicians, whether of the Daily Worker or of the Daily Mail’. The Daily Worker’s role in Spain was one of ValentineCunningham’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 ...

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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... on, one can imagine the Crime Writers Guild threatening to withdraw their labour. Whether Iris Murdoch was a lady or a woman is hard to say. In a busily energetic, impressively wide-ranging chapter, ValentineCunningham 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 ...
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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... to explain and defend it. The two listed above are collections of essays. The first contains two especially interesting pieces: one by John Coombes on Orwell’s despised Popular Front, and one by ValentineCunningham 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 ...

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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... by making them listen to the music in the sounds around them. But just as people were beginning to understand 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 ...

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