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Lacking in style

Keith Kyle, 25 February 1993

Divided we stand: Britain, the US and the Suez Crisis 
by W. Scott Lucas.
Hodder, 399 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 340 53666 7
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Blind Loyalty: Australia and the Suez Crisis 
by W.J. Hudson.
Melbourne, 157 pp., £12.50, November 1991, 0 522 84394 8
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... State making an almost identical remark. It is with this episode that the young American scholar Scott Lucas, in the introduction to Divided we stand, opens his meticulously researched and pleasantly written examination of the 1956 crisis seen as a landmark in Anglo-American relations. What started as a PhD ...

Reach-Me-Down Romantic

Terry Eagleton: For and Against Orwell, 19 June 2003

George Orwell 
by Gordon Bowker.
Little, Brown, 495 pp., £20, May 2003, 0 316 86115 4
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Orwell: The Life 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 448 pp., £20, June 2003, 0 7011 6919 2
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Orwell: Life and Times 
by Scott Lucas.
Haus, 180 pp., £8.99, April 2003, 1 904341 33 0
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... have led one to suspect: some of this is true, some of it questionable and the rest of it false. (Scott Lucas, by contrast, thinks almost all of it true.) Orwell was indeed unsociable, anti-feminist and homophobic, but only ambiguously anti-semitic, and by no means such a dewy-eyed idealiser of the plebs as some have imagined. Both Bowker ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The gangster movie, 13 December 2007

American Gangster 
directed by Ridley Scott.
November 2007
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... Ridley Scott is always a director to watch. This proposition includes watching for things to avoid, especially when he goes for history and costume, as in 1492 and The Kingdom of Heaven. But there were also The Duellists and Thelma and Louise; and Blade Runner, it seems, is always showing up in a new version. A ‘final cut’, following on the studio cut and the director’s cut, is just out ...

I hear, I see, I learn

Nicholas Spice, 4 November 1993

The Green Knight 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 472 pp., £15.99, September 1993, 0 7011 6030 6
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... The question of how we are to take Iris Murdoch’s characters (indeed, whether we can take them at all) is raised, even before we get to know them, by their names. In The Green Knightwe have to contend with Lucas and Clement Graffe, Harvey Blacket, Bellamy James and his dog Anax, the Anderson women – Louise and her daughters Alethea (Aleph), Sophia (Sefton) and Moira (Moy) – Emil and Clive and the Adwardens ...

How the sanity of poets can be edited away

Arnold Rattenbury: The Sanity of Ivor Gurney, 14 October 1999

‘Severn and Somme’ and ‘War’s Embers’ 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 152 pp., £7.95, September 1997, 1 85754 348 3
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80 Poems or So 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by George Walter and R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 148 pp., £9.95, January 1997, 1 85754 344 0
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... Most loyal and protective of Gurney’s many friends, Marion Scott wrote after one of her regular visits to the asylum: ‘Ivor is so heart-breakingly sane in his insanity.’ Letters, reported conversation, music, poems all attest to the fact. He was trained and already admired as a composer before enlistment; in the trenches poetry had occupied him more and more and, when he returned afterwards to music, the poetry continued ...

In Brighton

Peter Campbell: Free associating on stucco, 23 May 2002

... traveller’s trophy room is not entirely absent: among people specifically celebrated are F.W. Lucas (1842-1932), a local collector of objects made from human and animal remains, and Melton Prior (1845-1910), who brought home trophies and weapons from the places he visited as war correspondent for the Illustrated London News. But many of the masks, totems ...

Remembering the taeog

D.A.N. Jones, 30 August 1990

People of the Black Mountains. Vol. II: The Eggs of the Eagle 
by Raymond Williams.
Chatto, 330 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 7011 3564 6
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In the Blue Light of African Dreams 
by Paul Watkins.
Heinemann, 282 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 09 174307 9
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Friedrich Harris: Shooting the hero 
by Philip Purser.
Quartet, 250 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 7043 2759 7
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The Journey Home 
by Dermot Bolger.
Viking, 294 pp., £13.99, June 1990, 0 670 83215 4
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Evenings at Mongini’s 
by Russell Lucas.
Heinemann, 262 pp., £12.95, January 1990, 0 434 43646 1
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... the frost, he remembers the taeog.’ No doubt he does ... Hand me the dictionaries. In AD 1356, we read that Ieuan’s land might be ‘subject to escheat’, were it not that ‘this is land of the gwely. It passes only in ach ac edryf.’ Such rarities of language disconcert the reader, especially when mouthed by thin characters. Still, the 1356 story is ...

I’ll be back

Marjorie Garber: Sequels, 19 August 1999

Part Two: Reflections on the Sequel 
edited by Paul Budra and Betty Schellenberg.
Toronto, 217 pp., £40, February 1999, 0 8020 0915 8
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... her people,’ Jane Austen’s nephew wrote in his Memoir of his aunt. In this traditionary way we learned that Miss Steele never succeeded in catching the Doctor; that Kitty Bennet was satisfactorily married to a clergyman near Pemberley, while Mary obtained nothing higher than one of her uncle Philips’ clerks, and was content to be considered a star in ...

Slick Chick

Elaine Showalter, 11 July 1991

The Haunting of Sylvia Plath 
by Jacqueline Rose.
Virago, 288 pp., £14.99, June 1991, 1 85381 307 9
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Passions of the Mind 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 340 pp., £17, August 1991, 0 7011 3260 4
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... We all know the story. A brilliant, neurotic young American woman poet, studying on a fellowship at Cambridge, meets and marries the ‘black marauder’ who is the male poet-muse of her fantasies. Doubled and twinned – ‘one skin between us’, as she says; ‘two feet of one body’, as he says – they launch on the hard labour of poetic careers, supporting themselves on writing prizes and intermittent teaching jobs ...

When the beam of light has gone

Peter Wollen: Godard Turns Over, 17 September 1998

The Films of Jean-Luc Godard 
by Wheeler Winston Dixon.
SUNY, 290 pp., £17.99, March 1997, 0 7914 3285 8
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Speaking about Godard 
by Kaja Silverman and Harun Farocki.
New York, 256 pp., $55, July 1998, 0 8147 8066 0
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... film which is up on the screen turns out to be Budd Boetticher’s Westbound, one of the Randolph Scott cycle, although the voice that we hear on the soundtrack is mysteriously speaking some lines of poetry by Guillaume Apollinaire. In a way, this aberrant moment summed up Godard’s appeal for me – the perverse mixture ...

The World Took Sides

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Martin Luther, 11 August 2016

Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Centre of Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe – and Started the Protestant Reformation 
by Andrew Pettegree.
Penguin, 383 pp., £21.99, October 2015, 978 1 59420 496 8
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Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet 
by Lyndal Roper.
Bodley Head, 577 pp., £30, June 2016, 978 1 84792 004 1
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Martin Luther: Visionary Reformer 
by Scott H. Hendrix.
Yale, 341 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 0 300 16669 9
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... plain. The pinball machine of history then sent the consequences flying round the continent, and we are still observing the ricochets. Within fifty years of this apparently trivial action (Luther’s seminar never took place), people were calling the unintended consequences ‘the Reformation’. Modern inhabitants of the United Kingdom will be familiar with ...

The Party in Government

Conor Gearty, 9 March 1995

... it is the recent explosion of personal baseness that middle England has now finally noticed, then we should be thankful that they have noticed anything at all. The grasping mediocrity of this administration’s members is by no means its worst fault but it is the most beneficial to the nation if it is what eventually leads to its timely collapse. The ...

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