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The Only True Throne

John Pemble: ‘Muckraker’

19 July 2012
Muckraker: The Scandalous Life and Times of W.T. Stead 
by W. Sydney Robinson.
Robson, 281 pp., £20, May 2012, 978 1 84954 294 4
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... Nothing like being an editor for getting a swollen head,’ the Fleet Street veteran A.G. Gardiner wrote in his memoirs. He must have had W.T. Stead especially in mind, because no editorial head was bigger than Stead’s. In the 1880s, first as deputy editor then editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, he’d been able (he said) to ‘wreck ...

Best Beloved

Kevin Brownlow

18 April 1985
Chaplin: His Life and Art 
by David Robinson.
Collins, 792 pp., £15, March 1985, 9780002163873
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... four new biographies: Richard Koszarski’s Erich von Stroheim, Roger Icart’s Abel Gance (in French – still searching for an English publisher), Richard Schickel’s D. W. Griffith and now David Robinson’s Chaplin. All have one vital quality in common, and are preceded in this respect by Alexander Walker’s book on Garbo: they depend far less upon books of film history than upon first-class and ...
24 September 1992
The Last Magician 
by Janette Turner Hospital et al.
Virago, 352 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 1 85381 325 7
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Vinland 
by George Mackay Brown.
Murray, 232 pp., £14.95, July 1992, 0 7195 5149 8
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... that their regulating power is in fact just as illusory as the power of isobars to make sense of ‘the sloshing flood of time and space’. From the perspective of a smart garden party overlooking Sydney harbour, the line separating order (of which Hospital disapproves, because it’s authoritarian) from chaos (of which she approves, because it’s human) is called sharply into question: ‘Where ...
4 March 1982
The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen 
introduced by Angus Wilson.
Cape, 782 pp., £8.50, February 1981, 0 224 01838 8
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Elizabeth Bowen: An Estimation 
by Hermione Lee.
Vision, 225 pp., £12.95, July 1981, 9780854783441
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... the sinuosities are waiting in ambush. See, for example, the later of her two masterpieces, The Death of the Heart.* (The other, and for some readers the even finer novel, was The Last September.) If we again open it and read its first two pages to peer through the first wisps of its smoke of battle in search of the central theme, it is there as plain as an opened diary. The ‘catch’ is, as old ...

Dun and Gum

Nicholas Jose: Murray Bail

16 July 1998
Eucalyptus 
by Murray Bail.
Harvill, 264 pp., £12.99, July 1998, 1 86046 494 7
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... frustrated at the ways language fails to fit the world – and that argument is acute, particularly for a writer whose approach is so painterly. Then, of course, there is the problem of Australia. ‘We’re so cripplingly laconic,’ he says, clinging to the place in spite of its constraints. But perhaps the biggest problem remains the writer’s self that can never quite be abolished. Bail’s ...
28 May 1992
Barcelona 
by Robert Hughes.
Harvill, 575 pp., £20, May 1992, 0 00 272078 7
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Barcelonas 
by Manuel Vazquez Montalban, translated by Andrew Robinson.
Verso, 210 pp., £17.95, May 1992, 0 86091 353 8
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Cities of Spain 
by David Gilmour.
Murray, 214 pp., £17.95, March 1992, 0 7195 4833 0
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Red City, Blue Period: Social Movements in Picasso’s Barcelona 
by Temma Kaplan.
California, 266 pp., $30, April 1992, 0 520 07507 2
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... is the great regional myth, peddled in all kinds of forms. It is usually opposed to Castilian abstraction and rigidity, and there is a Catalan word for it: seny. This untranslatable term means, we are told, something like common sense, or the spirit of compromise, but it is also rendered as wisdom and intelligence, and Temma Kaplan associates it with solidarity. ‘The man of seny,’ we learn ...

Solid Advice

Michael Wilding

8 May 1986
A Fortunate Life 
by A.B. Facey.
Viking, 331 pp., £10.95, February 1986, 0 670 80707 9
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... where prospectors had camped. The prospectors lived on tinned foods. When the tins were emptied they were just thrown into heaps near the camps.     Aunt and Grandma gathered the tins, then wewould gather bushes, scrub and sticks, spread them onto the ground, and pile the tins on top. A pile would be left for a few days until the bushes and scrub, which were mostly green, dried enough to ...

Superhistory

Patrick Parrinder

6 December 1990
Curfew 
by Jose Donoso, translated by Alfred MacAdam.
Picador, 310 pp., £13.95, October 1990, 0 330 31157 3
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War Fever 
by J.G. Ballard.
Collins, 176 pp., £12.95, November 1990, 0 00 223770 9
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Great Climate 
by Michael Wilding.
Faber, 147 pp., £12.99, November 1990, 0 571 14428 4
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Honour Thy Father 
by Lesley Glaister.
Secker, 182 pp., £13.99, September 1990, 9780436199981
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... is set among the witches of Chiloe, and Donoso manages to employ the notion of metamorphosis or magical transformation while sedulously avoiding the style of unrestrained ‘magic realism’ that we have come to expect of Latin American novels. ‘It was so easy to imitate Garcia Marquez, and everyone was doing it,’ the narrator remarks of the mourners gathered at the Nerudas’ house: but the ...

Mighty Merry

E.S. Turner

25 May 1995
The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Eleven Volumes, including Companion and Index 
edited by R.C. Latham and W.​ Matthews.
HarperCollins, 267 pp., £8.99, February 1995, 0 00 499021 8
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... if prickly, worker and toiled at the task for three years, leaving out only the passages he marked as ‘Obj.’ (objectionable). The richer by £200, he then followed his father into the Church. Wewould do well to remember the Reverend John Smith in a year which sees the first publication in paperback of the work on which he did the initial drudgery. This entire version, infinitely corrected ...

The Things We​ Throw Away

Andrew O’Hagan: The Garbage of England

24 May 2007
... you mean, living for love?’ I said. He ran a hand through his hair and stroked his cheek. ‘Putting other people’s needs before my own,’ he said. ‘When I left that hideous job I got a sense wewere all interconnected. Freeganism tries to connect with people’s needs – putting community first. In 2002, I decided to devote my life to getting the message out and living as sincerely as ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2000

25 January 2001
... posting a letter stops to talk – and what enables him to break the ice is that she is a woman doing a man’s job. 8 January. By train to Cambridge on a day of blinding sunshine and bitter cold. We eat our sandwiches on the train, a busy, bucketing electric job that scampers through Shepreth and Foxton and very different from the plodding little steam train I used to take into Cambridge when I ...

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