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Let every faction bloom

John Patrick Diggins

6 March 1997
For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism 
edited by Joshua Cohen.
Beacon, 154 pp., $15, August 1996, 0 8070 4313 3
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For Love of Country: An Essay on Patriotism and Nationalism 
by Maurizio Viroli.
Oxford, 214 pp., £22.50, September 1995, 0 19 827952 3
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Bonds of Affection: Americans Define Their Patriotism 
edited by John Bodnar.
Princeton, 352 pp., £45, September 1996, 0 691 04397 3
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Buring the Flag: The Great 1989-90 American Flag Desecration Controversy 
by Robert Justin Goldstein.
Kent State, 453 pp., $39, July 1996, 0 87338 526 8
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... and John Reed regarded themselves as nationalistic liberators willing to draw on the country’s intellectual traditions. Eastman defined himself as an ‘American lyrical socialist – a child of WaltWhitman reared by Karl Marx’. But with America’s entry into the war, the same thinkers saw an outbreak of ‘blind tribal instincts’ among intellectual leaders no less than among the masses ...
6 September 1984
Hazlitt: The Mind of a Critic 
by David Bromwich.
Oxford, 450 pp., £19.50, March 1984, 0 19 503343 4
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William Godwin: Philosopher, Novelist, Revolutionary 
by Peter Marshall.
Yale, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy 
edited by Marilyn Butler.
Cambridge, 280 pp., £25, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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... Hazlitt is sometimes rather like WaltWhitman, democratic, containing multitudes, yet happy with solitary self-communion. In a pleasant essay called ‘A Sun-Bath – Nakedness’, Whitman remarks: ‘Here I realise the meaning of that old fellow who said he was seldom less alone than when alone. Never before did I get so close to Nature ...’ Who was the old fellow? It might have ...

The Makers

David Harsent

19 September 1996
... sat at my shoulder throughout one bookblind summer foxing me utterly, and took, one by one, like a circle closing a circle, people I should have loved but wouldn’t, leaving me no way back, and took WaltWhitman and Raymond Chandler and Laurence Sterne, who hitch-hiked with me through France and Italy and down to Greece, the four of us with our toes at the utter brink of a strip of dual carriageway a ...
22 May 1986
The past is a foreign country 
by David Lowenthal.
Cambridge, 489 pp., £27.50, November 1985, 0 521 22415 2
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... the door’. The past opens escape routes from the uncertainty and anxiety, the fragility and evanescence, of the present. Not surprisingly, for an author who has for long been afflicted with what WaltWhitman called ‘the disease of historic nostalgia’, the first part of this book – wanting the past – claims the most space. Nostalgia provides the opening theme. But nostalgia is rarely ...
9 March 2006
Seven Lies 
by James Lasdun.
Cape, 199 pp., £14.99, February 2006, 0 224 07592 6
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... seeing a volume of foreign poetry in translation in the basement. So he finds it, copies out a German version of the first lines of Song of Myself, and treats the salon to a garbled reworking of WaltWhitman. No one spots the fraud. ‘The evening was considered a triumph,’ he explains, ‘and for the next period of my life I devoted most of my energies to maintaining the façade of “poet ...
17 July 1980
Imagining America 
by Peter Conrad.
Routledge, 319 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7100 0370 6
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... As a characteristic example, he asserts that, in Lawrence’s essay ‘Pan in America’, ‘Pan escapes from Wordsworth’s tame lakeland to America where, Lawrence announces, he is reincarnated as WaltWhitman. The lustful goat-god becomes the tutelary spirit of American transcendentalism, and is renamed “the Oversoul, the Allness of everything”. In America, Lawrence declares, “Pan is still ...

So this is how it works

Elaine Blair: Ben Lerner

19 February 2015
by Ben Lerner.
Granta, 244 pp., £14.99, January 2015, 978 1 84708 891 8
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... short story into a novel – Ben leaves the complications behind for a prestigious five-week writer’s residency in Marfa, Texas. He brings only one book with him, his Library of America edition of Whitman’s collected writing, because he’s going to be teaching a course on Whitman the following semester. The choice is fateful. He spends his days sleeping and his nights reading Whitman’s Specimen ...

The Magic Bloomschtick

Colin Burrow: Harold Bloom

19 November 2019
The American Canon: Literary Genius from Emerson to Pynchon 
by Harold Bloom, edited by David Mikics.
Library of America, 426 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 1 59853 640 9
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... in The Anxiety of Influence were Nietzsche and Freud, he is probably best regarded as the intellectual child of the great 19th-century American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson and his admirer the poet WaltWhitman. Bloom inherited rhetorical tics from Emerson, in particular a penchant for the resounding statement that hypes its own grandeur to the skies. He also took from him intellectual priorities: a ...


John Bayley

23 May 1991
The Oxford Book of Friendship 
edited by D.J. Enright and David Rawlinson.
Oxford, 360 pp., £15, April 1991, 0 19 214190 2
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... not impressed by the many varieties of having a crush on someone, which can occur at any age, and are here represented by extracts from Byron’s ‘Detached Thoughts’, Tom Brown’s Schooldays and WaltWhitman, together with many milder examples of such affection. She believed in its opposite, the doctrine as it were of mutual necessity. You don’t choose your friends any more than your siblings ...


August Kleinzahler: Too Bad about Mrs Ferri

20 September 2001
... anything, anything at all, happened to either of us, the baby-sitter would have his dick shot off. New Jersey was famous for gangsters way ahead of The Sopranos, and Fort Lee most famous of all. Like WaltWhitman before them, a number of enterprising souls had come over to the ‘Left Bank’ from Brooklyn. Guys like Willie Moretti, Tony Bender and Joe Adonis, né Doto, who took the name Adonis on ...

A Conversation with Gore Vidal

Thomas Powers: Meeting Gore Vidal

30 July 2014
... Henry James was not a queer! Now why did Leon Edel do that? [Vidal wanted to know]. Jewish Puritanism. He refused to admit his hero got into bed with men. It was a kind of conspiracy. James, WaltWhitman, even Proust – they were figures of a different age, spoke in a way which suggests sex to us, lived in a world of healthy, masculine intimacy etc etc, but great writers do not go to bed with boys ...

On Luljeta Lleshanaku

Michael Hofmann: Luljeta Lleshanaku

4 April 2019
... as she puts it in a short afterword to Haywire, ‘books that were victims of the cultural revolution, mostly translated Russian classics: Turgenev, Tolstoy, Chekhov, and sometimes an American like WaltWhitman’. Constantine again: ‘Her poetry has little connection to poetic styles past or present in America, Europe, or the rest of the world.’ Apparently, it isn’t even particularly Albanian ...

The Past’s Past

Thomas Laqueur

19 September 1996
Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History 
by Jay Winter.
Cambridge, 310 pp., £12.95, September 1996, 0 521 49682 9
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... of immediate loss diminishes. And yet we – that is, we moderns – are also acutely aware of just how utterly past the past is, how historical it is, how even the worst horrors lose their sting. As WaltWhitman wrote of the Civil War: Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must                                in time be utterly lost, That the hands of the ...

Time after Time

Stanley Cavell

12 January 1995
... a matter of life and death: if the new world is not new then America does not exist, it is merely one more outpost of old oppressions. Americans like Thoreau (and if Thoreau then Emerson and WaltWhitman, to say no more) seem to have lived so intensely or intently within the thought of a possible, and possibly closed, future that a passage like the following would be bound to have struck them as ...
19 May 1983
The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 284 pp., £9.95, January 1983, 0 19 503102 4
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... Poe’s ability to ‘occupy imaginatively and plausibly such scenes as Eton, Oxford or the back streets of Paris’. But his patriotic heart is with ‘the perennial and democratic concretes’ of WaltWhitman. ‘If Whitman is really the kind of poet their critical view implies,’ he thunders against literary opponents, ‘God help the Republic. The Republic’s not finished yet, and no one knows ...

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