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Melton Constable

W.R. Mead, 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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... of the present. Not surprisingly, for an author who has for long been afflicted with what Walt Whitman 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 memory without pain. Dreams can be transformed into ...

Poetry to Thrill an Oyster

Gregory Woods: Fitz-Greene Halleck, 16 November 2000

The American Byron: Homosexuality and the Fall of Fitz-Greene Halleck 
by John W.M. Hallock.
Wisconsin, 226 pp., £14.95, April 2000, 0 299 16804 2
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... of apparent homoeroticism in the verse, nothing in Halleck’s life and career (unlike, say, Whitman’s or Melville’s) is particularly helpful to the reader who wants to reconstruct him as a gay writer. As a consequence, the over-extended effort of Hallock’s critical approach gives rise to frequent moments of absurdity. For instance, a female ...

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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... traditions. Eastman defined himself as an ‘American lyrical socialist – a child of Walt Whitman 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. Eastman’s essay on ‘The Religion of ...

Fiery Participles

D.A.N. Jones, 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 Walt Whitman, 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 ...

A Pair of Lobsters in a Murky Tank

Theo Tait: James Lasdun, 9 March 2006

Seven Lies 
by James Lasdun.
Cape, 199 pp., £14.99, February 2006, 0 224 07592 6
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... version of the first lines of Song of Myself, and treats the salon to a garbled reworking of Walt Whitman. 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-intellectual” that my mother’s warped pride had ...

A Conversation with Gore Vidal

Thomas Powers: Meeting Gore Vidal, 31 July 2014

... He refused to admit his hero got into bed with men. It was a kind of conspiracy. James, Walt Whitman, 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. Jews are never homosexuals (‘except for ...

Peter Conrad’s Flight from Precision

Richard Poirier, 17 July 1980

Imagining America 
by Peter Conrad.
Routledge, 319 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7100 0370 6
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... from Wordsworth’s tame lakeland to America where, Lawrence announces, he is reincarnated as Walt Whitman. 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 alive.” ’ As it happens, Lawrence’s ...

If Only Analogues...

Ange Mlinko: Ginsberg Goes to India, 20 November 2008

A Blue Hand: The Beats in India 
by Deborah Baker.
Penguin US, 256 pp., £25.95, April 2008, 978 1 59420 158 5
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... and windows of his mind’? There was also a prophecy laid out in ‘A Passage to India’ by Walt Whitman, one of Ginsberg’s guiding lights: ‘Passage O soul to India!/Eclaircise the myths Asiatic, the primitive fables.’ America’s very origins were bound up in its mistaken identity with India. Surely, Ginsberg thought, these were signs. The ...

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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... 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 ...
From Bauhaus to Our House 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 143 pp., £6.95, March 1982, 0 224 02030 7
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... Louis Sullivan to Henry Hobson Richardson, both of whom were as American as Mom, apple-pie and Walt Whitman. From the time that intelligent Europeans like Adolf Loos and C.R. Ashbee began to acquire first-hand knowledge of American architecture around the turn of the present century, it became increasingly pointless to draw hard-and-fast lines between ...


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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... here represented by extracts from Byron’s ‘Detached Thoughts’, Tom Brown’s Schooldays and Walt Whitman, 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, but depend on them while they are there, as they on ...


August Kleinzahler: Too Bad about Mrs Ferri, 20 September 2001

... Jersey was famous for gangsters way ahead of The Sopranos, and Fort Lee most famous of all. Like Walt Whitman 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 account he was so fucking good-looking. The ‘Al Capone ...

On Luljeta Lleshanaku

Michael Hofmann: Luljeta Lleshanaku, 4 April 2019

... mostly translated Russian classics: Turgenev, Tolstoy, Chekhov, and sometimes an American like Walt Whitman’. 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 either. ‘We have in Lleshanaku a completely original ...

He’s Humbert, I’m Dolores

Emily Witt, 21 May 2020

My Dark Vanessa 
by Kate Elizabeth Russell.
Fourth Estate, 384 pp., £12.99, March, 978 0 00 834224 1
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... shared alienation. He doesn’t like dogs; Vanessa loves them but forgives him. He lectures on Walt Whitman and ‘the idea that people contain multitudes and contradictions’, and on Robert Frost – ‘The Road Not Taken’, according to Strane, ‘isn’t meant to be a celebration of going against the grain but rather an ironic performance about ...

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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... utterly past the past is, how historical it is, how even the worst horrors lose their sting. As Walt Whitman 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 sisters Death and Night incessantly softly wash again and ...

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