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Hugging the cats

John Bayley, 14 June 1990

Poems 
by Gay Clifford.
188 pp., £14.99, May 1990, 0 241 12976 1
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Selected Poems 1940 – 1989 
by Allen Curnow.
Viking, 209 pp., £15.99, May 1990, 0 670 83007 0
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Collected Poems and Selected Translations 
by Norman Cameron, edited by Warren Hope and Jonathan Barker.
Anvil, 160 pp., £14.95, May 1990, 0 85646 202 0
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Collected Poems 
by Enoch Powell.
Bellew, 198 pp., £9.95, April 1990, 0 947792 36 8
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... Good writing, in prose or verse, can seem a sort of visible distillation, brandy-like, of the anima vagula blandula, the tenuous and transparent daily self that produced it. Another kind of good writing does not establish itself as involuntary personality, but as something the writer is just very, very good at doing. Such a dispossessed fluency seems available to everyone with a flair for catching a fashion ...

A Joke Too Far

Colin Burrow: My Favourite Elizabethan, 22 August 2002

Sir John Harington and the Book as Gift 
by Jason Scott-Warren.
Oxford, 273 pp., £45, August 2001, 0 19 924445 6
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... description of a Court entertainment under James, which ends with the performer playing Hope getting hopelessly drunk and being unable to recite her lines. She joined Faith, and both were ‘sick and spewing in the lower hall’. Peace entered and ‘most rudely made war with her olive branch, and laid on the pates of those who did oppose her ...

Deathward

Adam Begley, 24 November 1988

Libra 
by Don DeLillo.
Viking, 456 pp., £11.95, November 1988, 0 670 82317 1
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... The President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, known familiarly as the Warren Commission, issued its report a little less than a year later. In the report, members of the commission allowed that certain questions remained unanswered, but their conclusion left no room for doubt: ‘The commission has found no evidence that either Lee ...

Peachy

David Thomson: LA Rhapsody, 27 January 2022

Always Crashing in the Same Car: On Art, Crisis and Los Angeles, California 
by Matthew Specktor.
Tin House, 378 pp., $17.95, July 2021, 978 1 951142 62 9
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... is a crowd waiting for a meditation on Tuesday Weld, let alone Eleanor Perry, Carole Eastman, Warren Zevon or Renata Adler. These are figures from our cultural past, but they are also characters, bystanders, torn posters looking down on Matthew Specktor’s family circle. His book is in some ways a work of critical commentary, as mind-expanding as a ...

Isle of Dogs

Iain Sinclair, 10 May 1990

Pit Bull 
by Scott Ely.
Penguin, 218 pp., £4.99, March 1990, 0 14 012033 5
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... its demented towers and abandoned wings. This is where you finish when the mind snaps beyond all hope of healing. All the unsolved problems have rolled down the hill and stuck, because they can go no further. The school yard is surrounded by a storm-fence to keep out the less determined and more visible spectres of rage. In the mornings – as the children ...

Anglophobics

Douglas Johnson, 25 April 1991

The Battle of France: Six weeks which changed the world 
by Philip Warner.
Simon and Schuster, 275 pp., £16, April 1990, 0 671 71030 3
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The Last War between Britain and France 1940-1942 
by Warren Tute.
Collins, 334 pp., £16, January 1990, 0 00 215318 1
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Darlan 
by Hervé Coutau-Bégarie and Claude Huan.
Fayard, 873 pp., frs 190, May 1989, 2 213 02271 2
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... understand how the survivors of the Highland Division would have preferred to take a gamble and hope to get back home, rather than be drafted to the prisoner-of-war camps, it is not true to say that the disaster was caused simply by the French eagerness to surrender. But if historians can agree about the conduct of French and British armies, there seems ...

Newspaperising the World

Sadakat Kadri: The Leveson Inquiry, 5 July 2012

Dial M for Murdoch 
by Tom Watson and Martin Hickman.
Allen Lane, 360 pp., £20, April 2012, 978 1 84614 603 9
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... That report was incorrect: although voicemails had been deleted, giving Milly’s parents false hope that she was still alive, they had been deleted automatically. But the damage was done. As advertising haemorrhaged from the News of the World, Rupert Murdoch flew to London to express his personal regret. In the hope of ...

Acapulcalypse

Patrick Parrinder, 23 November 1989

Christopher Unborn 
by Carlos Fuentes, translated by Alfred MacAdam.
Deutsch, 531 pp., £13.95, October 1989, 0 233 98016 4
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The Faber Book of Contemporary Latin American Short Stories 
edited by Nick Caistor.
Faber, 188 pp., £11.99, September 1989, 0 571 15359 3
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Hollywood 
by Gore Vidal.
Deutsch, 543 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 9780233984957
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Oldest living Confederate widow tells all 
by Allan Gurganus.
Faber, 718 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 9780571142019
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... to $1992 billion, and the Yucatan peninsula has been ceded to the Club Mediterranée in the vain hope of paying the interest. The population of Mexico, or Makesicko, City has reached thirty million human beings and four times as many rats. Further north, the greater part of the old republic has been annexed by the United States, and further north still the ...

A Cheat, a Sharper and a Swindler

Brian Young: Warren Hastings, 24 May 2001

Dawning of the Raj: The Life and Trials of Warren Hastings 
by Jeremy Bernstein.
Aurum, 319 pp., £19.99, March 2001, 1 85410 753 4
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... Early in his career as the first Governor-General of the East India Company in Bengal, Warren Hastings instituted an annual dinner for fellow old boys of Westminster School. He paced his own contribution to these occasions superbly; while other ‘Westminsters’ drank to potentially dangerous degrees of excess in a forbidding climate, the abstemious Hastings consumed only small quantities of diluted wine along with many glasses of water ...

What Dettol Can’t Fix

Bee Wilson: A Life in Lists, 13 September 2018

Elisabeth’s Lists: A Family Story 
by Lulah Ellender.
Granta, 318 pp., £16.99, March 2018, 978 1 78378 383 0
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... am shortly going to take as much of my accumulated dose of sleeping draught as I can manage and hope that it will prove lethal. You know the reasons, food shortages and increasing debility and weariness – unlikeliness of us winning the war etc. etc.’When the news came through of Norton’s death, Elisabeth’s parents, who were in Ankara, sent a ...

The Gunman

Denis Donoghue, 27 November 1997

The Star Factory 
by Ciaran Carson.
Granta, 304 pp., £13.99, November 1997, 1 86207 072 5
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... Germany in aggression. My father was the sergeant-in-charge of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Warren point, Co. Down and he was instructed to arrest all enemy aliens in the town and convey them for internment to Crumlin Road Jail in Belfast. The only alien we had was an Italian who ran the fish and chip shop in the Square. He had anglicised his name to ...

NHS SOS

James Meek, 5 April 2018

... starts to crowd it out. In September​ last year, in Lutterworth in Leicestershire, I met Wendy Warren. She was born in Kent in 1935 and moved to Leicester just after the Second World War when her father, an engineer, found work there. She did well at school and was set to go to college, but her father lost his job and she chose to help her mother by ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... The Paranoid Style in American Politics, then modern American conspiracy theory begins with the Warren Commission. There had been toxic political speculation at high level before, as when certain people thought that there was something too convenient about the Lusitania for President Woodrow Wilson, and too easy about Pearl Harbour for President Franklin ...

There’s Daddy

Michael Wood, 13 February 1992

Flying in to Love 
by D.M. Thomas.
Bloomsbury, 262 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 7475 1129 2
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JFK 
directed by Oliver Stone.
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... The Warren Commission reported that it found no ‘credible’ or ‘meaningful’ evidence of a conspiracy to assassinate President John Kennedy, and the words are of course a sore temptation to suspicious eyes. Do they mean, as they seem to mean, no real evidence at all? Or no evidence to speak of; no evidence you could act on; plenty of evidence but all of it shaky; plenty of evidence but none of it irresistible? What about the tone of that massive report, the words beneath the words? Patient scruple or cautious relief? I think it unlikely that the Commission was simply the great whitewash that many people see in it, but it did seem very happy to find all its trails leading only to Oswald, the lone killer who was himself conveniently killed two days later ...

Good Things

Colin McGinn, 5 September 1996

Virtues and Reasons: Philippa Foot and Moral Theory 
edited by Rosalind Hursthouse, Gavin Lawrence and Warren Quinn.
Oxford, 350 pp., £35, July 1996, 0 19 824046 5
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... If she does not, she is not being irrational in reasoning by invalid rules of inference. We may hope that people will desire to reason as logic says they should, but we can’t accuse them of unreason if they fail to. Such a view of logical reasoning will strike most people as radical and bizarre: they will incline to the view that logic supplies us with a ...

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