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Time and Men and Deeds

Christopher Driver, 4 August 1983

Blue Highways: A Journey into America 
by William LeastHeat Moon.
Secker, 421 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 0 436 28459 6
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... of there, there, between Nameless, Tennessee and Liberty Bond, Washington – two stations on Moon’s orbit of his own land. As for novelty worship, planned obsolescence – though not necessarily more objectionable than the unplanned British kind – came in 31 flavours or 57 varieties long before the phrase was invented. The celebration of obsolescence ...

Diary

August Kleinzahler: My Last Big Road Trip, 2 December 2010

... unless they’re confident of their survival skills.’ It doesn’t seem to me all that lonely, least not these days, but it’s quiet enough. ‘I think I need to hold off a bit before we listen to the C major,’ the Maestro says, at the end of Bach’s D minor Partita for solo violin, recorded by Nathan Milstein in the mid-1950s. ‘And that’s with one ...

The Most Beautiful Icicle

Inigo Thomas: Apollo 11, 15 August 2019

Reaching for the MoonA Short History of the Space Race 
by Roger D. Launius.
Yale, 256 pp., £20, July 2019, 978 0 300 23046 8
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The MoonA History for the Future 
by Oliver Morton.
Economist Books, 334 pp., £20, May 2019, 978 1 78816 254 8
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... In​ Neil Armstrong’s photograph of Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon, taken with a camera strapped to his chest, Aldrin stands at ease, his right arm hanging loosely at his side, the left raised as if he’s about to do something – look at his watch, perhaps? The photograph was taken fifty years ago, on 20 July 1969, and it’s one of the most recognisable photographs from the Apollo missions, among the most famous photographs ever taken ...

It’s life but not as we know it

Tim Radford, 3 July 1997

... looking, and this time we expect to find it.In 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts, returning from the Moon, were freed from their capsule by men in masks and immediately clapped in quarantine, in case they introduced some dreadful alien infection to the planet. Even at the time, Nasa knew there was nothing much to fear. The ...

Calvinoism

Jonathan Coe, 26 March 1992

Six Memos for the Next Millennium 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Patrick Creagh.
Cape, 124 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 224 03311 5
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Under the Jaguar Sun 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Cape, 86 pp., £10.99, February 1992, 0 224 03310 7
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The Fountains of Neptune 
by Rikki Ducornet.
Dalkey Archive, 220 pp., $19.95, February 1992, 0 916583 96 1
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Small Times 
by Russell Celyn Jones.
Viking, 212 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 670 84307 5
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... logic’ of this brief story we find statues, chilis, serpents, nuns, and of course heat (the hotness of the food and the heat of the Jaguar Sun), while the ‘plan’ is to draw the couple closer together, and bring them to an awareness of ‘the universal cannibalism that leaves its imprint on every amorous ...

Sharks’ Teeth

Steven Mithen: How old is the Earth?, 29 July 2015

Earth’s Deep History: How It Was Discovered and Why It Matters 
by Martin Rudwick.
Chicago, 360 pp., £21, October 2014, 978 0 226 20393 5
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... Ussher: the quest for an accurate and detailed chronology. Rudwick emphasises the positive, or at least unobstructive, role of religion since Ussher, correcting the received idea that the 19th century in particular saw a great ideological clash between science and religion. The Bible was not a barrier to scientific thought: instead, Rudwick argues, the ...

On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move, 13 September 2018

Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... like his poems, had a wilful, manufactured look. (He had, in fact, changed it by deed poll from William Guinneach Gunn to Thompson William Gunn – Thompson was his mother’s maiden name.) It was clear, too, that he enjoyed his own style, his wit, his urge to dismiss what was dull and cautious, to celebrate what was ...

Adventures at the End of Time

Angela Carter, 7 March 1991

Downriver 
by Iain Sinclair.
Paladin, 407 pp., £14.99, March 1991, 0 586 09074 6
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... The decisive influence on this grisly dystopia is surely the grand master of all dystopias, William Burroughs. Jack Kerouac, asked for a quote for the jacket of The Naked Lunch, said it was an endless novel that would drive everybody mad. High praise. Downriver is like that, too. It is mostly about the East End. This reviewer is a South ...

Yak Sandwiches

Christopher Burns, 31 March 1988

Pleasure 
by John Murray.
Aidan Ellis, 233 pp., £10.50, October 1987, 0 85628 167 0
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Absurd Courage 
by Nobuko Albery.
Century, 254 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 7126 1149 5
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Laing 
by Ann Schlee.
Macmillan, 302 pp., £10.95, November 1987, 0 333 45633 5
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The Part of Fortune 
by Laurel Goldman.
Faber, 249 pp., £10.95, November 1987, 0 571 14921 9
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In the Fertile Land 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Carcanet, 212 pp., £10.95, November 1987, 0 85635 716 2
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... apparent. Pom, too, is fascinated by the East, although he travels further (geographically, at least) than Murray’s characters. Lord William Arthur Valerian Pommeroy is the hippy aristocrat who, in Nobuko Albery’s Absurd Courage, becomes so fascinated by Oriental thought that he founds a kind of guerrilla ...

Showing the sights

D.J. Enright, 15 August 1991

The New Oxford Book of 16th-Century Verse 
edited by Emrys Jones.
Oxford, 809 pp., £25, June 1991, 0 19 214126 0
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... pronouncement: Elizabethan poetry ‘lays its emphasis on beauty and desire, roses and the moon’ – it is a measure of Jones’s anthological skills, his literary judgment, not a nose for the modish, that little in the new book is downright boring, lifeless, or truly outdated. Jones’s Introduction occupies a mere 14 pages, some of them ...
... is the Wilcote chapel, a fan-vaulted two-bayed chantry of exquisite perfection. In it lies Sir William Wilcote, MP for Oxfordshire under Richard II and Henry IV, who died in 1411. He is shown in alabaster armour, with a collar of SS (the Lancastrian badge), his eagle coat of arms on his jupon and a chaplet round his helm. Beside him his wife with a rich ...

What does a chicken know of bombs?

David Thomson: A Key to Brando, 25 November 2019

The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando 
by William J. Mann.
HarperCollins, 718 pp., £22, November 2019, 978 0 06 242764 9
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... a mess, not to mention a pain in the neck. Imagine what it’s like for the writer. Or for Marlon.William Mann does not have the field to himself. There are at least a dozen biographies of Brando, or memoirs that depend on his presence. The weightiest of these is Peter Manso’s, published in 1994, when Brando still had ten ...

Martian Arts

Jonathan Raban, 23 July 1987

Home and Away 
by Steve Ellis.
Bloodaxe, 62 pp., £4.50, February 1987, 9781852240271
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The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 48 pp., £4.95, May 1987, 0 7011 3227 2
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The Frighteners 
by Sean O’Brien.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £4.50, February 1987, 9781852240134
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... it clear whether they mean Robert Lowell, or Allen Ginsberg, or the Black Mountain imitators of William Carlos Williams. ‘The Liverpool Poets’ are regarded with a mixture of fear and derision. ‘The ranks of the illiterate raise puerile and rhythmless voices,’ wrote Roy Fuller. ‘Infantile simplicity is all,’ wrote Julian Symons.What no one in the ...

Alphabeted

Barbara Everett: Coleridge the Modernist, 7 August 2003

Coleridge’s Notebooks: A Selection 
edited by Seamus Perry.
Oxford, 264 pp., £17.99, June 2002, 0 19 871201 4
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works I: Poems (Reading Text) 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1608 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 00483 8
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works II: Poems (Variorum Text) 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1528 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 00484 6
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works III: Plays 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1620 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 09883 2
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... She argues that the only Coleridge to pause over is the man whose ‘really significant or at least influential career was as a moulder of opinion’ – that is, as a political journalist. His ‘best years’, she suggests (meaning those between 1815 and 1818, nearly twenty years after the best poems), ‘were those of universal political ...

Adieu, madame

Terry Castle: Sarah Bernhardt, 4 November 2010

Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt 
by Robert Gottlieb.
Yale, 233 pp., £18.99, October 2010, 978 0 300 14127 6
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... the doomed courtesan in La Dame aux camélias – Lawrence sounds like a decadent schoolgirl on heat: ‘Oh, to see her, and to hear her, a wild creature, a gazelle with a beautiful panther’s fascination and fury, sobbing and sighing like a deer sobs, wounded to death, and all the time with the sheen of silk, the glitter of diamonds … She represents the ...

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