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Some Versions of Narrative

Christopher Norris, 2 August 1984

Hermeneutics: Questions and Prospects 
edited by Gary Shapiro and Alan Sica.
Massachusetts, 310 pp., February 1984, 0 87023 416 1
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The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge 
by Jean-Francois Lyotard, translated by Geoff Bennington, Brian Massumi and Fredric Jameson.
Manchester, 110 pp., £23, August 1984, 0 7190 1450 6
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Literary Meaning: From Phenomenology to Deconstruction 
by William Ray.
Blackwell, 228 pp., £17.50, April 1984, 0 631 13457 3
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The Philosophy of the Novel: Lukacs, Marxism and the Dialectics of Form 
by J.M. Bernstein.
Harvester, 296 pp., £25, February 1984, 0 7108 0011 8
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Criticism and Objectivity 
by Raman Selden.
Allen and Unwin, 170 pp., £12.50, April 1984, 9780048000231
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... by defining them provisionally in terms of ‘warranted assertability’. Truth is simply, as William James put it, ‘the name of whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief’. Philosophy can keep itself in business by updating the story of those various beliefs which have proved themselves good (or philosophically productive) from time to ...

How to See inside a French Milkman

Peter Campbell, 31 July 1997

Naked to the Bone: Medical Imaging in the 20th Century 
by Bettyann Holtzmann Kevles.
Rutgers, 380 pp., $35.95, January 1997, 0 8135 2358 3
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... label them as art. Francis Bacon turned his back on art when he used a book about positioning X-ray subjects as a source for his paintings. But even these pictures, while not exactly dignified, fit in the heroic/horrific tradition of Rembrandt’s flayed oxen and anatomy lessons. On the other hand, pictures which draw on the new images of X-rays and scans ...

Like a Manta Ray

Jenny Turner: The Entire History of Sex, 22 October 2015

The Argonauts 
by Maggie Nelson.
Graywolf, 143 pp., £23, May 2015, 978 1 55597 707 8
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... do no more than mark that wildness’s grave. Being by trade a poet of plain language – William Carlos Williams would be another hero, also George Oppen, also Eileen Myles – Nelson finds her artistic focus drawn in two main directions. On the one hand, she crafts her words until she gets them to ‘facet’ as accurately as she can: ‘How to ...


John Sutherland, 15 September 1988

The Secret Life of Wilkie Collins 
by William Clarke.
Allison and Busby, 239 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 0 85031 960 9
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Wilkie Collins: Women, Property and Propriety 
by Philip O’Neill.
Macmillan, 238 pp., £27.50, September 1988, 9780333421994
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... According to Gordon Ray, writing in 1956, all that posterity could reasonably expect to know about the elusive Wilkie Collins was his name and dates of birth and death. This has proved to be an exaggeration. Thanks to Kenneth Robinson (whose revised Wilkie Collins, A Biography came out in 1974) and now, preeminently, to William Clarke, we now know much more – especially about Collins’s family affairs, or scandals, as they would have seemed to his contemporaries ...

So far so Bletchley Park

John Ray, 8 June 1995

Deciphering the Indus Script 
by Asko Parpola.
Cambridge, 374 pp., £60, September 1994, 0 521 43079 8
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The World on Paper 
by David Olson.
Cambridge, 318 pp., £17.95, May 1994, 0 521 44311 3
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... of writing that the medium which enshrines a culture can also be used to subvert a culture. William Tyndale, the translator of the Bible into English vernacular, knew this well, and so did his opponents. The issue which divided them was real. Tyndale was threatening to unleash a force that might unite society, but which might equally tear it apart. Do ...


Michael André Bernstein: Norman Rush, 22 January 2004

by Norman Rush.
Cape, 715 pp., £18.99, July 2003, 0 224 03709 9
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... too politically self-conscious – the map at the back of Absalom, Absalom is clearly marked: ‘William Faulkner, Sole Owner and Proprietor’. But if a writer is not in some strong sense a coloniser, he risks being only a better informed, more alert tourist, and Rush’s Botswana has increasingly become an exotic stage set rather than a distinctive place ...

Call Her Daisy-Ray

John Sturrock: Accents and Attitudes, 11 September 2003

Talking Proper: The Rise of Accent as Social Symbol 
by Lynda Mugglestone.
Oxford, 354 pp., £35, February 2003, 0 19 925061 8
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... a bad thing, then certainly one not worth spending time acquiring, was the no-nonsense ruralist William Cobbett, who declared that ‘the differences’ in pronunciation ‘are of very little real consequence . . . though the Scotch say coorn, the Londoners cawn, and the Hampshire folk carn, we all know they mean to say corn.’ Cobbett believed that the ...

Aspects of My Case

Hugo Williams, 21 April 1983

... and she wanted to know why it was dry. I was miles away. I said I didn’t know. Aeroplane Glue Mr Ray stood behind me in History, waiting for me to make a slip. I had to write out the Kings and Queens of England, in reverse order, with dates. I put, ‘William I, 1087-1066’. I could smell the aeroplane glue on his fingers ...

Pig Cupid’s Rosy Snout

Jane Eldridge Miller, 19 June 1997

Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy 
by Carolyn Burke.
Farrar, Straus, 494 pp., $35, July 1996, 0 374 10964 8
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The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems 
by Mina Loy, selected and edited by Roger Conover.
Farrar, Straus, 236 pp., $22, July 1996, 0 314 25872 8
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... in New York as part of Walter Arensberg’s circle, which included Duchamp, Picabia, Varèse, Man Ray and William Carlos Williams. She sketched Freud in Vienna and lived among the avant garde in postwar Berlin. In the Twenties, when American expatriates flocked to Paris, Loy was there too. In accounts of those ...

Big Head

John Sutherland, 23 April 1987

Thackeray’s Universe: Shifting Worlds of Imagination and Reality 
by Catherine Peters.
Faber, 292 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 0 571 14711 9
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... out of her ‘Select Bibliography’.) All three are, self-confessedly, dwarfed by the late Gordon Ray’s authoritative two-volume biography, Thackeray, The Uses of Adversity (1955) and Thackeray, The Age of Wisdom (1958). Not to labour the point, the story of Thackeray’s life (one of the great Victorian closed books) is no longer much of a mystery. Nor can ...

Launch the Icebergs!

Tim Lewens: Who Was Max Perutz?, 15 November 2007

Max Perutz and the Secret of Life 
by Georgina Ferry.
Chatto, 352 pp., £25, July 2007, 978 0 7011 7695 2
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... Who was Max Perutz? There are plenty of good answers. He was an X-ray crystallographer, someone who uses X-rays as a tool to discover the three-dimensional structure of molecules. He was an accomplished skier and climber, with a sideline research interest in glaciology. He was a scientific manager, who founded and presided over Cambridge’s spectacularly successful Laboratory of Molecular Biology ...

Out of His Furrow

William Poole: Milton, 8 February 2007

Delirious Milton: The Fate of the Poet in Modernity 
by Gordon Teskey.
Harvard, 214 pp., £21.95, March 2006, 0 674 01069 8
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... an emphasis on construction: not on the constructions of man, but rather, as the title of John Ray’s 1691 classic has it, on the Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation. This built on works by men such as John Wilkins and Robert Boyle, and was itself followed in the 18th century by strings of imitative treatises. In 1692 the Boyle Lectures were ...

Not Recommended Reading

Eliot Weinberger, 7 September 2017

... institutions. Miss Wolf’s particular interest is the post office. The Thought Girl (1920) by Ray Cummings    Guy Bates, since childhood, has been in telepathic rapport with a girl who lives in the Realm of Unthought Things. That world contains all the inventions that have not yet been invented in this world. When they are invented here, they disappear ...

Imperial Project

Richard Drayton, 19 September 1996

Kew: The History of the Royal Botanic Gardens 
by Ray Desmond.
Harvill/Royal Botanical Gardens, 466 pp., £25, November 1995, 1 86046 076 3
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... by the philosophers they attracted and the flowers and fruit they supplied to European princes. Ray Desmond describes how royal taste in the Age of Enlightenment led to the planting of a botanic garden at Kew. New to the British throne, the Hanoverians sought to create a version of the much imitated garden at Versailles. Queen Caroline chose the Tudor ...

Clan Gatherings

Inigo Thomas: The Bushes, 24 April 2008

The Bush Tragedy: The Unmaking of a President 
by Jacob Weisberg.
Bloomsbury, 271 pp., £16.99, February 2008, 978 0 7475 9394 2
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... still in the family’s hands: the former is owned by Hunt family trusts; the latter is run by Ray Hunt, one of H.L. Hunt’s 14 children. The Hunt Oil Company is not a huge corporation, but it specialises in bringing off surprises. In the 1970s, Hunt acquired a North Sea field called Beatrice for $50,000; a few years later it was valued at $500 ...

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