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Demented Brothers

Declan Kiberd: William Trevor, 8 March 2001

The Hill Bachelors 
by William Trevor.
Viking, 245 pp., £15.99, October 2000, 0 670 89256 4
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... is eager to proclaim an evangel of some kind, and therefore must be aggressive. A story in William Trevor’s new collection, The Hill Bachelors, treats these themes in a surprising but apposite way. ‘Of the Cloth’ describes the declining days of a Church of Ireland clergyman, the Rev. Grattan Fitzmaurice, rector of the mountain parish of ...

The Redeemed Vicarage

John Lennard, 12 May 1994

Pictures of Perfection 
by Reginald Hill.
HarperCollins, 303 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 00 232392 3
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... bound together by the rich Renaissance epigraphs, from Shakespeare, Burton, Spenser, and Dekker, William Turner and Pierre Erondell, Drayton and Sidney, which like the buildings of the university town marshal a reader’s progress and whisper, in their proportions and through their gargoyles, of older traditions than our own, and less happy endings than the ...

English Individualism Revisited

Alan Ryan, 21 January 1988

The Culture of Capitalism 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Blackwell, 254 pp., £19.50, August 1987, 0 631 13626 6
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... Lonsdale records, Macfarlane looked at the exploits of a band of coin-clippers and highwaymen. William Smorthwait, his brother and their friends were indeed ‘Insolent and Formidable Felons’ who committed numerous burglaries, perpetrated occasional though rather minor assaults, and for three and a half years boasted that they cared nothing for the local ...


Michael Hofmann, 22 September 1994

Walking a Line 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 105 pp., £5.99, June 1994, 0 571 17081 1
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... Marine’ because you’d fallen for this young priest he was a loiner Tim Ryan that’s a lie and driven with him July a heatwave all through the West the East Riding some harbour Hornsea Spurn Head it’s pathetic you were in cheesecloth he’d green shades I could scream still the Society of Jesus White Fathers it’s invisible as ...

Taking Flight

Thomas Jones: Blake Morrison, 7 September 2000

The Justification of Johann Gutenberg 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 259 pp., £14.99, August 2000, 0 7011 6965 6
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... this: ‘The books here on my shelves have countless examples of similar behaviour.’When Michael Ryan murdered 14 people in Hungerford in 1987 (and then killed himself), the idea was put about that he’d been motivated by watching Rambo videos. That someone could, apparently without motive, massacre strangers on the streets of a Berkshire town was ...

A Leg-Up for Oliver North

Richard Rorty, 20 October 1994

Dictatorship of Virtue: Multiculturalism and the Battle for America’s Future 
by Richard Bernstein.
Knopf, 367 pp., $25, September 1994, 0 679 41156 9
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... contemporaries not just by money and life-chances but by a ‘difference of culture’. As Alan Ryan has pointed out, the people who wave the banners of multiculturalism typically pride themselves on their Post-Modernism, but revert to old-fashioned essentialism when they start describing the incommensurable identities of members of diverse ...

Spitting, Sneezing, Smearing

Marjorie Garber: Messy Business, 10 August 2000

Cooking with Mud: The Idea of Mess in 19th-Century Art and Fiction 
by David Trotter.
Oxford, 340 pp., £35, February 2000, 0 19 818503 0
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... from waste management to immigration to pornography. A forthcoming essay collection edited by Ryan Johnson and William Cohen will be entitled Filth. The interest in ‘waste-theory’ may be seen as a recyclable and non-biodegradable byproduct of a number of related tendencies in contemporary literary studies: 1) the ...

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 ...
The Idea of Poverty: England in the Early Industrial Age 
by Gertrude Himmelfarb.
Faber, 595 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 571 13177 8
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... she is too eclectic and inconsistent in her methodology (as suggested by the savaging Alan Ryan gave her book on Mill); while to hard-nosed historians of political action, she seems altogether too preoccupied with ideology (as shown by the severe criticisms of her attempt to analyse the passing of the Second Reform Bill in these terms). For the first ...

Towards the Transhuman

James Atlas, 2 February 1984

The Oxford Companion to American Literature 
by James Hart.
Oxford, 896 pp., £27.50, November 1983, 0 19 503074 5
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The Modern American Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Oxford, 209 pp., £9.95, April 1983, 0 19 212591 5
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The Literature of the United States 
by Marshall Walker.
Macmillan, 236 pp., £14, November 1983, 0 333 32298 3
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American Fictions 1940-1980: A Comprehensive History and Critical Valuation 
by Frederick Karl.
Harper and Row, 637 pp., £31.50, February 1984, 0 06 014939 6
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Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 919 pp., £21, January 1984, 0 233 97610 8
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... it. The Modern American Novel is an ‘Opus Book’ (General Editors – Keith Thomas, Alan Ryan, Peter Medawar) intended for students. The Literature of the United States is a volume in the Macmillan History of Literature. But no Oxford undergraduate could get by with generalities like this aperçu of Professor Walker’s: ‘Jewish novels are ...

Gaelic Communist

Graham Walker, 12 October 1989

James Connolly: A Political Biography 
by Austen Morgan.
Manchester, 244 pp., £9.95, October 1989, 0 7190 2958 9
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James Connolly: Selected Writings 
edited by P. Beresford Ellis.
Pluto, 256 pp., £8.95, April 1988, 9780745302676
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... with other recent published work, redresses the hagiographical bias of the previous biographies by Ryan (1924), Greaves (1961) and Levenson (1973). In the Late Victorian and Edwardian years, Connolly made an intellectually impressive and, indeed, ingenious attempt to accommodate socialism to Ireland’s dominant national and religious traditions. Bernard ...

Burn Rate

Ed Harriman: The Iraq Disaster, 6 September 2007

... had resulted in more than $5.5 billion in realignments’ of funds. Last year Brigadier-General William McCoy, head of the US Army Corp of Engineers, told the Washington Post: ‘The US never intended to completely rebuild Iraq … This was just supposed to be a jump-start.’ Exactly what this entails is clear from the new Sigir report, which declares that ...

The Fastidious President

David Bromwich: The Matter with Obama, 18 November 2010

... single reason will be Obama’s choice of Robert Gates as secretary of defence. Gates worked under William Casey, the director of the CIA at the time of the Iran-Contra scandal. His nomination by Ronald Reagan to head the CIA was thwarted by suspicions of his complicity in covert operations in Nicaragua. The elder Bush later renominated him and got him ...
... The relevant passage was an account of a conversation between Gladstone’s home secretary, Sir William Harcourt, and a police chief. While Clarke was being moved from prison to prison, Harcourt had refused to countenance the idea that he and the others were political prisoners and insisted that they be treated as common felons. (Harcourt generally took a ...


David Bromwich: I met a Republican, 7 March 2019

... chief of staff, John Kelly, was dismissed on 8 December; and the secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, under suspicion of corruption, finally resigned on 15 December. So at the start of the new year, the administration had an acting secretary of the interior, an acting secretary of defence (a Boeing executive Trump respects for his corporate ...

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