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Wear flames in your hair

William Skidelsky: Jonathan Lethem and back-street superheroes, 24 June 2004

The Fortress of Solitude 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Faber, 511 pp., £12.99, January 2004, 0 571 21933 0
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... enclave of ‘Dutch-style row houses’ called Gowanus that has become almost exclusively non-white. This is the main reason that Rachel, a committed integrationist (and the more forceful of Dylan’s parents), decided they should move there. Another recent arrival on the block, a racist old lady called Isabel Vendle, plans to transform the neighbourhood ...

On the Beaches

Richard White: In Indian Country, 21 March 2002

Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America 
by Daniel Richter.
Harvard, 317 pp., £17.95, January 2002, 0 674 00638 0
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... of the ongoing restructuring of an older history of European advance and Indian retreat, of white modernity and Indian tradition. He is a ‘revisionist’, as the conservative guardians of the received and sacred past history of the United States call historians who add to, subtract from or reinterpret the received. They use ‘revisionist’ as an ...

On the white strand

Denis Donoghue, 4 April 1991

The Selected Writings of Jack B. Yeats 
edited by Robin Skelton.
Deutsch, 246 pp., £12.99, March 1991, 0 233 98646 4
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... 29 August 1871, son of John Butler Yeats and Susan Yeats, at 23 Fitzroy Road, London. His brother, William Butler Yeats, was then six years old. John Butler Yeats was a portrait painter in search of commissions. Finding few, he thought it better to have his young son brought up, for the most part, by his grandparents in Sligo. Jack spent far more time in the ...

Kermode and Theory

Hayden White, 11 October 1990

An Appetite for Poetry: Essays in Literary Interpretation 
by Frank Kermode.
Collins, 242 pp., £15, November 1989, 0 00 215388 2
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... Frank Kermode belongs to no sect of literary criticism, and he has founded no school. Like William Empson, whom he praises as a ‘genius’ of criticism, Kermode has always been more interested in a poetic than in a theoretic approach to the study of literature. He thinks that literature itself – rather than theories about it – is our best guide to how to read critically, and he has devoted the better part of a long career to this conviction ...

Astride a White Horse

Declan Kiberd: Bridget Clearly, 6 January 2000

The Burning of Bridget Cleary: A True Story 
by Angela Bourke.
Pimlico, 240 pp., £10, August 1999, 0 7126 6590 0
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... that she had been unfaithful to Cleary, who was often away at Clonmel. One possible lover was William Simpson, a man hated by many locals because he worked as a ‘heavy’ for the landlord. Bridget, always a defiant individualist, did his shopping when local grocers refused to serve him. (This may have helped the couple to secure the house from the ...

Awful but Cheerful

Gillian White: The Tentativeness of Elizabeth Bishop, 25 May 2006

Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts and Fragments 
by Elizabeth Bishop, edited by Alice Quinn.
Farrar, Straus, 367 pp., £22.50, March 2006, 0 374 14645 4
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... In 1940, after she’d gained the admiration of Marianne Moore and William Carlos Williams, and had had nearly thirty of her poems published in literary journals or book collections, Elizabeth Bishop, then 28, admitted in a letter to Moore: ‘I scarcely know why I persist at all. It is really fantastic to place so much on the fact that I have written a half-dozen phrases that I can still bear to reread without too much embarrassment ...

Mauve Monkeys

William Fiennes, 18 September 1997

Wilde’s Last Stand: Decadence, Conspiracy and the First World War 
by Philip Hoare.
Duckworth, 250 pp., £16.95, July 1997, 0 7156 2737 6
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... opium-addicted bisexual aristocrat’; Brilliant Chang, ‘the emblematic Dope King and white slaver, corrupter of British maidenhood’; the Marchesa Casati, who appeared at parties surrounded by ‘albino blackbirds, mauve monkeys, a leopard, a boa constrictor, and, among Englishmen, Lord Berners’. The presiding spirit was Oscar Wilde. Robert ...

Persons outside the Law

Catherine Hall: The Atlantic Family, 19 July 2018

Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833 
by Daniel Livesay.
North Carolina, 448 pp., £45, January 2018, 978 1 4696 3443 2
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... Around​ 1800 William Macpherson, the 16-year-old son and heir to the chief of Clan Macpherson, decided to try his hand at planting in the West Indies. The family had been Jacobites and urgently needed to repair their finances. His father, Allan, had failed to make a fortune in the East Indies and William knew he had to make good ...

Welfare in America

William Plowden, 11 July 1991

American Social Welfare Policy: A Structural Approach 
by Howard Karger and David Stoesz.
Longman, 371 pp., £18.95, November 1990, 0 8013 0193 9
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America’s Misunderstood Welfare State 
by Theodore Marmor, Jerry Mashaw and Philip Harvey.
Basic Books, 268 pp., $22.95, October 1990, 9780465001224
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The American Prospect 
edited by Paul Starr and Robert Kuttner.
New Prospect, 168 pp., $31
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... Seventies’. The term was further defined, and given academic respectability, by the sociologist William Julius Wilson. Taking broadly the same groups, he characterised them as ‘that heterogeneous grouping of families and individuals who are outside the mainstream of the American occupational system’. Wilson argued that as the middle class and the ...

At the Royal Academy

Peter Campbell: The art of William Nicholson, 18 November 2004

... William Nicholson painted in white ducks and patent leather shoes. In photographs and caricatures his neat head sits on high white collars. He liked spotted shirts and fancy waistcoats. He was fun to be with but unrevealing about his art. His paintings and woodcuts give great pleasure; but no telling clumsiness draws us in: no impossible anatomy of the kind that makes Cézanne a challenge, none of the raw excitement of Expressionism, none of his son Ben’s abstract chill ...

No Restraint

John Demos: Chief Much Business, 9 February 2006

White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America 
by Fintan O’Toole.
Faber, 402 pp., £20, August 2005, 0 571 21840 7
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... Nations of the famed Iroquois Confederacy were represented. The focus of their attentions was a white man living in their midst, whose father had died the previous winter far away in Ireland. They would arrive in groups at this man’s large and stately home, and would enact for him their ancient tribal ceremonies of ‘condolence’. They would adorn his ...

New-Found Tribes

William Davies: In Brexitland, 4 February 2021

Brexitland: Identity, Diversity and the Reshaping of British Politics 
by Maria Sobolewska and Robert Ford.
Cambridge, 391 pp., £15.99, October 2020, 978 1 108 46190 0
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... as the other two have increased in number, is ‘identity conservatives’, largely made up of white school-leavers without a university education. In 1986 nearly two thirds of under-forties in Britain fell into this category; in 2016 just a third did. As the population has become more educated and diverse since the 1970s, the average ‘identity ...

‘I intend to support white rule’

Ian Hamilton: Allen Tate, 24 May 2001

Allen Tate: Orphan of the South 
by Thomas Underwood.
Princeton, 447 pp., £21.95, December 2000, 0 691 06950 6
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... programmatic kind. It would not have been enough for him to set up as an Americanist writer in the William Carlos Williams mould, using the shape and language of his poetry to declare a cultural allegiance, or responsibility. The language of Tate’s poems was unvaryingly sonorous/ poetic and his verse persona tended always to the bardic/anonymous; his work on ...


William Feaver: John and Myfanwy Piper, 17 December 2009

John Piper, Myfanwy Piper: Lives in Art 
by Frances Spalding.
Oxford, 598 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 19 956761 4
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... look compounded of stage flats and wizened textures picked out in brass-rubbing black, ceiling white, royal blue and pillarbox red. Here was a love of the notionally unspoilt, a harking back to George V Georgian and, ideally, to the Georgian of Georges IV, III and II, not to mention the Edwardian of Edward the Confessor. Steeped in the notion of things ...

Short Cuts

William Davies: Woke Conspiracies, 24 September 2020

... in a piece for the New Yorker last year about the relationship between Fox News and the present White House, Murdoch and Trump found common cause in the creation of eye-catching and lucrative news content. What Murdoch wanted from Trump wasn’t policy favours or ideological conformity – the main fear surrounding Murdoch’s influence in the UK over ...

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