Night & Day

Posted on by Tom Fleming

‘We have already so many periodicals that one often asks oneself, is a new one required? And one always answers oneself, yes, it is. That is why periodicals begin.’ It is a question which must have often been asked recently, as well as by Rose Macaulay in the first number of the weekly, Night and […]

The Literary Life

Posted on by Tom Fleming

For Edward Thomas the literary life was addictive and an anathema. Many of us, I suspect, have discovered this in the same way; that is, by turning to his correspondence and to the autobiographies of his wife and Eleanor Farjeon after having been intimately moved by the poems. We have retraced the steps towards a […]

Influential Books

Posted on by Tom Fleming

I went to a school at which one of the punishments was to spend an hour in the library, reading. It was in accordance with this policy of unflinching resistance to culture that I found myself in the headmistress’s study one day; she had a book on the desk in front of her – my […]

Priestley

Posted on by Tom Fleming

There is a passage in Angus Wilson’s novel Hemlock and After that will undoubtedly afford amusement to literary historians of the future. A group of ‘cultured’ people are discussing a scheme for helping young writers, and someone remarks that Eliot has given his support, and that Maugham has subscribed handsomely. ‘I suppose you’ve got Priestley?’ […]

Baptism in Ire

Posted on by Tom Fleming

‘Happiness’, John Osborne wrote in his notebooks in 1954, ‘means not looking back.’ Two years later, his play Look Back in Anger wiped the smugness off the frivolous face of English theatre. Osborne was a heavyweight hater. His malicious wit and fulminating tirades blazed a new trail for English drama and for playwrights better equipped […]

Split Personalities

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The Labour Party has given so many own-goals to the SDP this last twelve months that it is sometimes too easy to forget that the roots of the conflict go back far beyond the Wembley Conference in January and the Limehouse Declaration the next day. One-man one-vote, Tony Benn, mandatory reselection, and other Jesuitical niceties […]

Pleasure & Desolation

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Colette is one of those rare writers for whom one has not only respect but a deep affection. Affection, because respect and admiration are not enough for a woman who determinedly remained a ‘natural’ and refused to sell herself in the literary market-place. Not for her the claustrophobic world of the salon littéraire, and writer […]

The Essential Hatt

Posted on by Tom Fleming

I know that this is none of a reviewer’s business but I was immediately drawn to this book before I had even opened it by the name of the author. With a name like Hatt I was sure, I can’t even begin to explain why, that I was about to read a book by what […]

Streams of Thought

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The fourth volume of this marvellous diary deals with a period of suffering and anxiety in Virginia Woolf’s life; though, as ever, she was able to abstract herself from the suffering caused by external events, to her creative and critical work, she was by no means so secure from the anxiety sometimes caused by her […]

Stevie Smith: A Retrospective

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Writing as one of the many new friends of Stevie Smith’s last fifteen years, I feel the (?mock-) apologetic tone of this collection’s title conveys a somewhat discordant image. It may derive from the fact that the industrious American editors never met her: Me Again does set an apt enough keynote for the overall miscellaneity […]

Sufic Searches

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Seeker After Truth has in it twelve traditional tales – ‘teaching stories’ – as beguiling as our familiar fairy tales, and I believe until now unknown in the West… tales of Sufi Ancients, chosen to illustrate problems of now as much as of then… exchanges from the supper-table talk of a modern Sufi teacher and […]

Canopus in Argos

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Though born in what was then Persia, Doris Lessing was raised in Rhodesia, not leaving until she was twenty-five. In revolt against the political and racial assumptions of those around her, she, and a group of others who shared her view, mythicised her own youthful indignations against prejudice and privilege into a private communist party. […]

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A Beacon on the Port Bow

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Governments of the left need radical vision in order to succeed. Dick Crossman has made a good case that the post-war Labour administration was rejected by the electorate when, having done what it set out to do, it had no clear aim in view. The recent Labour government’s major success with inflation was achieved by […]

The Storyteller’s Art

Posted on by Tom Fleming

These short stories by Mark Helprin, most of which first appeared in the New Yorker, bear a close resemblance to those pieces of delicately etched Steuben glass that appear in advertisements on the same pages. They might be etchings done in two different mediums with very little to distinguish one from the other. The stories […]

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The Spice of Life

Posted on by Tom Fleming

This surprising and delightful autobiography, discovered on a dusty shelf in the library, would have been extraordinary enough for its lively, robust and concrete prose (all qualities rarely found in English written by Indian novelists) but becomes even more so when one discovers it is the work of a Bengali Muslim who left school – […]

On Being Adapted

Posted on by Tom Fleming

If, as for obvious reasons I did, you happened to turn on your television sets during January and watched the BBC-2 adaptation, by Christopher Hampton, of The History Man, and if, as for obvious reasons I had, you happened to know the novel itself, then you might well have had some thoughts about the nature […]

Virginia Woolf: The Artist in a Commercial World

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Rupert Hart-Davis was a general publisher, but one more influenced by scholarship than by dictatorship from accountants and computers. One of his many excellent series was the Soho Bibliographies. This is now published by Oxford, and the revision of the Virginia Woolf volume reveals so much that it is exceptional value.

Uncle Remus

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In his brief and modest afterword, Ramsay Wood has listed the eight chief sources of this book of fables, saying that ‘each was useful in some way’ and that he ‘studied them till a master: template began to emerge. I wanted to write the truest story for a modern audience.’ Although a good deal of […]

The Timeless Void

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Some people seek relaxation by reading detective stories or SF thrillers. I prefer Japanese novels. They often have a peculiar charm, strange yet banal, and the leisurely, rambling form of the works gives one a sense of being suspended in time. There are long, aimless conversations that recall vividly the hours of trivial chatter and […]

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The Edge of Irony

Posted on by Tom Fleming

‘I recalled closed situations which created their own story out of the twofold need to take refuge and to escape, and which provided their own limitations. Those limitations were also mine,’ Penelope Fitzgerald declared in an article in the London Review of Books (Feb. 1980), summing up her literary method neatly. Not for her the […]

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