Author Archives: Marketing Manager

In Restless Flight to be an Auteur

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I’ve become inured over the years to people telling me – in the same tone of voice reserved for inveighing against blood sports – that the theatre is a spoilt brat, a minor art, impoverished in imagination, hopeless, dull, feeble, sclerotic, rotten, boring and just plain bad. I think, perversely perhaps, that it’s to the […]

When Kicking a Dead Dog Can Upset the Applecart

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For most people, I imagine the smell of dusty books, or the sound of church bells, or even the gentle scent of marijuana would be enough to conjure up memories of university years. For me, however, it is passages like this that make me smile, close my eyes, and think dreamily of the past: In […]


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There is a long list of foreigners who have travelled across America and attempted to explain the United States to their European readers. The greatest of them all, Alexis de Tocqueville, observed the sensitivities of the inhabitants. ‘The Americans in their intercourse with strangers’, he wrote, ‘appear impatient of the smallest censure and insatiable of […]

One of Literature’s Greatest Liars

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In 1881, shortly before his death, Trelawny was visited by the eminent archivist Sir Sidney Colvin. Like others who had beaten a path to Trelawny’s door, Colvin had come to listen to a legendary raconteur. Trelawny’s tales of plucking Shelley’s heart from his funeral pyre or of discovering Byron’s clubbed feet had entertained Victorian drawing-rooms […]

Beauty in a Country Garden

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There can be no subscriber of the Literary Review who does not admire the editor for his perfect prose and wit. Those who have not had the pleasure of meeting him may not know that his personal charms surpass even his intellectual abilities. He is irresistible. So when he telephoned to ask for an urgent […]

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Still With Us

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Once upon a time there were no interviews and no interviewers. Now, they constitute an industry. In artificial tête-à-tête on television and radio, in newspapers and magazines, privacy is invaded by a curiosity that is often impertinent, yet the experience of being questioned in this manner is willingly undergone. Theatrical and film people submit themselves […]

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When He Sat Down His Tongue Came Out

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‘Gloomy old sod, aren’t I,’ Philip Larkin remarked to his friend Judy Egerton at the end of a letter routinely predicting social and political apocalypse. Yes you are, and pretty often, we might conclude, after spending 700 pages and forty-five years in his intimate, evasive company. But also funny old sod, clever old sod, wise […]

Sunny Side of Saddam

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This is a very odd book to review. Over and over again, I found myself agreeing with almost every word Said Aburish has written – about the wilful political blindness of the West towards the Arab world, the corrupt nature of Arab regimes, the hypocrisy of American power in the Middle East, the nature of […]

Nothing So Decadent as Pemberton Billing

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Among the many dotty and hilarious trials which have enlivened our legal history, the Pemberton Billing libel action in the closing year of the 1914–18 war must rank among the Top Ten. Reference was made throughout the proceedings to a mysterious German ‘Black Book’, which was said to contain the names of 47,000 prominent British […]

Last Seen Raging

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To look for your lost mother, a mother you both fear and desire to find, while sailing in the vast whitenesses of Antarctica – Jenny Diski’s new book has the gripping, dream-like logic of a fairy story. A new version of Ham Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, perhaps, with the terrifying figure of the ice-queen […]

Take Your Pick

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Surely it’s impossible for two authors to engage simultaneously in writing full-length biographies of Turner without becoming aware, as they beaver away in archives and galleries, that they have a literary doppelgänger? Well, it didn’t stop Messrs Bailey and Hamilton, nor their publishers, from going ahead, and I must admit to near-despair when I opened […]

Endogamous Nesting

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This is a mysterious book. Its mystery is suggested in the plainness of its title, Duncan Grant. At the end of more than four hundred pages thronged with people, love affairs, painting, travel and reminiscence surrounding Duncan Grant, he remains a vague figure. Perhaps that is a proper portrait. To his friends and lovers, Grant […]

How to Stay Together

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Tereza is a nice Polish Catholic poet who has come to New York University to study literature. Jose is a ‘roughly handsome’ Brazilian anthropologist, also Catholic, who has come to the same university to research a book on the theological debate provoked by the 1972 Andes air crash survivors who ate their dead fellow passengers […]

Some Flashes of Light

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Alan Warner’s name is invariably mentioned in references to the recent, spectacular renaissance in Scottish literature. It is therefore embarrassing to report that after two careful readings of These Demented Lands, I remain puzzled. Partly, this is to do with the plot, or stated bluntly, with an inability to work out what on earth is […]

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Mortician as Poet

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Most poets’ accounts of their livelihoods would make dull reading indeed: Classroom Couplets, Shelf Lives and Tales of a Writer in Residence don’t sound as if they’d be much fun. But it was a bright idea of Robin Robertson, an editor at Cape and no mean poet himself, to suggest to the American poet Thomas […]

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Still Glowing?

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In the concluding chapter to his classic travel book, English Journal, written in 1933, J B Priestley wrote this sublime passage: Ours is a country that has given the world something more than a million yards of calico and thousands of steam engines. If we are a nation of shopkeepers, then what a shop! There […]

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Highly Enjoyable Proustatectomy

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From the title and the chapter headings, this promises to be a very irritating book indeed: superfluous, semi-biographical criticism of a canonical author dressed up in nudging ‘irreverence’ from the student bar, like Travesties without the drama, or Monty Python twenty-five years too late. Alain de Botton has written a meditation on aspects of Proust […]

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Thin Ice

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Memories, memories, ah, fond memories! Flicking rapidly through the above-mentioned tome for the purposes of this review, I could not help but recall those golden days in the early Seventies – or was it the late Eighties? – when a distinguished coterie of British writers, among them my own good self, would make every effort […]

Poetry – the Place of the Will

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This book is not, as its title might suggest, a history of the Poetry Book Society, though it does contain a historical sketch of that organization; more interestingly, it is an anthology of the brief introductions written for the Society’s quarterly bulletin by poets whose books have been ‘chosen’ or ‘recommended’. Some 40 pieces are […]

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