Wily and Tough Man who Became an Insider

Posted on by Tom Fleming

‘He talks slowly but continuously’, said one of Henry James’s later amanuenses, who of course wrote most of it down. The writing-down in part produced what can only be called the ‘world’ of James’s Letters, with its distinctness from, yet relatedness to, the other magnificent worlds of the novels, the essays, the notebooks, the prefaces […]

In the End, She Preferred Sartre

Posted on by David Gelber

It started with ardour and ended in bitterness, this affair which Simone de Beauvoir described as ‘the only truly passionate love in my life’. Documented in more than three hundred letters, her affair with the American writer Nelson Algren introduced her to the physical pleasure she had never found with Jean-Paul Sartre – and threatened […]

The Final Entry

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The heartbreaking thing about Coda is that it is Simon Gray at his very best. It is the last thing he wrote before his death, and that fact is its subject. He had learnt that he had a cancerous tumour in a lung and one on his neck that might be secondary (it was), and […]

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Infinite Mischief

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Oh, how they drank! This massive, meticulously annotated volume of the complete correspondence between the poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell throws open a window on the post-war literary past. From their meeting in Manhattan in 1947 until his sudden death in New York in 1977, these two American poets wrote copiously to each other […]

‘I Create Myself’

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Susan Sontag, who died in 2004, was one of the most venerated intellectuals of her generation, but her enemies found her arrogant and aloof, while even her admirers often saw her as forbidding and Olympian. The only time I met her, she explained to me with disdain that although she regarded herself as an authority […]

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Most Agreeable

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

With his courtly wit, gentle manners, incisive intellect and inevitable and faintly annoying bow tie, Arthur Schlesinger always seemed a throwback to a lost age of elaborate courtesies and gentleman scholars. When I met him eight years ago, after he had graciously agreed to an interview for my doctoral project, he was both impressively sharp […]

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