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Grand Old Sod

Paul Driver: William Walton, 12 December 2002

The Selected Letters of William Walton 
edited by Malcolm Hayes.
Faber, 526 pp., £30, January 2002, 0 571 20105 9
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William Walton: Muse of Fire 
by Stephen Lloyd.
Boydell, 332 pp., £45, June 2001, 9780851158037
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William Walton, the Romantic Loner: A Centenary Portrait Album 
by Humphrey Burton and Maureen Murray.
Oxford, 182 pp., £25, January 2002, 0 19 816235 9
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... cantata has a similar power. No one could sit, as I did earlier this year, in the Royal Festival Hall during a performance by the Philharmonia and London Symphony Chorus under Richard Hickox and not be shattered into submission. Belshazzar’s Feast takes Elgarian oratorio by its neck and flings it into the 20th century. But it is dramatically ...

Gentlemen Travellers

Denis Donoghue, 18 December 1986

Between the Woods and the Water 
by Patrick Leigh Fermor et al.
Murray, 248 pp., £13.95, October 1986, 0 7195 4264 2
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by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 301 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 00 272119 8
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The Grand Tour 
by Hunter Davies.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11907 3
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... capitals of polygonal rose-coloured marble pillars, beautiful late gothic vaults closed over the Hall of the Knights. Has he really remembered those diapers, those cusped ogees – he doesn’t say he had a camera and a hundred rolls of film – or has he conjured the details on the spur of the fewer images he has indeed remembered? In other respects, Leigh ...

Come along, Alcibiades

John Bayley, 25 January 1996

Terence Rattigan: A Biography 
by Geoffrey Wansell.
Fourth Estate, 428 pp., £20, October 1995, 1 85702 201 7
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... a boy of 13, a trifle young even for the man-eating Diana. The cast were brilliant – the young Trevor Howard, Rex Harrison, the green-eyed Kay Hammond, who was to be such a success in Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit – and this, together with all the jollity and schoolboy humour and comic French, made the piece a tremendous success. The new King George VI ...


Julian Barnes: On the Booker, 12 November 1987

... While the writers themselves never know the winner’s identity in advance, various people in the hall do, including the TV technicians. You could ask them directly, of course (or bribe the judges’ chauffeur, who is always a good source): but you will find out surely enough whether you have landed the big pot by following the movements of the hand-held ...

House of Miscegenation

Gilberto Perez: Westerns, 18 November 2010

Hollywood Westerns and American Myth 
by Robert Pippin.
Yale, 198 pp., £25, May 2010, 978 0 300 14577 9
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... would have wanted Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper in the leads. But Ford insisted on Claire Trevor and John Wayne (who wasn’t a star until this movie made him one). Dietrich and Cooper would have turned Dallas and Ringo into the natural aristocrats that Ford didn’t want; Trevor and the young Wayne assume no ...


Tom Paulin: Ulster’s Long Sunday, 24 August 1995

... County, King’s County, Kingstown are still imperially there; it’s like a moment in a William Trevor story. I look at a framed text over the fireplace: Christians should endeavour, as the Apostle Paul commands them, to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12, v. 18) even with those of a different religious persuasion. Issued November, 1863 Nice touch ...

Hard Beats and Spacey Bleeps

Dave Haslam, 23 September 1993

Will Pop Eat Itself? Pop Music in the Soundbite Era 
by Jeremy J. Beadle.
Faber, 269 pp., £7.99, June 1993, 9780571162413
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Present Tense: Rock & Roll and Culture 
edited by Anthony DeCurtis.
Duke, 317 pp., £11.95, October 1992, 0 8223 1265 4
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... a dance record – a techno dance record – and solo composition by Richard ‘Moby’ Hall, created on his computer at home in New York. During its almost lyric-less six minutes and 30 seconds of fast beats, atonal bleeps and melodic keyboard lines, you hear ‘go’ shouted 37 times, ‘yeah’ 23 times, and ‘hold tight’ (I think) seven ...

Outbreak of Pleasure

Angus Calder, 23 January 1986

Now the war is over: A Social History of Britain 1945-51 
by Paul Addison.
BBC/Cape, 223 pp., £10.95, September 1985, 0 563 20407 9
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England First and Last 
by Anthony Bailey.
Faber, 212 pp., £12.50, October 1985, 0 571 13587 0
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A World Still to Win: The Reconstruction of the Post-War Working Class 
by Trevor Blackwell and Jeremy Seabrook.
Faber, 189 pp., £4.50, October 1985, 0 571 13701 6
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The Issue of War: States, Societies and the Far Eastern Conflict of 1941-1945 
by Christopher Thorne.
Hamish Hamilton, 364 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 241 10239 1
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The Hiroshima Maidens 
by Rodney Barker.
Viking, 240 pp., £9.95, July 1985, 0 670 80609 9
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Faces of Hiroshima: A Report 
by Anne Chisholm.
Cape, 182 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 224 02831 6
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End of Empire 
by Brain Lapping.
Granada, 560 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 246 11969 1
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by Simon Winchester.
Hodder, 317 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 340 33772 9
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... hundreds of thousands were built, had a bourgeois look. Coventry Cathedral and the Royal Festival Hall were modern architecture on a human scale. Though a high proportion of Londoners were being rehoused in flats, the LCC forbade the construction of blocks more than six storeys high. So there wasn’t a visible ‘social revolution’, or an invisible ...


Tom Paulin: The Belfast agreement, 18 June 1998

... office, I look up at a gable-end: Lest We Forget This plaque is dedicated to the memory of Lt Col Trevor King died July 1994 Major W. (Frenchie) Marchant These men were killed near this spot by the enemies of Ulster. No Sacrifice is too great for one’s country. This looks like an unyielding Loyalist memorial, but the sense now is of working-class ...

Laertes has a daughter

Bee Wilson: The Redgraves, 6 June 2013

The Redgraves: A Family Epic 
by Donald Spoto.
Robson, 361 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 1 84954 394 1
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The House of Redgrave: The Lives of a Theatrical Dynasty 
by Tim Adler.
Aurum, 336 pp., £20, July 2012, 978 1 84513 623 9
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... voice – once richly modulated, now trembly. In 1971 he agreed to act in The Old Boys by William Trevor at the Mermaid; the crew fitted him with an invisible prompter attached to an earpiece. At the first public performance the prompter malfunctioned, sending out a loud hissing, leaving both Redgrave and the audience in a state of high anxiety. The next day ...

Darling, are you mad?

Jenny Diski: Ghost-writing for Naim Attallah, 4 November 2004

by Jennie Erdal.
Canongate, 270 pp., £14.99, November 2004, 1 84195 562 0
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... mocks, to have a vestibule rather than a lobby (though I don’t know what’s wrong with ‘hall’). Erdal’s take on Attallah’s high-stepping girls is cold-eyed and precise. They spoke, she says, in italics. They used words and phrases like grotty, golly, frightful pong, a total darling, complete noodle, and were always absolutely livid rather than ...

Walsingham’s Plumber

Patrick Collinson: John Bossy, 5 July 2001

Under the Molehill: An Elizabethan Spy Story 
by John Bossy.
Yale, 189 pp., £18.95, May 2001, 0 300 08400 5
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... household consume? The question is in all probability irrelevant, except that in such a hall of mirrors no questions are irrelevant. Another line in Romanoff and Juliet has a bearing on this review. Beulah, the wife of the American Ambassador to Concordia, says: ‘Isn’t that interesting! I just adore history. It’s so old.’ To which her ...

As if Life Depended on It

John Mullan: With the Leavisites, 12 September 2013

Memoirs of a Leavisite: The Decline and Fall of Cambridge English 
by David Ellis.
Liverpool, 151 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 1 84631 889 4
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English as a Vocation: The ‘Scrutiny’ Movement 
by Christopher Hilliard.
Oxford, 298 pp., £57, May 2012, 978 0 19 969517 1
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The Two Cultures? The Significance of C.P. Snow 
by F.R. Leavis.
Cambridge, 118 pp., £10.99, August 2013, 978 1 107 61735 3
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... of the working classes in the second half of the 20th century: ‘the telly, the car, the bingo hall … eating fish and chips in Spain’. The laughter of the Cheltenham audience is tinged with shock that he should be quite so sneering. In the second lecture, discussing the unfortunate consequences of Eliot’s ‘Francophilia’ and referring to his essay ...

Stalking Out

David Edgar: After John Osborne, 20 July 2006

John Osborne: A Patriot for Us 
by John Heilpern.
Chatto, 528 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 7011 6780 7
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... as it was disdainful of the lower orders. Yet, nearly a year before Look Back in Anger, Peter Hall directed another play with one set and five characters, who perform music-hall turns, make long speeches and take off their trousers; in which nothing much happens, key elements of the first half are echoed in the ...

When the pistol goes off

Peter Clarke, 17 August 1989

Arnold Toynbee: A Life 
by William McNeill.
Oxford, 346 pp., £16.95, July 1989, 0 19 505863 1
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... he encountered keen criticism from academic historians, spearheaded by Pieter Geyl and Hugh Trevor-Roper, which marginalised his major project in the eyes of his own profession. As his new biographer, William McNeill, candidly declares, ‘a principal purpose of this book is to try to establish a better balance between the popular adulation on the one ...

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