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Mostly Hoping, Not Planning

James Camp: Russell Banks, 10 May 2012

Lost Memory of Skin 
by Russell Banks.
Clerkenwell, 416 pp., £12.99, March 2012, 978 1 84668 576 7
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... In the America of Russell Banks’s novels, men risk ruin to buy a new speedboat. A man who punches his wife tells himself he’s not actually a wife beater. Drunk driving is just one of those ‘little things’, but speaking French is not allowed. A paedophile rapist starts crying when his stepson turns him down, and a schemer with a ‘system for beating the system’ offs himself in a Cadillac he can’t afford; when his brother discovers the body, the ‘neatly typed’ suicide note reads: ‘I’m a failure ...

Mosquitoes in Paradise

Ange Mlinko: ‘The Magic Kingdom’, 2 February 2023

The Magic Kingdom 
by Russell Banks.
Knopf, 331 pp., £9.99, February, 978 0 85730 547 3
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... talking to a Grundig TK46 tape recorder, so his life story was doled out in reels, not chapters. Russell Banks found these reels, he tells us, in the basement of the public library in St Cloud, Florida. It was 1999, and Hurricane Irene (‘I rain’) had just barrelled through, flooding the town and rubbishing library materials. ‘The Magic ...

Creamy Polished Globes

Blake Morrison: A.E. Coppard’s Stories, 7 July 2022

The Hurly Burly and Other Stories 
by A.E. Coppard, edited by Russell Banks.
Ecco, 320 pp., £16.99, March 2021, 978 0 06 305416 5
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... in the US. For a non-American non-novelist to be a Book of the Month choice was unknown. But as Russell Banks points out in the preface to The Hurly Burly, Eudora Welty, Elizabeth Bowen, Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg had led a campaign on Coppard’s behalf. In the 1970s, he had another revival in the UK after a couple of his stories were adapted for ...

Wadham and Gomorrah

Conrad Russell, 6 December 1984

The Poems of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester 
edited by Keith Walker.
Blackwell, 319 pp., £35, September 1984, 0 631 12573 6
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... less literary, sources: we may wonder, for example, whether the image of the river overflowing its banks in ‘The Advice’ owes anything to Strafford’s defence to Article Four of his impeachment, a source which would surely have been known to Rochester. A historian may make a bigger contribution by asking what Rochester tells us about the world in which he ...

Napoleon was wrong

Ian Gilmour, 24 June 1993

Capitalism, Culture and Decline in Britain 1750-1990 
by W.D. Rubinstein.
Routledge, 182 pp., £25, April 1993, 0 415 03718 2
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British Multinational Banking 
by Geoffrey Jones.
Oxford, 511 pp., £48, March 1993, 0 19 820273 3
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Going for Broke: How Banking Mismanagement in the Eighties Lost Thousands of Billions of Pounds 
by Russell Taylor.
Simon and Schuster, 384 pp., £17.50, April 1993, 0 671 71128 8
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... his clear, sober and authoritative history of British multinational banking, the strength of those banks in the 19th century rested on British economic and political pre-eminence. Their core market was British business, whose requirements they serviced. Those who worked in finance and commerce were not operating in a vacuum, they were operating under ...

Along the Voie Sacrée

Inigo Thomas, 8 November 2018

... chair of the steering group of the American Battle Monuments Committee, told the architect, John Russell Pope, in 1925: ‘This is the most important monument and for this reason it has been entrusted to you.’ Pope was one of the most successful and visible American architects of the era – he designed the National Gallery in Washington, the Jefferson ...

More than ever, and for ever

Michael Rogin: Beauvoir and Nelson Algren, 17 September 1998

Beloved Chicago Man: Letters to Nelson Algren 1947-64 
by Simone de Beauvoir, edited by Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir.
Gollancz, 624 pp., £25, August 1998, 0 575 06590 7
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America Day by Day 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Carol Cosman.
California, 355 pp., $27.50, January 1999, 0 520 20979 6
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... Black Sox, Gregorio Cortez. Such writers as Terry Southern, Kurt Vonnegut, Studs Turkel and Russell Banks were his partisans (the last three introducing posthumous reissues of the fiction). But Nelson Algren speaks for the Forties: he did not write a major work after the Cold War defeat of the American Left and the 1950 crack-up with Beauvoir. A ...

Casualty Reports

Robert Taubman, 5 February 1981

The White Hotel 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 240 pp., £6.95, January 1981, 0 575 02889 0
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Riddley Walker 
by Russell Hoban.
Cape, 220 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 224 01851 5
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The Last Crime 
by John Domatilla.
Heinemann, 155 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 434 20090 5
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... both powerful and powerless – government officials, or merely the behaviour of dogs. Russell Hoban’s forecast of the future thus depends on the past, and his characters are aware of us. The men of How Fents make their living from digging our iron engines out of the mud, and Riddley Walker laments, without irony, among the ruins of what seems to ...

Huw should be so lucky

Philip Purser, 16 August 1990

Sir Huge: The Life of Huw Wheldon 
by Paul Ferris.
Joseph, 307 pp., £18.99, June 1990, 0 7181 3464 8
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... insensitive. I remember the silver wedding party given by dear friends who lived on the banks of the Thames in an idyllic setting but where the architecture ran to the kind of bungalow celebrated by Kingsley Amis in The Riverside Villa Murder. Deputed to propose the couple’s health, Huw looked around perplexedly and said something about this ...


Jonathan Coe, 26 March 1992

Six Memos for the Next Millennium 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Patrick Creagh.
Cape, 124 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 224 03311 5
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Under the Jaguar Sun 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Cape, 86 pp., £10.99, February 1992, 0 224 03310 7
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The Fountains of Neptune 
by Rikki Ducornet.
Dalkey Archive, 220 pp., $19.95, February 1992, 0 916583 96 1
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Small Times 
by Russell Celyn Jones.
Viking, 212 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 670 84307 5
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... in evidence everywhere,’ writes Nicolas at one point, and this observation certainly applies to Russell Celyn Jones’s second novel Small Times, much of which takes place alongside London’s canal ways and the banks of the Thames. Turning to this book involves a sudden sea-change, because we are back in the clipped ...

Not a Damn Thing

Nick Laird: In Yeats’s wake, 18 August 2005

Collected Poems 
by Patrick Kavanagh, edited by Antoinette Quinn.
Allen Lane, 299 pp., £25, September 2004, 0 7139 9599 8
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... arrived in 1931, symbolically and actually, on the Dublin doorstep of the poet and editor George Russell (Æ), having walked the sixty-odd miles from Inniskeen in his patched-up workclothes. He had already published a poem, ‘Ploughman’, in the Irish Statesman, a journal edited by Russell which Kavanagh had first picked ...

The Last Witness

Colm Tóibín: The career of James Baldwin, 20 September 2001

... than his love of laughter, his delight in the world? Did his prose style, as the novelist Russell Banks claimed that evening, take its bearings from Emerson, or was it, as the writer Hilton Als put it, ‘a high-faggot style’, or did it originate, as John Edgar Wideman claimed, from a mixture of the King James Bible and African American ...

Get a Real Degree

Elif Batuman, 23 September 2010

The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing 
by Mark McGurl.
Harvard, 480 pp., £25.95, April 2009, 978 0 674 03319 1
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... history’ belie Mukherjee’s claim: it has been largely ‘white writers like William Styron and Russell Banks and Robert Olen Butler and Neal Stephenson who … assert the privilege of other-narration’, while ‘minority writers … have typically been asked to slot themselves into a single ethnos.’But McGurl doesn’t follow this thought to its ...

An American Genius

Patrick Parrinder, 21 November 1991

The Runaway Soul 
by Harold Brodkey.
Cape, 835 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 224 03001 9
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... nothing so much as an airless bell-jar. A recent essay by a younger Midwestern writer, Scott Russell Sanders, deplores the virtual absence of any thorough-going representation of the non-human world – of nature and the cosmos – in contemporary American fiction. The first, and the least typical, episode of The Runaway Soul describes a 40-mile bike ...


Gerald Hammond: At the Races, 3 July 1997

... of Salford University. The next year, Hurst Park closed: a lovely, hospitable course on the banks of the Thames, not far from Hampton Park; where its winning post was, there is now a supermarket. In America such losses would hardly matter, since all their tracks are roughly the same, monotonous sand or dirt-covered ovals. Breeders have not yet cracked ...

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