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Plot 6, Row C, Grave 15

Malcolm Gaskill: Death of an Airman, 8 November 2018

... a British citizen and joined up without delay. His letters slip into American spellings – ‘gray flannels’ – but are also exemplars of British understatement, and peppered with English schoolboy slang: ‘awfully’, ‘topping’, ‘top hole’. He was born in San Francisco on 2 August 1897; his parents were Josephine Harker Fernald and Chester ...

Incandescent Memory

Thomas Powers: Mark Twain, 28 April 2011

Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol. I 
edited by Harriet Elinor Smith et al.
California, 736 pp., £24.95, November 2010, 978 0 520 26719 0
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... frightened, by Twain’s nose for the whiff of hypocrisy. He went for it immediately, much as a Jack Russell terrier would snap at the neck of a mewling kitten. Livy did what she could to make her standards his, at least in public, and she mainly succeeded. The loss to the world cannot be calculated. But no fair judgment of Livy can be reached without ...
The Idea of Poverty: England in the Early Industrial Age 
by Gertrude Himmelfarb.
Faber, 595 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 571 13177 8
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... of many things, but in most places, at most times, and for most people, it was and is as Thomas Gray described it in 1750: ‘the short and simple annals of the poor’. So far so good. But if poverty is promoted from a platitude to a problem, things become much more difficult. For the problems of poverty are simple yet complex: what is poverty? And what is ...

Last in the Funhouse

Patrick Parrinder, 17 April 1986

Gerald’s Party 
by Robert Coover.
Heinemann, 316 pp., £10.95, April 1986, 0 434 14290 5
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by Edmund White.
Picador, 342 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 330 29291 9
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Lake Wobegon Days 
by Garrison Keillor.
Faber, 337 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 571 13846 2
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In Country 
by Bobbie Ann Mason.
Chatto, 245 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 7011 3034 2
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... Babysitter’ are a married couple going out to an evening party, their children, the babysitter, Jack (her boyfriend) and Jack’s buddy Mark. There is no single authoritative story-line, though some readers might claim that it is possible to deduce one. In a series of discontinuous paragraphs Coover cross-cuts between the ...

The End of Labour?

Colin Kidd, 8 March 2012

... Henry McLeish had to step down after a scandal over the subletting of his constituency office; Jack McConnell resigned after Salmond defeated him in the 2007 election. His successor, Wendy Alexander, the sister of the current shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, and a protégée of Dewar’s, was the intelligent moderniser the party needed. But she ...

Knives, Wounds, Bows

John Bayley, 2 April 1987

Randall Jarrell’s Letters 
edited by Mary Jarrell.
Faber, 540 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 571 13829 2
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The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore 
edited by Patricia Willis.
Faber, 723 pp., £30, January 1987, 0 571 14788 7
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... cried the restive Prince, “where can she be? and why this infidel delay when she cares not a jack about me” ’). A totally conscientious editor, Patricia Willis lets no sparrow fall to the ground. One is impressed by the sheer volume of the reviews, done over a very long period, as editor of the Dial, and after that for every sort of periodical up to ...


Zachary Leader: Oscar Talk at the Huntington, 16 April 1998

... in the world, including four first Folios, and important holograph manuscripts by Swift, Pope, Gray, Fielding, Johnson, Goldsmith, Garrick, Blake, Burns, Shelley, Lamb, Charlotte Brontë and Dickens. Amis is hardly the only 20th-century writer represented here: the Library has significant Modernist holdings (Joyce, Yeats, Wallace Stevens – none of whom ...

Tit for Tat

Margaret Anne Doody, 21 December 1989

Eighteenth-Century Women Poets: An Oxford Anthology 
edited by Roger Lonsdale.
Oxford, 555 pp., £20, September 1989, 0 19 811769 8
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... attentive to matter, and to bodies. Even a mid-century poet as noted for attenuated melancholy as Gray deals with bodies and matter, whether the bodies are becoming undifferentiated earthy matter as in the ‘Elegy’ or (more cheerfully) are playing about Eton College and running in the uttering wind. In general, most 18th-century poetry until near the very ...

First Pitch

Frank Kermode: Marianne Moore, 16 April 1998

The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore 
edited by Bonnie Costello and Celeste Goodridge et al.
Faber, 597 pp., £30, April 1998, 0 571 19354 4
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... Z. is an easy, tall man, with flat long shoes, very clever fair sized hands and smooth, straight gray hair, very quiet hair, rather old fashioned.’ Meanwhile her programme of reading, though partly prescribed by the college, bore the marks of individuality as well as an interest in fashion: Pater, Sappho, Stevenson, Thackeray, Whistler, ‘a book on ...

The Leopard

James Meek: A Leopard in the Family, 19 June 2014

... visited us occasionally in Dundee, a better-looking and more powerful man than his older brother Jack, my grandfather, and projecting a sense of confidence and certainty. Although there was an Indian restaurant in Broughty Ferry my parents never ate there or ordered in and, when Robin visited, my mother cooked the lamb curry she’d learned to make, along ...

If everybody had a Wadley

Terry Castle: ‘Joe’ Carstairs, the ‘fastest woman on water’, 5 March 1998

The Queen of Whale Cay: The Eccentric Story of ‘Joe’ Carstairs, Fastest Woman on Water 
by Kate Summerscale.
Fourth Estate, 248 pp., £12.99, August 1997, 1 85702 360 9
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... relatively short-lived. In 1928 Carstairs commissioned an exorbitantly expensive speedboat, the Jack Stripes, which she hoped to race across the Atlantic at 50-60 mph. (As Summerscale reminds us, setting speed and distance records on land, air and water was a kind of international mania in the Twenties; Carstairs was undoubtedly inspired in part by ...

Devolution Doom

Christopher Harvie: Scotland’s crisis, and some solutions, 5 September 2002

... a colleague at Aberystwyth who is also Plaid Cymru’s spokesman on energy. ‘I’m on it with Jack McConnell,’ I said. ‘Who’s McConnell?’ ‘Scottish First Minister.’ ‘Well, I never . . .’ This was a benign version of the Jowett syndrome but serious enough: Westminster, Holyrood and Cardiff have become places apart. As the days tick away ...

Bombes, Cribs and Colossi

R.O. Gandy, 26 May 1994

Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park 
edited by F.H. Hinsley and Alan Stripp.
Oxford, 321 pp., £17.95, August 1993, 0 19 820327 6
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... estimate of the size of the German bomber force in the west was much too high – Peter Gray Lucas refers to this as the ‘St Ives story’ (‘As I was going to St Ives, I met a man with seven wives’). But to get a better estimate it was necessary to know which aircraft belonged to which unit, which was difficult because the call-signs ...


Megan Vaughan: Kenneth Mdala, 16 November 2000

... Kenneth Gray Mdala was born around 1880 in what was later to become Nyasaland and is now Malawi. It is that part of Africa through which Livingstone trod or was carried, defined for strangers by its long, thin lake lying in the Rift Valley and by the ravages of the slave trade. Mdala came from a chiefly family and belonged to an ethnic group known as the Yao, who were one of the agents of that trade ...

Paper this thing over

Colin Kidd: The Watergate Tapes, 5 November 2015

The Nixon Tapes: 1971-72 
by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 758 pp., $35, July 2014, 978 0 544 27415 0
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The Nixon Defence: What He Knew and When He Knew It 
by John W. Dean.
Penguin, 784 pp., £14.99, June 2015, 978 0 14 312738 3
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Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall 
by Elizabeth Drew.
Duckworth Overlook, 450 pp., £20, August 2014, 978 0 7156 4916 9
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Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair and the Origins of Watergate 
by Ken Hughes.
Virginia, 228 pp., $16.95, August 2015, 978 0 8139 3664 2
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The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan 
by Rick Perlstein.
Simon and Schuster, 860 pp., £25, August 2014, 978 1 4767 8241 6
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... for succession to the FBI directorship. Nixon appointed a loyal colleague and FBI outsider, Pat Gray, as acting director, but the post needed Senate confirmation, and Gray’s subordinates conspired against him. In 2005 it was revealed that Woodward and Bernstein’s source, Deep Throat, was Mark Felt, a Hoover loyalist ...

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