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Short Cuts

Inigo Thomas: At the Ladbroke Arms, 22 February 2018

... apparent soon enough almost anywhere. The clientele of the Ladbroke Arms is mostly European – Jacob Rees-Mogg would label such people ‘economic migrants’, the term he favours for anyone from the European Union who isn’t British and who lives and works in Britain. In the Brexit lexicon, anything migrant is suspect – illegal immigration is ...

A Life without a Jolt

Ferdinand Mount: M.R. James, 26 January 2012

Collected Ghost Stories 
by M.R. James.
Oxford, 468 pp., £14.99, October 2011, 978 0 19 956884 0
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... Christie or an Elmore Leonard. The formula is simple, repeated with variations in most of M.R. James’s 33 ghost stories, and still guaranteed to give pleasure today just as it did to those fuddled dons and sleepy schoolboys who first heard James read them by the light of a single candle in the provost’s lodgings at ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Tayler: King Charles the Martyr, 21 February 2019

... On 23 January,​ Jacob Rees-Mogg reintroduced the country to the concept of prorogation – the suspension of Parliament by the monarch. Like Boris Johnson, Rees-Mogg is fond of bogus erudition – the Brexit white paper was, he said, ‘the greatest vassalage since King John paid homage to Philip II at Le Goulet in 1200’ – and he must have enjoyed expressing his hope that it would ‘not be necessary for Her Majesty’s stay at Sandringham to be interrupted by her in person having to prorogue Parliament ...

History as a Bunch of Flowers

James Davidson: Jacob Burckhardt, 20 August 1998

The Greeks and Greek Civilisation 
by Jacob Burckhardt, edited by Oswyn Murray, translated by Sheila Stern.
HarperCollins, 449 pp., £24.99, May 1998, 0 00 255855 6
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... the grammar school and the public. It was above all with reference to his civic role that Johann Jacob Bachofen persuaded him to return in 1858, calling him ‘the darling of the public’ and urging him to ‘help to develop intellectual life’ in the city. Burckhardt’s single-minded commitment to education thereafter explains not only the size of the ...

Our Muddy Vesture

Frank Kermode: Pacino’s Merchant of Venice, 6 January 2005

William Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ 
directed by Michael Radford.
December 2004
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... early conversation between Shylock and Antonio (cut in the film, as often on the stage) concerning Jacob’s tricking of Laban in Chapter 30 of Genesis. Was Jacob cheating when he ensured that he got most of the lambs? The conventional answer was no: after all, Laban owed him at least as much as he got by the trick. But he ...

Sisters come second

Dinah Birch: Siblings, 26 April 2012

Thicker than Water: Siblings and Their Relations 1780-1920 
by Leonore Davidoff.
Oxford, 449 pp., £35, November 2011, 978 0 19 954648 0
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... first pair of brothers. ‘Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.’ We knew about Jacob and Esau too, and thought Esau entirely in the right. ‘And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him.’ These were not encouraging precedents. Despite such hatreds, alliances between ...


Frank Kermode, 22 October 1992

The Jew’s Body 
by Sander Gilman.
Routledge, 303 pp., £10.99, September 1992, 0 415 90459 5
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Shylock: Four Hundred Years in the Life of a Legend 
by John Gross.
Chatto, 355 pp., £18, September 1992, 0 7011 3523 9
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Faultlines: Cultural Materialism and the Politics of Dissident Reading 
by Alan Sinfield.
Oxford, 365 pp., £27.50, September 1992, 0 19 811983 6
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... as they negotiate the loan. It concerns the interpretation of the passage in Genesis 31 about Jacob getting the better of Laban. This was a stock instance in arguments about two ways of making money: venture and usury. Venture was good because it involved risk: so, according to Antonio, Jacob was venturing – the ...

You have a new memory

Hal Foster: Trevor Paglen, 11 October 2018

Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen 
by John P. Jacob and Luke Skrebowski.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, 252 pp., £45, July 2018, 978 1 911282 33 4
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Trevor Paglen 
by Lauren Cornell, Julia This Bryan-Wilson and Omar Kholeif.
Phaidon, 160 pp., £29.95, May 2018, 978 0 7148 7344 2
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... a murky sea bottom with a section of tube that looks like marine junk. Here, as the curator John Jacob points out in his excellent essay in the Smithsonian publication, Paglen works against the obfuscation of terms like ‘cyberspace’ and ‘the cloud’; in his own words, Paglen aims to ‘rematerialise the network’ and thereby ‘to expand the visual ...


Stephen Fender, 3 April 1980

The London Yankees: Portraits of American Writers and Artists in England, 1894-1914 
by Stanley Weintraub.
W.H. Allen, 408 pp., £7.95, November 1979, 0 491 02209 3
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The Americans: Fifty Letters from America on our Life and Times 
by Alistair Cooke.
Bodley Head, 323 pp., £5.95, October 1979, 0 370 30163 3
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... artist should wish to settle either in Paris or London.’ Then, of course, it was another matter. James, Whistler, Sargent, Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Stephen Crane, Harold Frederick, Henry Harland of the Yellow Book, Pound, Eliot, Frost; from 1894 to 1914 it seems that all the crème, not to mention the avant garde, of American talent was centred on ...

Who’s Got the Moxie?

A. Craig Copetas, 23 March 1995

The Mexican Tree Duck 
by James Crumley.
Picador, 247 pp., £15.99, May 1994, 0 330 32451 9
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One to Count Cadence 
by James Crumley.
Picador, 338 pp., £5.99, May 1994, 0 330 32450 0
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... suits the North Country dead. Montana and Idaho have always been more hideout than state. Montanan James Crumley is a detective writer, but The Mexican Tree Duck is as much a detective novel as The Man with the Golden Arm is a heroin story. In fact, Crumley – a Nelson Algren of the North Country, you could say – has unintentionally and magnificently ...

At Tate Britain

Julian Bell: ‘Migrations’, 8 March 2012

... Art could take on political dimensions as it reaffirms the necessity of the utopian. Jacob Kramer’s ‘Jews at Prayer’ (1913) In this light the hefty centrepiece of Migrations – a selection of Tate holdings organised, at Curtis’s behest, by Lizzie Carey-Thomas – is the 59-minute film Handsworth Songs. In the wake of the 1985 ...

Daisy Chains

Emma Hogan: Sappho 1900, 20 May 2021

No Modernism without Lesbians 
by Diana Souhami.
Head of Zeus, 464 pp., £9.99, February, 978 1 78669 487 4
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... the years just after the Second World War he went regularly to Barney’s weekly salon at 20 rue Jacob. Inside the house, a cross between ‘a chapel and a bordello’, with a domed stained-glass ceiling and a ‘slightly Turkish quality’, there would be ‘a big buffet on the side with the most marvellous things – I mean the most delicious kinds of ...

Buckets of Empathy

James Wood, 30 March 2000

On Trust: Art and the Temptations of Suspicion 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Yale, 294 pp., £18.95, October 1999, 0 300 07991 5
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... brings sadness and pain. In a wonderful reading of the Biblical stories of David, and of Esau and Jacob, Josipovici rightly emphasises the theological restraint – what might be called the thematic restraint – of these stories, which do not exist to incarnate moral lessons so much as to present complex and contradictory characters moving through corridors ...


J.H. Burns, 2 March 1989

Whigs and Liberals: Continuity and Change in English Political Thought 
by J.W. Burrow.
Oxford, 159 pp., £17.50, March 1988, 0 19 820139 7
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... lifetime and in France? Part of the answer lies no doubt in his insistence that his own father, James Mill, was ‘the last of the 18th-century’, committed to a deductive, ‘geometric’ way of thinking which (his son came to think) was as mistaken as the bogus Baconianism of Macaulay. What the younger Mill claimed to have found, or to have found various ...

Did Jesus walk on water because he couldn’t swim?

Jenny Diski: Jewish Seafarers, 20 August 1998

The Children of Noah: Jewish Seafaring in Ancient Times 
by Raphael Patai.
Princeton, 208 pp., £17.95, May 1998, 0 691 01580 5
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... Patai explains, according to Talmudic cosmology, tohu, of the tohu bohu translated in the King James Bible as ‘without form and void’; an essential part of the chaos which was all there was before God separated and ordered the world into existence. These were the seas that contained Rahab, Leviathan and other sea monsters which, sings the Psalmist, God ...

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