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An Even Deeper Bunker

Tom Vanderbilt: Secrets and spies, 7 March 2002

Body of Secrets: How America’s NSA and Britain’s GCHQ Eavesdrop on the World 
by James Bamford.
Century, 721 pp., £20, May 2001, 0 7126 7598 1
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Total Surveillance: Investigating the Big Brother World of E-Spies, Eavesdroppers and CCTV 
by John Parker.
Piatkus, 330 pp., £10.99, September 2001, 0 7499 2226 5
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... The bringing to light of Cold War landmarks like the Presidential emergency relocation centre at Mount Weather, Virginia (first acknowledged to exist in 1974, ironically after a TWA plane crashed very close to it), or the NSA itself in Bamford’s first book, simply reinforced the suspicion that elsewhere there must be an even deeper bunker, an even more ...

Think Tiny

Mark Ford: Nancification, 17 July 2008

The Nancy Book 
by Joe Brainard.
Siglio, 144 pp., $39.50, April 2008, 978 0 9799562 0 1
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... grinning Nancy replacing Teddy Roosevelt between Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore); ‘If Nancy Was a Drawing by Leonardo da Vinci’ (her stolid features and purposeful stomp sketched on a sheet of Old Master drawings between noble profiles, sorrowing Madonnas, plaintive putti and snarling lions); ‘If Nancy Was the Bright’s ...

Little Lame Balloonman

August Kleinzahler: E.E. Cummings, 9 October 2014

E.E. Cummings: The Complete Poems, 1904-62 
edited by George James Firmage.
Liveright, 1102 pp., £36, September 2013, 978 0 87140 710 8
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E.E. Cummings: A Life 
by Susan Cheever.
Pantheon, 209 pp., £16, February 2014, 978 0 307 37997 9
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... Octavio Paz, Louis Zukofsky and Charles Olson. As did any number of critics: Edmund Wilson, Harry Levin, Jacques Barzun, Lionel Trilling, Guy Davenport. Were all of them hornswoggled, taken in by the surface polish and acrobatics of Cummings’s style and, those who knew him, by his great personal charm, unable to register the paucity of ...


R.W. Johnson, 4 June 1987

Traitors: The Labyrinths of Treason 
by Chapman Pincher.
Sidgwick, 346 pp., £13.95, May 1987, 0 283 99379 0
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The Secrets of the Service: British Intelligence and Communist Subversion 1939-51 
by Anthony Glees.
Cape, 447 pp., £18, May 1987, 0 224 02252 0
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Freedom of Information – Freedom of the Individual? 
by Clive Ponting, John Ranelagh, Michael Zander and Simon Lee, edited by Julia Neuberger.
Macmillan, 110 pp., £4.95, May 1987, 0 333 44771 9
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... was a Communist spy is treated as simple fact, as is his claim that FDR’s most trusted adviser. Harry Dexter White, the founder of the IMF and the World Bank, was also working for the Kremlin. The intellectual level of the book is perhaps best illustrated by Pincher’s laborious attempt to construct a mathematical equation to explain treason. The ...

He had fun

Anthony Grafton: Athanasius Kircher, 7 November 2013

Egyptian Oedipus: Athanasius Kircher and the Secrets of Antiquity 
by Daniel Stolzenberg.
Chicago, 307 pp., £35, April 2013, 978 0 226 92414 4
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Exploring the Kingdom of Saturn: Kircher’s Latium and Its Legacy 
by Harry Evans.
Michigan, 236 pp., £63.50, July 2012, 978 0 472 11815 1
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... of the greasy pole of precedence in the world of letters. He went spelunking in the crater of Mount Vesuvius; explored ancient Egyptian science, technology and magic; reconstructed ancient devices such as the flying model dove of Archytas, the Tarentine philosopher, and built astonishing modern ones, including the sunflower clock, a timekeeping device ...

Flat-Nose, Stocky and Beautugly

James Davidson: Greek Names, 23 September 2010

A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Vol. V.A Coastal Asia Minor: Pontos to Ionia 
edited by T. Corsten.
Oxford, 496 pp., £125, March 2010, 978 0 19 956743 0
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... names, just as the middle classes in England at the end of the 20th century turned to Jack, Harry, Max and Ben. Whatever his real name, the fact that scholars in the Hellenistic period found it unbelievable that the great philosopher could be a ‘Plato’ – they preferred that his real name be Aristocles, ‘Famed for Excellence’, after his ...

Is this the end of the American century?

Adam Tooze: America Pivots, 4 April 2019

... but it goes well beyond him. In October 2018 the giant Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman unexpectedly pulled out of the Eastern Mediterranean, where its planes had been bombarding IS’s positions in Syria. It sailed into the Atlantic and then suddenly and without warning headed north. Aircraft carriers don’t do this: their ...

South African Stories

R.W. Johnson: In South Africa, 2 March 2000

... about it all, taking shooting classes, learning how to be fast on the draw, the lot. In Dirty Harry, Villiers said, Clint Eastwood says this is the most powerful handgun in the world so I reckon, OK, they got my brother but they’re sure as hell not getting me. But we thought your sister-in-law did it, we said. Maybe she did, he said. Quite possibly. But ...

Crocodile’s Breath

James Meek: The Tale of the Tube, 5 May 2005

The Subterranean Railway: How the London Underground Was Built and How It Changed the City For Ever 
by Christian Wolmar.
Atlantic, 351 pp., £17.99, November 2004, 1 84354 022 3
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... punishment for so long. The train started for King’s Cross. There’s a 700-yard tunnel under Mount Pleasant but the rest of this line, like the other early Underground lines – the District, the Hammersmith & City and the Circle – was built using a method known as ‘cut and cover’, where navvies dug down from the surface, then roofed the tunnel ...

On the Salieri Express

John Sutherland, 24 September 1992

Doctor Criminale 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 343 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 436 20115 1
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The Promise of Light 
by Paul Watkins.
Faber, 217 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 571 16715 2
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The Absolution Game 
by Paul Sayer.
Constable, 204 pp., £13.99, June 1992, 0 09 471460 6
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The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman 
by Louis de Bernières.
Secker, 388 pp., £14.99, August 1992, 0 436 20114 3
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Written on the Body 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Cape, 190 pp., £13.99, September 1992, 0 224 03587 8
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... worthy series. He is revealed as the most treasonable of clerks, a compound of Waldheim, de Man, Harry Lime and Lukacs. Thematically, Doctor Criminale shapes up as a kind of post-Maastricht version of Henry James’s international theme: English ingenuousness discovers corruption beneath the seductive surfaces of European civilisation. For all his ...


Seamus Perry: Southey’s Genius for Repression, 26 January 2006

Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793-1810 
edited by Lynda Pratt, Tim Fulford and Daniel Sanjiv Roberts.
Pickering & Chatto, 2624 pp., £450, May 2004, 1 85196 731 1
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... stone faulchion’); humdrum thoughts are translated into decorous orotundity (‘Is it a crime/To mount the horse, because forsooth thy feet/Can serve thee for the journey?’); narrative links work very hard to fulfil their poetical duty (‘Meantime from Aztlan, on their enterprize,/Shedder of Blood, and Tyger of the war/Ocelopan and Tlalala set ...

Zeus Be Nice Now

James Davidson: Ancient Cults, 19 July 2007

Thesaurus Cultus et Rituum Antiquorum 
Getty, 3014 pp., $1,215, March 2007, 978 0 89236 787 0Show More
Polytheism and Society at Athens 
by Robert Parker.
Oxford, 544 pp., £27.50, March 2007, 978 0 19 921611 6
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... big fish he offered to Zeus Pankrates – discovered in 1952 and now buried under the statue of Harry Truman in Athens – that he commissioned a stone frieze to mark the occasion. Well, it could be a fish or it could be a large Cornish pasty – the sculptor was not a master of his art. In Rome on 15 October, they sacrificed one of the horses of a winning ...


Tom Carver: Philby in Beirut, 11 October 2012

... Today, Ajaltoun is no longer in the countryside; the suburbs of Beirut stretch up the flanks of Mount Lebanon. I took a taxi up the mountain, following trucks that slowed nearly to a halt on the bends. The only information I had was that St John Philby lived in a small white stone house called Mahalla Jamil (‘beautiful place’). I had been told it was ...

Who will stop them?

Owen Hatherley: The Neo-Elite, 23 October 2014

The Establishment and How They Get Away with It 
by Owen Jones.
Allen Lane, 335 pp., £16.99, September 2014, 978 1 84614 719 7
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... in the 1990s, when my father was working shifts as a sheet-metal worker, he loved to watch Harry Enfield, particularly the characters Wayne and Waynetta Slob, classic caricatures of welfare-dependent, indolent proto-‘chavs’. A Militant activist like Jones’s father, he wouldn’t have called them ‘undeserving’, he would have called them the ...

Backlash Blues

John Lahr, 16 June 2016

What Happened, Miss Simone? A Biography 
by Alan Light.
Canongate, 309 pp., £20, March 2016, 978 1 78211 871 8
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... piano, Simone shut her eyes and began to play. At 4 a.m., when the set was over, she approached Harry Stewart, the owner and ‘host’, to ask how he liked her playing. Why hadn’t she sung? he asked. ‘I’m only a pianist,’ she said. ‘Tomorrow night,’ Stewart said, ‘you’re either a singer, or you’re out of a job.’ Nina Simone in ...

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