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The Uncommon Reader

Alan Bennett: A Story, 8 March 2007

... his back to her, sticking a label on a book, the only seeming borrower a thin ginger-haired boy in white overalls crouched in the aisle reading. Neither of them took any notice of the new arrival, so she coughed and said, ‘I’m sorry about this awful racket,’ whereupon the driver got up so suddenly he banged his head on the Reference section and the boy ...

Oswaldworld

Andrew O’Hagan, 14 December 1995

Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 791 pp., £25, September 1995, 0 316 87620 8
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... and specials, became the reporters’ reporter, the producers’ producer, and he later brought in Norman Mailer to write the book. He showed himself to be the king deal-maker and media broker, the chief documenter, of grand-scale American tragedy. Wherever there has been sensational news in America over the last thirty years, there you will invariably find ...

On board the ‘Fiona’

Edward Said, 19 December 1991

In Search of Conrad 
by Gavin Young.
Hutchinson, 304 pp., £17.99, October 1991, 0 09 173524 6
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... whenever possible, actual books and ideas, that help explain the mysterious novels and stories. Norman Sherry famously does this in Conrad’s Eastern World and Conrad’s Western World, remarkable works of sleuthing rediscovery that respectively cover Conrad’s Indian and Pacific Ocean voyages, and his wanderings in Africa, Europe and Latin America. But ...

At Dulwich Picture Gallery

Peter Campbell: Norman Rockwell, 20 January 2011

... ones, places where the culture was popular not high, then a pile of the Saturday Evening Post with Norman Rockwell’s covers was likely to have been a solace, and an entertainment. In my case it was New Zealand. My wife remembers sharpening her wits on the Post’s ‘Perfect Squelch’ column. I found a pile of Posts in the alcove of the hospital where the ...

Mother! Oh God! Mother!

Jenny Diski: ‘Psycho’, 7 January 2010

‘Psycho’ in the Shower: The History of Cinema’s Most Famous Scene 
by Philip Skerry.
Continuum, 316 pp., £12.99, June 2009, 978 0 8264 2769 4
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... Not unlike Les Diaboliques (which was quite as disturbing) in several ways, Psycho was a black and white, low-budget horror movie which for cheapness – in both senses – was filmed by a television crew, while being directed by the A-listed Alfred Hitchcock, by then responsible for huge and glossy Hollywood hits like Rebecca, To Catch a Thief and North by ...

Poison and the Bomb

Norman Dombey, 20 December 2018

... them; in 1918, Britain used mustard gas against Germany and dropped gas bombs in support of the White forces against the Red Army the following year. In 1925 the Geneva Protocol was signed prohibiting the use of chemical weapons in war, but without banning production and stockpiling. By then, the Soviet chemical weapons programme was in full swing: the ...

North Korea’s Bomb

Norman Dombey, 2 February 2017

... including one from a submarine, most of which were successful. According to Gary Samore, the White House’s chief nuclear negotiator during Obama’s first term, North Korea is technologically more advanced than Iran.North Korea has taken note of what happened to Iraq and Libya after they renounced nuclear weapons: the US took military action against ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: It's a size thing, 19 September 1985

... In the current issue of a magazine called The Face there is an article on Norman Mailer’s recent visit to this country. He was here, it seems, to promote Tough guys don’t dance, his latest novel: he did some ‘major’ TV interviews, a bit of radio, and – towards the end of his stint – he called a press conference in order to complain about the low quality of the reviews he had been getting ...

Halls and Hovels

Colin Richmond, 19 December 1991

The Architecture of Medieval Britain 
by Colin Platt, with photographs by Anthony Kersting.
Yale, 325 pp., £29.95, November 1990, 0 300 04953 6
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... are interesting or, for that matter, beautiful. Most castles, for instance, are ugly; almost all Norman buildings, especially Norman cathedrals, are large and little else. The aesthetics of Heritage History come into play here. Caernarvon Castle is an imperial monstrosity; the nave of Durham Cathedral is colonial brutalism ...

It took a Scot

Colin Kidd: English Nationalism, 30 July 2015

The Formation of the English Kingdom in the Tenth Century 
by George Molyneaux.
Oxford, 302 pp., £65, May 2015, 978 0 19 871791 1
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The English and Their History 
by Robert Tombs.
Allen Lane, 1012 pp., £14.99, June 2015, 978 0 14 103165 1
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Conquests, Catastrophe and Recovery: Britain and Ireland 1066-1485 
by John Gillingham.
Vintage, 345 pp., £10.99, October 2014, 978 0 09 956324 2
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From Restoration to Reform: The British Isles 1660-1832 
by Jonathan Clark.
Vintage, 364 pp., £10.99, October 2014, 978 0 09 956323 5
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Britain since 1900: A Success Story? 
by Robert Skidelsky.
Vintage, 472 pp., £10.99, October 2014, 978 0 09 957239 8
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... influence of Whig historians Englishness is now a matter of the shrill nativism of a forgotten white working class, and the pained nostalgia of the elderly, who can remember a straight-faced version of our ‘island’ story. Even if England has never been an island, a vagueness about the contours of its political geography was for centuries a core ...

St Malcolm Martyr

Michael Wood, 25 March 1993

Malcolm X 
directed by Spike Lee.
May 1993
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By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of the Making of ‘Malcolm X’ 
by Spike Lee and Ralph Wiley.
Vintage, 314 pp., £7.99, February 1993, 0 09 928531 2
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Malcolm X: The Great Photographs 
compiled by Thulani Davis and Howard Chapnick.
Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 168 pp., £14.99, March 1993, 1 55670 317 1
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... like trying to make this film.’ Getting to work on the film, wresting it from the hands of the white director Norman Jewison, persuading Warner Brothers that it needed to be as long as it is, that the scenes of Malcolm’s pilgrimage to Egypt and Mecca had to be shot on location, all this is a version of Malcolm’s ...

The Queen Bee Canticles

David Harsent, 6 January 2011

... for Christopher Penfold The Queen and the Philosopher Sun on the sea running white, sun on white walls, yes, on the thick shoulders of the fishermen as they fanned their nets, sun as an engine, a trapdoor, a compass, Democritus in his cell the window framing sea and sky, blue climbing on blue, a glaze shaken by the heat, as she drifted in and held heavy in the thickening air ...

Diary

Lulu Norman: In Ethiopia, 4 September 1997

... labour. The roads are rough and slow, the burnt-out carcasses of former vehicles accrue, as do the white crosses on the rocks which both indicate past accidents and help to avoid the next; driving at night is not recommended. ‘Look! Look!’ yelped our driver, catching sight of a sleek black ribbon undulating tantalisingly in the distance. ‘Tarmac! That ...

Fizzles

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie: Who Controls Henry James?, 4 December 1980

Promenades 
by Richard Cobb.
Oxford, 158 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 19 211758 0
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... Right from the start of his itinerary Cobb gaily mixes everything together. He paints well-behaved Norman children such as one can only dream of meeting these days. He rides his biography backwards, he describes his period as a pion (a supervisor) in boarding-schools run either by priests or by anti-clericals, both of whom were great believers in corporal ...

Big Pod

Richard Poirier: How Podhoretz Dumped His Friends, 2 September 1999

Ex-Friends 
by Norman Podhoretz.
Free Press, 256 pp., $25, February 1999, 0 684 85594 1
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... This book is ostensibly about six literary figures with whom Norman Podhoretz, for 35 years the editor-in-chief of Commentary, was closely involved from the early Fifties until the early Seventies: Allen Ginsberg, Lionel and Diana Trilling, Hannah Arendt, Lillian Hellman and Norman Mailer ...

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