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At the National Portrait Gallery

Peter Campbell: Fashion photography, 23 September 2004

... The National Portrait Gallery has put up a dozen or so photographs by Norman Parkinson to accompany the publication of Portraits in Fashion,* an overview of his contribution to fashion photography, the category to which the greater part of his work belongs. He began as a court photographer, taking pictures of debs, but pretty soon went to work for magazines ...

Poison and the Bomb

Norman Dombey, 20 December 2018

... competent laboratory could have synthesised A-234 so successfully if making it for the first time. Peter Cragg, a chemist at the University of Brighton who has studied nerve agents of this type, told me that ‘assuming a novichok was made in an industrial or academic laboratory, its toxicity would be so high as to be lethal to anyone in the vicinity unless it ...

Beyond Discussion

Neal Ascherson, 3 April 1980

The Last Word: An Eye-Witness Account of the Thorpe Trial 
by Auberon Waugh.
Joseph, 240 pp., £6.50, February 1980, 0 7181 1799 9
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... grotesque events are easily forgotten. Thorpe and the others were accused of conspiring to murder Norman Scott; Thorpe, additionally, of inciting the murder of Scott. The latter claimed to have been Thorpe’s lover, and stated that a gunman had shot his dog and attempted to shoot him on Porlock Moor. The gunman, Andrew Newton, said he had been hired to ...


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 ...

News of the World’s End

Peter Jenkins, 15 May 1980

The Seventies 
by Christopher Booker.
Allen Lane, 349 pp., £7.50, February 1980, 0 7139 1329 0
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The Seventies 
by Norman Shrapnel.
Constable, 267 pp., £7.50, March 1980, 0 09 463280 4
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... playing games with decades is a relatively harmless activity, although best done (as by Norman Shrapnel) chiefly for amusement. An eccentric eye will always spot the eccentricities of the times, and Shrapnel possesses also a sharp pair of scissors for the newspaper cutting. Snip and you have, for example, the violent spirit of the time: Bath ...

In Good Estate

Eamon Duffy, 2 January 1997

Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets: Kingship and the Representation of Power 1200-1400 
by Paul Binski.
Yale, 241 pp., £45, May 1995, 0 300 05980 9
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... and absorbing book. The origins of the Abbey – to be precise, the Collegiate Church of St Peter in Westminster – are shrouded in uncertainty. A Saxon foundation on Thorney Island, the one dry spot in the fenland that once stretched from Chelsea to Battersea, the Abbey formed the West minster to St Paul’s East minster. The settlement which, under ...


Donald Davie, 21 March 1991

The Oxford Book of Essays 
edited by John Gross.
Oxford, 680 pp., £17.95, February 1991, 0 19 214185 6
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... what the essayist principally intended. By contrast, when Philip Larkin reviews in 1959 Iona and Peter Opie’s Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, one is distracted from the just and necessary points that Larkin has to make, by the elaboration or further definition of the Larkin persona as ‘a man who hates children’ (who by that token, as W.C. Fields ...

How We Got to Where We Are

Peter Ghosh, 28 November 1996

Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-1990 
by Peter Clarke.
Allen Lane, 454 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 7139 9071 6
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... of England (1949-55) – we see the first fruits of the appointment. It goes without saying that Peter Clarke’s volume is all his own, but it stands nonetheless in the shadow of the General Editor. Not only has Cannadine issued a prospectus to go with the new series, re-stating those views which supply the criteria by which it is to be measured, but ...

The Way of the Wobble

Peter Campbell: Ove Arup, 5 April 2007

Ove Arup: Masterbuilder of the 20th Century 
by Peter Jones.
Yale, 364 pp., £25, November 2006, 0 300 11296 3
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... to remain obscured from view. Reading the English newspapers you could get the impression that Norman Foster had designed the Millau viaduct single-handed: the name of the French engineer, Michel Virlogeux, was hardly mentioned. It was not always so. ‘We see the monuments of a brief heroic age of engineering,’ L.T.C. Rolt wrote about the ...

The Stamp of One Defect

David Edgar: Jeremy Thorpe, 30 July 2015

Jeremy Thorpe 
by Michael Bloch.
Little, Brown, 606 pp., £25, December 2014, 978 0 316 85685 0
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Closet Queens: Some 20th-Century British Politicians 
by Michael Bloch.
Little, Brown, 320 pp., £25, May 2015, 978 1 4087 0412 7
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... radio documentary about the other side of Thorpe’s life, his affair with a stable groom called Norman Scott in the early 1960s, when homosexuality was still illegal, which eventually led Thorpe to the dock of the Old Bailey, charged with conspiracy to murder. For Mangold, the important thing about Thorpe’s story was not that an unjust law laid a gay ...

In the Hands of the Cannibals

Neal Ascherson, 20 February 1997

Europe: A History 
by Norman Davies.
Oxford, 1365 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 19 820171 0
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... is also important. All historians must tell their tale convincingly, or be ignored. So writes Norman Davies, in the introductory pages of this huge, heroic book. Carlyle claimed in 1834 that ‘the only Poetry is History, could we tell it right.’ In this sense, Europe: A History is an epic work of the imagination. It achieves (among many other ...

Sucking up

Michael Rogin, 12 May 1994

Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War 
by John MacArthur.
California, 274 pp., £10, January 1994, 0 520 08398 9
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Live from the Battlefield: From Vietnam to Baghdad – 35 Years in the World’s War Zones 
by Peter Arnett.
Bloomsbury, 463 pp., £17.99, March 1994, 0 7475 1680 4
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... reporter as American hero – Neil Sheehan, David Halberstam, Seymour Hersch, Jonathan Schell, Peter Arnett. They reported not only the war the government did not want its citizens to see, but also the government efforts to invent a war for domestic consumption. ‘Part of the Vietnamese Seventh Infantry Division was being assigned to make a ...

Dark Strangers, Gorgeous Slums

Philip Horne, 16 March 1989

Off the Rails: Memoirs of a Train Addict 
by Lisa St Aubin de Teran.
Bloomsbury, 193 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 0 7475 0011 8
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The Marble Mountain, and Other Stories 
by Lisa St Aubin de Teran.
Cape, 126 pp., £10.95, January 1989, 9780224025973
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The Bathroom 
by Jean-Philippe Toussaint, translated by Barbara Bray.
Boyars, 125 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 7145 2880 3
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by Timothy O’Grady.
Chatto, 230 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 7011 3341 4
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A Lesser Dependency 
by Peter Benson.
Macmillan, 146 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 333 49093 2
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... in Ireland and back in time, to quote the hero’s mentor speculating on why the 12th-century Norman Bertrand de Paor, the novel’s prime authority figure, so admired Pythagoras. I believe it was because Pythagoras was both a logician and a mystic. He discovered the rule of right-angled triangles and at the same time two of the principal tenets of his ...


Adam Mars-Jones, 21 September 1995

by Gordon Burn.
Secker, 231 pp., £14.99, August 1995, 0 436 20059 7
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... pieces, preferably with a direct link to violent crime, for a tabloid newspaper. His name is Norman Miller, but its similarity to Norman Mailer’s no longer gives him the pleasure it did when his pretensions, if not his values, were higher (an encounter with Mailer at the time of the Foreman-Ali fight in Zaire is one ...

The New Lloyd’s

Peter Campbell, 24 July 1986

Richard Rogers 
by Bryan Appleyard.
Faber, 271 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 571 13976 0
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A Concrete Atlantis 
by Reyner Banham.
MIT, 265 pp., £16.50, June 1986, 0 262 02244 3
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William Richard Lethaby 
by Godfrey Rubens.
Architectural Press, 320 pp., £30, April 1986, 0 85139 350 0
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... who cannot make two lines meet?’ asked one of his teachers at the AA. But new tutors – notably Peter Smithson – found more to respect. Rogers began to get his ideas across. By 1958, a report would admit he had ‘a genuine interest in and feeling for architecture’, even if it noticed a lack of the ‘intellectual equipment to translate these feelings ...

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