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High Priest of Mumbo-Jumbo

R.W. Johnson, 13 November 1997

Lord Hailsham: A Life 
by Geoffrey Lewis.
Cape, 403 pp., £25, October 1997, 0 224 04252 1
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... doing away with himself – with Quintin’s shotgun. Quintin’s first marriage, to Natalie Sullivan, was an absurd disaster: he proposed, changed his mind, asked to be released from the engagement; but when Natalie refused to agree he went through with it as a point of honour and spent ten years in misery as a result. The person who elicited his ...

A Glorious Thing

Julie Peters: Piracy, 4 November 2010

Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates 
by Adrian Johns.
Chicago, 626 pp., £24, February 2010, 978 0 226 40118 8
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... out licences, at the risk of being prosecuted as ‘pirates’. A London radio aficionado called Robert Ford began taunting the government with his illegal unlicensed radio listening. The government was initially reluctant to prosecute, but eventually his home was searched, his radio was found, and he was arrested. He insisted on being jailed, proclaiming ...

Knucklehead Truman

Douglas Johnson, 2 June 1983

The Eisenhower Diaries 
edited by Robert Ferrell.
Norton, 445 pp., £15.25, April 1983, 0 393 01432 0
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The Life and Times of Joe McCarthy: A Biography 
by Thomas Reeves.
Blond and Briggs, 819 pp., £11.95, June 1983, 0 85634 131 2
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The past has another pattern 
by George Ball.
Norton, 544 pp., £14.95, September 1982, 0 393 01481 9
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Torn Lace Curtain 
by Frank Saunders and James Southwood.
Sidgwick, 361 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 283 98946 7
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The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power 
by Robert Caro.
Collins, 882 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 00 217062 0
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The Politician: The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson 
by Ronnie Dugger.
Norton, 514 pp., £13.25, September 1982, 9780393015980
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Years of Upheaval 
by Henry Kissinger.
Weidenfeld/Joseph, 1312 pp., £15.95, March 1982, 0 7181 2115 5
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Richard Nixon: The Shaping of his Character 
by Fawn Brodie.
Norton, 574 pp., £14.95, October 1982, 0 393 01467 3
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Haig: The General’s Progress 
by Roger Morris.
Robson, 458 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 9780860511885
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Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President 
by Jimmy Carter.
Collins, 622 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 00 216648 8
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Crisis: The Last Year of the Carter Presidency 
by Hamilton Jordan.
Joseph, 431 pp., £12.95, November 1982, 0 7181 2248 8
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Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser 1977-81 
by Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Weidenfeld, 587 pp., £15, April 1983, 0 297 78220 7
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... newspaper pundits have created persistent legends; and it is to combat one of these legends that Robert Ferrell has edited Eisenhower’s diaries. Professor Ferrell is not the first historian who has sought to show that the General-President, far from being a confused nonentity, was, on the contrary, a hard-working, shrewd and purposive leader who ...

What makes a waif?

Joanne O’Leary, 13 September 2018

The Long-Winded Lady: Tales from the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 215 pp., £10.99, January 2017, 978 1 906539 59 7
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Maeve Brennan: Homesick at the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Angela Bourke.
Counterpoint, 360 pp., $16.95, February 2016, 978 1 61902 715 2
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The Springs of Affection: Stories 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 368 pp., £8.99, May 2016, 978 1 906539 54 2
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... two women to be admitted to the Irish Republican Brotherhood. After the Rising was suppressed, Robert, her father, narrowly escaped the firing squad, and was in Lewes Prison when Maeve was born. Her childhood was punctuated by raids from ‘unfriendly men dressed in civilian clothes carrying revolvers’; they were looking for her father, who was often on ...

Female Bandits? What next!

Wendy Doniger: The incarnations of Robin Hood, 22 July 2004

Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography 
by Stephen Knight.
Cornell, 247 pp., £14.50, May 2003, 0 8014 3885 3
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... And I guess the "robin” means he stole birds.’ Robin is more likely to be a nickname for Robert, though the resonance with ‘robber’ may also count for something, and Hood may suggest his frequent disguises, for Robin is a great trickster whose masquerades inevitably bamboozle his foolish oppressors: he specialises in pretending to help people ...

Like Cold Oysters

Bee Wilson, 19 May 2016

Edith Piaf: A Cultural History 
by David Looseley.
Liverpool, 254 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 1 78138 257 8
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... This is a book about Piaf and her crowd. Rather than trying to get to the ‘real’ Piaf, as Robert Belleret did in Piaf, un mythe français (2013), Looseley is interested in interpreting the myth itself and drawing out what Piaf meant – and still means – to France and to her wider audience. The final three chapters are about her posthumous meanings ...

Diary

W.G. Runciman: You had better look out, 10 December 1998

... reading the newspapers of the time can have something of the same effect, as is well conveyed by Robert Kee’s The World We Left behind. But it’s not the same as a single person’s day-by-day account of – not, of course, wie es eigentlich gewesen ist, but – what it eigentlich felt like to that person. The dilemma is whether publication should or ...

Seeing Stars

Alan Bennett: Film actors, 3 January 2002

... have seen him as Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist and Jaggers in Great Expectations. It was Francis L. Sullivan, whose huge bulk must have been gracing the stage of the Grand that week, though we did not know it, thinking only that a creature from the celestial realms of film had materialised in, of all places, Leeds. We rushed home to tell ...

The Ugly Revolution

Michael Rogin: Martin Luther King Jr, 10 May 2001

I May Not Get there with You: The True Martin Luther King Jr 
by Michael Eric Dyson.
Free Press, 404 pp., £15.99, May 2000, 0 684 86776 1
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The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr. Vol. IV: Symbol of the Movement January 1957-December 1958 
edited by Clayborne Carson et al.
California, 637 pp., £31.50, May 2000, 0 520 22231 8
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... freedom struggle. The four political assassinations that define the 1960s – those of John and Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X and King – stand in for the very large numbers (almost all black and lost to national public memory) martyred to racial justice. It is now a commonplace that, instead of protecting Southern civil rights workers, the FBI (with the ...

Call a kid a zebra

Daniel Smith: On the Spectrum, 19 May 2016

In a Different Key: The Story of Autism 
by John Donvan and Caren Zucker.
Allen Lane, 670 pp., £25, January 2016, 978 1 84614 566 7
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NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter about People Who Think Differently 
by Steve Silberman.
Allen and Unwin, 534 pp., £9.99, February 2016, 978 1 76011 364 3
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... that Susan was autistic.) Appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show shortly after Rain Man opened, Ruth Sullivan, the doyenne of American parent advocates, said that the movie had ‘advanced the field of autism by 25 years’. The new public fascination with autism, coupled with the rise in diagnoses, gave activist groups a long-awaited chance to secure funding ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 1998, 21 January 1999

... makes the scene even more touching. 6 February. I am reading a history of the Yorkshire Dales by Robert White, one of a series, Landscape through Time, published by English Heritage. During the enclosures of the 18th and 19th centuries, most of the land enclosed was added to existing farms, but in 1809 John Hulton used the land allotted to him from the ...

On Some Days of the Week

Colm Tóibín: Mrs Oscar Wilde, 10 May 2012

Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde 
by Franny Moyle.
John Murray, 374 pp., £9.99, February 2012, 978 1 84854 164 1
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The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition 
by Oscar Wilde, edited by Nicholas Frankel.
Harvard, 295 pp., £25.95, April 2011, 978 0 674 05792 0
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... to see the highest development of the modern artistic spirit.’ Two years later, Gilbert and Sullivan caricatured Wilde in Patience as a ‘greenery-yallery-Grosvenor-Gallery-foot-in-the-grave-young-man’. When Basil Hallward completes his portrait of Dorian Gray in Wilde’s novel, Lord Henry Wotton says: ‘It is your best work, Basil, the best thing ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: A Shameful Year, 8 January 2004

... as once, at least, the river has seen slaughter. It was in 1388 that Richard II’s favourite, Robert Vere, led his army floundering along this flooded valley, desperate to escape his baronial pursuers, who eventually caught up and cut most of them down a little upstream at Radcot Bridge. 15 February. R. and I go down to Leicester Square at noon, the Tube ...

A Short History of the Trump Family

Sidney Blumenthal: The First Family, 16 February 2017

... exposed his thin skin. For him, Manhattan has always been the opposite of what home was for Robert Frost, ‘the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.’ Wa-a-a-a-h!Winning the presidency was never a deep desire, more a branding scheme that spun out of control, but Trump has tried to turn his victory into a means to compel ...

Alas! Deceived

Alan Bennett: Philip Larkin, 25 March 1993

Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life 
by Andrew Motion.
Faber, 570 pp., £20, April 1993, 0 571 15174 4
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... he grows older, in the process getting to look less like Raymond Huntley and more like Francis L. Sullivan and ‘the sort of person that democracy doesn’t suit’. Larkin’s choice of profession is unsurprising because from an early age libraries had been irresistible. ‘I was an especially irritating kind of borrower, who brought back in the evening the ...

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