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In the dark

Philip Horne, 1 December 1983

The Life of Alfred Hitchcock: The Dark Side of Genius 
by Donald Spoto.
Collins, 594 pp., £12.95, May 1983, 0 00 216352 7
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Howard Hawks, Storyteller 
by Gerald Mast.
Oxford, 406 pp., £16.50, June 1983, 0 19 503091 5
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... stare isn’t, of course, an emotion which the sane can much afford in real life: but we have to grant the premise that improbable things can happen, and bare possibilities have an uncanny hold on the mind which gives a force to ‘implausible’ fictions. One of Hitchcock’s masterpieces, the terrifying Psycho (1960), shows a young woman who steals some ...

Policing the Police

Fredrick Harris: The Black Panthers, 20 June 2013

Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party 
by Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin.
California, 539 pp., £24.95, January 2013, 978 0 520 27185 2
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... 1 January 2009, around two in the morning, 19 days before the inauguration of Barack Obama, Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old unarmed black man, was shot in the back by a white transit officer in Oakland, California while lying face down on a train platform with his hands behind his back. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died seven hours later. Minutes ...

Outfoxing Hangman

Thomas Jones: David Mitchell, 11 May 2006

Black Swan Green 
by David Mitchell.
Sceptre, 371 pp., £16.99, May 2006, 0 340 82279 1
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... Briar, Floyd Chaceley, Neal Brose, Pete Redmarley, Ross Wilcox, Gary Drake, ‘Squelch’, Grant Burch, Philip Phelps, Lee Biggs, the Tookey brothers, Ant Little, Darren Croome. There are too many to take in, but almost all of them feature more or less prominently later in the novel, and one of the difficulties of being a teenager, too often ...

Mr Down-by-the-Levee

Thomas Jones: Updike’s Terrorist, 7 September 2006

by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 310 pp., £17.99, August 2006, 0 241 14351 9
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... to him. And the complex of Ahmad’s feelings towards a girl in his class at school, Joryleen Grant, is persuasively and sympathetically described, as are the edginess and hostility of his fraught exchanges with Joryleen’s aggressive boyfriend, Tylenol Jones (whose ‘mother, having delivered a ten-pound infant, saw the name in a television commercial ...

In whose interest?

Thomas Nagel: Euthanasia, 6 October 2011

Assisted Death: A Study in Ethics and Law 
by L.W. Sumner.
Oxford, 236 pp., £35, July 2011, 978 0 19 960798 3
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... autonomous, expressions of one’s deepest and most enduring values.’ I’m doubtful of this grant of authority to the competent former self, whose values have not in fact endured, since they mean nothing to the demented present self. On balance there may be no right answer to the question whether it is good or bad for that person to go on living in that ...

It’s not the bus: it’s us

Thomas Sugrue: Stars, Stripes and Civil Rights, 20 November 2008

The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph that Shocked America 
by Louis Masur.
Bloomsbury US, 224 pp., $24.95, April 2008, 978 1 59691 364 6
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... citizens. On 4 November more than 100,000 people – black and white – gathered in Chicago’s Grant Park to celebrate the election of Barack Obama. There, in the heart of one of America’s most segregated cities, they waved countless little flags. It was a moment of unity in a country where the Red, White and Blue is still tainted black and white. Three ...

England’s Ideology

Roy Porter, 5 August 1982

Coram’s Children: The London Foundling Hospital in the 18th Century 
by Ruth McClure.
Yale, 321 pp., £15, September 1981, 0 300 02465 7
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Children of the Empire 
by Gillian Wagner.
Weidenfeld, 284 pp., £10.95, March 1982, 0 297 78047 6
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... If old sea-dog Thomas Coram’s mission had been to found the most English, the most 18th-century of charities, he could not have done better than launch the Foundling Hospital – which he did, its doors receiving its first infant in 1741. Till then, England – unlike other countries – had had no hospice designed for abandoned babies, though such an idea had been floated in a characteristic gesture of lay piety by Addison in the Guardian ...


Dinah Birch, 21 December 1989

The Temple of my Familiar 
by Alice Walker.
Women’s Press, 405 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 7043 5041 6
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The Fog Line 
by Carol Birch.
Bloomsbury, 248 pp., £13.95, September 1989, 0 7475 0453 9
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Home Life Four 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 169 pp., £9.95, November 1989, 0 7156 2297 8
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The Fly in the Ointment 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 132 pp., £10.95, October 1989, 9780715622964
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Words of Love 
by Philip Norman.
Hamish Hamilton, 218 pp., £11.95, October 1989, 0 241 12586 3
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... be. ‘In the end, there is only this: she is the little girl in the moose’s antlers.’ Alice Thomas Ellis would sympathise with many of these bleak insights. Her weekly sketches of domestic disorganisation used to appear in the Spectator and are now published in the Tablet. A new collection of these pieces, Home Life Four, reflects the most engaging ...


John Barrell: On Allon White, 29 August 1991

... of him. Allon’s funeral was held in the small church at Berwick, near Lewes, decorated by Duncan Grant et al. He’d spoken about what he wanted from the occasion – ‘not a dry eye in the house’ – and the service was scripted as ruthlessly as the final scenes of Brief Encounter, with the one deliberate aim of reducing everyone in the huge congregation ...

Graham Greene Possessed

Brigid Brophy, 1 May 1980

Doctor Fischer of Geneva. Or The Bomb Party 
by Graham Greene.
Bodley Head, 140 pp., £4.50, March 1980, 0 370 30316 4
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... What can have possessed Graham Greene? The answer, I suspect, is the ghost of Thomas Mann. The Swiss setting of Doctor Fischer of Geneva might be determined by some generic effluvium of Mann, a compound of his Magic (Swiss) Mountain, his post-war return to Switzerland and, perhaps, his rather landlocked position at the centre of European letters ...

Conrad’s Complaint

Frank Kermode, 17 November 1983

The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. I: 1861-1897 
edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies.
Cambridge, 446 pp., £19.50, September 1983, 0 521 24216 9
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... a hundred-odd to Galsworthy, the same quantity to Ford Madox Ford, ‘several dozen’ to Thomas Wise, an unspecified but obviously vast number to the agent Pinker, and so on. Moreover, the core collection of Jean-Aubry is unreliable, because of ‘unprofessional editing and omissions’, the latter caused by an understandable desire not to give ...


Gabriele Annan, 25 March 1993

Alias Olympia: A Woman’s Search for Manet’s Notorious Model and Her Own Desire 
by Eunice Lipton.
Thames and Hudson, 192 pp., £14.95, March 1993, 0 500 23651 8
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... money to lease an usher’s pitch in a theatre. She had studied painting with Leroy, and also with Thomas Couture, and she continued to do illustrations and portraits to commission, as well as historical subjects, two of which were accepted by the Salon. Lipton didn’t manage to find any of her work, but established that she was a member of the Société des ...

Short Cuts

Stephen W. Smith: The ICC, 15 December 2016

... reasoned that ICC membership was at odds with South Africa’s obligation to the African Union to grant immunity to the continent’s heads of state. That was a year and a half ago. Why has Zuma waited until now to announce South Africa’s departure from the ICC? A look behind the scenes partially explains the delay. After the Bashir episode, Zuma’s ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: John White’s New World, 5 April 2007

... they were published with immense success in 1590 as illustrations (engraved by Theodor de Bry) to Thomas Harriot’s Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia – suggests that what was made as a record was used as advertising. The Report was issued in German, Latin and French editions as well as in English. That Harriot and White’s book was ...

Short Cuts

Chase Madar: Human Rights Window Dressing, 2 July 2015

... their own signed by dozens of legal scholars, including a great many progressive luminaries like Thomas Buergenthal, David Cole and Burt Neuborne. Other more right-wing figures vouching for Koh include William Taft, the State Department’s senior lawyer in 2003, who provided the Bush-Cheney administration with its legal rationale for invading Iraq, and John ...

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