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Waspish Civilities

Stephen Sedley: The Case for a Supreme Court, 21 May 2020

High Principle, Low Politics and the Emergence of the Supreme Court 
by Frederic Reynold.
Wildy, Simmonds and Hill, 154 pp., £14.95, September 2019, 978 0 85490 283 5
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... until, towards the dawn of the 17th century, three successive chief justices, Popham, Fleming and Coke, established that the Crown’s prerogative powers were governed by law, and that the source of law, subject to Parliament’s enactments, was the Crown’s courts. Among them, though hardly pre-eminent since it did not issue reasoned judgments, was the ...

What does a snake know, or intend?

David Thomson: Where Joan Didion was from, 18 March 2004

Where I Was From 
by Joan Didion.
Flamingo, 240 pp., £14.99, March 2004, 0 00 717886 7
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... Union 76 stations, Standard stations, Flying As. She would stand on the hot pavement and drink the Coke from the bottle and put the bottle back in the rack (she tried always to let the attendant notice her putting the bottle in the rack, a show of thoughtful responsibility, no sardine cans in her sink) and then she would walk to the edge of the concrete and ...

Vermin Correspondence

Iain Sinclair, 20 October 1994

Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play 
by Ben Watson.
Quartet, 597 pp., £25, May 1994, 0 7043 7066 2
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Her Weasels Wild Returning 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 12 pp., £2, May 1994
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... conglomerates have had to let it go. The Oxford University Press feel no obligation to keep David Gascoyne’s Collected Poems in print. Faber and Faber get along very nicely on Tom Eliot’s singing and dancing pussy-cats. The Cambridge Festival (don’t tell them) is nowhere, it isn’t happening. What’s the story? Even the participants don’t ...

Scribblers and Assassins

Charles Nicholl: The Crimes of Thomas Drury, 31 October 2002

... Cholmeley, but in each case orchestrated by Thomas Drury. A letter discovered a few years ago by David Riggs further highlights Drury’s involvement, because it shows he had a prior connection with Lord Keeper Puckering. On 8 November 1592 Lord Buckhurst wrote to Puckering: I did speak to Mr Drury according to your Lordship’s desire, and after a long ...

Cute, My Arse

Seamus Perry: Geoffrey Hill, 12 September 2019

The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Oxford, 148 pp., £20, April 2019, 978 0 19 882952 2
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... be able to take for granted could see for himself or herself the truth of the matter,’ he told David Sexton, somewhat sternly. T.S. Eliot once said that genuine poetry could ‘communicate before it is understood’, though that doesn’t preclude understanding it too: it might seem a generous thing to say that the poetry in some way communicates its ...

Heir to Blair

Christopher Tayler: Among the New Tories, 26 April 2007

... being the buzzword for the shearing off of voter-unfriendly associations. Before David Cameron, or ‘DC’, as he’s known, took over in December 2005, Conservative strategists had noted anxiously that focus groups would turn against almost anything – even, or especially, tax cuts – as soon as they were told it was Tory ...

The Olympics Scam

Iain Sinclair: The Razing of East London, 19 June 2008

... E2, a modest enclosure replacing war-damaged terraces and the demolished Imperial Gas, Light and Coke Company, has long been an oasis. It was opened as a public park in 1958. Its scandals are old scandals and have no bearing on the current frenzy for makeovers, peppery paths, wooden obstacles for training circuits, laminated heritage notices. Spanking new ...


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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... evicted by what appeared to be almost insurrectionary means (the mass picketing of the Saltley coke depot was the locus classicus of this image) produced hysteria in the Conservative Party. Some Tory MPs began openly to espouse institutional strategems – PR, a written constitution etc – to prevent any future ‘imposition of socialism’. Lord Hailsham ...

He knew he was right

John Lloyd, 10 March 1994

Scargill: The Unauthorised Biography 
by Paul Routledge.
HarperCollins, 296 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 0 300 05365 7
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... by several thousand demonstrators from Birmingham, succeeded in closing the gates of an important coke depot. Scargill has given a vivid account of that day in later interviews. It fails to square, on many counts, with the findings of the official inquiry and is no less prodigally embellished than any other feature of the Scargill self-portrait. Helped along ...

One Big Murder Mystery

Adam Shatz: The Algerian army’s leading novelist, 7 October 2004

The Swallows of Kabul 
by Yasmina Khadra, translated by John Cullen.
Heinemann, 195 pp., £10.99, May 2004, 9780434011414
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Wolf Dreams 
by Yasmina Khadra, translated by Linda Black.
Toby, 272 pp., $19.95, May 2003, 1 902881 75 3
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by Yasmina Khadra, translated by David Herman.
Toby, 137 pp., £7.95, May 2004, 1 59264 035 4
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... dangerous beauty hinted at hidden cruelty’. One day the girlfriend of his boss’s son dies of a coke overdose and he’s forced to dispose of her body. It’s too much. With the family bodyguard he drives deep into the forest, where they crush her face with stones. Overcome with shame, he heads to the mosque, where a radical imam makes the actor manqué an ...

Bravo l’artiste

John Lanchester: What is Murdoch after?, 5 February 2004

The Murdoch Archipelago 
by Bruce Page.
Simon and Schuster, 580 pp., £20, September 2003, 0 7432 3936 9
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Rupert Murdoch: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Media Wizard 
by Neil Chenoweth.
Crown Business, 416 pp., $27.50, December 2002, 0 609 61038 4
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Autumn of the Moguls: My Misadventures with the Titans, Poseurs and Money Guys who Mastered and Messed up Big Media 
by Michael Wolff.
Flamingo, 381 pp., £18.99, January 2004, 0 00 717881 6
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... of the price war’s principal targets. (‘Don’t worry about the Telegraph,’ Murdoch told Sir David English of Associated Newspapers in 1993. ‘Leave them to me. I’ll put them out of business for you.’) Knowing that Black knew Murdoch socially, my friend asked him if he had ever brought up the subject of the price war. Black shook his head. He ...

Thanks for being called Dick

Jenny Turner: ‘I Love Dick’, 17 December 2015

I Love Dick 
by Chris Kraus.
Tuskar Rock, 261 pp., £12.99, November 2015, 978 1 78125 647 3
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... On the one hand: well, Semiotext(e) in the 1980s, ooh la la. Chris calls Guattari ‘Félix’; David Byrne is doing the music at Joseph Kosuth’s 50th birthday party, which gets written up the next day in the New York Post. ‘You think we’re decadent sophisticates,’ they write to Dick at one point, faux indignant, going on to explain that they’re ...

Downhill from Here

Ian Jack: The 1970s, 27 August 2009

When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies 
by Andy Beckett.
Faber, 576 pp., £20, May 2009, 978 0 571 22136 3
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... bogeyman years, regularly invoked by politicians of all parties as the nadir of postwar Britain. David Cameron (though it could just as easily have been Gordon Brown) read out the charge sheet at a Demos meeting in 2006: ‘economic decline . . . inflation, stagnation and rising unemployment . . . deteriorating industrial relations’. Nearly 30 million ...

Loafing with the Sissies

Colm Tóibín: The Trials of Andy Warhol, 10 September 2020

Warhol: A Life as Art 
by Blake Gopnik.
Allen Lane, 931 pp., £35, March, 978 0 241 00338 1
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... him as ‘quite miserable-looking … so thin, so little, so miserable’. The art critic David Bourdon thought his art collection ‘stank’ and took the view that Warhol was nothing more than ‘a window trimmer and chichi East Side gadabout who hung around with trashy people’. In the world of commercial art, as photography began to overtake ...

Strange, Angry Objects

Owen Hatherley: The Brutalist Decades, 17 November 2016

A3: Threads and Connections 
by Peter Ahrends.
Right Angle, 128 pp., £18, December 2015, 978 0 9532848 9 4
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Raw Concrete: The Beauty of Brutalism 
by Barnabas Calder.
Heinemann, 416 pp., £25, April 2016, 978 0 434 02244 1
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Space, Hope and Brutalism: English Architecture 1945-75 
by Elain Harwood.
Yale, 512 pp., £60, September 2015, 978 0 300 20446 9
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Concrete Concept: Brutalist Buildings around the World 
by Christopher Beanland.
Frances Lincoln, 192 pp., £18, February 2016, 978 0 7112 3764 3
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This Brutal World 
by Peter Chadwick.
Phaidon, 224 pp., £29.95, April 2016, 978 0 7148 7108 0
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Modern Forms: A Subjective Atlas of 20th-Century Architecture 
by Nicolas Grospierre.
Prestel, 224 pp., £29.99, February 2016, 978 3 7913 8229 6
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Modernist Estates: The Buildings and the People Who Live in Them 
by Stefi Orazi.
Frances Lincoln, 192 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 0 7112 3675 2
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Architecture an Inspiration 
by Ivor Smith.
Troubador, 224 pp., £24.95, November 2014, 978 1 78462 069 1
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... the building that sparks the love affair isn’t strictly Brutalist: the Dorman Long South Bank Coke Oven Tower, at the factory near Redcar where his grandfather worked. Although this monumental, cast-from-one-mould object bears some similarity to forms arrived at by more circuitous routes by James Stirling or ABK, it is anonymous, not ...

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