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Julia Bryan-Wilson: Rosie Lee Tompkins, 17 December 2020

... to be relatively luxurious or relatively cheap. A clever all-denim piece that keeps intact the brand names emblazoned on jean pockets (Gloria Vanderbilt, Jordache, Levi-Strauss) – a disorienting rebus-like surface – registers the differing prestige afforded to identical material. Synthetic calico is set next to a Mexican serape poncho which is placed ...


Michael Hofmann: Shirley Hazzard, 6 May 2021

Collected Stories 
by Shirley Hazzard.
Virago, 356 pp., £16.99, November 2020, 978 0 349 01295 7
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... relations to her friendship with Graham Greene and her love affair with Naples. In 1961, William Maxwell accepted the first story she submitted to the New Yorker, the fragrant, Elizabeth Bishop-like ‘Woollahra Road’. She published two collections: Cliffs of Fall (1963) and People in Glass Houses (1967). The latter – a series of linked stories ...

Behind the Veil

Richard Altick, 6 March 1986

The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England 1850-1914 
by Janet Oppenheim.
Cambridge, 503 pp., £25, March 1985, 0 521 26505 3
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... examination. Among its officers and members were Tennyson, Gladstone, Ruskin, Lewis Carroll, William James, Henri Bergson, and scores of other persons with unimpeachable intellectual and social credentials. In the 18th century, the foundations of received Christian faith, undermined by deism, had been shored up for some time by the physico-theology of ...

I met murder on the way

Colin Kidd: Castlereagh, 24 May 2012

Castlereagh: Enlightenment, War and Tyranny 
by John Bew.
Quercus, 722 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 0 85738 186 6
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... stage further, for his subject, Lord Castlereagh (1769-1822), constitutes a major obstacle to his brand of revisionism. Was black reaction in the marrow of Unionism from the very start? After all, Castlereagh, one of the architects of the British-Irish Union of 1800, later played a directing part in the Tory regime which, in the years immediately following ...

Living the Life

Andrew O’Hagan, 6 October 2016

Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency 
by James Andrew Miller.
Custom House, 703 pp., £20, August 2016, 978 0 06 244137 9
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... says he loves). In Some Like It Hot, the talent booker, Mr Poliakoff, is on the phone to the William Morris Agency. Standing in his office are Jerry and Joe – Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis – a bass and a saxophone player. Jerry tries to persuade Poliakoff to give them the job – three weeks in Florida with Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators – but ...

Strawberries in December

Paul Laity: She Radicals, 30 March 2017

Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers and Radicals in Britain and the United States 
by Sheila Rowbotham.
Verso, 512 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 1 78478 588 8
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... or sex. Its members met in coffee houses, read from their favourite poets – Whitman, Shelley, William Morris – and listened to ‘rousing glees’; Carpenter was one of their most popular speakers. The two women were swept up in the ‘new unionism’ that energised British socialism at the end of the 1880s, as the old craft unions made way for ...

Customising Biography

Iain Sinclair, 22 February 1996

by Peter Ackroyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 399 pp., £20, September 1995, 1 85619 278 4
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol I: Jerusalem 
editor David Bindman, edited by Morton D. Paley.
Tate Gallery, 304 pp., £48, August 1991, 1 85437 066 9
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. II: Songs of Innocence and Experience 
series editor David Bindman, edited by Andrew Lincoln.
Tate Gallery, 210 pp., £39.50, August 1991, 1 85437 068 5
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol III: The Early Illuminated Books 
series editor David Bindman, edited by Morris Eaves, Robert Essick and Joseph Viscomi.
Tate Gallery, 288 pp., £48, August 1993, 1 85437 119 3
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. IV: The Continental Prophecies: America, Europe, The Song of Los 
editor David Bindman, edited by D.W. Dörbecker.
Tate Gallery, 368 pp., £50, May 1995, 1 85437 154 1
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. V: Milton, a Poem 
series editor David Bindman, edited by Robert Essick and Joseph Viscomi.
Tate Gallery, 224 pp., £48, November 1993, 1 85437 121 5
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. VI: The Urizen Books 
 editor David Bindman, edited by David Worrall.
Tate Gallery, 232 pp., £39.50, May 1995, 9781854371553
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... begged for copies of Barbara Pym, while Gregory spoke wistfully of Philip Larkin. Denton Welch was William Burroughs’s main intellectual squeeze. Ferlinghetti had high hopes for Jeremy Reed. The Beats were now heritage fodder, a potential Bloomsbury group. There was even talk of James Ivory optioning a Neal Cassady property. I wondered, thinking of Blake’s ...

The Ultimate Novel

William Empson, 2 September 1982

by Hugh Kenner.
Allen and Unwin, 182 pp., £10, March 1982, 0 00 480003 6
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A Starchamber Quiry: A James Joyce Centennial Volume 1882-1982 
edited by E.L. Epstein.
Methuen, 164 pp., £9.50, February 1982, 0 416 31560 7
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... such detail to start with but then became shy of it. Yeats had taken up dreams, as a proof of his brand of spiritualism; he was especially pleased at finding a dream which had drifted across country, occupying one person after another. (One must agree that such a dream could not be produced by the unconsciousness of each person separately.) So the ...

Getting high

Charles Nicholl, 19 March 1987

The Global Connection: The Crisis of Drug Addiction 
by Ben Whitaker.
Cape, 384 pp., £15, March 1987, 0 224 02224 5
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... as Geneva – familiarised by British tipplers as ‘gin’ – was introduced by the Court of William of Orange in the 1690s. By the mid-18th century, a quarter of London’s population – almost exclusively from the poorer classes – had a gin habit averaging a pint a day. A survey of 1750 shows that every fourth house in the parish of St Giles was a ...

Du Maurier: A Lament

Jeremy Harding, 24 March 1994

Cigarettes Are Sublime 
by Richard Klein.
Duke, 210 pp., £19.95, February 1994, 0 8223 1401 0
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... the author follows the glow in the dark across the work of several novelists – Remarque, Mailer, William Styron, Hemingway – confirms this. ‘I have noted all the cigarettes that are crushed out, thrown away or unlit at night, shared and hoarded, detested and loved – instruments of torture and surgery, tokens of friendship and signs of love – in ...

Thatcher, Thatcher, Thatcher

John Gray: The Tory Future, 22 April 2010

The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron 
by Tim Bale.
Polity, 446 pp., £25, January 2010, 978 0 7456 4857 6
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Back from the Brink: The Inside Story of the Tory Resurrection 
by Peter Snowdon.
Harper Press, 419 pp., £14.99, March 2010, 978 0 00 730725 8
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... of American capitalism. New Labour’s task was to join the march of history, advancing this brand of capitalism and re-engineering social institutions when they failed to obey its imperatives. Blair’s love affair with America cut short his leadership. His support of the Bush administration in its invasion of Iraq was based in part on a belief in the ...

If you don’t swing, don’t ring

Christopher Turner: Playboy Mansions, 21 April 2016

Pornotopia: An Essay on Playboy’s Architecture and Biopolitics 
by Beatriz Preciado.
Zone, 303 pp., £20.95, October 2014, 978 1 935408 48 2
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Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny 
by Holly Madison.
Dey Street, 334 pp., £16.99, July 2015, 978 0 06 237210 9
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... began defining ‘The Playboy Philosophy’ – a kind of ‘hedonistic utilitarianism’, as William F. Buckley put it. The magazine was originally designed, Hefner admitted, as a ‘romantic reflection of earlier times’. His achievement was to associate sex with upward mobility by making his readers feel they were part of an elite gentlemen’s ...

It has burned my heart

Anna Della Subin: Lives of Muhammad, 22 October 2015

The Lives of Muhammad 
by Kecia Ali.
Harvard, 342 pp., £22.95, October 2014, 978 0 674 05060 0
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... knowledge about Muhammad because they knew how similar his Alcoran was to their own adulterated brand of Christianity. He pushed for a printed edition of the Quran in Latin, and wrote the preface when it appeared. But for Catholics like Thomas More, it was Luther who was Muhammad, in his iconoclasm and his lust, a priest who took a wife and bid Protestant ...

Manly Voices

Bernard Porter: Macaulay & Son, 22 November 2012

Macaulay and Son: Architects of Imperial Britain 
by Catherine Hall.
Yale, 389 pp., £35, October 2012, 978 0 300 16023 9
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... him with any praise. ‘Fathers have flinty hearts,’ Tom was to observe later. The particular brand of Christianity that motivated the anti-slavery efforts for which Zachary is best known was also personally oppressive, with its image of a judgmental God overlooking our every move. The only affection Tom ever got was from his mother and sisters. When his ...

I say, damn it, where are the beds?

David Trotter: Orwell’s Nose and Prose, 16 February 2017

Orwell’s Nose: A Pathological Biography 
by John Sutherland.
Reaktion, 256 pp., £15, August 2016, 978 1 78023 648 3
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Or Orwell: Writing and Democratic Socialism 
by Alex Woloch.
Harvard, 378 pp., £35.95, January 2016, 978 0 674 28248 3
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... during the Spanish Civil War, someone put a bullet through it). Like it or not, ‘Orwell’ is a brand: ordinariness, common decency, speaking plain truths to power, a haggard, prophetic gaze. It is surely some or all of those qualities, rather than any particular political prescience, which have been invoked by the remarkable spike in the sales of Nineteen ...

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