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Eden without the Serpent

Eric Foner, 11 December 1997

A History of the American People 
by Paul Johnson.
Weidenfeld, 925 pp., £25, October 1997, 0 297 81569 5
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... but actual ‘religious events’. In fact, many of the founding fathers, as well as Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator himself, were indifferent churchgoers. Their religion was deism rather than devout Christianity. Johnson has a hard time explaining why a nation ‘founded primarily for religious purposes’ has a Constitution that is a purely ...

I have written as I rode

Adam Smyth: ‘Brief Lives’, 7 October 2015

‘Brief Lives’ with ‘An Apparatus for the Lives of Our English Mathematical Writers’ 
by John Aubrey, edited by Kate Bennett.
Oxford, 1968 pp., £250, March 2015, 978 0 19 968953 8
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John Aubrey: My Own Life 
by Ruth Scurr.
Chatto, 518 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 0 7011 7907 6
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... New versions of this cross-generational vaulting circulate now and then: a man who saw Abraham Lincoln being shot in 1865 was on a TV show in 1956; a retired friend in Canada recalls her now deceased Hungarian friend Dorothy telling her that her mother had been walking in the park at the age of four with her mother when the Emperor Franz Joseph bowed to ...

Bardbiz

Terence Hawkes, 22 February 1990

Rebuilding Shakespeare’s Globe 
by Andrew Gurr and John Orrell.
Weidenfeld, 197 pp., £15.95, April 1989, 0 297 79346 2
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Shakespeare and the Popular Voice 
by Annabel Patterson.
Blackwell, 195 pp., £27.50, November 1989, 0 631 16873 7
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Re-Inventing Shakespeare: A Cultural History from the Restoration to the Present 
by Gary Taylor.
Hogarth, 461 pp., £18, January 1990, 0 7012 0888 0
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Shakespeare’s America, America’s Shakespeare 
by Michael Bristol.
Routledge, 237 pp., £30, January 1990, 0 415 01538 3
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... and tying paper flowers to the wire fencing around the Rose and the Globe, had a familiar whiff. Andrew Gurr and John Orrell’s Rebuilding Shakespeare’s Globe concerns a project conceived well before the recent discoveries. But its primary aim – to present the case for a ‘reconstruction’ of the Globe Theatre in Southwark near the site of the ...

The Corrupt Bargain

Eric Foner: Democracy? No thanks, 21 May 2020

Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College? 
by Alexander Keyssar.
Harvard, 544 pp., £28.95, May, 978 0 674 66015 1
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Let the People Pick the President: The Case for Abolishing the Electoral College 
by Jesse Wegman.
St Martin’s Press, 304 pp., $24.50, March, 978 1 250 22197 1
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... 1824, when the party system was temporarily in disarray. John Quincy Adams, who had come second to Andrew Jackson in both the popular and electoral votes, struck a deal with Henry Clay, who came fourth, giving Adams a majority of the House votes. Adams then named Clay his secretary of state. What Jackson’s supporters called the ‘corrupt bargain’ was ...

Oswaldworld

Andrew O’Hagan, 14 December 1995

Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 791 pp., £25, September 1995, 0 316 87620 8
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... turn, I see everything is dark. There are flickering pictures on a TV screen of the President’s Lincoln turning into Elm Street, and running past the front of the building I’m standing in myself. I see him lurch in his seat, and feel it might all be happening now, outside, on this sunny day. This clamour of memorial sounds, this crosscurrent of hard ...

Higher Man

John Sutherland, 22 May 1997

The Turner Diaries 
by Andrew Macdonald’.
National Vauguard Books, 211 pp., $12.95, May 1978, 0 937944 02 5
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... the book’s rabidly Nazi contents. The Turner Diaries was first issued under the pseudonym ‘Andrew Macdonald’. William Luther Pierce, a resolutely secretive figure, was born on 11 September 1933, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was evidendy brought up in the South-West, and graduated BA from Rice in 1955. He spent the year 1955-6 at Caltech, as a graduate ...

The President and the Bomb

Adam Shatz, 16 November 2017

... be consulted on the decision? ‘These are people who have grown up saying, “Yes, sir,”’ Andrew Bacevich, a retired career officer in the US army, replied when I put the question to him. (In his recent speech following the death of four American soldiers in Niger, Kelly essentially said that the best Americans are lying in the ground of Arlington ...

Be grateful for drizzle

Donald MacKenzie: High-Frequency Trading, 10 September 2014

... and the combination of so many computers and all that air conditioning makes for a lot of noise. Andrew Blum, author of a fine book on the physical reality of the internet, describes visiting a data centre as ‘like stepping into a machine … as loud as a rushing highway’.2 There are four main share-trading data centres in the US. The New York Stock ...

Mozart’s Rascal

Roger Parker, 23 May 1991

Mozart in Vienna 1781-1791 
by Volkmar Braunbehrens.
Deutsch, 481 pp., £17.95, June 1990, 9780233985596
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The Mozart Compendium 
edited by H.C. Robbins Landon.
Thames and Hudson, 452 pp., £24.95, September 1990, 0 500 01481 7
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Mozart and Vienna 
by H.C. Robbins Landon.
Thames and Hudson, 208 pp., £16.95, February 1991, 0 500 01506 6
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Mozart’s Thematic Catalogue: A Facsimile 
introduced and transcribed by Albi Rosenthal and Alan Tyson.
British Library, 57 pp., £25, November 1990, 0 7123 0202 6
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The Compleat Mozart: A Guide to the Musical Works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 
edited by Neal Zaslaw and William Cowdery.
Norton, 351 pp., £19.95, April 1991, 0 393 02886 0
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... course, be supplemented: by Landon’s earlier two volumes, and by recent specialist books such as Andrew Steptoe’s studies of the Mozart-Da Ponte operas (Oxford, 1988), and Neal Zaslaw’s volume on the symphonies (Oxford, 1989). And these many publications are all, one fears, avant le déluge. 1991 is, as everyone must now know, the 200th anniversary of ...

Think Tiny

Mark Ford: Nancification, 17 July 2008

The Nancy Book 
by Joe Brainard.
Siglio, 144 pp., $39.50, April 2008, 978 0 9799562 0 1
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... Roosevelt’ (a grinning Nancy replacing Teddy Roosevelt between Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore); ‘If Nancy Was a Drawing by Leonardo da Vinci’ (her stolid features and purposeful stomp sketched on a sheet of Old Master drawings between noble profiles, sorrowing Madonnas, plaintive putti and snarling lions); ‘If Nancy Was the ...

Petty Grotesques

Mark Ford: Whitman, 17 March 2011

Democratic Vistas 
by Walt Whitman, edited by Ed Folsom.
Iowa, 143 pp., $24.95, April 2010, 978 1 58729 870 7
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... and what to do with all the freed slaves: these were the actual problems confronting President Andrew Johnson (1865-69), in whose attorney general’s office Whitman toiled by day as a government clerk, and whose leniency to the former Confederates he defended in arguments with friends such as O’Connor by night. Like ...

El Casino Macabre

James Morone: Rebellion of the Rich, 21 June 2007

Wall Street: A Cultural History 
by Steve Fraser.
Faber, 656 pp., £12.99, April 2006, 0 571 21829 6
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Among Empires: American Ascendancy and Its Predecessors 
by Charles S. Maier.
Harvard, 373 pp., £18.95, May 2006, 0 674 02189 4
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... economic elite. The old ruling class was not just selfish but ‘foolish, frail and inept’. Even Andrew Mellon, the formidable secretary of the treasury who had dominated three administrations, was now exposed as an ‘ageing nincompoop’. Wall Street winked out of American culture for two generations. Fraser takes an inventory of the great fall. In ...

‘My God was bigger than his’

Colin Kidd: The Republicans, 4 November 2004

The Right Nation: Why America Is Different 
by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge.
Allen Lane, 450 pp., £14.99, August 2004, 0 7139 9738 9
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Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet 
by James Mann.
Penguin, 448 pp., $16, September 2004, 0 14 303489 8
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Nixon’s Shadow: The History of an Image 
by David Greenberg.
Norton, 496 pp., £9.99, November 2004, 0 393 32616 0
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America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism 
by Anatol Lieven.
HarperCollins, 274 pp., £18.99, October 2004, 0 00 716456 4
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... War. For well over a century white Southerners identified the Republicans as the party of Abraham Lincoln and rejected these Northern meddlers at the polls. In 1950 the Republicans had no senators from the South and only a couple of congressmen. Conversely, some blacks continued to acknowledge that the Republican friends of big business had once been the ...

Act One, Scene One

David Bromwich: Don’t Resist, Oppose, 16 February 2017

... nominee for health secretary, owes his appointment to his agitation for the repeal of Obamacare. Andrew Puzder, the CEO of the fast-food franchise Carl Jr, chiefly known for his opposition to raising the minimum wage, is Trump’s pick for labour secretary. The most ominous appointment for the laws and liberty of the country is the new director of the ...

By All Possible Art

Tobias Gregory: George Herbert, 18 December 2014

Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert 
by John Drury.
Penguin, 396 pp., £9.99, April 2014, 978 0 14 104340 1
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... was ordained deacon in 1624, and in 1626 received non-residential church appointments as canon of Lincoln Cathedral and prebendary of Leighton Bromswold in Cambridgeshire, near Little Gidding. These were basically sinecures, though Herbert applied himself to rebuilding the half-ruined Leighton church, which still stands as he restored it. His family helped ...

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