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Machiavelli’s Bite

Stuart Hampshire, 1 October 1981

Machiavelli 
by Quentin Skinner.
Oxford, 102 pp., £4.50, May 1981, 0 19 287517 5
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The Prince and Other Political Writings 
by Niccolo Machiavelli, translated by Bruce Penman.
Dent, 354 pp., £3.50, June 1981, 0 460 11280 5
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... This is a short book, scarcely more than a long essay, on a subject vastly investigated and written about. Professor Skinner’s powers of compression and command of the evidence provide as good an introduction to Machiavelli’s thought as could be asked for. As in his Foundations of Modern Political Thought, he is determined to place Machiavelli’s theorising in its historical context among the not unrelated thoughts of lesser Florentine humanists and of other contemporaries ...

Still Defending the Scots

Katie Stevenson: Robert the Bruce, 11 September 2014

Robert the BruceKing of the Scots 
by Michael Penman.
Yale, 443 pp., £25, June 2014, 978 0 300 14872 5
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... to be William Wallace.’ ‘No,’ Martin corrected him. ‘Alex Salmond wants to be Robert the Bruce.’ Wallace has been cast as ‘the people’s champion’, a role he played in the 1975 novel The Wallace by the prolific Nigel Tranter and, twenty years later, in Braveheart. But Martin was right that the appeal of ...

Ways to Be Pretentious

Ian Penman, 5 May 2016

M Train 
by Patti Smith.
Bloomsbury, 253 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6768 6
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Collected Lyrics 1970-2015 
by Patti Smith.
Bloomsbury, 303 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6300 8
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... seventy this year, has had just one hit single (‘Because the Night’ in 1978, co-written with Bruce Springsteen) in forty years, and the only one of her 11 albums with an unassailable reputation is her glorious debut, Horses. I’ve known many people who dearly love Horses, but I can’t recall a single person ever declaring a passion for any of the other ...

Man-Eating Philosophers

Will Self: David Cronenberg, 18 June 2015

Consumed 
by David Cronenberg.
Fourth Estate, 288 pp., £18.99, October 2014, 978 0 00 729915 7
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... memoir, My Last Sigh; Werner Herzog’s hilarious confabulation, Conquest of the Useless; and Bruce Robinson’s farcical Künstlerroman, The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman. However, I’m not so sure Cronenberg’s filmic output is equal to that of Jean Cocteau, Marguerite Duras or Peter Handke. Part of the problem ...

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