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Dykes, Drongs, Sarns, Snickets

David Craig: Walking England, 20 December 2012

The English Lakes: A History 
by Ian Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £16.99, March 2012, 978 1 4088 0958 7
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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot 
by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 432 pp., £20, June 2012, 978 0 241 14381 0
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... domesticated. We leave our prints on it, our tracks, and used by generations these become a track, a trail, a trod, a path, a highway. Ever since my memory began I have followed such tracks with foot and ...

Diary

Christopher Hadley: The Lake Taupo Stamp, 18 September 1997

... Three and a half hours into the auction at the Westbury Hotel in London earlier this year, Jason Chapman is smoking Old Holborn rolled in liquorice paper. In the inside left pocket of his blazer is the ‘Lake Taupo’. He has been assigned to guard it with his life ...

Tortoises with Zips

David Craig: The Snow Geese by William Fiennes, 4 April 2002

The Snow Geese 
by William Fiennes.
Picador, 250 pp., £14.99, March 2002, 0 330 37578 4
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... William Fiennes has a deep-seated sense of home and what it means to be distant from it. Birth-house, parents, migrant birds: these fuse in his passage on swifts, for example, which ‘come back each year, in the last week of May’ to his old home somewhere in the south country – a fact which interested me, because I have recorded their arrival since the 1950s in Aberdeen on 11 May and in Cumbria on 6 May ...

In the Grey Zone

Tom Stevenson: Proxy Warfare, 22 October 2020

Proxy Wars: Suppressing Violence through Local Agents 
by Eli Berman and David A. Lake.
Cornell, 354 pp., £23.99, March 2019, 978 1 5017 3306 2
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Proxy War: The Least Bad Option 
by Tyrone L. Groh.
Stanford, 264 pp., £56, March 2019, 978 1 5036 0818 4
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Surrogate Warfare: The Transformation of War in the 21st Century 
by Andreas Krieg and Jean-Marc Rickli.
Georgetown, 258 pp., £21.99, June 2019, 978 1 62616 678 3
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... To fight​ a war this century you need proxies on the ground. From South America to Central Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, nations have chosen to pursue their objectives through local confederates. The catastrophic Anglo-American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are remembered as conventional wars ...

Perfectly Mobile, Perfectly Still

David Craig: Land Artists, 14 December 2000

Time 
by Andy Goldsworthy.
Thames and Hudson, 203 pp., £35, August 2000, 0 500 51026 1
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... Sculpture need not be a bronze statue of a town councillor or a marble figure of a goddess, respectfully plinthed in gallery or plaza; or a curvaceous wooden form strung like a harp which we gaze at in dumbfounded silence ...

Stardom

Megan Vaughan: Explorers of the Nile, 8 March 2012

Explorers of the Nile: The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure 
by Tim Jeal.
Faber, 510 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 0 571 24975 6
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... the mountains of Rwanda, and muses on the fact that this unimpressive wet patch gives rise to such a mighty river. Indeed, it is surprising. Determining the ‘source’ of a river is, it turns out, not a simple matter. There may be many plausible contenders. You can argue that it is the ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Peter Doig, 6 March 2008

... Peter Doig painted Echo Lake in 1998. A man stands on the far side of a stretch of dark water. He is quite a way off, but you can see that he wears a white shirt and a dark tie ...

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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... David Mitchell’s first book, Ghostwritten (1999), which describes itself asa novel in nine parts’, is a collection of loosely interconnected stories. The protagonist of one will have a walk-on role in the next; a minor character from someone else’s story will later reappear as the narrator of their own ...

What women think about men

D.A.N. Jones, 5 February 1987

The Progress of Love 
by Alice Munro.
Chatto, 309 pp., £9.95, January 1987, 0 7011 3161 6
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Ruth 
by Jeremy Cooper.
Hutchinson, 187 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 09 167110 8
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... Let us be sexist. The Progress of Love is a woman’s book, particularly interesting to men who want to know what women think of them and know about them. Alice Munro is a 56-year-old Canadian who has been married twice: she is particularly concerned with the knowingness derived from broken relationships ...

Fit and Few

Donald Davie, 3 May 1984

The Making of the Reader: Language and Subjectivity in Modern American, English and Irish Poetry 
by David Trotter.
Macmillan, 272 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 333 30632 5
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... but himself. If he is in earnest – and if he isn’t we’ll not bother with him, any more than David Trotter does – he thought that he was testing his society by moving out to the periphery of that society, speaking for and with the disaffected, the vagabonds, the ill-adjusted. How disconcerting, then, to find that the disaffection he thought he was ...

Last in the Funhouse

Patrick Parrinder, 17 April 1986

Gerald’s Party 
by Robert Coover.
Heinemann, 316 pp., £10.95, April 1986, 0 434 14290 5
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Caracole 
by Edmund White.
Picador, 342 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 330 29291 9
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Lake Wobegon Days 
by Garrison Keillor.
Faber, 337 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 571 13846 2
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In Country 
by Bobbie Ann Mason.
Chatto, 245 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 7011 3034 2
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... If the preferred style in American fiction of the last two decades could be summed up in a single title, it would surely be ‘Lost in the Funhouse’. John Barth’s short story, published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1967, was a composite text in which an account of a family’s visit to a fairground was spliced in with what appeared to be a set of instructions from a fiction-writer’s manual ...

On a par with Nixon

Stephen Alford: Bad Queen Bess?, 17 November 2016

Bad Queen Bess? Libels, Secret Histories, and the Politics of Publicity in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I 
by Peter Lake.
Oxford, 497 pp., £35, January 2016, 978 0 19 875399 5
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Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years 
by John Guy.
Viking, 494 pp., £25, May 2016, 978 0 670 92225 3
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... In​ 1948 Allan Wingate published British Pamphleteers, a collection of tracts assembled by Richard Reynolds and introduced by George Orwell. The first pamphlet in the book is John Knox’s First Blast of the Trumpet (1558), which begins: ‘To promote a woman to beare rule, superioritie, dominion or empire above any realme, nation, or citie, is repugnant to nature, contumelie to God, a thing most contrarious to his reveled will and approved ordinance, and finallie it is the subversion of good order, of all equitie and justice ...

Quod erat Hepburn

John Bayley, 3 April 1986

Katharine Hepburn: A Biography 
by Anne Edwards.
Hodder, 395 pp., £12.95, March 1986, 0 340 33719 2
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... As Sartre demonstrates in his play Kean, the great actor, however many different roles he plays, has to become an actor in the absolute sense, has to play that role in life, so that living and acting can no longer be distinguished. Waiters pretend to be waiters, until it becomes their proper nature ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: From ‘Alien’ to ‘Covenant’, 15 June 2017

Alien: Covenant 
directed by Ridley Scott.
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... in Ridley Scott’s new alien movie is 2104, ten years after the messy, murderous events that put an end to the previous prequel, Prometheus (2012). True to the tradition of the franchise, virtually the whole crew of a spaceship is wiped out in both films. Alien (1979) ended with Sigourney Weaver’s voice saying ...

Idaho

Graham Hough, 5 March 1981

Housekeeping 
by Marilynne Robinson.
Faber, 218 pp., £5.25, March 1981, 0 571 11713 9
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The Noble Enemy 
by Charles Fox.
Granada, 383 pp., £6.95, February 1981, 0 246 11452 5
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The Roman Persuasion 
by Bernard Bergonzi.
Weidenfeld, 192 pp., £6.95, March 1981, 0 297 77927 3
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... Ruth and Lucille are sisters, living in Fingerbone on Fingerbone Lake. At the bottom of the lake lies their grandfather, who was guard on a train that plunged off the bridge one night, years before they were born ...

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