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This Way to the Ruin

David Runciman: The British Constitution, 7 February 2008

The British Constitution 
by Anthony King.
Oxford, 432 pp., £25, November 2007, 978 0 19 923232 1
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... for deciding when scheming for party political advantage becomes ‘unconstitutional’. Gordon Brown would probably not be in the mess he currently is if the timing of elections was excluded from routine political calculation. When Brown flirted with calling an election last autumn, in order to take advantage of a ...

Six hands at an open door

David Trotter, 21 March 1991

Intertextual Dynamics within the Literary Group: Joyce, Lewis, Pound and Eliot 
by Dennis Brown.
Macmillan, 230 pp., £35, November 1990, 9780333516461
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An Immodest Violet: The Life of Violet Hunt 
by Joan Hardwick.
Deutsch, 205 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 233 98639 1
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... Dennis Brown concludes his celebration of Anglo-American Modernism with an account of Ezra Pound’s death on 30 October 1972. ‘That year I ended an obituary of Pound in a Canadian student newspaper: Pound is now dead and no poet remains of his stature. But poetry is “NEWS that stays NEWS”. READ him: Read HIM ...

McTeague’s Tooth

David Trotter: Good Fetishism, 20 November 2003

A Sense of Things: The Object Matter of American Literature 
by Bill Brown.
Chicago, 245 pp., £22.50, April 2003, 0 226 07628 8
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... stands on wooden feet, not on its head; and those feet already show signs of incipient rot. Bill Brown takes up the story of commodification and its discontents as it reaches a climax of a kind in America in the 1880s and 1890s. By that time, the fetishism of the commodity had been further reinforced by the widespread use of elaborate techniques of ...

What was it that drove him?

David Runciman: Gordon Brown, 4 January 2018

My Life, Our Times 
by Gordon Brown.
Bodley Head, 512 pp., £25, November 2017, 978 1 84792 497 1
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... Like many​ recent political memoirists, Gordon Brown begins his story in medias res. Given his rollercoaster time in Downing Street, punctuated by the gut-wrenching drama of the financial crisis, there should have been plenty of arresting moments to choose from. Some, though, are already taken. Alistair Darling, for instance, starts Back from the Brink, his 2011 account of what it was like being Brown’s chancellor, on Tuesday, 7 October 2008, when Sir Tom McKillop, the chairman of RBS, called him to announce that his bank was about to go bust and to ask what the government planned to do about it ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: David Davis v. Miss Great Britain, 3 July 2008

... When David Davis, the shadow home secretary, announced his resignation as an MP on 12 June – in order to fight a by-election for his own seat on an issue about which he was in total agreement with his party’s line, on which in fact he was his party’s line – the media nearly choked with delight. The BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, called the resignation ‘without precedent’, and rubbed his hands at the thought of the Tory divisions that must surely lie beneath; only to be told by eager citizen bloggers that there were clear precedents – George Lansbury in 1912, Enoch Powell in 1958 – and that Davis was an incarnation of that forgotten thing: the politician with principles, a man standing up for his beliefs ...

Miss Lachrymose

Liz Brown: Doris Day’s Performances, 11 September 2008

Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door 
by David Kaufman.
Virgin, 628 pp., £29.95, June 2008, 978 1 905264 30 8
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... singer for a band, before going on to work with Bob Crosby (Bing’s brother) and then with Les Brown and His Band of Renown. She accepted the name but never warmed to it and even now, it’s said, rarely answers to it in her private life. ‘It sounds,’ she once said, ‘like I’m starring at the Gaiety Theater.’ Her brother, Paul, called her ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: When is a planet not a planet?, 18 August 2005

... data from which the object was discovered were obtained’, as one of its discoverers, Michael Brown, carefully puts it – in the second half of October 2003 (the 21st fortnight of the year; U is the 21st letter of the alphabet). Brown and his colleagues, Chad Trujillo and ...

Was it a supernova?

Frank Kermode: The Nativity, 4 January 2007

The Nativity: History and Legend 
by Geza Vermes.
Penguin, 177 pp., £7.99, November 2006, 0 14 102446 1
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... by Geza Vermes I’d have advised anybody showing an interest in these matters to consult Raymond Brown’s The Birth of the Messiah, a work of some six hundred pages which, like all Brown’s numerous publications, is a monument to his indefatigable though sometimes fatiguing scholarship. ...

The Destruction of the Public Sphere

Ross McKibbin: Brown v. Cameron, 5 January 2006

... That the next general election will be fought by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Leader of the Opposition David Cameron we do know; but how it will be fought we don’t, in part because the present prime minister will not disclose when he intends to go. Furthermore, both Cameron and Brown are in some senses, but for different reasons, unknown quantities ...

Who was David Peterley?

Michael Holroyd, 15 November 1984

... David Peterley’s Peterley Harvest was first published on 24 October 1960. The book had a curious history and, shortly before publication, stories began to appear in the press declaring it to be an elaborate hoax. The jacket of the book contained the information that David Peterley was the only son of an old Quaker family that had ‘lived in the Chilterns and been neighbours of Milton and the Penns ...

Two Poems

David Morley, 23 February 2006

... to Lancashire as it was then, wider county of white witches, to the clean camps, to the great brown bears of the Egyptians. To Pawpaw and Paprika, backwards in time they go, pad pad. Goodbye. Smoke, Mirror Widowed, one-breasted, Penny’s world had shrunk to Blackpool. Seventh child of seventh child, she could count on so, so little except second ...

Fergie Time

David Runciman: Sir Alex Speaks (again), 9 January 2014

My Autobiography 
by Alex Ferguson.
Hodder, 402 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 340 91939 2
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... worth fifty million pounds.’ This is Kenwright’s mother. Ferguson can’t quite believe it: David Moyes was giving me the eyes. For a minute I thought it was a get-up, a performance. Bill’s background was in theatre, after all. It occurred to me while all this was going on that I ought to check Wayne’s medical records. Was there something physically ...

Nostalgia for the Vestry

James Buchan: Thatcherism, 30 November 2006

Thatcher and Sons: A Revolution in Three Acts 
by Simon Jenkins.
Allen Lane, 375 pp., £20, October 2006, 0 7139 9595 5
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... for different reasons to John Major and Tony Blair, and to Blair’s heir apparent, Gordon Brown. These men are to Jenkins Thatcher’s political ‘sons’, with David Cameron trotting along behind as a ‘grandson’. (The book was completed before Cameron’s Conservatives abandoned any formal adherence to the ...

Thatcherism

Gordon Brown, 2 February 1989

Thatcherism 
edited by Robert Skidelsky.
Chatto, 214 pp., £18, November 1988, 0 7011 3342 2
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The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left 
by Stuart Hall.
Verso, 283 pp., £24.95, December 1988, 0 86091 199 3
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... have made our problems worse. A.H. Halsey and Brian Barry in their essay in the Skidelsky, and David Marquand in his, take this on, seeking to identify collective actions and provisions that can mitigate the worst effects of the free market. By denying, in a chillingly offguard moment, the very existence of such a thing as society, she has at least allowed ...

This Charming Man

Frank Kermode, 24 February 1994

The Collected and Recollected Marc 
Fourth Estate, 51 pp., £25, November 1993, 1 85702 164 9Show More
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... an upper-class socialist. He liked cricket, bridge (with, among others, the ‘Machiavellian’ David Sylvester), chess (with Martin Amis, who felt humbly as if he always had, or anyway always ought to have, the black pieces). Women found him instantly attractive. And he rode a motor bike. The illustrations here are more than adequate reminders of his dash ...

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