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Pooh to London

Pat Rogers, 22 December 1983

The Other Side of the Fire 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 156 pp., £7.95, November 1983, 0 7156 1809 1
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London Tales 
edited by Julian Evans.
Hamish Hamilton, 309 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 241 11123 4
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by Maureen Duffy.
Methuen, 240 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 413 49350 4
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Good Friends, Just 
by Anne Leaton.
Chatto, 152 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2710 4
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... is nothing with stronger criminal intent than the genteel purloining of a typescript, except in Desmond Hogan’s ‘Elysium’, where the heroine shacks up with an Irish terrorist. Hogan inclines towards a rather woozy poetry, but at least he reaches beyond the domestic mode omnipresent in the other stories: An outrage was done in this house once. A young ...

Comet Mania

Simon Schaffer, 19 February 1981

The comet is coming! 
by Nigel Calder.
BBC, 160 pp., £8.75, November 1980, 0 563 17859 0
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... and, occasionally, terror. Halley’s comet appears on the Bayeux Tapestry as a harbinger of King Harold’s doom. It was probably first spotted by the ever-watchful Chinese. In 840 AD an imperial edict in China forbade astronomers to mix ‘with civil servants and common people in general’ lest their knowledge of these terrible objects incite popular ...


George Melly, 4 April 1991

A Surrealist Life 
by John Lowe.
Collins, 262 pp., £18, February 1991, 0 00 217941 5
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... at West Dean during Willie’s lifetime. Edward denied this on the grounds that not only was the King always accompanied by either Queen Alexandra or Mrs Keppel, but Willie James was too honourable to perform the role of mari complaisant – although, again according to Edward, he accepted that his youngest daughter Audrey was the child of Sir Edward ...

What you see is what you get

Terry Eagleton: Bishop Berkeley, 25 April 2013

The Correspondence of George Berkeley 
edited by Marc Hight.
Cambridge, 674 pp., £75, November 2012, 978 1 107 00074 2
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... is likely to ring hollow in a down-at-heel colony. Contemporary Irish philosophers like William Desmond and Joseph Dunne have inherited this anti-rationalist bias, either in postmodern or Wittgensteinian mode. It says much about this wariness of pure reason that Toland, the country’s most militant rationalist thinker, also traded in the occult. (He was ...

Dummy and Biffy

Noël Annan, 17 October 1985

Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community 
by Christopher Andrew.
Heinemann, 616 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 02110 5
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The Secret Generation 
by John Gardner.
Heinemann, 453 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 434 28250 2
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Two Thyrds 
by Bertie Denham.
Ross Anderson Publications, 292 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 86360 006 9
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The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany 1933-1939 
by Wesley Wark.
Tauris, 304 pp., £19.50, October 1985, 1 85043 014 4
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... on the railways. No, 350,000 German soldiers, said Colonel Driscoll DSO, working as moles. The King spoke of his nephew the Kaiser planning to land an army corps and proclaim that, as a grandson of Queen Victoria, he was ready to free the King from ‘the Socialistic gang which is ruining the country’; Parliament voted ...

Here for the crunch

R.W. Johnson, 28 April 1994

... universities; old South African exiles like the actor Anthony Sher, the ex-clergyman Cosmas Desmond – now the only white man on the PAC list – and Ronald Segal, once editor of the Penguin Africa Library, now bitterly inveighing against the Coloureds for their refusal to vote for the ANC. Such people – I’m one myself – feel they want to be here ...

Cronyism and Clientelism

Peter Geoghegan, 5 November 2020

... bias’ in overruling planning inspectors and the local council to approve Richard Desmond’s Westferry Printworks development – 24 hours before the introduction of hefty new levies that would have cost the Conservative donor an estimated £45 million. A few weeks earlier, Desmond, the former owner of the ...

High on His Own Supply

Christopher Tayler: Amis Recycled, 11 September 2003

Yellow Dog 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 340 pp., £16.99, September 2003, 0 224 05061 3
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... Henry England, a.k.a. Hal Nine (aristocracy). Henry is ‘in a ridiculous situation’: he is King of England. More precisely, he is Henry IX. (We are in a parallel universe. And perhaps, in another parallel universe, a parallel Martin Amis is dreaming up a potplant-lecturing, tampon-envying Charles III.) Henry has a tremendously posh voice (‘My ...

Palmers Greenery

Susannah Clapp, 19 December 1985

by Jack Barbera and William McBrien.
Heinemann, 378 pp., £15, November 1985, 0 434 44105 8
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... approval’ of ‘wits so exquisite and discriminating’ as Raymond Mortimer, Noël Coward and Desmond Shawe-Taylor; on the publication of a book of poems a flurry of plaudits – ‘grimly entertaining’, ‘brilliantly funny and intimate’ – is produced. Barbera and McBrien summarise and categorise her output according to theme; they treat her ...

National Institutions

Hans Keller, 15 October 1981

The Proms and Natural Justice: A Plan for Renewal 
by Robert Simpson.
Toccata Press, 66 pp., £1.95, July 1981, 0 907689 00 0
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The Proms and the Men Who Made Them 
by Barrie Hall.
Allen and Unwin, 192 pp., £8.95, June 1981, 0 04 780024 0
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The Nine Symphonies of Beethoven 
by Antony Hopkins.
Heinemann, 290 pp., £12.50, April 1981, 0 435 81427 3
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... Since his case has remained uncontested by the entire musical profession and most critics (though Desmond Shawe-Taylor finds it ‘hard to decide’), the licence-payer is entitled to insist on learning the BBC’s own precise, concrete, practical and ethical reaction, which, despite some defensive voices from elevated quarters, has not been as much as ...

Where am I in all this?

Michael Newton: Pola Negri, 19 February 2015

Pola Negri: Hollywood’s First Femme Fatale 
by Mariusz Kotowski.
Kentucky, 322 pp., £29.95, April 2014, 978 0 8131 4488 7
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... du Barry, similarly, Negri twice has a man blindfolded; she dresses in men’s clothes and has the king acting as a lady’s maid. In Die Bergkatze, when she wants to gain the hero’s attention, she chucks a snowball at him. She’s always running, darting around the possibly parodic Expressionist-style sets, racing up and down the staircases. Matching her ...

The Logic of Nuremberg

Mahmood Mamdani: Nuremberg’s Logic, 7 November 2013

... the first black member of the Ohio state legislature – to describe the atrocities committed by King Leopold’s regime in Congo Free State, and it was this charge that made Nuremberg the prototype for what has come to be known as victims’ justice. Nonetheless, conspiracy to wage war and its actual waging (1 and 2) were defined as the principal crimes on ...

Ticket to Milford Haven

David Edgar: Shaw’s Surprises, 21 September 2006

Bernard Shaw: A Life 
by A.M. Gibbs.
Florida, 554 pp., £30.50, December 2005, 0 8130 2859 0
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... As anyone who has directed a remake of King Kong knows, revisiting classics is a perilous business. However much you claim to stand on the shoulders of the mighty beast, you still risk ending up, like Fay Wray, squeezed in its paw. A.M. Gibbs spends most of the introduction to Bernard Shaw: A Life justifying his decision to return to a very well-ploughed furrow ...

Why didn’t he commit suicide?

Frank Kermode: Reviewing T.S. Eliot, 4 November 2004

T.S. Eliot: The Contemporary Reviews 
by Jewel Spears Brooker.
Cambridge, 644 pp., £80, May 2004, 0 521 38277 7
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... convention that can be irritating when it is clear that a perfectly ordinary individual, not a king or even a newspaper, is speaking. American reviewers had a good model in Edmund Wilson’s unaffected prose. The tone of English criticism varied from Ezra Pound’s egotistical shouting to the confident elegance of the Sunday paper reviewers, and, in ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... for the ends of power. He caused blackmail letters to be sent from the FBI to Dr Martin Luther King, urging him to commit suicide. Historians and journalists have never quite known what to do about these sorts of disclosure. They have never known whether to treat such episodes as normal or exceptional. It is, for example, perfectly true to say that the ...

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