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Short Cuts

Frederick Wilmot-Smith: RBG’s Big Mistake, 8 October 2020

... by Congress. But they have embraced the Supreme Court and its peculiar powers at least since Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, a decision thought (wrongly: legislation was required) to have ended racial segregation in American schools. The court delivered liberals some victories: legal aid was guaranteed to people charged with crimes, the scope of ...

Amigos

Christopher Ricks, 2 August 1984

The Faber Book of Parodies 
edited by Simon Brett.
Faber, 383 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 571 13125 5
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Lilibet: An Account in Verse of the Early Years of the Queen until the Time of her Accession 
by Her Majesty.
Blond and Briggs, 95 pp., £6.95, May 1984, 0 85634 157 6
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... Another soul saved from dilettantism, if I may put it thus. Leavis never put it thus. Some of Frederick Crews’s book The Pooh Perplex is parody, but this isn’t: it is a lampoon which supposes itself, not to be imitating Leavis’s style or form, but to be exposing his essential nature – and translating it into something recognisable to ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Arthur Conan Doyle and the Mary Celeste, 17 February 2005

... the ship to Gibraltar, where they hoped to claim salvage. Instead, they were met with suspicion: Frederick Solly Flood, the British attorney general for the colony, led an inquiry into possible foul play. The sailors were eventually acquitted, but rewarded with only a disappointing fraction of the value of the ship and its cargo. There’s plenty of foul ...

The Hero Brush

Edmund Gordon: Colum McCann, 12 September 2013

TransAtlantic 
by Colum McCann.
Bloomsbury, 298 pp., £18.99, May 2013, 978 1 4088 2937 0
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... beginning with the first non-stop transatlantic flight, made in 1919 by John Alcock and Arthur Brown. McCann reconstructs the perils of the journey, the freak weather and mechanical trouble, as well as the ‘genius and magic’ needed to see them through. The chapter is high on technical detail and period slang (plenty of Great Scotts and Tally-hos) but ...

I told him I was ready to die

Suzanne Scafe, 16 February 1989

Behind the Scenes, or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House 
by Elizabeth Keckley.
Oxford, 371 pp., £15.50, July 1988, 0 19 505259 5
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The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimke 
by Brenda Stevenson.
Oxford, 609 pp., £22.50, July 1988, 0 19 505238 2
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The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Secole in Many Lands 
by Mary Secole.
Oxford, 371 pp., £15.50, July 1988, 0 19 505249 8
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... its behalf, there is scant reference to the lives of black people in Washington. An encounter with Frederick Douglass is noted as an example of Lincoln’s generosity: the President allowed him into the White House after his Inauguration despite an order banning all ‘people of colour’. The feelings, thoughts and responses of Charlotte Forten Grimke are ...

Imperial Project

Richard Drayton, 19 September 1996

Kew: The History of the Royal Botanic Gardens 
by Ray Desmond.
Harvill/Royal Botanical Gardens, 466 pp., £25, November 1995, 1 86046 076 3
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... Merlin and Elizabeth I suggested the culmination of Arthurian prophecy in the Hanoverian monarchy. Frederick Louis, Caroline’s unpopular son, and his wife Augusta attempted to rival this display, planning a Mount of Parnassus, a House of Confucius and a Physic Garden. But Frederick died in 1751, and the realisation of ...

Flowers in His Trousers

Christopher Benfey: Central Park’s Architect, 6 October 2016

Frederick Law Olmsted: Writings on Landscape, Culture and Society 
edited by Charles E. Beveridge.
Library of America, 802 pp., £30, November 2015, 978 1 59853 452 8
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... During​ the 1870s, the decade he turned fifty, Frederick Law Olmsted, the creative mastermind of New York’s Central Park, looked back on his career as a landscape architect, the compound profession he had virtually invented from elements of gardening, agriculture, architecture, landscape painting and civil engineering ...

Southern Discomfort

Bertram Wyatt-Brown, 8 June 1995

The Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American Conservatism 
by Eugene Genovese.
Harvard, 138 pp., £17.95, October 1994, 0 674 82527 6
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... was fashioned by Cassius Clay and James Birney of Kentucky, the brilliant fugitive slave leaders Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, Mark Twain, Mississippi journalist Hodding Carter and Martin Luther King Jr, to name just a few from the last two centuries. These figures are not to be found in The Southern Tradition, but Southern they were. Even if racism ...

Wormwood

Walter Patterson, 29 October 1987

Sarcophagus 
by Vladimir Gubaryev, translated by Michael Glenny.
Penguin, 81 pp., £3.50, April 1987, 0 14 048214 8
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The Star Chernobyl 
by Julia Voznesenskaya.
Quartet, 181 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 7043 2631 0
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Chernobyl: A Novel 
by Frederick Pohl.
Bantam, 355 pp., £4.95, September 1987, 0 553 05210 1
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Mayday at Chernobyl 
by Henry Hamman and Stuart Parrott.
Hodder, 278 pp., £2.95, April 1987, 0 450 40858 2
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State of the World 1987: A Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress toward a Sustainable Society 
by Lester Brown.
Norton, 268 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 393 02399 0
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... a long darkness. Chernobyl: A Novel is the first Western book-length fiction about the accident. Frederick Pohl, an elder statesman of Science Fiction, chanced to be in the Soviet Union, on his fifth visit, just after the explosion. The result was a narrative re-creation of the events of the days from 25 April to 23 May 1986, from the view-point of a select ...

Interesting Fellows

Walter Nash, 4 May 1989

The Book of Evidence 
by John Banville.
Secker, 220 pp., £10.95, March 1989, 0 436 03267 8
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Carn 
by Patrick McCabe.
Aidan Ellis, 252 pp., £11.50, March 1989, 0 85628 180 8
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The Tryst 
by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 168 pp., £10.99, April 1989, 0 571 15450 6
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Gerontius 
by James Hamilton-Paterson.
Macmillan, 264 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 333 45194 5
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... you while you are making a ludicrously maladroit attempt to swaddle a stolen painting in brown paper. Fly into a sulk. Bundle the poor girl into your car, and when she protests, silence her with a hammer, noting, as you do so, that its impact on her skull is like hitting clay or hard putty. (You are brilliantly obsessed by details.) Drive thirty ...

A Leg-Up for Oliver North

Richard Rorty, 20 October 1994

Dictatorship of Virtue: Multiculturalism and the Battle for America’s Future 
by Richard Bernstein.
Knopf, 367 pp., $25, September 1994, 0 679 41156 9
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... get white middle-class males to behave better to the people they enjoy shoving around: black and brown people, women, poor people, recent immigrants, homosexuals. It hoped to encourage these groups to take pride in themselves, rather than accepting the derogatory descriptions which the white males had invented. By now, however, it has turned into an attempt ...

Shave for them

Christian Lorentzen: ‘The Submission’, 22 September 2011

The Submission 
by Amy Waldman.
Heinemann, 299 pp., £12.99, September 2011, 978 0 434 01932 8
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... Ross Perot called Lin an ‘egg roll’. She was compelled to defend her design before Congress. A Frederick Hart statue of three soldiers was erected next to her memorial to appease the literal-minded. ‘It’s like Maya Lin all over again. But worse,’ a character in The Submission is made to say, without much subtlety, after the winner of the blind ...

Got to go make that dollar

Alex Abramovich: Otis Redding, 3 January 2019

Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life 
by Jonathan Gould.
Crown, 544 pp., £12.99, May 2018, 978 0 307 45395 2
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... own. Ray Charles was recording for Atlantic Records; Sam Cooke had left the Soul Stirrers; James Brown was touring with his Famous Flames. But Otis Redding wasn’t a soul singer yet. Billed as Otis ‘Rockin’ Redding or ‘Rockhouse Redding’, he sang rock and roll and remained heavily indebted to Little Richard. Bouncing around with Jenkins, who had ...

God’s Own

Angus Calder, 12 March 1992

Empire and English Character 
by Kathryn Tidrick.
Tauris, 338 pp., £24.95, August 1990, 1 85043 191 4
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Into Africa: The story of the East African Safari 
by Kenneth Cameron.
Constable, 229 pp., £14.95, June 1990, 0 09 469770 1
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Burton: Snow upon the Desert 
by Frank McLynn.
Murray, 428 pp., £19.95, September 1990, 0 7195 4818 7
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From the Sierras to the Pampas: Richard Burton’s Travels in the Americas, 1860-69 
by Frank McLynn.
Barrie and Jenkins, 258 pp., £16.99, July 1991, 0 7126 3789 3
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The Duke of Puddle Dock: Travels in the Footsteps of Stamford Raffles 
by Nigel Barley.
Viking, 276 pp., £16.99, March 1992, 0 670 83642 7
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... never tired of slaughtering birds and animals. Baker was a daring, wealthy ‘sportsman’. Frederick Courtenay Selous, as DNB styles him (my hotel’s original begetter seems to have borrowed his middle name and misspelt it), was manifestly not an explorer. Kathryn Tidrick, in her admirable study, labels him an ‘adventurer’. He was a dedicated if ...

Ave, Jeeves!

Emily Wilson: Rom(an) Com, 21 February 2008

Plautine Elements in Plautus 
by Eduard Fraenkel, translated by Tomas Drevikovsky and Frances Muecke.
Oxford, 459 pp., £79, November 2006, 0 19 924910 5
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Plautus: ‘Asinaria – The One about the Asses’ 
translated by John Henderson.
Wisconsin, 252 pp., £13.50, December 2006, 0 299 21994 1
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Terence: The Comedies 
translated by Peter Brown.
Oxford, 338 pp., £9.99, January 2008, 978 0 19 282399 1
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Terence: Comedies 
translated by Frederick Clayton.
Exeter, 290 pp., £45, January 2006, 0 85989 757 5
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... well that ends well. Just what two/ Young gentlemen of Verona might any day do,’ as Frederick Clayton comments in a brilliant modern epilogue to the play. As with Shakespeare’s bed tricks, it’s hard to know how much we are supposed to worry about the rapes in Terence. On the one hand, they are a useful plot device. The victim can remain ...

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