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Lumpy, Semi-Dorky, Slouchy, Smarmy

John Lanchester, 23 August 2001

Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous 
by Don Foster.
Macmillan, 340 pp., £14.99, April 2001, 0 333 78170 8
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... In January 1957 the New York Police Department arrested a man called George Metesky, whose activities over the previous 16 and a bit years had earned him the sobriquet ‘the Mad Bomber’. The Bomber had planted more than thirty explosive devices, favouring public places such as cinemas, train stations, libraries and phone booths ...

The King and I

Alan Bennett, 30 January 1992

... I’ve always had a soft spot for George III, starting all of forty years ago when I was in the sixth form at Leeds Modern School and reading for a scholarship to Cambridge. The smart book around that time was Herbert Butterfield’s The Whig Interpretation of History, which took the 19th century to task for writing history with one eye on the future, and in particular for taking as the only path through the past the development of democratic institutions ...

Heart-Stopping

Ian Hamilton, 25 January 1996

Not Playing for Celtic: Another Paradise Lost 
by David Bennie.
Mainstream, 221 pp., £12.99, October 1995, 1 85158 757 8
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Achieving the Goal 
by David Platt.
Richard Cohen, 244 pp., £12.99, October 1995, 1 86066 017 7
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Captain’s Log: The Gary McAllister Story 
by Gary McAllister and Graham Clark.
Mainstream, 192 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 9781851587902
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Blue Grit: The John Brown Story 
by John Brown and Derek Watson.
Mainstream, 176 pp., £14.99, November 1995, 1 85158 822 1
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Kicking and Screaming: An Oral History of Football in England 
by Rogan Taylor and Andrew Ward.
Robson, 370 pp., £16.95, October 1995, 0 86051 912 0
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A Passion for the Game: Real Lives in Football 
by Tom Watt.
Mainstream, 316 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 1 85158 714 4
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... seconds, before whipping out a revolver and shooting a suspiciously dark supporter in the George Fox Stand (since United fans are known colloquially as ‘Arabs’). This muddle of transdisciplinary pretentiousness comes from a book called Not Playing for Celtic: Another Paradise Lost, and, yes, the paradise in question is indeed John ...

Bad News at the ‘Observer’

Colin Legum, 4 November 1982

Powers of the Press: The World’s Great Newspapers 
by Martin Walker.
Quartet, 401 pp., £15, July 1982, 0 7043 2271 4
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Goodbye Gutenberg: The Newspaper Revolution of the 1980s 
by Anthony Smith.
Oxford, 367 pp., £3.95, January 1982, 9780198272434
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New Technology and Industrial Relations in Fleet Street 
by Roderick Martin.
Oxford, 367 pp., £17.50, October 1981, 9780198272434
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News Ltd: Why you can’t read all about it 
by Brian Whitaker.
Minority Press Group, 176 pp., £3.25, June 1981, 0 906890 04 7
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... should not succeed, as the Herald did under the inspiring editorship of Robert Blatchford and George Lansbury – provided only that the Labour movement is sufficiently enlightened to set up a newspaper trust which would guarantee its editors as much freedom as that enjoyed by the editor of the Economist, say, or the Guardian or, in its better days, the ...

Darkness Audible

Nicholas Spice, 11 February 1993

Benjamin Britten 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Faber, 680 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 571 14324 5
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... of absence or of something thwarted is central. And that’s why it is wrong to suggest, as David Matthews does in a recent review of Carpenter’s book, that Britten’s greatness was achieved through his emotional anguish, rather than despite it. To lose the sense that something is missing in Britten’s music – the what-could-have-been and the ...

No Intention of Retreating

Lorna Scott Fox: Martha Gellhorn’s Wars, 2 September 2004

Martha Gellhorn: A Life 
by Caroline Moorehead.
Vintage, 550 pp., £8.99, June 2004, 0 09 928401 4
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... of the 82nd Airborne), to the affair with David Gurewitsch in Cuernavaca, even the marriage to Tom Matthews in 1954 that made her so ‘plain silly happy’ at first: You see, I have chalked it up too well, and see where and how I am caught – and how tightly. Through ignorance, carelessness, pride and generosity; and the passionate desire to burn all ...

Gangs

D.A.N. Jones, 8 January 1987

The Old School: A Study 
by Simon Raven.
Hamish Hamilton, 139 pp., £12, September 1986, 0 241 11929 4
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The Best Years of their Lives: The National Service Experience 1945-63 
by Trevor Royle.
Joseph, 288 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 7181 2459 6
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Murder without Conviction: Inside the World of the Krays 
by John Dickson.
Sidgwick, 164 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780283994074
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Inside ‘Private Eye’ 
by Peter McKay.
Fourth Estate, 192 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 947795 80 4
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Malice in Wonderland: Robert Maxwell v. ‘Private Eye’ 
by Robert Maxwell, John Jackson, Peter Donnelly and Joe Haines.
Macdonald, 191 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 356 14616 2
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... only felt like that once before, when I was in the Malayan jungle.’ He tells of the shooting of George Cornell, who had called Ronnie Kray a fat pouf, and of the murder of Jack the Hat by Reggie Kray, assisted by his cousin, Ronnie Hart (‘who had joined the firm when he came out of the army and was a good-looking guy’). The mysterious ‘Albert’ was ...

One for Uncle

John Bayley, 5 April 1990

Robert Graves: The Years with Laura 1926-1940 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Weidenfeld, 380 pp., £25, March 1990, 0 297 79672 0
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... a potent and by no means always agreeable mixture of styles and showings-off, as if Stefan George had founded his clique not in a German castle but an English public school. The ‘discourse’ of Goodbye to all that is uneasy and aggressive, unstable while stiff-lipped-boastful. Graves had his Hemingway side too, the gender-muddled patriarch telling ...

Hound of Golden Imbeciles

John Sturrock: Homage to the Oulipo, 29 April 1999

Oulipo Compendium 
edited by Harry Matthews and Alastair Brotchie.
Atlas, 336 pp., £16.99, March 1999, 0 947757 96 1
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... of the first lipogram; Ausonius, master of the cento; Arnaut Daniel, inventor of the sestina; George Herbert for his emblematic poems; Edgar Allan Poe (the Philosophy of Composition); Lewis Carroll; Raymond Roussel; Unica Zürn, sublime anagrammatist’. Oulipianism, in short, is not cliquish: it demonstrates its generic credentials by being found to ...

Go and get killed, comrade

Gideon Lewis-Kraus: Spanish Civil War, 21 February 2013

Unlikely Warriors: The British in the Spanish Civil War and the Struggle against Fascism 
by Richard Baxell.
Aurum, 516 pp., £25, September 2012, 978 1 84513 697 0
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I Am Spain: The Spanish Civil War and the Men and Women Who Went to Fight Fascism 
by David Boyd Haycock.
Old Street, 363 pp., £25, October 2012, 978 1 908699 10 7
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... wounded hero, very romantic and all that’. They were interested in the look of things. Captain George Nathan was a former British army lieutenant described by Stephen Spender as ‘an elegant, cane-swaggering, likeable type of adventurous Jew’; he’d first appeared in Albacete in ‘an old sweater and cheap shoes’, but once he was made an officer he ...

Our National Hodgepodge

Colin Kidd and Malcolm Petrie, 29 June 2017

... real interests? Twenty years ago New Labour thought devolution would reinvigorate Britishness. As George Robertson, one of Blair’s Scottish lieutenants, put it, devolution was meant to ‘kill nationalism stone dead’. It didn’t quite work out like that in Scotland, and south of the border voters proved uninterested in the regional assemblies floated as ...

His Own Sort of Outsider

Philip Clark: Tippett’s Knack, 16 July 2020

Michael Tippett: The Biography 
by Oliver Soden.
Weidenfeld, 750 pp., £25, April 2019, 978 1 4746 0602 8
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... law were already part of the Tippett family mythology. In 1898 Tippett’s paternal grandfather, George, and his father, Henry, were arrested on charges of obtaining money under false pretences. Henry had an alibi and was discharged, but George was sentenced to nine months in Pentonville Prison, where he fell ill, dying ...

Who Are They?

Jenny Turner: The Institute of Ideas, 8 July 2010

... in the media by attacking their ex-comrades – I’d do it myself if the price was right.’) George Monbiot, the Guardian columnist and anti-capitalist campaigner, started looking at the group closely in 1997, after some of them contributed to Against Nature, the notorious anti-Green television documentary; over the years he has called them ‘industry ...

When the Floods Came

James Meek: England’s Water, 31 July 2008

... customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t. Colin Matthews, chief executive of Severn Trent at the time of the floods, left the company soon after this to head another private monopoly, BAA, arriving just as the baggage-handling chaos at BAA’s new Terminal 5 at Heathrow was peaking. In his last full year as ...

Death in Greece

Marilyn Butler, 17 September 1981

Byron’s Letter and Journals. Vol. XI: For Freedom’s Battle 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 243 pp., £11.50, April 1981, 0 7195 3792 4
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Byron: The Complete Poetical Works 
edited by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 464 pp., £35, October 1980, 0 19 811890 2
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Red Shelley 
by Paul Foot.
Sidgwick, 293 pp., £12.95, May 1981, 0 283 98679 4
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Ugo Foscolo, Poet of Exile 
by Glauco Cambon.
Princeton, 360 pp., £15, September 1980, 0 691 06424 5
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... occasionally feeds out misinformation on Europe’s crowned heads (Caroline of Brunswick becomes George IV’s mother rather than his wife, and Napoleon is ‘still secured’ on St Helena in 1816, as though this was anything but a terminal arrangement). It is a huge task, these are small slips, and there remains no substitute for studying the greatly ...

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