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Hanging on to Mutti

Neal Ascherson: In Berlin, 6 June 2013

... drops them below 5 per cent and so out of the Bundestag. Then the way would open for another Red-Green coalition of Social Democrats and Greens. ‘In Britain,’ I was told, ‘you still don’t grasp how mainstream Green has become in Germany.’ It’s not just that the Greens command about 15 per cent of the vote, or ...


Penelope Fitzgerald, 3 December 1981

Me Again: Uncollected Writings of Stevie Smith 
edited by Jack Barbera and William McBrien.
Virago, 359 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 9780860682172
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... same things to a number of different people. There was even a kind of guided tour of Palmer’s Green, to Grovelands Park, round the lake, and back to Avondale Road. But if, for her own purposes, Stevie was sometimes repetitive, she was never predictable. Patric Dickinson, in his introduction to Scorpion, says that she loathed cruelty, and so she did, but ...

Nanny knows best

Michael Stewart, 4 June 1987

by Michael Leapman.
Unwin Hyman, 217 pp., £11.95, May 1987, 0 04 440006 3
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The Thatcher Years: A Decade of Revolution in British Politics 
by John Cole.
BBC, 216 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 563 20572 5
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Thatcherism and British Politics: The End of Consensus? 
by Dennis Kavanagh.
Oxford, 334 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 19 827522 6
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The New Right: The Counter-Revolution in Political, Social and Economic Thought 
by David Green.
Wheatsheaf, 238 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 7450 0127 0
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... a return to ‘Victorian values’. The intellectual origins of all this go back a long way: David Green starts with a brief conducted tour of Locke, Hume and Adam Smith. Of more immediate interest are the writings of Hayek, Milton Friedman, and the Virginia public choice school, and the work of a whole raft of contemporary research institutes and think tanks ...


Ronald Bryden, 10 December 1987

The Life of Kenneth Tynan 
by Kathleen Tynan.
Weidenfeld, 407 pp., £16.95, September 1987, 9780297790822
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... in those days and enabled him to become more conspicuous, famous for his technicolour suits (one green, one purple) and gold satin shirts. But essentially he was in the same situation as scores of clever provincial boys after the war, feeling their way into the new world which had given them equality with Etonians, Harrovians and Wykehamists, but left them ...

But she read Freud

Alice Spawls: Flora Thompson, 19 February 2015

Dreams of the Good Life: The Life of Flora Thompson and the Creation of ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ 
by Richard Mabey.
Allen Lane, 208 pp., £9.99, March 2015, 978 0 14 104481 1
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... Rise, the first volume, came out in 1939, followed by Over to Candleford in 1941 and Candleford Green in 1943. She wanted them to be published as fiction, which OUP didn’t do; her editor labelled them ‘autobiography’ instead. This proved frustrating for historians – it turned out that some of her facts were invented and characters conflated – and ...

Route to Nowhere

Peter Mair: European parties of the Left, 4 January 2001

The Heart Beats on the Left 
by Oskar Lafontaine, translated by Ronald Taylor.
Polity, 219 pp., £12.99, September 2000, 0 7456 2582 7
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... vote across Western Europe. In the 1990s, when their ranks had been joined by the newly successful Green parties, and when traditional Communist support had effectively withered away, they polled an average of 41 per cent. Life for the Left as office-seekers has become even better. During the early postwar years, when Communist parties were actively ...

It wasn’t the Oval

Blake Morrison: Michael Frayn, 7 October 2010

My Father’s Fortune: A Life 
by Michael Frayn.
Faber, 255 pp., £16.99, September 2010, 978 0 571 27058 3
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... Len Hutton in his prime, captained a team called the Gaieties XI. Simon Gray, David Hare and Ronald Harwood are or were known to be keen on the game, too. And Tom Stoppard, another follower, has a striking set-piece in The Real Thing in which a playwright, explaining dramatic technique, says: ‘What we’re trying to do is to write cricket bats.’ If ...


John Bayley, 29 September 1988

Something to hold onto: Autobiographical Sketches 
by Richard Cobb.
Murray, 168 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4587 0
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... but are simply offering something to hold onto. In his Introduction Richard Cobb pays tribute to Ronald Blythe, author of Akenfield; and it seems as if East Anglia, Essex in particular, has a special place in the re-creation of Lost Things and the rites that accompanied them. The Fleming brothers, who had a good deal in common with the phantom Bagshaw and ...

At the V&A

Marina Warner: ‘Hollywood Costume’, 20 December 2012

... as Andy Warhol called his famous persona, are mingling, too, with many who are long dead. Ronald Reagan and Meryl Streep, Bette Davis and Robert De Niro jostle closely together in several large spaces, chambers for different sins in the afterlife – for vamping, sharp-shooting, taxi-driving – while a flickering crowd comes and goes in an endless ...

Has Anyone Lost Yet?

David Edgar: the US election debates, 9 October 2008

... government programmes. He cited his American heroes – Teddy Roosevelt and ‘that wonderful Ronald Reagan’ – as if striving for validation rather than promising emulation. Most surprisingly, in a debate that was bound to be a partial repeat of the earlier encounter, McCain’s team didn’t appear to have sharpened his responses to earlier ...

The Unmaking of the President

Benjamin Barber, 7 October 1982

The Kennedy Imprisonment: A Meditation on Power 
by Garry Wills.
Atlantic/Little, Brown, 310 pp., $14.95, February 1982, 0 316 94385 1
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... the scandals lifted in turn by Wills from sources such as Joan and Clay Blair’s The Search for J.F.K. To be sure, the bits are juicy: Joe Kennedy propositioning his sons’ girlfriends and introducing Gloria Swanson into his household as if she were a maiden aunt rather than his mistress; Arthur Krock, eminent pundit, first procuring girls for the Kennedy ...

How the sanity of poets can be edited away

Arnold Rattenbury: The Sanity of Ivor Gurney, 14 October 1999

‘Severn and Somme’ and ‘War’s Embers’ 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 152 pp., £7.95, September 1997, 1 85754 348 3
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80 Poems or So 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by George Walter and R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 148 pp., £9.95, January 1997, 1 85754 344 0
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... remained incarcerated until his death in 1937. This sounds, and was, and was meant to be, brutal. Ronald, his newly-wed younger brother, with whom he had gone to live, saw to the original committal and was blunt about it: ‘Nothing on earth will do Ivor any good till by Iron Discipline he has had his natural obstinacy and stubbornness broken down.’ To be ...

Unreal Food Uneaten

Julian Bell: Sitting for Vanessa, 13 April 2000

The Art of Bloomsbury 
edited by Richard Shone.
Tate Gallery, 388 pp., £35, November 1999, 1 85437 296 3
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First Friends 
by Ronald Blythe.
Viking, 157 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 670 88613 0
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Bloomsbury in France 
by Mary Ann Caws and Sarah Bird Wright.
Oxford, 430 pp., £25, December 1999, 0 19 511752 2
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... the books, starting with the choice of locale. First Friends is a narrative bound together by Ronald Blythe out of a trove of letters sent between the Nashes and Carrington, and discovered in a trunk in a bread-oven after John’s death. Blythe edits deftly and writes at once intimately and with a feel for the broad historical pulse, and the text is ...

We Do Ron Ron Ron, We Do Ron Ron

James Meek: Welcome to McDonald’s, 24 May 2001

Fast-Food Nation 
by Eric Schlosser.
Allen Lane, 356 pp., £9.99, April 2001, 0 7139 9602 1
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... taken this message to heart in their current ad shown on British children’s TV in the mornings. Ronald McDonald is wandering round a family home in full clown gear, telling the children that they should love their mother. To the tune of the Crystals’ hit, the bright-eyed cherubs chant back: ‘We do Ron Ron Ron, we do Ron Ron!’ There is no mention of ...

Making Do and Mending

Rosemary Hill: Penelope Fitzgerald’s Letters, 25 September 2008

So I Have Thought of You: The Letters of Penelope Fitzgerald 
edited by Terence Dooley.
Fourth Estate, 532 pp., £25, August 2008, 978 0 00 713640 7
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... important code-breakers of both world wars; Wilfred, the Anglo-Catholic priest and theologian; and Ronald, who became a Roman Catholic priest famous for his translation of the Bible, his satirical wit and a series of popular detective stories. Fitzgerald later wrote a biography, The Knox Brothers, a title which she reminded Malcolm Muggeridge he had advised ...

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