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Only the Camels

Robert Irwin: Wilfred Thesiger, 6 April 2006

Wilfred Thesiger: The Life of the Great Explorer 
by Alexander Maitland.
HarperCollins, 528 pp., £25, February 2006, 0 00 255608 1
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... Thesiger belonged to the second category. He read the novels of John Buchan and Rider Haggard, Jim Corbett’s tales of tiger hunting, Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game, Blackwood’s Tales from the Outposts, Jock of the Bushveld, Henri de Monfreid’s account of smuggling across the Red Sea, Churchill’s The River War and, of course, The Seven Pillars ...

At the British Library

Katherine Rundell: Harry Potter, 14 December 2017

... for live-action family entertainment. But they are big-budget motion pictures: tap them and they ring like money. Great children’s fiction isn’t slick; the film studio’s imperatives of mass audiences and shareholders erode at the difficult edges of a work. The current exhibition at the British Library, Harry Potter: A History of Magic (until 28 ...

Whisky and Soda Man

Thomas Jones: J.G. Ballard, 10 April 2008

Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton – An Autobiography 
by J.G. Ballard.
Fourth Estate, 278 pp., £14.99, February 2008, 978 0 00 727072 9
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... Life, I found myself waiting for the moment when Ballard would be separated from his parents, as Jim is in Empire of the Sun. It never came. On the contrary: ‘For me,’ Ballard writes, ‘the most important consequence of internment was that for the first time in my life I was extremely close to my parents. I slept, ate, read, dressed and undressed within ...

More Pain, Better Sentences

Adam Mars-Jones: Satire and St Aubyn, 8 May 2014

Lost for Words 
by Edward St Aubyn.
Picador, 261 pp., £12.99, May 2014, 978 0 330 45422 3
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by Charlie Hill.
Tindal Street, 192 pp., £6.99, November 2013, 978 1 78125 163 8
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... male confessional, as practised by the bestselling novelist Gary Sayles, whose bibliography should ring some bells: Our Legendary Twenties was about a single twentysomething professional Londoner looking for love. Cutting the Cake concerned itself with a late twentysomething professional Londoner unsure whether or not to move in with his ...

‘Someone you had to be a bit careful with’

David Sylvester: Gallery Rogues, 30 March 2000

Groovy Bob: The Life and Times of Robert Fraser 
by Harriet Vyner.
Faber, 317 pp., £20, October 1999, 0 571 19627 6
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... by his assistant, Susan Loppert. When Fraser returned, ‘that was cool for a minute,’ says Jim Dine. ‘But then I think that Robert just lost interest. Like a child, his attention span was not very long.’ Dine is an artist whose judgment is always sharp but sometimes impatient: a number of interesting exhibitions were still put on at the gallery ...


David Craig: In the Barra Isles, 30 October 1997

... old dykes – lines of boulders, sometimes topped with turf and heather. There was not the usual ring-dyke round the croft-land and the ends of the gullies were not stopped to save animals from straying into the geos. Could there have been a system to allot the outby land into areas for which the herds from one family or another would have been ...

Consider Jack and Oskar

Michael Rossi: Twin Studies, 7 February 2013

Born Together – Reared Apart: The Landmark Minnesota Twin Study 
by Nancy Segal.
Harvard, 410 pp., £39.95, June 2012, 978 0 674 05546 9
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... belief that all organisms’ behaviours could be attributed to systems of stimulus and response (ring bell, dog salivates), behaviourists had little need for germ plasm, cheerfulness factors or heritability. Perhaps more significant, studies of the biological bases of psychological traits came into stark disrepute in the 1930s and 1940s owing to their ...

A Long Day at the Chocolate Bar Factory

James Wood: David Bezmozgis, 16 December 2004

‘Natasha’ and Other Stories 
by David Bezmozgis.
Cape, 147 pp., £10.99, August 2004, 0 224 07125 4
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... way in which he strings an exotic sketch of a minor character along a rope of exile. Stein in Lord Jim, for instance, with his collections of butterflies and ‘catacombs of beetles’, is said to have taken part in the revolutions of 1848, then fled to Trieste, and then to Tripoli, ‘with a stock of cheap watches to hawk about’. Bezmozgis is similarly ...

While Statues Sleep

Thomas Laqueur, 18 June 2020

Learning from the Germans: Confronting Race and the Memory of Evil 
by Susan Neiman.
Allen Lane, 415 pp., £20, August 2019, 978 0 241 26286 3
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... and again that chattel slavery was replaced ‘by subjugation enforced by law’ – that is, by Jim Crow. The South did not learn the lessons of its defeat by the North in 1865 as the Germans did of theirs by the Allies in 1945.If the ‘truth’ about the Civil War is still not established it isn’t for lack of effort by historians and teachers. Not since ...

No more pretty face

Philip Horne, 8 March 1990

Emotion Pictures: Reflections on the Cinema 
by Wim Wenders, translated by Sean Whiteside and Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 148 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 0 571 15271 6
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Scorsese on Scorsese 
by Martin Scorsese, edited by David Thompson and Ian Christie.
Faber, 178 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 9780571141036
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... And he works, always, with verve and passion. He reacts violently against the declaration of Jim Jarmusch, the most Wenders-like of American directors (long shots, long takes, cool journeys through American backwaters), that ‘I’m not interested in taking people by the hair and telling them where to look.’ Scorsese’s response to this is ...

Dangerous Play

Mike Selvey, 23 May 1985

Gubby Allen: Man of Cricket 
by E.W. Swanton.
Hutchinson, 311 pp., £12.95, April 1985, 0 09 159780 3
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Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack: 1985 
edited by John Woodcock.
Wisden, 1280 pp., £11.95, April 1985, 0 947766 00 6
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... the problems of ducking on unpredictable surfaces), play defensively (risking a catch to the ring of close fielders on the leg side), or he could step away to leg and swat the ball through the vacant offside. The consequences of this plan were several: Bradman’s batting average was halved, Larwood bowled England to victory in the series, and war was ...


Robert Morley, 7 July 1983

Downing Street in Perspective 
by Marcia Falkender.
Weidenfeld, 280 pp., £10.95, May 1983, 0 297 78107 3
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... front door and, when exhausted, even offered money to passing schoolchildren to take it in turn to ring the door bell. One night well after midnight, some friends who lived opposite lured the smaller night shift of newspapermen away momentarily, while she and her family ran quickly across the mews into a friend’s house (they had left the door on the latch ...

Tweak my nipple

Adam Mars-Jones, 25 March 1993

Maybe the Moon 
by Armistead Maupin.
Bantam, 307 pp., £14.99, February 1993, 0 593 02765 5
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... instance, transsexualism, child pornography, strange cults and the return to San Francisco of a Jim Jones reprieved from death. Now Maupin cut back on lurid invention, and his focus became more domestic. But his work had always been defined by its airy momentum, and lost a lot of its distinctiveness when the ride slowed down, the bunting flown at ...


Jenny Diski, 5 November 1992

by Madonna.
Secker, 128 pp., £25, October 1992, 0 436 27084 6
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Sex and Sensibility 
by Julie Burchill.
Grafton, 269 pp., £5.99, October 1992, 0 00 637858 7
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Too hot to handle 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Peter Owen, 134 pp., £15.50, November 1992, 0 7206 0875 9
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... Sadly, it’s not between the aluminium covers of Sex. Before I’d laid eyes on the first nipple-ring, I read: ‘by the way, any similarity between characters and events depicted in this book and real persons is not only purely coincidental, it’s ridiculous. Nothing in this book is true.’ I might as well have closed the book there and then, but I’d ...

Dry Eyes

John Bayley, 5 December 1991

Jump and Other Stories 
by Nadine Gordimer.
Bloomsbury, 257 pp., £13.99, October 1991, 0 7475 1020 2
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Wilderness Tips 
by Margaret Atwood.
Bloomsbury, 247 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 7475 1019 9
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... then goes to take a bachelor holiday on a Riviera beach. Among the sea stones he finds a valuable ring, and decides to make use of it through an advertisement. The dénouement is admirably done, and the author seems rather disconcertingly at home in it, as if easing herself with a holiday from normal duties and commitments. Connoisseurs of the short story ...

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