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At the Movies

Michael Wood: Bette Davis, 12 August 2021

... Ilearned​ only recently, from Charlotte Chandler’s biography, that Bette Davis had taken her first name from a Balzac novel, not knowing, apparently, that the character in question was ‘rather a bitch’. All too appropriate, we might think, since Davis referred to the people she played in movies as ‘all those bitches I had to take everywhere with me ...

Extraordinary People

Anthony Powell, 4 June 1981

The Lyttelton – Hart-Davis Letters 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 185 pp., £12.50, March 1981, 0 7195 3770 3
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... those who appeared there from time to time with a guest evidently not his wife was Rupert Hart-Davis. He was unique among those couples, with their faintly clandestine air, in boldly underlining his presence within the pub by parking outside the entrance a publisher’s van on the side of which was inscribed in large letters: RUPERT HART-...

Never the twain

Mark Amory, 4 March 1982

Evelyn Waugh, Writer 
by Robert Murray Davis.
Pilgrim Books, 342 pp., $20.95, May 1981, 0 937664 00 6
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... English acquaintance have written brief, anecdotal accounts based on their memories of him – John St John’s To the War with Waugh has 56 pages, Frances Donaldson’s Portrait of a Country Neighbour 118, while those collected in Evelyn Waugh and his World are naturally shorter still. It is true that Alec Waugh ...

Damnable Heresy

David Simpson: The Epic of Everest, 25 October 2012

Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest 
by Wade Davis.
Vintage, 655 pp., £12.99, October 2012, 978 0 09 956383 9
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... pursuit of a ‘militant geography’ larger and grander than the mere search for knowledge. Wade Davis’s book on the British Everest expeditions of 1921, 1922 and 1924 shows how each demonstrated its own form of militant geography, its own blend of poetry and politics, error and achievement. Mallory occupies the centre of this story, but the book reaches ...

A Pie Every Night

Deborah Friedell: Schizophrenia in the Family, 18 February 2021

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family 
by Robert Kolker.
Quercus, 377 pp., £25, April 2020, 978 0 385 54376 7
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... were filled in America. The largest psychiatric institutions downsized or were shuttered. John F. Kennedy announced that the ‘reliance on the cold mercy of custodial isolation’ could now be ‘supplanted by the open warmth of community concern and capability’. It didn’t work out like that.Mimi thought that as long as her boys took their ...

Falklands Title Deeds

Malcolm Deas, 19 August 1982

The Struggle for the Falkland Islands 
by Julius Goebel, introduced by J.C.J. Metford.
Yale, 482 pp., £10, June 1982, 0 300 02943 8
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The Falklands Islands Dispute: International Dimensions 
edited by Joan Pearce.
Chatham House, 47 pp., £2.75, April 1982, 0 905031 25 3
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The Falkland Islands: The Facts 
HMSO, 12 pp., £50, May 1982, 0 11 701029 4Show More
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... Falklands, where lightning can ignite the tussock-grass in spring. You can make a case for John Davis or Sir Richard Hawkins, just as if you are not English you can make a case for some earlier Iberian voyage. The articles ‘Falkland’s Islands’ in the last two editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica give the honour to the English as if there ...

Notes on the Election

David Runciman: Power v. Power, 9 April 2015

... out hypocrisy. How exactly are you any better, is the question behind most of his questions. Evan Davis on Newsnight is even more courteous and if anything even more condescending. At the other end of the scale is Nick Ferrari on LBC, host of the phone-ins Call Clegg and Ask Boris, who alternates between chummy complicity and violent outrage, often abruptly ...

Bus Lane Strategy

Tristram Hunt: London Governments, 31 October 2002

Governing London 
by Ben Pimlott and Nirmala Rao.
Oxford, 208 pp., £15.99, May 2002, 0 19 924492 8
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... that by all means in this country,’ Alderman Roberts of Grantham was moved to remark in 1946. As John Davis concluded in the Cambridge Urban History of Britain (2000), the second half of the 20th century saw local authorities reduced to ‘agents of the central welfare state, their incapacity off-set by central subsidies which covered over 60 per cent ...

Festschriftiness

Susan Pedersen, 6 October 2011

Structures and Transformations in Modern British History 
edited by David Feldman and Jon Lawrence.
Cambridge, 331 pp., £50, January 2011, 978 0 521 51882 6
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The Peculiarities of Liberal Modernity in Imperial Britain 
edited by Simon Gunn and James Vernon.
California, 271 pp., £20.95, May 2011, 978 0 9845909 5 7
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Classes, Cultures and Politics: Essays on British History for Ross McKibbin 
edited by Clare Griffiths, John Nott and William Whyte.
Oxford, 320 pp., £65, April 2011, 978 0 19 957988 4
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... 1950s, and splendid articles on why London taxi-drivers became natural recruits to Thatcherism (by John Davis) and on how neoliberal interests and institutions successfully targeted trade unionists as the enemy within (by Ben Jackson). None of the essays has much truck with grand theory; their authors are no more likely to cite the contributors to the ...

Leo’s Silences

Robert Irwin: The travels of Leo Africanus, 8 February 2007

Trickster Travels: A 16th-Century Muslim between Worlds 
by Natalie Zemon Davis.
Faber, 448 pp., £20, January 2007, 978 0 571 20256 0
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... hard and keen like a hunting animal.’ Here Leo’s daimon is adapting and echoing the words of John Pory, who in 1600 published an English translation of the historical Leo’s La Descrittione dell’ Africa: ‘How many desolate cold mountains and huge drie, and barren deserts passed he? How often was he in hazard to have been captived, or to have had his ...

It’s she, it’s she, it’s she

Joanna Biggs: Americans in Paris, 2 August 2012

Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis 
by Alice Kaplan.
Chicago, 289 pp., £17, May 2012, 978 0 226 42438 5
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As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Diaries 1964-80 
by Susan Sontag.
Hamish Hamilton, 544 pp., £18.99, April 2012, 978 0 241 14517 3
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... in French tells the story of three college girls – Jacqueline Bouvier, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis – who did. Kaplan, who wrote about her own year abroad in the memoir French Lessons, takes the three, who didn’t meet, as examples of mid-20th-century types: the (Catholic) aesthete, the (Jewish) bohemian and the (black) political activist.* In Paris it ...

Neo-Catastrophism

Eric Klinenberg: Sinful Cities?, 9 October 2003

The Unfinished City: New York and the Metropolitan Idea 
by Thomas Bender.
New Press, 287 pp., $30, September 2002, 1 56584 736 9
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Dead Cities: and Other Tales 
by Mike Davis.
New Press, 448 pp., $16.95, October 2003, 1 56584 844 6
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... of creative destruction, refusing to let any obstacle block its path? Thomas Bender and Mike Davis are two of America’s leading urban scholars. Bender is a cultural historian known for his accounts of the intellectual and aesthetic life of US cities, and for tracing the distinctively metropolitan influences on American arts, letters and politics. He ...

Writer’s Writer and Writer’s Writer’s Writer

Julian Barnes: ‘Madame Bovary’, 18 November 2010

Madame Bovary: Provincial Ways 
by Gustave Flaubert and Lydia Davis.
Penguin, 342 pp., £20, November 2010, 978 1 84614 104 1
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... as is the very latest, by the American short-story writer – and Proust translator – Lydia Davis. In between, most of the 15 or more versions have been made by men. The best-known of them are Francis Steegmuller and Gerard Hopkins; and though Steegmuller did write some fiction – including mysteries under the name of David Keith – it’s a fair bet ...

A Plan and a Man

Neal Ascherson: Remembering Malaya, 20 February 2014

Massacre in Malaya: Exposing Britain’s My Lai 
by Christopher Hale.
History Press, 432 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 7524 8701 4
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... by a Thai Communist hit squad in Bangkok later that year. How much​ did the British know? John Davis, the Force 136 man who was closest to Chin Peng, Lai Tek’s successor as MCP leader, had been in the prewar Special Branch. He knew the secret of Mr Wright, but did not tell his comrade. Anyway, the end of the war brought a new situation. In ...

Mad John

Gabriele Annan, 28 June 1990

McEnroe: Taming the Talent 
by Richard Evans.
Bloomsbury, 216 pp., £14.99, June 1990, 0 7475 0618 3
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... of McEnroe’s generosity to sick children and of his patriotism: he played loyally in the US Davis Cup team when it had become unfashionable for tennis super-stars to do so. One can’t be sure, however, how mad Hamlet was or how much was pretence, and in any case, all this mad, contagious Shakespearean business is over the top, along with the references ...

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