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Unaccountables

Donald Davie, 7 March 1985

The Letters of Hugh MacDiarmid 
edited by Alan Bold.
Hamish Hamilton, 910 pp., £20, August 1984, 0 241 11220 6
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Between Moon and Moon: Selected Letters of Robert Graves 1946-1972 
edited by Paul O’Prey.
Hutchinson, 323 pp., £14.95, November 1984, 9780091557508
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... Wales, Cornwall, Galicia and the Pays Basque’. The self-evident rottenness of the timber that stokes the fire is beside the point: what matters is the fire, the heat of it and the light it throws. (Which is not to deny that in the case of poets better than either MacDiarmid or Graves we respect the soundness of the timber that is consumed to fire them.) A ...

What’s the point of HS2?

Christian Wolmar, 17 April 2014

... had been the chairman of Eurotunnel, was appointed to run the Strategic Rail Authority, created by John Prescott in 1999 to give direction to the privatised industry. Morton commissioned a report from Atkins and Ernst & Young to assess whether there was a need for such a line. By the time they reported in 2003, Morton – who was too outspoken to occupy such a ...

Ireland’s Invisibilities

Owen Dudley Edwards, 15 May 1980

Ireland in the Age of Imperialism and Revolution 1760-1801 
by R.B. McDowell.
Oxford, 740 pp., £28, December 1979, 9780198224808
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... 339), page 286 tells us twice in three lines that William Ogilvie was a Scotsman; Whitley Stokes is ‘thanked for his answer to Paine by the board of Trinity College’ on page 199, with the exact words repeated (apart from the belatedly respectful capitalisation of ‘Board’) in the ensuing footnote; ...

Shall we tell the children?

Paul Seabright, 3 July 1986

Melanie Klein: Her World and her Work 
by Phyllis Grosskurth.
Hodder, 516 pp., £19.95, June 1986, 0 340 25751 2
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Bloomsbury/Freud: The Letters of James and Alix Strachey 1924-1925 
edited by Perry Meisel and Walter Kendrick.
Chatto, 360 pp., £14.95, February 1986, 0 7011 3051 2
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... the counter-transference (the analyst’s emotional reaction to his patient). She was cool towards John Bowlby’s pioneering combination of psychoanalytic methods with those of ethology. Her attitude to the wider intellectual community remained as unconcerned as ever. It is perhaps in fidelity to Klein that Professor Grosskurth has made little attempt to ...

Imperfect Knight

Gabriel Josipovici, 17 April 1980

Chaucer’s Knight: Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary 
by Terry Jones.
Weidenfeld, 319 pp., £8.95, January 1980, 0 297 77566 9
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Chaucer, Langland and the Creative Imagination 
by David Aers.
Routledge, 236 pp., £9.75, January 1980, 9780710003515
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The Golden Age: Manuscript Painting at the Time of Jean, Duc de Berry 
by Marcel Thomas.
Chatto, 120 pp., £12.50, January 1980, 0 7011 2471 7
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... one of the new breed of ruthless mercenaries emerging in the later 14th century, men like Sir John Hawkwood, the leader of the legendary White Company, whose monument can still be seen in the Duomo in Florence next to Dante’s, who hired themselves out to petty tyrants and brought terror and destruction wherever they went. Moreover, Jones ...

Schadenfreude with Bite

Richard Seymour: Trolling, 15 December 2016

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture 
by Whitney Phillips.
MIT, 256 pp., £10, September 2016, 978 0 262 52987 7
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Gendertrolling: How Misogyny Went Viral 
by Karla Mantilla.
Praeger, 280 pp., £32, August 2015, 978 1 4408 3317 5
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Bad Clowns 
by Benjamin Radford.
New Mexico, 188 pp., £12, February 2016, 978 0 8263 5666 6
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Trolls: An Unnatural History 
by John Lindow.
Reaktion, 60 pp., £9.99, August 2015, 978 1 78023 565 3
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... maintaining that it’s all in good fun and shouldn’t be taken (too) seriously’. According to John Lindow’s ‘unnatural history’ of trolls, the original trolls of Scandinavian folklore punished improper behaviour and upheld social norms. If you take the behavioural code of lulz seriously and erase any commitment to social norms, what you are left ...

Living and Dying in Ireland

Sean O’Faolain, 6 August 1981

... kept a firm grip on the linguistic key to those primitive laws were Rudolph Thurneysen, Whitley Stokes, who drew attention to the fact that ‘fasting against’ still prevailed in some areas of India, Osborn Bergin, Myles Dillon, whose knowledge of Sanskrit drew attention to the French Sanskritist Louis Renou’s very early dating of the Hindu practice of ...

Haley’s Comet

Paul Driver, 6 February 1997

The Envy of the World: Fifty Years of the BBC Third Programme and Radio 3 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Weidenfeld, 431 pp., £25, September 1996, 0 297 81720 5
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... élitist than idealist. Under Haley’s enlightened rule, the triumvirate of Etienne Amyot, Leslie Stokes and George Barnes built an inspirational Third Programme that had initially to withstand a number of technical troubles – among them, the appropriation by Soviet Latvia of the waveband originally assigned to it – before it became the ‘envy of the ...

Pound’s Friends

Donald Davie, 23 May 1985

Pound’s Cantos 
by Peter Makin.
Allen and Unwin, 349 pp., £20, March 1985, 0 04 811001 9
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To Write Paradise: Style and Error in Pound’s Cantos 
by Christine Froula.
Yale, 208 pp., £18.50, February 1985, 0 300 02512 2
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Ezra Pound: Politics, Economics and Writing 
by Peter Nicholls.
Macmillan, 263 pp., £25, September 1984, 0 333 36159 8
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... war broke out, Cantos 52 to 71, known to initiates as the Chinese History Cantos followed by the John Adams Cantos, seem to him as to many of us wrongly conceived as well as sloppily executed. His dislike of them takes a special turn, however, when for the failure of the Adams sequence he blames John Adams, not ...

Diary

Iain Sinclair: Out of Essex, 8 January 2004

... frames: dense colour becomes a peep-hole. Sunlight flashing on pebbles beneath a fast stream. John Clare, in ‘Recollections after a Ramble’, writes of sitting by the banks of a river and thinking: ‘If I tumbled in/I should fall direct to heaven.’ The wet colour is hazy, soft; it does its best to subvert the over-emphatic actuality of the borrowed ...

Look Me in the Eye

Julian Bell: Art and the Brain, 8 October 2009

Splendours and Miseries of the Brain: Love, Creativity and the Quest for Human Happiness 
by Semir Zeki.
Wiley-Blackwell, 234 pp., £16.99, November 2008, 978 1 4051 8557 8
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Neuroarthistory: From Aristotle and Pliny to Baxandall and Zeki 
by John Onians.
Yale, 225 pp., £18.99, February 2008, 978 0 300 12677 8
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Echo Objects: The Cognitive Work of Images 
by Barbara Maria Stafford.
Chicago, 281 pp., £20.50, November 2008, 978 0 226 77052 9
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... using fMRI – notably, Semir Zeki – have pointed art studies in a significant new direction. John Onians and Barbara Maria Stafford, both art historians, certainly think so, though Neuroarthistory and Echo Objects argue the case in quite different ways. What might the far view be, from this new bend in the road? Suppose we could arrive at adequate ...

Sacred Text

Richard Gott: Guatemala, 27 May 1999

Rogoberta Menchú and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans 
by David Stoll.
Westview, 336 pp., £20, February 1999, 0 8133 3574 4
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... the taxi-driver – who else? – of the death of the American Ambassador. It was August 1968, and John Gordon Mein had been assassinated that morning. This was an abrupt introduction to the complexities of Guatemalan politics, and I merely assumed – with the Vietnam War and the less-publicised Guatemalan guerrilla war of the Sixties well underway – that ...

Hard Romance

Barbara Everett, 8 February 1996

... Margaret. Much of the very best recent criticism of Jane Austen has been in essays (those by John Bayley and by Peter Conrad stand out) but there is one brilliant full-length study, Roger Gard’s Jane Austen’s Novels, that serves as the best possible introduction to her work. And Gard does notice Margaret: he calls her ‘the one completely ...

Ten Typical Days in Trump’s America

Eliot Weinberger, 25 October 2018

... a firm most notable for creating the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who, in 2004, derailed John Kerry’s presidential campaign by claiming he had been falsely decorated as a war hero. CRC – it stands for Creative Response Concepts – is also the publicist for the Federalist Society, which, in the Trump era, has successfully promoted the appointment ...

Even Immortality

Thomas Laqueur: Medicomania, 29 July 1999

The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to the Present 
by Roy Porter.
HarperCollins, 833 pp., £24.99, February 1999, 0 00 637454 9
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... of named physiological processes – Babinski’s sign, the Pavlovian conditioned reflex, Cheyne-Stokes breathing – and even more diseases: Bright’s, Addison’s and Hodgkin’s for the ‘great men of Guy’s’ who in the early 19th century absorbed the traditions of Paris medicine and described, respectively, the diseases of the kidney, adrenal glands ...

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