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‘Look, look, what ails the ship, she is upsetting’

Peter Nichols: The ship ‘Essex’, 8 March 2001

The Loss of the Ship ‘Essex’, Sunk by a Whale 
by Thomas Nickerson and Owen Chase, edited by Nathaniel Philbrick and Thomas Philbrick et al.
Penguin, 231 pp., £7.99, June 2000, 0 14 043796 7
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... me … He was the most prepossessing-looking whale-hunter I think I ever saw.’ His name was Owen Chase. Or so Melville was told. He had been the first mate of the doomed whaleship Essex, which 21 years earlier had been rammed twice, deliberately, by a whale and had sunk not far from where the two ships now lay. The sinking of the Essex was still ...

Call me Ahab

Jeremy Harding: Moby-Dick, 31 October 2002

Moby-Dick, or, The Whale 
by Herman Melville, edited by Harrison Hayford and Hershel Parker.
Northwestern, 573 pp., £14.95, September 2001, 0 8101 1911 0
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Mariners, Renegades and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live in 
by C.L.R. James.
New England, 245 pp., £17.95, July 2001, 9781584650942
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Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival 
by Clare Spark.
Kent State, 744 pp., £46.50, May 2001, 0 87338 674 4
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Lucchesi and the Whale 
by Frank Lentricchia.
Duke, 104 pp., £14.50, February 2001, 9780822326540
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... Then there’s the famous story of the Essex, sunk to the west of the Galapagos Islands in 1820. Owen Chase, its Chief Mate, published a Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship ‘Essex’, of Nantucket in 1821. Melville, who footnotes four quotations from Chase in Chapter ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The International’, ‘Duplicity’, 9 April 2009

The International 
directed by Tom Twyker.
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directed by Tony Gilroy.
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... about looks, the world of appearances and who controls them. As it happens, both films star Clive Owen, an actor quite deft at suggesting that behind the surface there is more surface. Tom Tykwer’s The International is full of great glass buildings, and everyone drives an Audi. The buildings and cars themselves tell an old-fashioned story of international ...

Watching himself go by

John Lahr, 4 December 1980

by Noël Coward.
Eyre Methuen, 358 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 413 46050 9
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... Essendine (Present Laughter), George Pepper (‘Red Peppers’ from Tonight at 8.30) and Elyot Chase, a man of no apparent metier in Private Lives who nonetheless manages a dance and a few songs at the piano, exploited Coward’s theatrical past. Even in the Second World War, when he hoped his writing talent could be put to some serious use, it was his ...

Not Not To Be

Malcolm Schofield: Aristotle’s legacy, 17 February 2005

A New History of Western Philosophy. Vol. I: Ancient Philosophy 
by Anthony Kenny.
Oxford, 341 pp., £17.99, June 2005, 0 19 875273 3
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... came 45 years ago, in a revolutionary article published in the Classical Quarterly by G.E.L. Owen, who was to become a patriarchal figure in the study of the subject. His paper established once and for all that Parmenides’ Way of Truth needs to be understood not by reference to the presuppositions of earlier Greek cosmology, but as an exercise in pure ...

Hoo sto ho sto mon amy

Maurice Keen: Knightly Pursuits, 15 December 2005

A Knight’s Own Book of Chivalry 
by Geoffroi de Charny, translated by Elspeth Kennedy.
Pennsylvania, 117 pp., £10, May 2005, 0 8122 1909 0
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The Master of Game: The Oldest English Book on Hunting 
by Edward, Duke of York.
Pennsylvania, 302 pp., £14.50, September 2005, 0 8122 1937 6
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... 1402 and 1407 he was heavily engaged in the drawn-out fighting in Wales to put down the revolt of Owen Glendower. In 1412 he was among the principal captains in the expedition that the king’s second son, Thomas, Duke of Clarence, led to France. In the next reign, in 1415, he was in France again, and at Agincourt, where he commanded the right wing, he was ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, 17 April 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel 
directed by Wes Anderson.
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... making a crucial phone call on behalf of Monsieur Gustave. And there is an orchestrated chase across snowy mountains; one of the best lines in the film is the instruction given to Monsieur Gustave and Zero as they gallop into an isolated alpine monastery: ‘Put these on and sing.’ ‘These’ are the white habits of a monk and a rosary each. The ...

Done Deal

Christopher Hitchens: Nixon in China, 5 April 2001

A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China 
by Patrick Tyler.
PublicAffairs, 512 pp., £11.99, September 2000, 1 58648 005 7
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... of the Revolution were mainly Communist sympathisers like Edgar Snow, Anna Louise Strong and Owen Lattimore. After the gruesomeness of the war in Korea, their expertise was at a discount and the State Department was purged of the sort of people who might, if they had stuck around, have helped avert the inane policies that eventuated in the Vietnam ...

Bounty Hunter

John Sutherland, 17 July 1997

Riders of the Purple Sage 
by Zane Grey.
Oxford, 265 pp., £4.99, May 1995, 0 19 282443 0
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The Man of the Forest: The Authorised Version 
by Zane Grey.
Nebraska, 383 pp., $15, September 1996, 0 8032 7062 3
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The Thundering Herd: The Authorised Version 
by Zane Grey.
Nebraska, 400 pp., $16, September 1996, 0 8032 7065 8
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... two and three times over in the Twenties and early Thirties (often frugally recycling location and chase footage). None of the 108 film adaptations survives as a work of artistic distinction, with the possible exception of Western Union (1941), one of Fritz Lang’s rare forays into the genre. Otherwise the Zane Grey ciné-oeuvre is a wasteland. And if any ...

So Much Smoke

Tom Shippey: King Arthur, 20 December 2018

King Arthur: the Making of the Legend 
by Nicholas Higham.
Yale, 380 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 0 300 21092 7
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... Sarmatian theory was taken up in Antoine Fuqua’s movie King Arthur (2004), starring Clive Owen and Keira Knightley, which must rank as one of the silliest films ever to have come out of Hollywood. Its tenuous grip on history is best exemplified by the claim in its tie-in novel that ‘the victory of Arthur at Badon Hill was so complete and so ...

They don’t say that about Idi Amin

Andrew O’Hagan: Bellow Whinges, 6 January 2011

Saul Bellow: Letters 
edited by Benjamin Taylor.
Viking, 571 pp., $35, November 2010, 978 0 670 02221 2
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... to the ill and bereaved. He was always affectionate and rather awestruck by the philosopher Owen Barfield, and had a quite saintly manner of carefulness with John Berryman, but, these things apart, the volume is quite fogged over with Bellow’s notion that replying to letters was nothing if not a complete and utter waste of time. To Ralph ...


June Goodfield, 6 November 1986

Memoir of a Thinking Radish: An Autobiography 
by Peter Medawar.
Oxford, 209 pp., £12.50, April 1986, 0 19 217737 0
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... looked at him with a stern and quizzical air reminiscent of Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase, and told him to go away and bring back Weiss’s paper in twenty years’ time, when, he explained, zoologists might be in a position to deal with Weiss’s phenomenon. What Medawar learnt on that occasion was the concept of ‘unripe time’ – a lesson ...

We Are Many

Tom Crewe: In the Corbyn Camp, 11 August 2016

... of his team, has now been announced as a top adviser to his opponent in the leadership contest, Owen Smith. Despite all this, Corbyn seems likely to defeat Smith, possibly with an even larger share of the vote than he received last year. As his personal ratings have plunged, Labour’s membership has shot up – it now stands at more than 500,000 – making ...


R.W. Johnson, 4 June 1987

Traitors: The Labyrinths of Treason 
by Chapman Pincher.
Sidgwick, 346 pp., £13.95, May 1987, 0 283 99379 0
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The Secrets of the Service: British Intelligence and Communist Subversion 1939-51 
by Anthony Glees.
Cape, 447 pp., £18, May 1987, 0 224 02252 0
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Freedom of Information – Freedom of the Individual? 
by Clive Ponting, John Ranelagh, Michael Zander and Simon Lee, edited by Julia Neuberger.
Macmillan, 110 pp., £4.95, May 1987, 0 333 44771 9
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... coterie of writers or journalists on the far right. In Pincher’s work the two obsessions chase each other’s tails: the alleged need to protect national security legitimates the compulsive secrecy, while the need to expose Communist infiltration legtimates attempts to pierce that secrecy. Pincher has been going round and round this mulberry bush for ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies, 26 January 2012

An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... leaders are the Apache chief, Cochise, and the commanding officer of the fort, Lieutenant Colonel Owen Thursday (Henry Fonda). A martinet and an opportunist, Thursday breaks an agreement with the Apache and, against the advice of his more good-natured and practical-minded subordinate Captain Kirby York (John Wayne), leads his men down a narrow defile where ...

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