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Nothing but the Worst

Michael Wood: Paul de Man, 8 January 2015

The Paul de Man Notebooks 
edited by Martin McQuillan.
Edinburgh, 357 pp., £80, April 2014, 978 0 7486 4104 8
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The Double Life of Paul de Man 
by Evelyn Barish.
Norton, 534 pp., £25, September 2014, 978 0 87140 326 1
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... Marlow arrives at a philosophical conclusion: ‘The truth seems to be that it is impossible to lay the ghost of a fact.’ Marlow can’t have known that he was sketching a theory of deconstruction as it was later elaborated by Paul de Man, and he was certainly hesitant enough about his proposition. But de Man’s ...

Frayed Edges

Tessa Hadley: Pat Barker, 19 November 2015

Noonday 
by Pat Barker.
Hamish Hamilton, 272 pp., £18.99, August 2015, 978 0 241 14606 4
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... glint of knives and forks, the blue and white fragments of a serving dish.’ She and her husband, Paul Tarrant, find temporary lodgings and then within days that place is gone too. So there they were, for the second time in a week, homeless … the newly risen sun glinted on the silver barrage balloons and silhouetted the broken outline of bombed and ...

Suffocating Suspense

Richard Davenport-Hines, 16 March 2000

Cult Criminals: The Newgate Novels 1830-47 
by Juliet John.
Routledge, 2750 pp., £399, December 1998, 0 415 14383 7
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... allusions. Bulwer-Lytton himself had inaugurated the fashion for this brand of crime fiction with Paul Clifford (1830), and restrained the tendency to verbosity and false pathos that marks his other fiction. He believed, he wrote in an essay of 1838, that in the portraiture of evil and criminal characters lies the widest scope for an author profoundly versed ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Cold fish at the royal household, 20 November 2003

... in Bermuda, or some other far-flung corner of their former realm: Port Stanley, say, or Balmoral. Paul Burrell will have packed their bags for them one last time. The ‘irony’ of which, as Burrell would say (the only words that he misuses more often are ‘surreal’ and ‘enormity’), is that he’s a die-hard monarchist, as he reveals in his memoir, A ...

The Dollar Tree

Tobias Jones, 11 December 1997

Hand To Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failure 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 436 pp., £15.99, November 1997, 0 571 17149 4
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... Paul Auster is so implicated in his own fictions that it is often hard to tell whether his covert appearances there represent a Modernist textual teasing or a baser vanity; whether his walk-on parts are self-mocking or aggrandising. In City of Glass, the first volume in the New York Trilogy, the writer’s identity is always a plaything: Quinn, the writer, uses the pseudonym William Wilson, who himself writes about the improbably named Max Work, and is mistaken for Paul Auster, ‘of the Auster Detective Agency ...

Fortress Mathematica

Brian Rotman: John Nash and Paul Erdos, 17 September 1998

The Man who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdös and the Search for Mathematical Truth 
by Paul Hoffman.
Fourth Estate, 320 pp., £12.99, July 1998, 1 85702 811 2
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Proofs from the Book 
by Martin Aigner and Günter Ziegler.
Springer, 210 pp., £19, August 1998, 3 540 63698 6
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A Beautiful Mind: Genius and Schizophrenia in the Life of John Nash 
by Sylvia Nasar.
Faber, 464 pp., £17.99, September 1998, 0 571 17794 8
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... consumed by numbers to the exclusion of all else, sounds deranged. The Hungarian mathematician, Paul Erdös, number theorist and combinatorialist extraordinary, eccentric, socially dysfunctional, obsessive, childishly egocentric, helplessly dependent on fellow number freaks to feed him, transport him, put him up and put up with him, was certainly outside ...

Gang of Four

Christopher Driver, 22 December 1983

The String Quartet: A History 
by Paul Griffiths.
Thames and Hudson, 240 pp., £12, October 1983, 9780500013113
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Gyorgy Ligeti 
by Paul Griffiths.
Robson, 128 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 86051 240 1
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... criticism of George Bernard Shaw and Ezra Pound, to name two writers whose main preoccupations lay elsewhere. But in our own day almost all composition, and much performance, is virtually invulnerable to non-specialist critique. Paul Griffiths, who has already reached the C major of this life by becoming in his ...

Dictionaries

Randolph Quirk, 25 October 1979

Collins Dictionary of the English Language 
by P. Hanks, T.H. Long and L. Urdang.
Collins, 1690 pp., £7.95
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... R.W. Burchfield and John Sykes) is comparatively stable. When work began on the new Collins, Paul Procter and Della Summers were young conductors under impresario Urdang, and they later moved on to make dictionaries for Longman. Patrick Hanks was recruited to complete the Collins when he had finished a somewhat similar job for Hamlyn. Both Urdang and ...

Rigging the Death Rate

Paul Taylor, 11 April 2013

... David Spiegelhalter, now Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge, and Paul Aylin, now the assistant director of the Dr Foster Unit at Imperial College. You might think that their task was relatively straightforward. After all, the figure that matters here, the mortality rate, is simply the number of patients who died after ...

Hallelujah Times

Eric Foner: The Great Migration, 29 June 2017

A Mind to Stay: White Plantation, Black Homeland 
by Sydney Nathans.
Harvard, 313 pp., £23.95, February 2017, 978 0 674 97214 8
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... part, which begins in the antebellum period, focuses on the experiences of ‘two Pauls’ – Paul Cameron, the son of Duncan Cameron, one of the largest slaveowners in North Carolina, and his slave Paul Hargress (originally named Hargis after a previous owner) – and their families. Duncan Cameron prided himself on ...

Playing Fields, Flanders Fields

Paul Delany, 21 January 1982

War Diary 1913-1917: Chronicle of Youth 
by Vera Brittain, edited by Alan Bishop.
Gollancz, 382 pp., £8.50, September 1981, 0 575 02888 2
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The English Poets of the First World War 
by John Lehmann.
Thames and Hudson, 144 pp., £6.95, August 1981, 0 500 01256 3
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Voices from the Great War 
by Peter Vansittart.
Cape, 303 pp., £7.95, November 1981, 0 224 01915 5
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The Little Field-Marshal: Sir John French 
by Richard Holmes.
Cape, 427 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 0 224 01575 3
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... their youth had been ‘smashed up’ by the Great War. Nearly a million men of their generation lay buried in Flanders and Gallipoli; many of those who remained felt condemned to hollow lives, haunted by loss and grief. They believed that those sacrificed had been men of special grace, the irreplaceable flower of the nation’s youth; and they blamed the ...

Wizard of Ox

Paul Addison, 8 November 1990

... cars and could not abide the sight of the motorist in front: he simply had to overtake. His genius lay in the fact that he never crashed. So it was in history. Taylor wanted pace, movement, fun, risk. He was perfectly capable of analysis. But as it meant stopping the car and tinkering under the bonnet, he was impatient to get back behind the wheel. His ...

Historian in the Seat of God

Paul Smith: Lord Acton and history, 10 June 1999

Acton and History 
by Owen Chadwick.
Cambridge, 270 pp., £30, August 1998, 0 521 57074 3
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... pretensions for his subject, which expose him so easily to attack, that make him significant. They lay bare the hopes, the quasi-millenarian inspiration and the sense of vital civic function which fuel the energies and set the agenda of much historical writing, even if its practitioners go about with their coats modestly buttoned over these primitive instincts ...

Jingo Joe

Paul Addison, 2 July 1981

Joseph Chamberlain: A Political Study 
by Richard Jay.
Oxford, 383 pp., £16.95, March 1981, 0 19 822623 3
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... be. Finally he took on the huge vested interests of free trade and lost. The genius of Chamberlain lay in his capacity to tap and mobilise hitherto unexploited sources of energy and enthusiasm. But the restless forces were never as strong in Britain as the laws of inertia and the politics of Sleepy Hollow. Contemplating the fate of Joseph Chamberlain, we can ...

When Neil Kinnock was in his pram

Paul Addison, 5 April 1984

Labour in Power 1945-1951 
by Kenneth Morgan.
Oxford, 546 pp., £15, March 1984, 0 19 215865 1
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... with complete authority over the Cabinet. But on Morgan’s evidence much of Attlee’s craft lay in the concealment of deficiencies behind a bluff exterior. Having lost his nerve entirely in the financial crisis of 1947, Attlee withdrew into passivity: ‘He exemplified in his own meekly ambitious person the old Roman tag that if you remained silent you ...

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