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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Spider-Man 3’, 24 May 2007

Spider-Man 3 
directed by Sam Raimi.
May 2007
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... idling. Like the new movie itself, we have our memories, and Tobey Maguire is still with us as Peter Parker, the goofiness wearing a little thin, but the earnestness holding up (in Spider-Man 2 the woman Peter loves appears in a Broadway production of The Importance of Being Earnest), and he does something very few ...

The Amazing …

Jonathan Lethem: My Spidey, 6 June 2002

Spider-Man 
directed by Sam Raimi.
May 2002
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... always like that for him,’ the child mused when, in the film’s opening sequence, Peter Parker, Spider-Man’s ‘real’ teenage self, missed the school bus. In that one remark the child encapsulated what the director and producers had got so right in casting Tobey Maguire as the misfit character, and in their gentle faithfulness ...

The World of School

John Bayley, 28 September 1989

The Brideshead Generation: Evelyn Waugh and his Friends 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Weidenfeld, 523 pp., £17.95, September 1989, 0 297 79320 9
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Osbert: A Portrait of Osbert Lancaster 
by Richard Boston.
Collins, 256 pp., £17.50, August 1989, 0 00 216324 1
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Ackerley: A Life of J.R. Ackerley 
by Peter Parker.
Constable, 465 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 09 469000 6
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... and democratic vulgarity. J.R. Ackerley’s world was in its own way not so different. Peter Parker has already written a searching book, The Old Lie: The Great War and the Public School Ethos, and his long and thorough account of Ackerley’s career is even better, still more revealing. Ackerley’s odd provenance, well-known from his own ...

I am a cactus

John Sutherland: Christopher Isherwood and his boys, 3 June 2004

Isherwood 
by Peter Parker.
Picador, 914 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 330 48699 3
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... love. How to get to grips with ‘Isherwood’ (as he has chosen to address him) was a problem for Peter Parker: something that perhaps explains the 12 years this usually brisk biographer has spent on his task. A main difficulty is that Isherwood (‘I am a camera’) is himself so intent a watcher of things that inspection bounces off him. Intent and ...

Lethal Pastoral

Paul Keegan: Housman’s Lethal Pastoral, 17 November 2016

Housman Country: Into the Heart of England 
by Peter Parker.
Little, Brown, 446 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 1 4087 0613 8
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... yer:/Hallelujah, Hallelujah!/We will gather up the fragments that remain.’ In Housman Country, Peter Parker does it by writing the life and times not of the man but of his most famous book: the growing pains of A Shropshire Lad, the vicissitudes of its reception, its cultural ‘aftermaths’. The word comes from agriculture, as ...

Diary

Clive James, 18 March 1982

... matter must not go to arbitration. The strike must bite. The strike days must be staggered. Sir Peter Parker still smiles but looks haggard. Sir Peter Parker picked a pickled peck Of pepper when he took on British Rail. With every kind of triumph at his beck And call, perhaps he felt the need to fail. His ...

Captain’s Log

John Torode, 21 April 1983

Back from the Brink: An Apocalyptic Experience 
by Michael Edwardes.
Collins, 301 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 00 217074 4
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... moderates waiting to be enfranchised. One rumour now has it that Edwardes is poised to replace Sir Peter Parker at British Rail and ‘do a Leyland’ on that union-bound loss-maker. This is the age of the Maestro, not the ...

At Home in the Huntington

John Sutherland: The Isherwood Archive, 10 June 1999

... Brian Finney’s 1979 biography. Film rights were sold for $400,000 and book rights for $100,000. Peter Parker, who is writing Isherwood’s authorised biography, was incredulous: ‘They must be bonkers. It is the most extraordinary story – Hollywood gush.’ Memories are short on the West Coast, but everyone dimly remembered that Cabaret had been ...

The Great War Revisited

Michael Howard, 23 April 1987

The Myriad Faces of War: Britain and the Great War 1914-1918 
by Trevor Wilson.
Polity, 864 pp., £35, September 1986, 9780745600932
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British Strategy and War Aims 1914-1916 
by David French.
Allen and Unwin, 274 pp., £25, September 1986, 0 04 942197 2
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The Old Lie: The Great War and the Public School Ethos 
by Peter Parker.
Constable, 319 pp., £15, March 1987, 0 09 466980 5
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... spirit’, Social-Darwinism, or the prevalence of militarism among the European upper classes. Peter Parker’s The Old Lie, a lively analysis of the manner in which English public schools conditioned the minds of the upper classes for military service, would be unlikely to affect his judgment. The emphasis upon leadership and sacrifice, the ...

The Waugh between the Diaries

Ian Hamilton, 5 December 1985

The Diaries of Auberon Waugh: A Turbulent Decade 1976-1985 
edited by Anna Galli-Pahlavi.
Private Eye/Deutsch, 207 pp., £4.95, September 1985, 0 233 97811 9
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... do if you’re a bachelor, or James Goldsmith, or a lesbian, or Welsh, or a good-looking nun, or Peter Parker, or a social worker, or a cat? You could always (well, not the cat) try taking Waugh to court. But who would want to stand up in the Old Bailey and declare himself not ‘the silliest man in England’? And who would wish to be measured and ...

Sex is best when you lose your head

James Meek, 16 November 2000

Promiscuity: An Evolutionary History of Sperm Competition and Sexual Conflict 
by Tim Birkhead.
Faber, 272 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 571 19360 9
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... partner, and there were no ‘illegitimate’ chicks. This isn’t a glamorous pursuit. Geoff Parker, one of the human heroes of Birkhead’s story, spent months with his face a few centimetres away from fresh cowpats, watching female dungflies being aggressively mounted by two males in turn. Sometimes the biologists witness scenes more disturbing than ...

God in Heaven send us peace

Peter Burke, 18 April 1985

The Thirty Years’ War 
by Geoffrey Parker.
Routledge, 340 pp., £20, January 1985, 0 7100 9788 3
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... Geoffrey Parker’s new book on the Thirty Years’ War is the first major study of the subject to appear in English for nearly half a century. To be more exact, it is now 47 years since the publication of a book on the war by C.V. Wedgwood, as she was then. That graceful and perceptive study – a remarkable achievement for a 28-year-old historian – remains an example of traditional narrative history at its formal best ...

A Moustache Too Far

Danny Karlin: Melville goes under, 8 May 2003

Herman Melville: A Biography. Vol. II: 1851-91 
by Hershel Parker.
Johns Hopkins, 997 pp., £31, May 2002, 0 8018 6892 0
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... the writer’s ascent into mere horizontal force. The publication of the second volume of Hershel Parker’s biography of Herman Melville brings to a close an enterprise of archival and critical scholarship that has lasted forty years – nearly as long as Melville’s writing career. The picture of Melville – its outlines were drawn in Volume I, which was ...

Balfour’s Ghost

Peter Clarke, 20 March 1997

Why Vote Conservative? 
by David Willetts.
Penguin, 108 pp., £3.99, February 1997, 0 14 026304 7
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Why Vote Liberal Democrat? 
by William Wallace.
Penguin, 120 pp., £3.99, February 1997, 0 14 026303 9
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Why Vote Labour? 
by Tony Wright.
Penguin, 111 pp., £3.99, February 1997, 0 14 026397 7
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... filled this kind of slot, beginning in 1947, when they commissioned the Labour MP John Parker and the Conservative MP Quintin Hogg, now Lord Hailsham, to produce books of a couple of hundred pages each. ‘When the manuscripts were received,’ the publishers were forced to reveal, ‘it was found that while Mr ...

The Way of the Warrior

Tom Shippey: Vikings, 2 April 2014

Vikings: Life and Legend 
edited by Gareth Williams, Peter Pentz and Matthias Wernhoff.
British Museum, 288 pp., £25, February 2014, 978 0 7141 2337 0
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The Northmen’s Fury 
by Philip Parker.
Cape, 450 pp., £25, March 2014, 978 0 224 09080 3
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... Life and Legend (until 22 June). The problem for the exhibition’s organisers – and for Philip Parker, whose book The Northmen’s Fury seems designed to tie in with it – is that we know too much about Vikings already. We know what they looked like: big, hairy, threatening, wearing horned helmets as like as not. We know what they did: rape and ...

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