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All the Advantages

C.H. Sisson, 3 July 1980

Dreams in the Mirror: A Biography of E.E. Cummings 
by Richard Kennedy.
Norton, 529 pp., £12, May 1980, 0 87140 638 1
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... the ghosts were there. Mrs Cummings’s diary continued during Estlin’s early life, so Professor Kennedy is able to tell us, for example, that at the age of three the poet uttered his first rhyme: Oh my little birdie oh With his little toe, toe, toe! Stacks of later juvenilia were preserved. Estlin’s first playmate was the daughter of a professor of ...

Mistrial

Michael Davie, 6 June 1985

The Airman and the Carpenter: The Lindbergh Case and the Framing of Richard Hauptmann 
by Ludovic Kennedy.
Collins, 438 pp., £12.95, April 1985, 0 00 217060 4
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... The greatest story since the Resurrection was how Mencken described the 1935 trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann for the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby. Among the three hundred-odd reporters present, besides Mencken, were Damon Runyon, Ford Madox Ford, Edna Ferber, Alexander Woollcott, Heywood Broun, Walter Winchell and Joseph Alsop, who was required to write no less than ten thousand words a day for the Herald Tribune ...

Spies and Secret Agents

Ken Follett, 19 June 1980

Conspiracy 
by Anthony Summers.
Gollancz, 639 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 575 02846 7
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The Man Who Kept the Secrets 
by Thomas Powers.
Weidenfeld, 393 pp., £10, April 1980, 0 297 77738 6
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... argument is remarkably simple. There is a tape-recording of the gunfire which killed President Kennedy. The third and fourth shots are too close together to have come from a single gun. Two guns means two gunmen, and two gunmen make a conspiracy. But who was in the conspiracy? Well, Lee Harvey Oswald was. It is now fairly clear that he did not shoot the ...

On Richard Hamilton

Hal Foster, 6 October 2011

... Richard Hamilton, who died on 13 September at the age of 89, invented the idea of Pop art, along with his colleagues in the Independent Group, more than 50 years ago. In ‘Persuading Image’, a lecture he gave in 1959, Hamilton argued, well before it was a commonplace, that consumer society depends on the manufacturing of desire through design, forever updated by the forced obsolescence of style ...

The Obdurate Knoll

Colin Kidd: The Obdurate Knoll, 1 December 2011

Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan 
by Jeff Greenfield.
Putnam, 434 pp., £20.25, March 2011, 978 0 399 15706 6
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11.22.63 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 740 pp., £19.99, November 2011, 978 1 4447 2729 6
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... custody at the hands of Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner. Despite these anomalous features, Kennedy’s assassination was – conceptually speaking – a straightforward event. While academic historians have had plenty to say about his politics and legacy, they have largely ignored his death. That subject – perhaps the canonical event in amateur ...

Brief Shining Moments

Christopher Hitchens: Donkey Business in the White House, 19 February 1998

Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65 
by Taylor Branch.
Simon and Schuster, 746 pp., $30, February 1998, 0 684 80819 6
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‘One Hell of a Gamble’: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958-64 
by Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali.
Murray, 416 pp., September 1997, 0 7195 5518 3
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The Dark Side of Camelot 
by Seymour Hersh.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £8.99, February 1998, 9780006530770
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Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson , Bobby Kennedy and the Feud that Defined a Decade 
by Jeff Shesol.
Norton, 591 pp., £23.50, January 1998, 9780393040784
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The Year the Dream Died 
by Jules Witcover.
Warner, 512 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 446 51849 2
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Without Honor: The Impeachment of President Nixon and the Crimes of Camelot 
by Jerry Zeifman.
Thunder's Mouth, 262 pp., $24.95, November 1996, 9781560251286
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The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis 
edited by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow.
Howard, 740 pp., £23.50, September 1997, 0 674 17926 9
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Lyndon B. Johnson’s Vietnam Papers: A Documentary Collection 
edited by David Barrett.
Texas A & M, 906 pp., $94, June 1997, 0 89096 741 5
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Taking Charge: The Johnson Whitehouse Tapes 1963-64 
edited by Michael Beschloss.
Simon and Schuster, 624 pp., £20, April 1998, 0 684 80407 7
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Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes 
edited by Stanley Kutler.
Free Press, 675 pp., $30, November 1997, 0 684 84127 4
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The Other Missiles of October: Eisenhower, Kennedy and the Jupiters, 1957-63 
by Philip Nash.
North Carolina, 231 pp., £34.70, October 1997, 0 8078 4647 3
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... In Arthur Schlesinger’s court history, A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, which might without unfairness be called the founding breviary of the cult of JFK, there appears the following vignette. Schlesinger had been asked to carpenter a ‘White Paper’ justifying Washington’s destabilisation of Cuba, in which the high-flown rhetoric of the New Frontier might form a sort of scab over the fouler business of empire ...

The Unmaking of the President

Benjamin Barber, 7 October 1982

The Kennedy Imprisonment: A Meditation on Power 
by Garry Wills.
Atlantic/Little, Brown, 310 pp., $14.95, February 1982, 0 316 94385 1
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... he termed ‘the American adventure’ hope to continue. When, twenty years later, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the first American President born in this century, stood and took the oath of office it seemed to many of his fellow countrymen that the stewardship of daring had finally found its vindicator. The great adventure was once again underway and this time the ...

Let in the Djinns

Maya Jasanoff: Richard Burton, 9 March 2006

The Highly Civilised Man: Richard Burton and the Victorian World 
by Dane Kennedy.
Harvard, 354 pp., £17.95, September 2005, 0 674 01862 1
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... of a man regarded as one of the most unreal, isolated and timeless figures of the Victorian era. Richard Burton arrived in the Adriatic port in 1873 as Britain’s consul. He had pretty much seen everything. He had visited sacred centres from Benares to Salt Lake City, with a pilgrimage to Mecca in between; he had trekked thousands of miles into central ...

Incandescences

Richard Poirier, 20 December 1979

The Powers that Be 
by David Halberstam.
Chatto, 771 pp., £9.95
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... went on TV during his campaigns against a Stevenson who had a patrician disdain for it), President Kennedy (who won the election of 1960 thanks in part to the disastrous appearance of Nixon in the first of the televised debates), and finally Presidents Johnson and Nixon, both of whom were severely damaged, as was Senator Joe McCarthy, by the dramatisations on ...

Who Will Lose?

David Edgar, 25 September 2008

Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future 
by Newton Minow and Craig LaMay.
Chicago, 219 pp., £11.50, April 2008, 978 0 226 53041 3
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... of the Commission on Presidential Debates, can claim particular authority. (‘President John F. Kennedy told me more than once’ is the book’s opening phrase.) His and LaMay’s study is overwhelmingly concerned with the complex and often tortured history of the debates as an institution. There is some information – but not a lot – about the ...

The Hagiography Factory

Thomas Meaney: Arthur Schlesinger Jr, 8 February 2018

Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian 
by Richard Aldous.
Norton, 486 pp., £23.99, November 2017, 978 0 393 24470 0
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... tortoiseshell glasses, bow ties, and neatly stencilled hair, he played for the literary side of Kennedy’s best and brightest, which was meant to balance out the number-crunching prowess of Robert McNamara and the Whiz Kids. In his dozens of books of American history – several of which remain indispensable – Schlesinger was among the chief ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... Politics here a bit trite, you say? Perhaps. But the following things really happened. President Kennedy was shot down in the light of broad day. His assassin was murdered on camera while in maximum security. Richard Nixon’s intimates fed high-denomination dollar bills into a shredder in order to disguise their ...

On my way to the Couch

E.S. Turner, 30 March 1989

On my way to the Club 
by Ludovic Kennedy.
Collins, 429 pp., £15, January 1989, 0 00 217617 3
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... of this book comes from a television critic’s shrewd observation: ‘Whenever I see Mr Ludovic Kennedy in a television studio, he gives me the impression that he has been good enough to drop by to see if he can lend a hand while on the way to the club.’ A comparable judgment, also quoted in the book, appeared in the Times after Mr ...

Vigah

Elizabeth Drew: JFK, 20 November 2003

John F. KennedyAn Unfinished Life 1917-63 
by Robert Dallek.
Allen Lane, 838 pp., £25, September 2003, 0 7139 9737 0
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... The majority of books about John F. Kennedy have been written either by toadying family retainers or by people bent on destroying the Camelot myth. The historian Robert Dallek is neither; he decided to enter the field, as he explains in his introduction, in part because documents had become available that threw new light on several aspects of Kennedy’s life, and in part because he thought the old ones should be given a fresh reading ...

Levittown to Laos

Thomas Sugrue: The Kennedy Assassination, 22 July 2010

The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After 
by Steven Gillon.
Basic Books, 294 pp., £15.99, November 2009, 978 0 465 01870 3
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... On 22 November 1963, just over two hours after an assassin’s bullet killed President Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, the vice president, took the oath of office in a hastily improvised ceremony aboard Air Force One. The jowly LBJ stood side by side with the grieving widow, her jacket and blouse stained with Kennedy’s blood and brain matter ...

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