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In Shanghai

Jeremy Harding: Portrait of the Times, 10 October 2013

... Stars were on the streets of Beijing demanding greater artistic freedom, Wang with his elemental wood sculptures, including Big Mouth, an anthropomorphic megaphone carved at the end of the 1980s. After a serious tussle with the authorities, the Stars were eventually allowed a two-week show at the China Art Gallery, now the National Art Museum of China, in ...

Figureheads

Clare Bucknell, 19 November 2020

... later in the century, the frequency of naval commissions began to decline with the shift from wood to iron shipbuilding, carvers continued to work on heads for merchant ships transporting goods back and forth across the empire. Gladstone Navy ships weren’t obliged to take inspiration from military or national iconography for their names and ...

Glaswegians

Andrew O’Hagan, 11 May 1995

... and fell into the middle of the room with me underneath it. I knew the face framed by that rickety wood. I’d seen it before, in that frame, and I knew who it was: my grandfather Michael. I knew that’s who it was though I’d never met him. The grandfather was covered in dust and damp patches dried in. But that was him: he had the darkest eyes I’d ever ...

Fire and Ice

Patrick O’Brian, 20 April 1989

Fire Down Below 
by William Golding.
Faber, 313 pp., £11.95, March 1989, 0 571 15203 1
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... the other parts being Rites of Passage and Close Quarters. The trilogy is about a voyage to Sydney in 1813, and a bald, merely literal account might run like this ... On the first page the hero appears, Edmund FitzHenry Talbot, an unformed young man of good family who is going out to help govern New South Wales in an aged line-of-battle ship, Captain ...

There’s Daddy

Michael Wood, 13 February 1992

Flying in to Love 
by D.M. Thomas.
Bloomsbury, 262 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 7475 1129 2
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JFK 
directed by Oliver Stone.
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... the airport and the allegory. And finally, Kennedy may have escaped this life in order, like Sydney Carton, to reach a better one; flown finally into a Higher Love, as the escaping deer on the last page of the novel suggests. You probably need the heart of Oliver Stone not to laugh at this stuff, but I wasn’t laughing. Partly because somewhere amid the ...

In a Cold Country

Michael Wood: Coetzee’s Grumpy Voice, 4 October 2007

Diary of a Bad Year 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill, 231 pp., £16.99, September 2007, 978 1 84655 120 8
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Inner Workings: Essays 2000-2005 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill, 304 pp., £17.99, March 2007, 978 1 84655 045 4
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... a story and tells it to Anya, who understands it so perfectly that she is willing to come back to Sydney and see him as far as the gate of death when the time arrives. The story would be called ‘something like “Desolation”’:One holds on to the belief that someone, somewhere, loves one enough to hold on to one, keep one from being torn away. But the ...

Hons and Wets

D.A.N. Jones, 6 December 1984

The House of Mitford 
by Jonathan Guinness and Catherine Guinness.
Hutchinson, 604 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 09 155560 4
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... elder, grander brother having been killed in action) and David married Tap’s dim daughter, Sydney. David and Sydney did not know how to be Lord and Lady Redesdale: perhaps, as Highland Fling suggests, no one quite knew what lords and ladies were for after 1918. The dim Redesdales produced the six Mitford girls, so ...

Darwin among the Gentry

Adrian Desmond, 23 May 1985

The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Vol. I: 1821-1836 
edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Sydney Smith.
Cambridge, 702 pp., £30, March 1985, 0 521 25587 2
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The Survival of Charles Darwin: A Biography of a Man and an Idea 
by Ronald Clark.
Weidenfeld, 449 pp., £14.95, April 1985, 0 297 78377 7
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... sea devils’ chasing him home. From Tahiti, ‘that fallen paradise’, he travelled to Sydney and platypi-shoots, on to the Cape, where he met Sir John Herschel (‘awful’ manners). Even then, FitzRoy – a stickler for precision – re-crossed the Atlantic to South America for more measurements before heading for Falmouth. Darwin arrived in ...

Dirty Linen

Patrick O’Brian, 4 August 1994

Mr Bligh’s Bad Language: Passion, Power and Theatre on the ‘Bounty’ 
by Greg Dening.
Canto, 445 pp., £7.95, April 1994, 0 521 46718 7
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Admiral Satan: The Life and Campaigns of Suffren 
by Roderick Cavaliero.
Tauris, 312 pp., £29.95, May 1994, 9781850436867
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... return, laden with breadfruit trees, she stopped at an island some three weeks out of Tahiti for wood, water and victuals, including coconuts. Some days later, on 27 April 1789, Bligh came on deck in the morning and said that his personal store of coconuts had shrunk. After a great deal of fuss and hectoring he made all hands turn out their own ...

High Taxes, Bad Times

John Pemble: Late Georgian Westminster, 10 June 2010

The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1820-32 
by D.R. Fisher.
Cambridge, 6336 pp., £490, December 2009, 978 0 521 19314 6
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... never been so low – certainly not since the 1640s and 1650s. ‘The House of Commons,’ Sydney Smith said in 1819, ‘is falling into contempt with the people.’ Taxes were high and times were bad, and journalists like William Cobbett were radicalising popular opinion by lambasting ‘Old Corruption’. Parliament, Cobbett stormed, was ruining the ...

On Teesside

Joanna Biggs, 21 October 2010

... April 1879. Among other things, like train tracks and skyscrapers, Teesside steel was used for the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932; the bridge is stamped ‘Made in Middlesbrough’. Success didn’t trickle down. In 1907, Florence Bell published At the Works. Inspired by Mayhew, it is a portrait of industrial life, the fruit of years spent poking around ...

Get planting

Peter Campbell: Why Trees Matter, 1 December 2005

The Secret Life of Trees: How They Live and Why They Matter 
by Colin Tudge.
Allen Lane, 452 pp., £20, November 2005, 0 7139 9698 6
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... In Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape (1976), Oliver Rackham makes a distinction between wood and timber. Wood, the renewable crop, the source of staves, bean poles, hurdles, fodder and firewood, is what was coppiced from the same stools or pruned from the same trunks and branches over many years, in some cases ...

Now for the Hills

Stephanie Burt: Les Murray, 16 March 2000

Collected Poems 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 476 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 1 85754 369 6
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Fredy Neptune 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 256 pp., £19.95, May 1999, 1 85754 433 1
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Conscious and Verbal 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 89 pp., £6.95, October 1999, 1 85754 453 6
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... adolescent: ‘all my names were fat-names, at my new town school.’ Murray went to university in Sydney, married in 1962, entered the Roman Catholic Church the following year, and published his first book of poems (a split volume with Geoff Lehmann) in 1965. In 1975 Murray bought the farm in Bunyah, succeeding where his father had failed; he, his wife and ...

Diary

Maya Jasanoff: In Sierra Leone, 11 September 2008

... rot. My car barrelled along streets lined with rubbish, through an architectural jumble of slatted wood, rough concrete, padlocked steel doors; then climbed past anonymous compounds ringed with razor wire, around dirt bends where derelict-looking houses loomed above the road on iron stilts. By the time I reached my hotel, six hours after landing, the 18th ...

As if Life Depended on It

John Mullan: With the Leavisites, 12 September 2013

Memoirs of a Leavisite: The Decline and Fall of Cambridge English 
by David Ellis.
Liverpool, 151 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 1 84631 889 4
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English as a Vocation: The ‘Scrutiny’ Movement 
by Christopher Hilliard.
Oxford, 298 pp., £57, May 2012, 978 0 19 969517 1
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The Two Cultures? The Significance of C.P. Snow 
by F.R. Leavis.
Cambridge, 118 pp., £10.99, August 2013, 978 1 107 61735 3
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... ructions in Australian universities in the 1960s. These became so intense at the University of Sydney that for several years it offered two separate English curricula: one Leavisite (lots of close reading, dating of unseen passages and Lawrence) and one anti-Leavisite (compulsory palaeography, bibliography and editorial procedure). Oddly, Hilliard does not ...

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