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Patrick Hughes: What do artists do?, 24 July 1986

... Graphics. So I have a little pile of pieces of paper with ‘ideas’ roughly drawn on them: a cross with a pirate flag, a ghost caught on barbed wire, an egg on a tightrope, a cage in prison. Next to me I have a tea trolley with paints and water on it. I draw the picture in pen and ink, colour it in: if it works, I frame it. I can do about three a day at ...

Better on TV

Jon Day: The Tennis Craze, 8 October 2020

A People’s History of Tennis 
by David Berry.
Pluto, 247 pp., £14.99, May, 978 0 7453 3965 8
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... You​ can divide most sports into those that take place in the real world (road cycling, sailing, cross country running) and those that are played on the artificial space of a court or pitch. Some (golf, croquet) occupy an uncertain middle ground, which may be one of the reasons they are so tedious to watch. Others (football, rugby) started as the former and, as they were codified, became the latter ...

A Catholic Novel

David Lodge, 4 June 1981

... to London, and the book was about to go into the final stages of production, when it occurred to Tim O’Keeffe to ask me if I had obtained permission to use the words of the Gershwin song in my title. I had not. I wrote immediately to the Gershwin Publishing Corporation in New York, requesting permission. It was refused. I pleaded with them to change their ...


David Craig: In the Barra Isles, 30 October 1997

... he told me, it filled up that awful space to the south-west, giving him a feeling of security.’ Tim Robinson relates this, near the end of his double-work, Stones of Aran: pilgrimage and Labyrinth. ‘In reality Pangaea is broken,’ Robinson writes, ‘and all the mysterious bits and pieces circulating in the slow vortices of Panthalassa – Atlantis, the ...


Henry Day: Ibn Battutah’s travels, 15 December 2005

The Hall of a Thousand Columns: Hindustan to Malabar with Ibn Battutah 
by Tim Mackintosh-Smith.
Murray, 333 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 7195 6225 2
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... meets (all 1500 of them) and the places he visits with enthusiasm at once wide-eyed and critical. Tim Mackintosh-Smith has lived in Yemen since the early 1980s; his first book was Yemen: Travels in Dictionary Land (1997). A couple of years later, poking around in Sana’s Greater Yemen Bookshop, he came across Ibn Battutah’s memoir, and decided to follow in ...

Being Greek

Henry Day: Up Country with Xenophon, 2 November 2006

The Long March: Xenophon and the Ten Thousand 
by Robin Lane Fox.
Yale, 351 pp., £25, September 2004, 0 300 10403 0
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The Expedition of Cyrus 
by Xenophon, translated by Robin Waterfield.
Oxford, 231 pp., £8.99, September 2005, 0 19 282430 9
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Xenophon’s Retreat: Greece, Persia and the End of the Golden Age 
by Robin Waterfield.
Faber, 248 pp., £17.99, November 2006, 0 571 22383 4
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The Sea! The Sea! The Shout of the Ten Thousand in the Modern Imagination 
by Tim Rood.
Duckworth, 272 pp., £12.99, August 2006, 0 7156 3571 9
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... after 380 seems likely: George Cawkwell, in the Lane Fox volume, argues persuasively for 370-367; Tim Rood, in his excellent introduction to Waterfield’s translation, also favours a date in the 360s. It’s probable, then, that Xenophon was aware of Isocrates’ criticisms. In response, he emphasises that not all the mercenaries followed Cyrus simply in ...

Streets Full of Suitors

Jonah Miller: Early Modern Women, 21 August 2014

City Women: Money, Sex and the Social Order in Early Modern London 
by Eleanor Hubbard.
Oxford, 297 pp., £24.99, September 2014, 978 0 19 872204 5
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Women, Work and Sociability in Early Modern London 
by Tim Reinke-Williams.
Palgrave, 225 pp., £60, April 2014, 978 1 137 37209 3
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... some credit where we dwell’ and ‘We are London Gentle-women borne.’ Both Eleanor Hubbard and Tim Reinke-Williams emphasise that ‘sexual behaviour was not the only activity which determined female identity and reputation.’ They use court records to examine the lives of 17th-century London women who married and raised children but also worked and ...

You Know Who You Are

Colin Kidd: About Last Year, 25 January 2018

Fall Out: A Year Of Political Mayhem 
by Tim Shipman.
William Collins, 559 pp., £25, November 2017, 978 0 00 826438 3
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... was unexpected even to an ill-prepared Conservative Central Office, provides the focal point of Tim Shipman’s Fall Out. The book is a fly-on-the-wall account compiled from off-the-record interviews with many of the dramatis personae in Theresa May’s topsy-turvy first year as prime minister. There is much here that leaves the reader uneasy ...

Poor Cow

Tim Radford, 5 September 1996

Lethal Legacy: BSE – The Search for Truth 
by Stephen Dealler.
Bloomsbury, 307 pp., £5.99, April 1996, 9780747529408
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BSE: The Facts 
by Brian Ford.
Corgi, 208 pp., £4.99, May 1996, 0 552 14530 0
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Agriculture and Health Committees. Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD): Recent Developments 
HMSO, 149 pp., £17, May 1996, 0 10 237796 0Show More
Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture 
by Jeremy Rifkin.
Thorsons, 353 pp., £8.99, June 1996, 0 7225 2979 1
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... signal that confused the consumer. If British meat was perfectly safe, and if BSE could not cross the species barrier, then why ban the offal? Once, while writing a hasty story-so-far about BSE as a background to some other twist in the saga, I suggested that the Government itself showed all the symptoms of mad cow disease: it staggered from one ...

Stop It and Act

Tim Parks: Pavese’s Road to Suicide, 11 February 2010

This Business of Living: Diaries 1935-50 
by Cesare Pavese, translated by A.E. Murch.
Transaction, 350 pp., £24.50, March 2009, 978 1 4128 1019 7
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... shorthand for moments of success, or more often failure. Pavese also shows a remarkable ability to cross-reference his own reflections back and forth across many years, suggesting that he was constantly reading and rereading his diary, seeking finer and finer definitions of the concepts that had become important to him: myth, destiny, ritual, man’s ...

Quite a Show

Tim Parks: Georges Simenon, 9 October 2014

A Man’s Head 
by Georges Simenon, translated by David Coward.
Penguin, 169 pp., £6.99, July 2014, 978 0 14 139351 3
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A Crime in Holland 
by Georges Simenon, translated by Siân Reynolds.
Penguin, 160 pp., £6.99, May 2014, 978 0 14 139349 0
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... more of a mystery than the mystery itself. The only intelligence that’s occasionally allowed to cross his face is a mocking irony. It’s this quality that will be fatal to the murderer, who is drawn into a battle of wills he can only lose. Like Simenon himself in Letter to My Mother, Maigret proceeds by enforced proximity. He goes to the scene of the ...


David Underdown, 4 May 1989

Village Revolts: Social Protest and Popular Disturbances in England 1509-1640 
by Roger Manning.
Oxford, 354 pp., £35, February 1988, 0 19 820116 8
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... brothels were not the ‘antics’ or ‘frivolous gestures’ that Manning labels them, and as Tim Harris has shown, they did not die out at the Civil War. In another revealing sentence, Manning declares that a simple enclosure riot was ‘hardly more than a skimmington, and thus a fairly primitive form of social protest’. This surely indicates a serious ...


Edward Pearce, 22 October 1992

by Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie.
Hutchinson, 589 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 09 173549 1
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... comes over as an absolute ruler, but not a bully. Davie was inquisited and cross-questioned (and soon after, like the outstanding talent he is, snatched up for the Evening Standard). What impresses in every account of the man is that quality of being interested and interesting. It is a more attractive picture than his papers left, for ...


Elaine Showalter: My Year of Living Dangerously, 2 April 1998

... book made a lot of people furious, but was hardly New Jersey’s Salman Rushdie. True, my one-week cross-country American book tour had been a mite intense. ‘We’re going to rip you to shreds,’ a woman doctor hissed at me in the corridor of a Baltimore television studio. ‘Bullets are too good for you!’ snarled a pony-tailed man in army fatigues at a ...

Hang Santa

Wendy Doniger, 16 December 1993

Unwrapping Christmas 
edited by Daniel Miller.
Oxford, 239 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 19 827903 5
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... Dead’ and the imagined deaths of both the protagonist (Scrooge) and a child (Tiny Tim) in A Christmas Carol. Lévi-Strauss is more convincing in his discussion of lying: ‘The only difference between Father Christmas and a true deity is that adults do not believe in him, although they encourage their children to do so and maintain this belief ...

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