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Proper Ghosts

Dinah Birch: ‘The Monk’, 15 June 2016

The Monk 
by Matthew Lewis.
Oxford, 357 pp., £8.99, January 2016, 978 0 19 870445 4
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... Gothic novels, all resolutely supportive of the rights of women, appeared throughout the 1790s. William Beckford wrote the Orientally-inspired Vathek (1786) when he was 21. Like Horace Walpole, author of the pioneering Gothic extravaganza The Castle of Otranto (1764), Beckford combined an interest in literature with a determination to revive a Gothic style ...

Ecclefechan and the Stars

Robert Crawford, 21 January 1988

The Crisis of the Democratic Intellect 
by George Davie.
Polygon, 283 pp., £17.95, September 1986, 0 948275 18 9
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... to the widespread use of Blair’s Rhetoric in the United States. By the early 1760s, the Scotsman William Small was teaching Rhetoric and Belles Lettres to Jefferson at William and Mary. By 1768 John Witherspoon from the Laigh Kirk, Paisley, was basing his Princeton lectures on Blair’s Rhetoric. In 1781 Wither spoon ...

I myself detest all Modern Art

Anne Diebel: Scofield Thayer, 8 April 2015

The Tortured Life of Scofield Thayer 
by James Dempsey.
Florida, 240 pp., £32.50, February 2014, 978 0 8130 4926 7
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... All​ Thayer has is money,’ Sherwood Anderson wrote to Waldo Frank in 1919 about the man who’d just become co-owner and editor of the Dial. Anderson advised Frank to demand a good price for his work: if Thayer ‘does not surrender the money, he is N.G. to anyone’. Scofield Thayer surrendered a lot of money, lavishing it on the artists he admired, and on many he didn’t, including his former friend T ...
Under Fire: An American Story 
by Oliver North and William Novak.
HarperCollins, 446 pp., £17.99, October 1991, 0 06 018334 9
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Terry Waite: Why was he kidnapped? 
by Gavin Hewitt.
Bloomsbury, 230 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 7475 0375 3
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... Intelligence Agency, Bill Casey, devised a plan for revenge. One of the CIA’s top agents, William Buckley, was posted to Beirut to implement it. In March 1984, Buckley was taken prisoner and tortured. Casey’s brilliant plan ended in the deaths or hasty flights of several of the CIA’s agents in the area. Casey ordered that a photograph of the ...

Ismism

Evan Kindley: Modernist Magazines, 23 January 2014

The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume I: Britain and Ireland 1880-1955 
edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker.
Oxford, 976 pp., £35, May 2013, 978 0 19 965429 1
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The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume II: North America 1894-1960 
edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker.
Oxford, 1088 pp., £140, July 2012, 978 0 19 965429 1
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The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume III: Europe 1880-1940 
edited by Peter Brooker, Sascha Bru, Andrew Thacker and Christian Weikop.
Oxford, 1471690 pp., £145, March 2013, 978 0 19 965958 6
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... Fin-de-siècle periodicals like the Yellow Book, the Chameleon and the Savoy took inspiration from William Morris, Charles Ricketts and other luminaries of the Arts and Crafts movement, favouring medieval typefaces, elaborate woodcut illustrations, uncut pages and plenty of white space. An equivalent international vogue for ‘ephemeral bibelots’ was ...

Damsons and Custard

Paul Laity: Documentary cinema’s unsung poet, 3 March 2005

Humphrey Jennings 
by Kevin Jackson.
Picador, 448 pp., £30, October 2004, 0 330 35438 8
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... about art, theatre and history; about Blake, Ruskin, Faraday, Milton, Constable and Purcell. William Empson, who studied English with him at Cambridge in the late 1920s, and with whom he started the magazine Experiment, thought of Jennings as ‘quite unaffectedly a leader’ who ‘was rather unconscious of other people, except as an ...

Degrees of Not Knowing

Rory Stewart: Does anyone know how to govern Iraq?, 31 March 2005

What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building 
by Noah Feldman.
Princeton, 154 pp., £12.95, November 2004, 0 691 12179 6
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Blinded by the Sunlight: Surviving Abu Ghraib and Saddam’s Iraq 
by Matthew McAllester.
Harper Perennial, 304 pp., $13.95, February 2005, 0 06 058820 9
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The Fall of Baghdad 
by Jon Lee Anderson.
Little, Brown, 389 pp., £20, February 2005, 0 316 72990 6
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The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq 
by Christian Parenti.
New Press, 211 pp., £12.99, December 2004, 1 56584 948 5
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... His account of this terrifying experience is modest and precise. The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson first met Ala Bashir, an Edinburgh-educated plastic surgeon, one of Saddam’s few intimates and his official sculptor, in August 2000. As Bashir evolves from an apologist for Hitler and Saddam into a critic of Saddam’s cabinet, ...

Mailer’s Muddy Friend

Stephen Ambrose, 1 September 1988

Citizen Cohn 
by Nicholas von Hoffman.
Harrap, 483 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 0 245 54605 7
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... the top Mafia people, Richard Nixon, Si Newhouse, Rupert Murdoch, Frank Sinatra, J. Edgar Hoover, William F. Buckley, an endless list of Congressmen and judges and society swells, of the rich and famous. Cohn knew, dealt with, worked for, went to parties with and generally hobnobbed with more celebrities than any other American. He did favours for them ...

Fog has no memory

Jonathan Meades: Postwar Colour(lessness), 19 July 2018

The Tiger in the Smoke: Art and Culture in Postwar Britain 
by Lynda Nead.
Yale, 416 pp., £35, October 2017, 978 0 300 21460 4
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... advertisement hoardings and the Great Exhibition. Its gaudy vulgarity appalled such aesthetes as William Morris and, retrospectively, Nikolaus Pevsner, who wrote of Victorian manufacture’s ‘rank growth’. Dickens was true neither to life nor to his age. He was a cartoonist rather than a documentarist – not that the veracity of documentarists is to be ...

Who Will Lose?

David Edgar, 23 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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... wasn’t unprecedented: Lincoln presented the arguments of the Whig presidential candidate William Henry Harrison in the 1836 presidential campaign.) In a 1948 primary campaign, Harold Stassen and Thomas Dewey debated the outlawing of the American Communist Party on national radio. The idea of a televised presidential debate was proposed in 1959 by ...

‘I’m glad what I done’

Gavin Millar, 13 October 1988

A Life 
by Elia Kazan.
Deutsch, 848 pp., £17.95, June 1988, 0 233 98292 2
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... work by Clifford Odets, Sam Behrman, Robert Ardrey, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Robert Anderson and William Inge. He did the same in the cinema with Williams, Robert Sherwood, Inge, Steinbeck and Schulberg. Though he modestly disclaims more than typecast competence on the boards, it should be remembered that he ...

A Belated Encounter

Perry Anderson: My father’s career in the Chinese Customs Service, 30 July 1998

... father. He had punished the wrong son. The institution in which the young James Carew O’Gorman Anderson took up his post in 1914 had been in existence for nearly fifty years. By then it had no parallel anywhere in the world. Its origins lay in the crisis of the Ch’ing Empire in the mid-19th century, when the Taiping Rebellion gave a Western ...

A Little Electronic Dawn

James Francken: Perlman, Anderson and Heller, 24 August 2000

The Reasons I Won't Be Coming 
by Elliot Perlman.
Faber, 314 pp., £9.99, July 2000, 0 571 19699 3
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Turn of the Century 
by Kurt Anderson.
Headline, 819 pp., £7.99, February 2000, 0 7472 6800 2
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Slab Rat 
by Ted Heller.
Abacus, 332 pp., £10.99, March 2000, 0 349 11264 9
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... William Strunk was a standard-bearer for the use of bold, brief English. In The Elements of Style, first published in 1918, the Cornell professor set out his rules of usage and principles of composition in the form of direct commands – ‘Sergeant Strunk snapping orders to his platoon’. ‘Omit needless words ...

Karl’s Darl

M. Wynn Thomas, 11 January 1990

William Faulkner: American Writer 
by Frederick Karl.
Faber, 1131 pp., £25, July 1989, 9780571149919
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William Faulkner 
by David Dowling.
Macmillan, 183 pp., £6.95, June 1989, 0 333 42855 2
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... salt and pepper as you please.’ In a 1936 review, Clifford Fadiman recommended that the prose of William Faulkner be taken with just such a hefty pinch of salt. Fatigued by ‘the Non-Stop or Life Sentence’ which he considered to be the ruin of Absalom, Absalom!, he declared that ‘all of Mr Faulkner’s shuddering invective pales in horrendousness before ...

The Old Question

W.G. Runciman, 19 February 1987

The Sources of Social Power. Vol I: A History of Power from the Beginning to AD 1760 
by Michael Mann.
Cambridge, 549 pp., £37.50, July 1986, 0 521 30851 8
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... it happens, this volume – the first of a projected trio – has already been proclaimed by Perry Anderson, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, to be ‘not lesser than Economy and Society itself in analytic stature’ – an absurd hyperbole which can do no good to either the author or his subject, and is in any case belied by ...

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