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Richard J. Evans: Hitler’s Aristocratic Go-Betweens, 17 March 2016

Go-Betweens for Hitler 
by Karina Urbach.
Oxford, 389 pp., £20, July 2015, 978 0 19 870366 2
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... the First World War, the European high aristocracy roamed freely across the continent, taking the waters at Baden-Baden, sampling the sea air at Biarritz, shooting partridge and pheasant at Sandringham, and coming together for grand balls and funerals in virtually every European capital. With so many occasions on which to meet, and so much disdain for those ...

The Trouble with HRH

Christopher Hitchens, 5 June 1997

Princess Margaret: A Biography 
by Theo Aronson.
O’Mara, 336 pp., £16.99, February 1997, 1 85479 248 2
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... Home Secretary to Ramsay MacDonald, had to journey to Glamis Castle and wait for 16 days for the waters to break. He passed the time profitably enough being shown around the local estates by Lady Airlie, a lady-in-waiting, who was pleased to find ‘under his homely exterior a deeply sensitive mind, touchingly appreciative of beauty’. In the company of the ...

A New Twist in the Long Tradition of the Grotesque

Marina Warner: The monstrousness of Britart, 13 April 2000

High Art Lite: British Art in the 1990s 
by Julian Stallabrass.
Verso, 342 pp., £22, December 1999, 1 85984 721 8
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This is Modern Art 
by Matthew Collings.
Weidenfeld, 270 pp., £20, June 1999, 0 297 84292 7
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... its back on, all that it leaves out when it comes to what art can be.’ As it pans the miasmic waters where the Chapman Brothers, Gavin Turk, Tracey Emin and of course Damien Hirst loom, High Art Lite finds the ark of art occupied, betrayed and shipwrecked. The principles that gave the avant-garde of the earlier part of the 20th century its energy and ...

Reasons for Being Nice and Having Sex

Andrew Berry: W.D. Hamilton, 6 February 2003

Narrow Roads of Gene Land: The Collected Papers of W.D. Hamilton. Vol. II: The Evolution of Sex 
by W.D. Hamilton.
Oxford, 872 pp., £50, January 2001, 0 19 850336 9
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... called a ‘Red Queen’ process – ‘it takes all the running you can do,’ she explains to Alice, ‘to stay in the same place.’ Ever the obsessive, Hamilton developed a parasite-dominated vision of the natural world. He suggested that even the bright colours of birds were produced by parasite pressure. A female bird choosing her mate among males is ...

Snail Slow

Colm Tóibín: Letters to John McGahern, 27 January 2022

The Letters of John McGahern 
edited by Frank Shovlin.
Faber, 851 pp., £30, September 2021, 978 0 571 32666 2
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... fiction, McGahern wasn’t especially interested in exploring his own psyche. He rowed in familiar waters because the cadences in the prose and the resonant images came more naturally to him. And it was cadence and image that energised him, not self-revelation. In a letter from 1960, before he had published anything, he wrote: ‘The common notion that you can ...

Learning My Lesson

Marina Warner, 19 March 2015

... word,’ Humpty Dumpty says, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’ Alice is puzzled by this, but Humpty Dumpty explains: ‘The question is … which is to be master – that’s all.’ The term that is successfully imposed will occupy the field of meaning: calling the work of writing a book ‘generating an output’ or a ...

Infante’s Inferno

G. Cabrera Infante, 18 November 1982

Legacies: Selected Poems 
by Heberto Padilla, translated by Alastair Reid and Andrew Hurley.
Faber, 179 pp., £8.75, September 1982, 0 374 18472 0
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... in Macbeth, though not happening in Scotland in the remote past, but now, today, in the murky waters of present-day politics where the ceremony of innocence – a baptism in fetid fonts – is drowned in obscene shouts: Heil Hitler! Evviva Il Duce! Viva Fidel! The Beast is full of passionate intensity – while the best not only lack the right convictions ...

The Uncommon Reader

Alan Bennett, 8 March 2007

... he was a bit of a dark horse. Sitting there with his hands pressed together like something out of Alice in Wonderland he gave no hint of what he was thinking and so she was pleasantly surprised to find on reading his biography that he had said afterwards that had she been a boy he would have fallen in love with her. Of course he couldn’t actually have said ...
... from the way the publishers, then and later, rejected orchestral scores by some of the same women. Alice Mary Smith, nine years Claribel’s junior, was appointed Honorary Female Professional Associate of the Royal Academy of Music in the year of her death, 1884. She first attracted attention with a piano quartet at the London Musical Society, but was most ...

A Feeling for Ice

Jenny Diski, 2 January 1997

... the same clarity that I remember the young Jane Eyre, Mary from The Secret Garden, Peter Pan and Alice. Rather less clarity, in fact, since the last four are readily available on my bookshelves and I have reacquainted myself with them quite regularly. Jennifer, I’ve merely remembered from time to time over an increasing distance of years, and with each ...

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