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He’ll have brought it on Himself

Colm Tóibín, 22 May 1997

Sex, Nation and Dissent in Irish Writing 
edited by Éibhear Walshe.
Cork, 210 pp., £40, April 1997, 1 85918 013 2
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Gooddbye to Catholic Ireland 
by Mary Kenny.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 320 pp., £20, March 1997, 1 85619 751 4
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... Himself.’ Chesterton saw a banner hanging between two tenement houses: ‘God Bless Christ the King,’ it said. From then on an authoritarian Church and a fragile, insecure State combined to produce a sort of dark ages. It was as though Ireland north and south vied with each other over who could produce the most sectarian state. Censorship, mass ...

Play for Today

Adam Smyth: Rewriting ‘Pericles’, 24 October 2019

by Ali Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 336 pp., £16.99, March 2019, 978 0 241 20704 8
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The Porpoise 
by Mark Haddon.
Chatto, 309 pp., £18.99, May 2019, 978 1 78474 282 9
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... prostitution and incest (the play opens as Pericles discovers the incestuous relationship between King Antiochus and his daughter, and has to flee the murderer dispatched to silence him). The versions of Pericles that were performed or printed tended to cut out, or minimise, these elements. Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare (1807) has an ...

I sizzle to see you

John Lahr: Cole Porter’s secret songs, 21 November 2019

The Letters of Cole Porter 
edited by Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh.
Yale, 672 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 0 300 21927 2
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... sadistic conjugal tastes, Linda ‘had had enough of the sexual side of marriage’, according to Brendan Gill. In their white marriage, Porter and Linda slept in separate rooms, though always nearby, with separate buildings on their estate in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and separate apartments on the 41st floor of the Waldorf Towers when they made it their ...

Stalking Out

David Edgar: After John Osborne, 20 July 2006

John Osborne: A Patriot for Us 
by John Heilpern.
Chatto, 528 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 7011 6780 7
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... that ‘he’s never been ashamed of me’ has to be the greatest parental misjudgment since King Lear banished Cordelia). After a short career in provincial rep (in an era when rep ads stipulated ‘no fancy salaries and no queer folk’), Osborne drew on his equally short first marriage in writing Look Back in Anger; when she saw the set, Pamela ...

Time for Several Whiskies

Ian Jack: BBC Propaganda, 30 August 2018

Auntie’s War: The BBC during the Second World War 
by Edward Stourton.
Doubleday, 422 pp., £20, November 2017, 978 0 85752 332 7
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... old character – patriarchal & in that sense democratic: the lowest of the tribe may speak to the king.’ It had dawned on the government by this time that credible news broadcasting – to the world as well as the domestic audience – was a hugely important weapon. Plans were made for the Overseas Services to triple its programming output to 150 hours a ...


David Runciman: Thatcher’s Rise, 6 June 2013

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography. Vol. I: Not for Turning 
by Charles Moore.
Allen Lane, 859 pp., £30, April 2013, 978 0 7139 9282 3
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... sent a letter to the Times condemning her economic policies (the signatories included Mervyn King, the future governor of the Bank of England). They wrote: ‘There is no basis in economic theory or supporting evidence for the government’s belief that by deflating demand they will bring inflation permanently under control and thereby introduce an ...

Gaelic Gloom

Colm Tóibín: Brian Moore, 10 August 2000

Brian Moore: The Chameleon Novelist 
by Denis Sampson.
Marino, 344 pp., IR£20, October 1998, 1 86023 078 4
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... for anyone who would write them up.’ This world gave him the background for his protagonist Brendan Tierney in An Answer from Limbo, but the novel is damaged by Moore’s raw disapproval, and is wooden and unconvincing. Brian and Jacqueline Moore met Frank and Jean Russell in New York in 1963, and the two couples, all of them interested in journalism ...

Somerdale to Skarbimierz

James Meek, 20 April 2017

... the full story makes the EU look even worse than Radford knew.On​ 10 April 1741, the 29-year-old King Frederick II of Prussia fought his first battle, in deep snow, on a low plateau to the west of the Oder, in Silesia. It was a chastening experience; he took his senior commander’s advice to run away, only for the Prussian army to beat his opponents, the ...

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