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Red Rover

Clare Hollingworth, 4 February 1982

At the Barricades: The Memoirs of a Rebel Journalist 
by Wilfred Burchett.
Quartet, 341 pp., £10.95, May 1981, 0 7043 2214 5
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... a combination of left-wing ideas and journalistic flair often earned Burchett space on the front page when newspapers in London were reduced to four pages through shortage of newsprint. While ‘island-hopping’ in the Pacific, and ‘shuffling along in the chow line for lunch’ on board a ship, he heard about ‘the big new bomb we just dropped on the ...


Russell Davies, 18 June 1981

Short Lives 
by Katinka Matson.
Picador, 366 pp., £2.50, February 1981, 9780330262194
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... be callous about it – and we are all callous when it comes to disasters relived on the printed page – their lives make excellent biographies. Not only do they suffer in a dramatic way: they do it more purposefully than the rest of us, with our dull sense of un-satisfactoriness, can manage. Sequences of chaos and catastrophe in the life of an artist ...

Comedy is murder

Thomas Powers: Joseph Heller, 8 March 2012

Just One Catch: The Passionate Life of Joseph Heller 
by Tracy Daugherty.
Robson, 548 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 1 84954 172 5
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Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller was Dad and Life was a Catch-22 
by Erica Heller.
Vintage, 272 pp., £8.99, October 2011, 978 0 09 957008 0
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... was to save that manuscript! He joked about everything but not about this. Heller began the first page of every book hoping to write something for the ages. He managed it once, critics generally agree, but his later efforts all fell short. The problem was the standard. A book for the ages requires something more than a talented author with a good idea at the ...


Karl Miller, 21 October 1982

On the Black Hill 
by Bruce Chatwin.
Cape, 249 pp., £7.50, September 1982, 0 224 01980 5
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... the lorry-driver was no oil-painting. This strange story can’t have escaped the sharp eye of Bruce Chatwin, who is an expert on strange places and strange people and on strange words, and who used to work for the Sunday Times. Chatwin is an admired writer who has now published three books. In Patagonia told of a trip to Latin America’s Ultima ...

Parkinson Lobby

Alan Rusbridger, 17 November 1983

... hubris: ‘The Greeks have a word for it,’ we were repeatedly told. Jock (now Lord) Bruce-Gardyne, former Economic Secretary to the Treasury, managed to combine at least two of these factors in an article in the Times, ‘Hounded out by Hypocrisy’, the day after Mr Parkinson’s resignation. ‘So that great British tradition, hypocrisy, has ...

The night that I didn’t get drunk

Claude Rawson, 7 May 1987

Boswell: The English Experiment 1785-1789 
edited by Irma Lustig and Frederick Pottle.
Heinemann, 332 pp., £30, February 1987, 0 434 08130 2
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The Converse of the Pen: Acts of Intimacy in the 18th-Century Familiar Letter 
by Bruce Redford.
Chicago, 252 pp., £21.25, January 1987, 0 226 70678 8
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Printing Technology, Letters and Samuel Johnson 
by Alvin Kernan.
Princeton, 357 pp., £19.70, February 1987, 0 691 06692 2
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... passing up the particular social opportunity then on offer, and later, when Mr Ramus the King’s page invited him to St James’s, he noted: ‘Formerly I should have jumped at such an opening. I am now too far advanced. Yet I may go.’ It’s like Crusoe feeling he can’t use the ship-wrecked money but then deciding to keep it, accelerated to the tempo of ...

Damp-Lipped Hilary

Jenny Diski: Larkin’s juvenilia, 23 May 2002

Trouble at Willow Gables and Other Fictions 
by Philip Larkin, edited by James Booth.
Faber, 498 pp., £20, May 2002, 0 571 20347 7
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... is typed over in red, and a short red line has been typed below the date. The verso of the title-page is blank; thereafter the pages are numbered in the centre at the bottom –1–, –2– etc. The essay ends at the bottom of p. 29 which is not numbered but has the final ornament ___ooOoo___, with the O and os in red. The verso of the final sheet is ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Anna Karenina, New Puritans, Books on Cooking the Books, 22 February 2001

... one of the reasons ‘the face of the British gangster is changing.’ But Mad Frankie Fraser and Bruce Reynolds – both of whom have recently written memoirs – aren’t the only old crooks being forced to change their ways, if we are to believe Denise Deegan, whose Managing Activism: A Guide to Dealing with Activists and Pressure Groups was published in ...

He Couldn’t Stop Himself

Michael Kulikowski: Justinian’s Wars, 21 March 2019

The Codex of Justinian 
translated by Fred H. Blume, edited by Bruce W. Frier.
Cambridge, three vols, 2963 pp., £450, May 2016
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... and ought to have been pulped on publication). The new one, admirably curated by a team led by Bruce Frier, is based on a draft made by the Wyoming justice Fred H. Blume (1875-1971) that had languished in manuscript for decades. Frier and company secured the use of the text from Blume’s estate, with all profits from the expensive three-volume set, its ...

Speaking in Tongues

Robert Crawford, 8 February 1996

The Poetry of Scotland: Gaelic, Scots and English 1380-1980 
edited and introduced by Roderick Watson.
Edinburgh, 752 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 7486 0607 6
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... on the eve of the Battle of Flodden in 1513. That is followed immediately by a nearly twenty-page selection from Gavin Douglas’s great translation of the Aeneid ‘written in the language of Scottis natioun’, completed in that same year. This juxtaposition of Latin, Gaelic and Scots may point to different Scotlands; yet there are shared features. The ...

Crazy America

Edward Said, 19 March 1981

... of ‘Fright Decade I’, the war against civilisation by terrorists. For Bill Green on the same page of the Post, ‘the Iranian obscenity’ raised the possibility that the ‘freedom of the press’ which presented news about Iran might be ‘perverted into a weapon aimed directly at the heart of American nationalism and self-esteem’. There were some ...

Those Genes!

Charles Wheeler, 17 July 1997

Personal History 
by Katharine Graham.
Weidenfeld, 642 pp., £25, May 1997, 9780297819646
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... and rushed back to Kennedy, who gave Dillon the job. Graham also recommended his friend David Bruce for Secretary of State, advice the President-elect didn’t take, choosing Dean Rusk instead. At Graham’s suggestion, Bruce became Ambassador in London, and before very long Graham was badgering Kennedy to sack Rusk and ...

In the Land of the Free

Christian Lorentzen, 22 November 2012

... conservatives complained that Fox News, the National Review and the Wall Street Journal editorial page had done their side a disservice by asserting that Romney would win (he may have believed them too: he didn’t write a concession speech). Everyone else was listening to the New York Times statistician Nate Silver, whose incessant poll-crunching put the ...

We look at it and see ourselves

Bruce Cumings: Fantasies of Korea, 15 December 2005

Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty 
by Bradley Martin.
Dunne, 868 pp., $29.95, October 2004, 0 312 32221 6
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Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea 
by Jasper Becker.
Oxford, 300 pp., £16.99, November 2004, 9780195170443
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... In 1975, Perry Anderson published Lineages of the Absolutist State, at the end of which is an 87-page ‘Note’ on the theory of the Asiatic mode. Anderson shows that Marx’s views on Asia differed little from those of Hegel, Montesquieu, Adam Smith and a host of others; they were all peering through the wrong end of a telescope, or in a mirror, weighing a ...

Wrong Again

Bruce Cumings: Korean War Games, 4 December 2003

... reporters (all two of them). Take a long and detailed article by Judith Miller, buried on page 12 of the New York Times: only in the 30th paragraph of 34 do we learn that prewar American Intelligence on Iraqi weapons sites was often ‘stunningly wrong’. In the words of a senior US officer: The teams would be given a packet, with pictures and a ...

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