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Smoking big cigars

David Herd, 23 July 1992

by Fred Voss.
Bloodaxe, 180 pp., £7.95, November 1991, 1 85224 198 5
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... confined to San Francisco and the north. To the south, and in Los Angeles, the dominant figure is Charles Bukowski. Bukowski has spent the last 35 years giving expression to the experience of the American down-and-out. Typically his poems take place in a bar, or a bedsit, or at a race-track, involve several shots of whisky, a ‘typer’, a woman and a losing ...

Bertie pulls it off

John Campbell, 11 January 1990

King George VI 
by Sarah Bradford.
Weidenfeld, 506 pp., £18.95, October 1990, 0 297 79667 4
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... and disabled by his stammer, he was bullied as a Naval cadet and came bottom of his class at Osborne. He lived always in the shadow of his glamorous and favoured elder brother. Yet as he grew up he accepted his humbler role in the royal pageant and discharged it diligently and loyally. Despite ill-health he was determined to serve in the Navy during the ...

Mother! Oh God! Mother!

Jenny Diski: ‘Psycho’, 7 January 2010

‘Psycho’ in the Shower: The History of Cinema’s Most Famous Scene 
by Philip Skerry.
Continuum, 316 pp., £12.99, June 2009, 978 0 8264 2769 4
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... that the shower scene changed the movies for ever, as well as apparently preparing the way for Charles Manson and Ozzy Osborne, Skerry makes much of the nipple, the stabbing knife and the first flushing toilet bowl on screen, all of which Hitchcock managed to get past the Production Code people. Leigh, in Skerry’s ...

Her Body or the Sea

Ian Patterson: Ann Quin, 21 June 2018

The Unmapped Country: Stories and Fragments 
by Ann Quin.
And Other Stories, 192 pp., £10, January 2018, 978 1 911508 14 4
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... sick to death of it being – well, ever since the novel in England has been concerned with class, Osborne and so on, and Wesker.’ Ann Quin was born to a single mother in Brighton in 1936. A wartime childhood and a convent education gave her a strong desire to explore ‘the whole sinful world that lay before me’ when she left school. Her first enthusiasm ...

What sort of Scotland?

Neal Ascherson, 21 August 2014

... heard the news that fire had destroyed Glasgow School of Art and the grove-like library which was Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece. Questions soon followed: first angry ones, then ones with wider implications. Why no sprinklers? But then: why was it that Art Nouveau or Jugendstil, a global style, rooted itself in small, often submerged nations ...

The general tone is purple

Alison Light: Where the Poor Lived, 2 July 2020

Charles Booth’s London Poverty Maps 
edited by Mary S. Morgan.
Thames and Hudson, 288 pp., £49.95, October 2019, 978 0 500 02229 0
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... Charles​ Booth’s survey of London poverty was an epic Victorian undertaking. Beginning in the late 1880s with East London, Booth and his army of investigators launched a systematic study which went on to cover nearly all of the metropolis, then the largest in the world with around four million inhabitants. The accounts of their walks around London filled 450 notebooks ...

The Court

Richard Eyre, 23 September 1993

The Long Distance Runner 
by Tony Richardson.
Faber, 277 pp., £17.50, September 1993, 0 571 16852 3
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... Sons, Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie, Streetcar, Camino Real and The Rose Tattoo, but if Osborne shows any American influence it is from the earlier generation of O’Neill, or even Odets. There were intermittently fine productions on the London stage: ‘revivals’ of classics at the Old Vic, and under the not always benign supervision of ...

What’s the big idea?

Jonathan Parry: The Origins of Our Decline, 30 November 2017

The Age of Decadence: Britain 1880 to 1914 
by Simon Heffer.
Random House, 912 pp., £30, September 2017, 978 1 84794 742 0
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... on religion is overwhelmingly about the parliamentary debates in the 1880s on whether the atheist Charles Bradlaugh should be allowed to sit in Parliament without taking the Christian oath. A chapter on women is mostly about W.T. Stead’s publicity-seeking campaigns on prostitution. A chapter called ‘Ireland’ is limited to the politics of Gladstone and ...

A Smile at My Own Temerity

John Barrell: William Hogarth, 16 February 2017

William Hogarth: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings 
by Elizabeth Einberg.
Yale, 432 pp., £95, November 2016, 978 0 300 22174 9
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... in support of this definition seem to tell a different story. They include a letter of 1829 by Charles Lamb, in which he speaks of ‘true broad Hogarthian fun’, and an essay by Carlyle of 1837: ‘There is nothing more Hogarthian comic.’ Next comes Swinburne, fifty years later, speaking of ‘an excellent Hogarthian comedy, full of rapid and vivid ...

The Price

Dan Jacobson: The concluding part of Dan Jacobson’s interview with Ian Hamilton, 21 February 2002

... kept aside some money for this counter-Encounter, not a great deal, but it was just lying there. Charles Osborne, who was literature director of the Council at that point, saw no reason why, if I reinvented the Review as a new monthly magazine, that money – I think about £20,000 – couldn’t go to launch one issue of it. And that’s how the New ...


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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... who can keep going longest. But it does. That is one of the clear lessons from the first volume of Charles Moore’s exhaustive and exhausting authorised biography of Margaret Thatcher, which takes the story up to the Falklands War in 1982. The person on display here is not more intelligent than her rivals, or more principled. She chops and changes as much as ...

Rug Time

Jonathan Steinberg, 20 October 1983

Kissinger: The Price of Power 
by Seymour Hersh.
Faber, 699 pp., £15, October 1983, 0 571 13175 1
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... clear. Watergate fans will recognise the old cast of characters, those almost-forgotten names – Charles Colson, David Young, Egil ‘Bud’ Krogh – and there is pleasure in this: a bit like watching an old horror film on late-night TV. Yet on that level Mr Hersh is not exciting. We know the Watergate story from every angle and, by now, from the memoirs of ...

The Road to Chandrapore

Eric Stokes, 17 April 1980

Race, Sex and Class under the Raj: Imperial Attitudes and Policies and their Critics 
by Kenneth Ballhatchet.
Weidenfeld, 199 pp., £9.50, January 1980, 0 297 77646 0
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Queen Victoria’s Maharajah: Duleep Singh 1838-1898 
by Michael Alexander and Sushila Anand.
Weidenfeld, 326 pp., £9.95, February 1980, 0 297 77656 8
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... the Mutiny had consorted perfectly readily with Europeans keeping Indian mistresses, like Sir Charles Metcalfe, or Indian wives, like General Wheeler of Cawnpore fame, had now to bow before the dictates of sexual apartheid. It was a sign of the power stucture under threat and in the first stages of decline. Even so, there were remarkable ...

What was it that drove him?

David Runciman: Gordon Brown, 4 January 2018

My Life, Our Times 
by Gordon Brown.
Bodley Head, 512 pp., £25, November 2017, 978 1 84792 497 1
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... over his lifetime is ‘the scale and speed of the collapse in religious adherence’. He quotes Charles Taylor, who argues that we now live in a world where ‘faith, even for the staunchest believer, is one human possibility among others.’ Brown also cites with approval John Rawls’s notion of the ‘overlapping consensus’. He summarises it as ...

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