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The Mourning Paper

David Simpson: On war and showing pictures of the dead, 20 May 2004

... were those of the now dead – along with a photo of a British coffin being unloaded at RAF Brize Norton. The Times’s running headnote, ‘A Nation at War’, echoed ‘A Nation under Attack’, which ran in the days after 9/11. In between was the eerie iconographic emptiness of Afghanistan, now largely forgotten. The war has been about the control of ...

Do your homework

David Runciman: What’s Wrong with Theresa May, 16 March 2017

Theresa May: The Enigmatic Prime Minister 
by Rosa Prince.
Biteback, 402 pp., £20, February 2017, 978 1 78590 145 4
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... This​ is a dry and dutiful book which reads like a ghost story. The person being haunted is David Cameron. Theresa May grew up in a Cotswolds village called Church Enstone, where her father was vicar for much of the 1960s. The vicarage is within five miles of what became Cameron’s constituency home when he was MP for Witney and is roughly the same distance from what is now Soho Farmhouse, a members’ club, a little piece of the metropolis that is a haven for the Chipping Norton set ...

Out of the house

Dinah Birch, 30 August 1990

The Sign of Angellica: Women, Writing and Fiction, 1660-1800 
by Janet Todd.
Virago, 328 pp., £12.99, April 1989, 0 86068 576 4
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Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian Britain 
by Mary Poovey.
Virago, 282 pp., £12.99, February 1989, 1 85381 035 5
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The Woman Question. Society and Literature In Britain and America, 1837-1883: Vols I-III 
edited by Elizabeth Helsinger, Robin Lauterbach Sheets and William Veeder.
Chicago, 146 pp., £7.95, February 1989, 0 226 32666 7
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Sexual Science: The Victorian Construction of Womanhood 
by Cynthia Eagle Russett.
Harvard, 245 pp., £15.95, June 1989, 9780674802902
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... perspectives represented by Henry Fielding. Henry’s sister Sarah, whose novel The Adventures of David Simple is examined in detail here, demonstrates the power of the vision of sensibility which culminated in Richardson’s Clarissa. It was a double-edged rule, bound up with the perverse gratifications of misery. Virtue could be revered only as long as it ...

God wielded the buzzer

Christian Lorentzen: The Sorrows of DFW, 11 October 2012

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace 
by D.T. Max.
Granta, 352 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 84708 494 1
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... David Foster Wallace’s parents, Sally and Jim, were the sort of couple who read each other Ulysses in bed while holding hands. Jim read David and his younger sister Amy Moby-Dick as a bedtime story. It wasn’t inevitable that the boy would grow up to write an epic novel, but it wasn’t accidental ...

Top People

Luke Hughes: The ghosts of Everest, 20 July 2000

Ghosts of Everest: The Authorised Story of the Search for Mallory & Irvine 
by Jochen Hemmleb and Larry Johnson.
Macmillan, 206 pp., £20, October 1999, 9780333783146
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Lost on Everest: The Search for Mallory and Irvine 
by Peter Firstbrook.
BBC, 244 pp., £16.99, September 1999, 0 563 55129 1
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The Last Climb: The Legendary Everest Expeditions of George Mallory 
by David Breashears and Audrey Salkeld.
National Geographic, 240 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 7922 7538 1
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... the effects of exposure and altitude demand either strong climbing instincts or what Colonel Norton, the leader of the 1924 expedition who got within 1000ft of the summit without oxygen, described as ‘PBS – pure, bloody sweat’. So what of the case for Mallory and Irvine having made it to the top? Before last year, this was unproven (but by no means ...

Happy Knack

Ian Sansom: Betjeman, 20 February 2003

John Betjeman: New Fame, New Love 
by Bevis Hillier.
Murray, 736 pp., £25, November 2002, 0 7195 5002 5
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... he was 45 and she was 25. Cavendish was the daughter of the Duke of Devonshire, a cousin of Lord David Cecil, et cetera, and became a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret – the next best thing, perhaps, to Betjeman bagging a royal. His relationship with Cavendish was clearly one of the most important in his life, but the reader is left to infer from ...

No Shortage of Cousins

David Trotter: Bowenology, 12 August 2021

Selected Stories 
by Elizabeth Bowen, edited by Tessa Hadley.
Vintage, 320 pp., £14.99, April, 978 1 78487 715 6
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The Hotel 
by Elizabeth Bowen.
Anchor, 256 pp., $16, August 2020, 978 0 593 08065 8
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Friends and Relations 
by Elizabeth Bowen.
Anchor, 224 pp., $16, August 2020, 978 0 593 08067 2
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... modelled on Bowen’s Court. Summer season guests come and go. Among them is the forceful Marda Norton, in whom Lois eagerly confides. ‘I like to be related; to have to be what I am,’ Lois explains. ‘Just to be is so intransitive, so lonely.’ To become transitive is what Bowen’s protagonists most want. Marda reckons that Lois will enjoy marriage ...
Exploding English: Criticism, Theory, Culture 
by Bernard Bergonzi.
Oxford, 240 pp., £25, February 1990, 0 19 812852 5
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Professing Literature: An Institutional History 
by Gerald Graff.
Chicago, 315 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 226 30604 6
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... had ‘already given wide currency to not fewer than 125 separate texts’. Another referee, David Masson, wrote that, ‘by his own unaided exertions’, Arber had ‘accomplished labours of editing and reprinting, such as might have tasked the united efforts of several Publishing Societies’. A surprising number of minor works are still only easily ...

Father and Son

Tony Gould, 23 June 1988

When the fighting is over: A Personal Story of the Battle for Tumbledown Mountain and its Aftermath 
by John Lawrence and Robert Lawrence.
Bloomsbury, 196 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 7475 0174 2
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Tumbledown 
by Charles Wood.
Penguin, 80 pp., £3.95, April 1988, 0 14 011198 0
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... welcome. But the hero’s welcome was missing. The walking wounded were greeted at RAF Brize Norton by their families, the press and TV cameras: but the more seriously injured, the badly burned and maimed, were kept out of sight – even their families were not permitted to see them until they were safely out of camera range in the RAF hospital at ...

Down with DWEMs

John Sutherland, 15 August 1991

ProfScam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education 
by Charles Sykes.
St Martin’s, 304 pp., $9.95, December 1989, 0 312 03916 6
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Tenured Redicals: How politics has corrupted our Higher Education 
by Roger Kimball.
HarperCollins, 222 pp., $9.95, April 1991, 0 06 092049 1
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... section of Tenured Radicals to the de Man affair, as an academic cover-up of Watergate dimensions. David Lehman’s Signs of the Times – reviewed here not long ago by Claude Rawson – is a narrative and meditation on the same subject. The tone is less enjoyably sarcastic than Kimball’s, but Lehman too is convinced that the de Man case is symptomatic of a ...

Last in the Funhouse

Patrick Parrinder, 17 April 1986

Gerald’s Party 
by Robert Coover.
Heinemann, 316 pp., £10.95, April 1986, 0 434 14290 5
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Caracole 
by Edmund White.
Picador, 342 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 330 29291 9
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Lake Wobegon Days 
by Garrison Keillor.
Faber, 337 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 571 13846 2
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In Country 
by Bobbie Ann Mason.
Chatto, 245 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 7011 3034 2
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... States, thanks to the inclusion of a short story of his, ‘The Babysitter’, in the appropriate Norton anthology. (I have taught it myself, and it is splendid seminar material.) The principal characters of ‘The Babysitter’ are a married couple going out to an evening party, their children, the babysitter, Jack (her boyfriend) and Jack’s buddy ...

Mingling Freely at the Mermaid

Blair Worden: 17th-century poets and politics, 6 November 2003

The Crisis of 1614 and the Addled Parliament: Literary and Historical Perspectives 
edited by Stephen Clucas and Rosalind Davies.
Ashgate, 213 pp., £45, November 2003, 0 7546 0681 3
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The Politics of Court Scandal in Early Modern England: News Culture and the Overbury Affair 1603-60 
by Alastair Bellany.
Cambridge, 312 pp., £45, January 2002, 0 521 78289 9
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... to Elizabeth which repeated the language of the play and which one of its authors, the MP Thomas Norton, was delegated to read to her. The second episode produced the meditations on tyranny and misgovernment in Sidney’s Arcadia and Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calender and Mother Hubberds Tale. Michelle O’Callaghan’s essay in The Crisis of 1614 ...

The Last Years of Edward Kelley, Alchemist to the Emperor

Charles Nicholl: Edward Kelly, 19 April 2001

... April 1583, when Dee first refers to Kelley’s wife. She was Joan Cooper (or Cowper) of Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire; her age was 19. Things did not start well. In early July Kelley rants: ‘I cannot abide my wife, I love her not, nay I abhor her.’ Dee describes him as ‘marvellously out of quiet against his wife’ and says certain friends of hers have ...

The Tangible Page

Leah Price: Books as Things, 31 October 2002

The Book History Reader 
edited by David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery.
Routledge, 390 pp., £17.99, November 2001, 0 415 22658 9
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Making Meaning: ‘Printers of the Mind’ and Other Essays 
by D.F. McKenzie, edited by Peter D. McDonald and Michael F. Suarez.
Massachusetts, 296 pp., £20.95, June 2002, 1 55849 336 0
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... in The Book History Reader, Roger Chartier and D.F. McKenzie, can be found on none of the new Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism’s several thousand pages. Perhaps this is as it should be; to call book history a theory would be to read it against the grain. For many literary critics a decade ago, the study of texts’ production, circulation, and ...

Politics and the Prophet

Malise Ruthven, 1 August 1996

Lords of the Lebanese Marches: Violence and Narrative in an Arab Society 
by Michael Gilsenan.
Tauris, 377 pp., £14.95, February 1996, 1 85043 099 3
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The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World 
edited by John L. Esposito.
Oxford, 480 pp., £295, June 1995, 0 19 506613 8
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Unfolding Islam 
by P.J. Stewart.
Garnet, 268 pp., £25, February 1995, 9780863721946
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Islam and the Myth of Confrontation: Religion and Politics in the Middle East 
by Fred Halliday.
Tauris, 256 pp., £35, January 1996, 1 86064 004 4
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... holy war, human rights and the status of women. In his entry on Terrorism, Augustus Richard Norton argues that the ‘deliberate and random uses of violence for political ends against protected (i.e. non-combatant) groups’ has historic roots in the Middle East, but is far from being exclusive to one confession. He maintains that the first modern act ...

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