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What killed the Neanderthals?

Luke Mitchell, 8 May 2014

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History 
by Elizabeth Kolbert.
Bloomsbury, 336 pp., £12.99, February 2014, 978 1 4088 5122 7
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... French and Indian troops down the Ohio River when he came across a sulphurous marsh where, as Elizabeth Kolbert puts it, ‘hundreds – perhaps thousands – of huge bones poked out of the muck, like spars of a ruined ship.’ The captain and his soldiers had no idea what sort of creatures the bones had supported, whether any of their living kin were ...

Copying the coyote

Richard Poirier, 18 October 1984

The Principles of Psychology 
by William James, introduced by George Miller.
Harvard, 1302 pp., £14.95, December 1983, 0 674 70625 0
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A Stroll with William James 
by Jacques Barzun.
Chicago, 344 pp., £16, October 1983, 0 226 03865 3
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Becoming William James 
by Howard Feinstein.
Cornell, 377 pp., $24.95, May 1984, 0 8014 1617 5
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Essays in Psychology 
by William James, edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Fredson Bowers.
Harvard, 467 pp., £32, April 1984, 0 674 26714 1
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... When, in the summer of 1898, at the age of 56, William James went to Berkeley, California to deliver a series of lectures on pragmatism, he could have used his own life to illustrate the immensely difficult but successful application of one of its tenets: that truth is best seen as ‘what it is better for us to believe’, not as ‘as an accurate representation of reality’, and that what is better for us to believe is what can be ascertained only in and through our actions, not by consultation with fixed ideas or traditions or, notably in his case, by family example ...

Valorising Valentine Brown

Patricia Craig, 5 September 1985

Ascendancy and Tradition in Anglo-Irish Literary History from 1789 to 1939 
by W.J. McCormack.
Oxford, 423 pp., £27.50, June 1985, 0 19 812806 1
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Across a Roaring Hill 
edited by Gerald Dawe and Edna Longley.
Blackstaff, 258 pp., £10.95, July 1985, 0 85640 334 2
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Celtic Revivals: Essays in Modern Irish Literature 1880-1980 
by Seamus Deane.
Faber, 199 pp., £15, July 1985, 0 571 13500 5
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Escape from the Anthill 
by Hubert Butler.
Lilliput, 342 pp., £12, May 1985, 0 946640 00 9
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... century, labelling it ‘the one Irish century that escaped from darkness and confusion’. Swift, Berkeley, Burke, Goldsmith and Sheridan: all these stood for clarity of thought, while Dublin gaiety, Belfast liberalism, and the sense of national consequence acquired at Dungannon, all contributed something to the Yeatsian image of a mellow era. That this ...

Shee Spy

Michael Dobson, 8 May 1997

The Secret Life of Aphra Behn 
by Janet Todd.
Deutsch, 545 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 233 98991 9
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... much interest despite her probable charm). The Earl of Rochester tutors and seduces the actress Elizabeth Barry, poses as a mountebank and repents on his deathbed (without Behn’s verifiable friendship with this illustrious rake, Todd’s biography would be considerably shorter). Nell Gwyn, ‘probably’ introduced to Behn by Thomas Otway, calls herself ...

Britten when young

Frank Kermode, 29 August 1991

Letters from a Life: The Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten Vol. I 1923-39, Vol. II 1939-45 
edited by Donald Mitchell and Philip Reed.
Faber, 1403 pp., £75, June 1991, 9780571152216
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... his deepest feelings – for his rather alarming mother, for his American substitute mother Elizabeth Mayer, for his lover Pears – find gauche or commonplace expression. And a great many letters are, not surprisingly but also not thrillingly, about musical business, engagements, fees, commissions, permissions. Along the way, they do provide incidental ...

Cracker Culture

Ian Jackman, 7 September 2000

Irish America 
by Reginald Byron.
Oxford, 317 pp., £40, November 1999, 0 19 823355 8
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Remembering Ahanagran: Storytelling in a Family’s Past 
by Richard White.
Cork, 282 pp., IR£14.99, October 1999, 1 85918 232 1
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From the Sin-é Café to the Black Hills: Notes on the New Irish 
by Eamon Wall.
Wisconsin, 139 pp., $16.95, February 2000, 0 299 16724 0
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The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America 
edited by Michael Glazier.
Notre Dame, 988 pp., £58.50, August 1999, 0 268 02755 2
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... Irish pride and nationalism have always been magnified in the United States. In her autobiography, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the leader of the American Communist Party, described the attitudes of her Irish-born mother and American-born father: ‘Mama did not deny the faults or glorify the virtues of the Irish, as our father did. We were amused at this and often ...

Running out of Soil

Terry Eagleton: Bram Stoker and Irish Protestant Gothic, 2 December 2004

From the Shadow of Dracula: A Life of Bram Stoker 
by Paul Murray.
Cape, 356 pp., £18.99, July 2004, 0 224 04462 1
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... it – which is why, from the heretical medieval philosopher John Scottus Eriugena to Bishop Berkeley and W.B. Yeats, there is such a robust Irish faith in the imagination’s power to summon new worlds into existence. Philosophically, this suspicion of realism went hand in hand with a rejection of rationalism and materialism. If there is such an entity ...

Diary

James Buchan: My Hogs, 18 October 2001

... bred up into the Large White, ‘which slipped quietly and largely unnoticed into the Vale of Berkeley’. It is a beautiful picture, which you can believe if you like. Nowadays, the British Pig Association recognises 12 breeds: the Large and Middle Whites, the Tamworth, the Berkshire, British Saddlebacks, Chester Whites, Gloucester Old ...

Weimar in Partibus

Norman Stone, 1 July 1982

Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World 
by Elizabeth Young-Bruehl.
Yale, 563 pp., £12.95, May 1982, 0 300 02660 9
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Hannah Arendt and the Search for a New Political Philosophy 
by Bhikhu Parekh.
Macmillan, 198 pp., £20, October 1981, 0 333 30474 8
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... 1975, by Mary McCarthy, as The Life of the Mind. The question that crops up, unstated, throughout Elizabeth Young – Bruehl’s lengthy and thorough biography, and in Bhikhu Parekh’s Hannah Arendt Made Simple, is this: how much of the Sixties survives to the Eighties? She comes across, certainly, as a good egg. She looks out of the back cover of Dr ...

Too Much

Barbara Taylor: A history of masturbation, 6 May 2004

Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation 
by Thomas Laqueur.
Zone, 501 pp., £21.95, March 2003, 1 890951 32 3
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... moralists, come to be seen as the height of erotic depravity? Laqueur, who teaches at Berkeley, is the author of Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (1990), one of the most heavily cited and argued about books of the last few years. With the publication of this new work he’s become almost a celebrity, lecturing internationally ...

Places Never Explained

Colm Tóibín: Anthony Hecht, 8 August 2013

The Selected Letters of Anthony Hecht 
edited by Jonathan Post.
Johns Hopkins, 365 pp., £18, November 2012, 978 1 4214 0730 2
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... In January 1945, as she was preparing her collection North & South for publication, Elizabeth Bishop wrote to her publishers to say she was worried that she had written nothing about the war: The fact that none of these poems deal directly with the war, at a time when so much war poetry is being published, will, I am afraid, leave me open to reproach ...

All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides, 24 October 2019

Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... oh, definitely not Swift), as well as genuflections to the kaleidoscopic choreography of Busby Berkeley and the magnificent nothingness of ‘the great serious idol of Camp taste, Greta Garbo’), it was a tour de force that Partisan Review’s disputatious two-headed editorship was ambivalent about publishing (Phillips was in favour, Rahv against). The ...

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