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When the going gets weird

A. Craig Copetas, 19 December 1991

Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream 
by Hunter S. Thompson.
Picador, 316 pp., £15.95, October 1991, 0 330 31994 9
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... the most prophetic warning I’ve heard about the closing decades of the 20th century: ‘Jesus, Craig, we’re all going to die or be indicted now!’ By the time Ronald Reagan entered his second term, I’d been out of America for nearly four years, writing about events taking place in Europe and points East from the relative safety of the foreign ...

Keith Middlemas on the history of Ireland

Keith Middlemas, 22 January 1981

Ireland: Land of Troubles 
by Paul Johnson.
Eyre Methuen, 224 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 413 47650 2
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Acts of Union 
by Anthony Bailey.
Faber, 221 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 571 11648 5
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Neighbours 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Faber, 96 pp., £2.95, November 1980, 0 571 11645 0
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Ireland: A History 
by Robert Kee.
Weidenfeld, 256 pp., £9.95, December 1980, 0 297 77855 2
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... Even for Gladstone’s Liberal colleagues (though not for him), and for Elizabeth I or Lloyd George, they were a costly and debilitating diversion from more important matters. But except in the late 18th century, Ireland denied its administrators, even full-time, well-meaning ones, the illusion that overrule would be acceptable if only it provided ...

Diary

Tom Paulin: In Donegal, 8 October 1992

... to her excellent – indeed seminal and unprecedented – anthology of Ulster prose,* Patricia Craig remarks that for her collection Northern Ireland is to be regarded as ‘a geographical rather than a political entity; it consists of seven counties, not the partitioned six or the historic nine. Donegal seems to be inescapably part of the ...

Decorations and Contingencies

John Bayley, 16 September 1982

Pea Soup 
by Christopher Reid.
Oxford, 65 pp., £4.50, September 1982, 0 19 211952 4
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... deal of medium. In the hands of brilliant performers such as Christopher Reid, John Fuller or Craig Raine, the results can be extremely variegated and highly satisfying. It is of course misleading to put such names together – they are as different from each other as from any other poets writing today – and yet there is a recognisable similarity in ...

Unbosoming

Peter Barham: Madness in the nineteenth century, 17 August 2006

Madness at Home: The Psychiatrist, the Patient and the Family in England 1820-60 
by Akihito Suzuki.
California, 260 pp., £32.50, March 2006, 0 520 24580 6
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... was one of the cases that proved to be the undoing of the well-known alienist and self-publicist George Man Burrows (who had quite a stock of delusions of his own, among them that he could smell madness and detect a ‘maniacal odour’). He was given a keelhauling in the press for his arrogance and disregard for the liberty of the subject, and the term ...

Bang-Bang, Kiss-Kiss

Christian Lorentzen: Bond, 3 December 2015

Spectre 
directed by Sam Mendes.
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The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters 
edited by Fergus Fleming.
Bloomsbury, 391 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6547 7
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Ian Fleming: A Personal Memoir 
by Robert Harling.
Robson, 372 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 84 95493 65 1
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... About​ two thirds of the way into Spectre, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is tied to a chair in the desert crater headquarters of Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), the head of Spectre and by coincidence both the son and the murderer of a man who took the young Bond under his wing. Oberhauser is operating a contraption that threatens to deprive Bond of his facial recognition abilities by driving a pair of pins into the sides of his skull – a painful operation in its initial stages, as indicated by Craig’s grimacing and an uncontained scream ...

Everybody

Craig Raine, 3 February 1983

Confessions of an Actor 
by Laurence Olivier.
Weidenfeld, 305 pp., £9.95, October 1982, 0 297 78106 5
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... of his life, his surroundings improved – less of Noel Coward’s chic, as it were, and more of George Devine’s scruff. The glamorous world at which he had originally aimed didn’t really suit him anyway. When he has supper with Winston Churchill, the occasion is one of Pooterish maladroitness: As we three turned to seat ourselves again, I fancied I ...

Comprehensible Disorders

David Craig, 3 September 1987

Before the oil ran out: Britain 1977-86 
by Ian Jack.
Secker, 271 pp., £9.95, June 1987, 0 436 22020 2
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In a Distant Isle: The Orkney Background of Edwin Muir 
by George Marshall.
Scottish Academic Press, 184 pp., £12.50, May 1987, 0 7073 0469 5
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... a peculiarly heart-sore quality. We call our migrations ‘exile’ (a chapter-heading in George Marshall’s lucid and thorough study of Edwin Muir’s native culture), although the individual choice is usually our own. As Stevenson wrote in The Silverado Squatters, ‘I do not know if I desire to live there, but let me hear in some far land a ...

Dykes, Drongs, Sarns, Snickets

David Craig: Walking England, 20 December 2012

The English Lakes: A History 
by Ian Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £16.99, March 2012, 978 1 4088 0958 7
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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot 
by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 432 pp., £20, June 2012, 978 0 241 14381 0
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... or those who walk for the sake of the experience. Wordsworth and Coleridge did this, and so did George Borrow, who captivated Victorian readers with his tales of Spain and Wales. In our own time, Patrick Leigh Fermor walked from the Hook of Holland to the Balkans in the 1930s and Rory Stewart (and dog) walked through Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath ...

Like a boll weevil to a cotton bud

A. Craig Copetas, 18 November 1993

New York Days 
by Willie Morris.
Little, Brown, 400 pp., £19.45, September 1993, 0 316 58421 5
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... to the future. We knew this was happening, too. We just didn’t want to believe pollster George Gallup’s 1968 statistics that found the political views of voters between the ages of 21 and 29 no different from the views of those aged 30 to 49. ‘A lot of this talk about this group’s being a maverick generation must be considered ...

Under-the-Table-Talk

Christopher Tayler: Beckett’s Letters, 19 March 2015

Letters of Samuel Beckett: 1957-65 
by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn and Lois More Overbeck.
Cambridge, 771 pp., £30, September 2014, 978 0 521 86795 5
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... MAN: It’s hard to imagine you with tired eyes, mademoiselle. Perhaps you don’t know, but you have very beautiful eyes. GIRL: They will be beautiful, monsieur, when the time comes … I’ll put up with whatever is necessary. And after my eyes have been beautiful, they’ll grow dim, as everyone else’s do. The French​ originals of these lines went out on Paris National Radio on 12 January 1957 in a broadcast of Le Square, adapted by Marguerite Duras from her novel of the same name ...

Who’s Got the Moxie?

A. Craig Copetas, 23 March 1995

The Mexican Tree Duck 
by James Crumley.
Picador, 247 pp., £15.99, May 1994, 0 330 32451 9
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One to Count Cadence 
by James Crumley.
Picador, 338 pp., £5.99, May 1994, 0 330 32450 0
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... of the North Country has encouraged an utter lack of neurological activity. The warrior General George Armstrong Custer, a florid diarist before Crazy Horse cut short his writing career, was perhaps the first disowned American hero to find this out, on the rolling slopes of the Little Big Horn. Ernest Hemingway abandoned Africa to scatter his fame across ...

Family Romances

Anthony Thwaite, 2 February 1989

A Little Stranger 
by Candia McWilliam.
Bloomsbury, 135 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 9780747502791
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Running wild 
by J.G. Ballard.
Hutchinson, 72 pp., £5.95, November 1988, 0 09 173498 3
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Breathing Lessons 
by Anne Tyler.
Chatto, 327 pp., £11.95, January 1989, 0 7011 3391 0
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... like that of a very clever student who had been nourished on a forced diet of John Cleveland, George Barker (The Dead Seagull) and Craig Raine, and who had once heard the plot of a novel by Iris Murdoch. The novel’s characters were indeed Romantic, if by that one means ...

Hormone Wars

A. Craig Copetas, 23 April 1992

Crazy Cock 
by Henry Miller.
HarperCollins, 202 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 0 00 223943 4
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The Happiest Man Alive 
by Mary Dearborn.
HarperCollins, 368 pp., £18.50, July 1991, 0 00 215172 3
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... Coupole’. ‘Henry’s gravelly voice let everyone immediately know that he was an American,’ George Whitman, the owner of the Shakespeare Bookshop in Paris, recently recalled. He never turned into one of those phoney American artists around town. Henry was a native American first, although he considered American air-conditioning a nightmare. He never ...

I’m a Surfer

Steven Shapin: What’s the Genome Worth?, 20 March 2008

A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life 
by Craig Venter.
Allen Lane, 390 pp., £25, October 2007, 978 0 7139 9724 8
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... but if the cards fell in the right way, it wouldn’t be a Buick you were driving but a Bentley. Craig Venter’s career – he was born in 1946 – tracks these historical changes. The route he followed to a scientific vocation was as personally circuitous as it was structurally perspicuous. An adolescent bored with school, he muddled part of the way ...

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