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Thomas Jones, 16 November 2017

Pinpoint: How GPS Is Changing Our World 
by Greg Milner.
Granta, 336 pp., £9.99, June 2017, 978 1 84708 709 6
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... influx of government cash. Within days of Sputnik’s launch in 1957, two young engineers at Johns Hopkins University were using the Russian satellite’s radio signal to plot and then predict its position. GPS came of age in the 1991 Gulf War. The US air force bought the first GPS-enabled missiles in 1988; new satellites were launched in 1989. There were ...

Footpaths

Tom Shippey, 26 July 1990

England and Englishness: Ideas of Nationhood in English Poetry, 1688-1900 
by John Lucas.
Hogarth, 227 pp., £18, February 1990, 0 7012 0892 9
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The Englishman’s England: Taste, Travel and the Rise of Tourism 
by Ian Ousby.
Cambridge, 244 pp., £45, February 1990, 0 521 37374 3
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Fleeting Things: English Poets and Poems, 1616-1660 
by Gerald Hammond.
Harvard, 394 pp., £24.95, March 1990, 0 674 30625 2
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... has produced a flourishing literature of poems about arguments about wood – ‘Goody Blake and Harry Gill’, but see also Harley MS 2253, ‘the wodeward waiteth us wo that loketh under rys’ – as of poems about enclosures and deserted villages and customary rights, or poems about felled poplars (Cowper), fallen elms (Clare) and goldengrove unleaving ...

Pink and Bare

Bee Wilson: Nicole Kidman, 8 February 2007

Nicole Kidman 
by David Thomson.
Bloomsbury, 311 pp., £18.99, September 2006, 0 7475 7710 2
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... that the people involved were in love.’ Ryan, by contrast, had not only faked her orgasm in When Harry Met Sally (1989) but had also taken a couple of turns opposite Tom Hanks in romantic comedies, at a time when Hanks was becoming the biggest male movie star in the world, and done a widely admired emote-a-thon as an alcoholic in When a Man Loves a Woman ...

Secrets are best kept by those who have no sense of humour

Alan Bennett: Why I turned down ‘Big Brother’, 2 January 2003

... when it eventually came back to Stonyhurst it must have been seen if not worn by Gerard Manley Hopkins, who taught there. A propos Henry VII, what happened between 1485 and 1500? How did bold Harry Tudor of Bosworth Field turn into the crabbed penny-pinching accountant that is his usual representation? 24 March. A film ...

Shapeshifter

Ian Penman: Elvis looks for meaning, 25 September 2014

Elvis Has Left the Building: The Day the King Died 
by Dylan Jones.
Duckworth, 307 pp., £16.99, July 2014, 978 0 7156 4856 8
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Elvis Presley: A Southern Life 
by Joel Williamson.
Oxford, 384 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 19 986317 4
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... saw just such buried qualities in Elvis, and later spelled it out for Presley’s biographer Jerry Hopkins: ‘There’s a cruelty involved, there’s a meanness, there’s a basic sadistic quality about what he does. He’s excited by certain kinds of violent things.’ The smiley glad-handing Elvis always exhibited in public when meeting people for the first ...

A Moustache Too Far

Danny Karlin: Melville goes under, 8 May 2003

Herman Melville: A Biography. Vol. II: 1851-91 
by Hershel Parker.
Johns Hopkins, 997 pp., £31, May 2002, 0 8018 6892 0
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... into the possession of a great-grandson of Augusta’s patron Stephen Van Renssalaer, mad Cousin Harry Crosby, the subject of Geoffrey Wolff’s Black Sun.) Why is Parker telling us all this? Because he can, because he knows it, because he thinks we should know it; and no editor at Johns Hopkins dared tell him ...

Tummy-Talkers

Jonathan Rée: Ventriloquists, 10 May 2001

Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism 
by Steven Connor.
Oxford, 449 pp., £25, November 2000, 0 19 818433 6
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... Bygraves (‘I’ve arrived … and to prove it, I’m here!’), Tony Hancock, Gilbert Harding, Harry Secombe, Beryl Reid, Bernard Miles and Hattie Jacques, not to mention the pre-teen Julie Andrews – without ever being upstaged. In performance he would always hit the spot. The secret of his extraordinary popularity was his voice. His high-pitched giggles ...

The Authentic Snarl

Blake Morrison: The Impudence of Tony Harrison, 30 November 2017

The Inky Digit of Defiance: Selected Prose 1966-2016 
by Tony Harrison, edited by Edith Hall.
Faber, 544 pp., £25, April 2017, 978 0 571 32503 0
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Collected Poems 
by Tony Harrison.
Penguin, 464 pp., £9.99, April 2016, 978 0 241 97435 3
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... became a poet’s a mystery.Wherever did you get your talent from?I say: I had two uncles, Joe and Harry –One was a stammerer, the other dumb.The stammering uncle worked as a printer, the other, a deaf mute, would flick through a dictionary to point to the word he would have wanted to say. For both, communication meant inky fingers: hence, in part, the ...

Life with Ms Cayenne Pepper

Jenny Turner: The Chthulucene, 1 June 2017

Manifestly Haraway: ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’, ‘The Companion Species Manifesto’, Companions in Conversation (with Cary Wolfe) 
by Donna Haraway.
Minnesota, 300 pp., £15.95, April 2016, 978 0 8166 5048 4
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Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene 
by Donna Haraway.
Duke, 312 pp., £22.99, August 2016, 978 0 8223 6224 1
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... a ‘coming together of understanding that I had been formed’. She’d just moved from Johns Hopkins to Santa Cruz and was working on her second book, Primate Visions (sample chapter: the unexamined misogyny of the psychologist Harry Harlow and his famous wire-monkey experiments, still uncritically cited by attachment ...

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