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Redeemable Bad Guy

Ian Hamilton: Rabbit and Zooey, 2 April 1998

Toward the End of Time 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 334 pp., £16.99, February 1998, 0 241 13862 0
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Golf Dreams 
by John Updike.
Penguin, 224 pp., £6.99, February 1998, 0 14 026156 7
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... as we know him from his highly civilised and sociable non-fiction persona, is not at all like Harry Angstrom. (There is, of course, the golf, but Harry doesn’t really like golf, or gets to like it less and less. He’s in the golf club for its small-town social clout and for the chances it affords him for sizing up ...

Iniquity in Romford

Bernard Porter: Black Market Britain, 23 May 2013

Black Market Britain 1939-55 
by Mark Roodhouse.
Oxford, 276 pp., £65, March 2013, 978 0 19 958845 9
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... himself. So did Lady Astor, Lord Donegall and the army’s provost marshal, no less. It was a smart move by the authorities to target these figures. It was smart, too (though not mentioned here), to make such a play of the king’s and Churchill’s strict adherence to food rationing; though in Churchill’s case this ...


Christopher Hitchens: Reagan and Rambo, 3 October 1985

... of it, he gurgled: ‘Make my day!’ But comparisons between his style and that of Dirty Harry are daily discouraged by a pained, overworked White House press office. The apotheosis of all this (‘Where’s the Rest of Me?’ ‘Let’s Win This One for the Gipper!’) came, Rogin believes, in 1981. ‘To confirm the President’s faith in the power ...

Populist Palatial

Rosemary Hill: The View from Piccadilly, 4 March 2021

London’s West End: Creating the Pleasure District, 1800-1914 
by Rohan McWilliam.
Oxford, 400 pp., £30, September 2020, 978 0 19 882341 4
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Survey of London: Volume 53, Oxford Street 
edited by Andrew Saint.
Paul Mellon Centre, 421 pp., £75, April 2020, 978 1 913107 08 6
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... In fact, they were merely operating on different principles. Selfridges escaped unscathed because Harry Gordon Selfridge was known to be in favour of the vote.Much of McWilliam’s book is devoted to the theatres, always the beating heart of the West End, the brightest of the bright lights. At the beginning of his account only the patent theatres, principally ...

All I Can Stand

Thomas Powers: Joseph Mitchell, 18 June 2015

Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Thomas Kunkel.
Random House, 384 pp., £22.50, April 2015, 978 0 375 50890 5
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... in the manner of James Joyce whom Mitchell admired above all other moderns; a life and times of a smart and funny woman who hung out with New Yorker writers and married one of them; a big personality piece about an Italian carter named Joe Cantalupo who was a fixture of the Fulton Fish Market, subject of some of Mitchell’s best writing. Mitchell took all ...

Blowing Cigarette Smoke at Greenfly

E.S. Turner: The Beastliness of Saki, 24 August 2000

The Unrest-Cure and Other Beastly Tales 
by Saki.
Prion, 297 pp., £8.99, May 2000, 9781853753701
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... or being hurled with one’s twin from a cliff to see who would reach the bottom first (Captain Harry Graham). Saki, though, was often on the child’s side; he recognised, too, that children loved tales of grown-ups meeting horrible ends. Will Self writes of the ‘pagan unease’ introduced by Saki into the tedium of those weekend country-house parties in ...

Francis and Vanessa

Peter Campbell, 15 March 1984

Francis Bacon 
by Michel Leiris, translated by John Weightman.
Phaidon, 271 pp., £50, September 1983, 0 7148 2218 3
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Vanessa Bell 
by Frances Spalding.
Weidenfeld, 399 pp., £12.95, August 1983, 0 297 78162 6
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The Omega Workshops 
by Judith Collins.
Secker, 310 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 436 10562 4
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The Omega Workshops 1913-1919: Decorative Arts of Bloomsbury 
Crafts Council, 96 pp., £6.95, March 1984, 0 903798 72 7Show More
The Omega Workshops: Alliance and Enmity in English Art 1911-1920 
Anthony d’Offay Gallery, 80 pp., £4.95, February 1984, 0 947564 00 4Show More
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... Taylor’s novel The Wedding Group, published in 1968, there is a grand old painter called Harry Bretton. He is modelled, I would guess, on Eric Gill, for the Life, and Stanley Spencer, for the Work. Musing by the studio window, he considers his place in history: Turner was the greatest English painter, and was safely dead, did not encroach or suggest ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... which vanquishes Condon and DeLillo while leaving spare capacity for the imagination. And here is Harry Hubbard, his outwardly insipid narrator. Hubbard is a white-collar type of CIA man, a ‘ghost’ writer of planted texts, who is vicariously thrilled by the knowledge that he is working with ruthless men. He meets his ‘other half’ of the Agency, Dix ...

Red makes wrong

Mark Ford: Harry Mathews, 20 March 2003

The Human Country: New and Collected Stories 
by Harry Mathews.
Dalkey Archive, 186 pp., £10.99, October 2002, 1 56478 321 9
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The Case of the Persevering Maltese: Collected Essays 
by Harry Mathews.
Dalkey Archive, 290 pp., £10.99, April 2003, 1 56478 288 3
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... OuLiPian author is a rat who himself builds the maze from which he sets out to escape.’ Harry Mathews is the only American member of the OuLiPo, to which he was introduced by Georges Perec in 1972. He soon invented what came to be known as ‘Mathews’s algorithm’, a formula for arranging material based on the principle of permutation first ...

Give Pot a Chance

Roy Porter, 8 June 1995

Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine 
by Lester Grinspoon, edited by James Bakalar.
Yale, 184 pp., £7.95, April 1995, 0 300 05994 9
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... with cannabis. As an illegal substance with unsavoury associations, it is the last thing any smart, careerist researcher would dream of testing, even were permission granted. Nor would it hold attractions for pharmaceutical companies since, as a plant growing freely worldwide, it would be impossible to patent. Hence, Grinspoon and Bakalar ...

What most I love I bite

Matthew Bevis: Stevie Smith, 28 July 2016

The Collected Poems and Drawings of Stevie Smith 
edited by Will May.
Faber, 806 pp., £35, October 2015, 978 0 571 31130 9
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... her. So in my time I have picked up a good many facts, Rather more than the people do who wear smart hats And I do not deceive because I am rather simple too And although I collect facts I do not always know what they amount to. This is so delightfully fast that one is wary of slowing it down. If you do, though, you start to sense just how quick-witted the ...

Lucky Brrm

John Sutherland, 12 March 1992

Brrm! Brrm! 
by Clive James.
Cape, 160 pp., £12.99, November 1991, 0 224 03226 7
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Saint Maybe 
by Anne Tyler.
Chatto, 337 pp., £14.99, October 1991, 0 7011 3787 8
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by Emma Tennant.
Faber, 140 pp., £12.99, March 1992, 9780571142637
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... Ian himself does not want to be noticed – or at least not by the kind of woman Anne Tyler is, a smart writer of books. The Accidental Tourist is built round an analogous idea – a travel writer who hates travelling, and whose guides supply a kind of damage control system for those forced into it against their wishes. Ian, we may say, is the accidental hero ...


Andrew O’Hagan: Grief and the Cameras, 3 December 2009

... one of the dead soldiers. They were standing outside the local bookshop, where The Last Veteran: Harry Patch and the Legacy of War was featured prominently, next to Leona: Dreams, a book of photographs of the singer who won The X Factor a few years ago. ‘It’s hard to know what to say on national television,’ one of the boys said. ‘It’s just such a ...

The dead are all around us

Hilary Mantel: Helen Duncan, 10 May 2001

Hellish Nell: Last of Britain’s Witches 
by Malcolm Gaskill.
Fourth Estate, 402 pp., £15.99, April 2001, 1 84115 109 2
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... give me credit for more than I can do.’ Her great mistake was her involvement with Harry Price, a ghost hunter, professional journalist and professional sceptic. Price liked to present himself as in pursuit of knowledge but was really, like so many in the spirit game, in pursuit of profit. In 1923 he had split off from the Society for Psychical ...


Andrew O’Hagan: Julian Assange, 6 March 2014

... president won the Pulitzer Prize? And are the science fiction stories H.P. Lovecraft ghosted for Harry Houdini not the best things he ever wrote? There would be a touch of all this in the strange case of Assange. But there is something else about the genre, a sense that the world might be more ghosted now than at any time in history. Isn’t Wikipedia ...

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