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Sticktoitiveness

John Sutherland, 8 June 1995

Empire of Words: The Reign of the ‘OED’ 
by John Willinsky.
Princeton, 258 pp., £19.95, November 1994, 0 691 03719 1
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... nationalist (hence the pre-eminence, as cited sources, of Shakespeare, laureate of England, and Scott, laureate of the Union), and chauvinistically masculine. Jesperson’s luckless observation that ‘the English language seems positively and expressly masculine, it is the language of a grown-up man and has very little childish or feminine about it’ is ...

Out of the jiffybag

Frank Kermode, 12 November 1987

For Love and Money: Writing, Reading, Travelling 1969-1987 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins Harvill, 350 pp., £11.50, November 1987, 0 00 272279 8
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Original Copy: Selected Reviews and Journalism 1969-1986 
by John Carey.
Faber, 278 pp., £9.95, August 1987, 0 571 14879 4
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... by authors who save their best efforts for quite different sorts of writing. They may, as Jonathan Raban’s title suggests, be working for love as well as money, and it is easy to understand their wish to give their best work in this kind a more permanent form. Raban has some engaging remarks on this subject. As he says, very few people can now make ...

Ink-Dot Eyes

Wyatt Mason: Jonathan Franzen, 2 August 2007

The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History 
by Jonathan Franzen.
Harper Perennial, 195 pp., £8.99, July 2007, 978 0 00 723425 7
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... an obscene self-congratulation for the virtue required to see your mistake and own up to it?’ Jonathan Franzen’s memoir, The Discomfort Zone, is an object lesson in the management of such obscenity. The book begins with a loss. After lengthy treatment for colon cancer, his widowed mother, Irene, has died. The youngest of three brothers who’ve fled the ...

Take your pick

James C. Scott: Cataclysm v. Capitalism, 19 October 2017

The Great Leveller: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the 21st Century 
by Walter Scheidel.
Princeton, 504 pp., £27.95, February 2017, 978 0 691 16502 8
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... will be a lower Gini coefficient, improving the country’s standing in the league tables. Had Jonathan Swift’s ‘Modest Proposal’ for dealing with the excess population of Ireland been realised it would have greatly improved Ireland’s Gini coefficient. What might we want to know that Scheidel’s analysis can’t tell us? For one thing, it seems ...
Modernity and Identity 
edited by Scott Lash and Jonathan Friedman.
Blackwell, 448 pp., £45, January 1992, 0 631 17585 7
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Fundamentalisms Observed 
edited by Martin Marty and Scott Appleby.
Chicago, 872 pp., $40, November 1991, 0 226 50877 3
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The Post-Modern and the Post-Industrial 
by Margaret Rose.
Cambridge, 317 pp., £35, July 1991, 0 521 40131 3
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Under God: Religion and American Politics 
by Garry Wills.
Simon and Schuster, 445 pp., £17.99, February 1992, 0 671 65705 4
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... in Margaret Rose’s unambitious but informative summary of the literature on post-modernism. Jonathan Friedman, in Modernity and Identity, allows that the reassertion of traditional religious values may be one of a number of cultural strategies adopted as modernism declines; but, in general, the existence of fundamentalism does not impinge on observers ...

The Cookson Story

Stefan Collini: The British Working Class, 13 December 2001

The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes 
by Jonathan Rose.
Yale, 534 pp., £29.95, June 2001, 0 300 08886 8
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... at least the middle of the 20th century. Can there be a proper history of working-class reading? Jonathan Rose believes that there can be, and after five hundred pages, 24 tables and more than 1600 footnotes it’s clear he has a point. His introduction (still more the publisher’s blurb) makes much of the book’s ‘innovative research techniques’, the ...

Showboating

John Upton: George Carman, 9 May 2002

No Ordinary Man: A Life of George Carman 
by Dominic Carman.
Hodder, 331 pp., £18.99, January 2002, 0 340 82098 5
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... urbane Old Etonian leader of the Liberal Party, had been accused of conspiring to murder Norman Scott, a former male model and Thorpe’s sometime lover, who had become a danger to his reputation and career. In the event the only victim was Scott’s great Dane, Rinka, shot dead on Exmoor by a hired hitman (a former ...

Ediepus

Michael Neve, 18 November 1982

Edie: An American Biography 
by Jean Stein and George Plimpton.
Cape, 455 pp., £9.95, October 1982, 0 224 02068 4
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Baby Driver: A Story About Myself 
by Jan Kerouac.
Deutsch, 208 pp., £7.95, August 1982, 0 233 97487 3
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... in the town: a gloomy Puritan history lingers, a trace, perhaps, of the ferocious Calvinist divine Jonathan Edwards. There is also the eerie emptiness of nature in New England, the dark, wooded landscape that seems hollow, and menacing, without a history. Even the streets of Stockbridge seem empty. No one is around. They are, no doubt, in their cars, and ...

Too Glorious for Words

Bernard Porter: Lawrence in Arabia, 3 April 2014

Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East 
by Scott Anderson.
Atlantic, 592 pp., £25, March 2014, 978 1 78239 199 9
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... acting deliberately against the interests and wishes of his British imperial superiors, even – Scott Anderson suggests – to the point of treason. (When George V tried to decorate him after the war, he handed all the medals back on the spot.) He was also very much against European cultural imperialism, genuinely – so far as we can tell – preferring ...

It took a Scot

Colin Kidd: English Nationalism, 30 July 2015

The Formation of the English Kingdom in the Tenth Century 
by George Molyneaux.
Oxford, 302 pp., £65, May 2015, 978 0 19 871791 1
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The English and Their History 
by Robert Tombs.
Allen Lane, 1012 pp., £14.99, June 2015, 978 0 14 103165 1
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Conquests, Catastrophe and Recovery: Britain and Ireland 1066-1485 
by John Gillingham.
Vintage, 345 pp., £10.99, October 2014, 978 0 09 956324 2
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From Restoration to Reform: The British Isles 1660-1832 
by Jonathan Clark.
Vintage, 364 pp., £10.99, October 2014, 978 0 09 956323 5
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Britain since 1900: A Success Story? 
by Robert Skidelsky.
Vintage, 472 pp., £10.99, October 2014, 978 0 09 957239 8
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... half a millennium later provided the matter for the great novel of English ethnogenesis, Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe (1819). It took a 19th-century Scot to contemplate 12th-century England; and Scott himself was probably using the Saxon-Norman encounter as a device for exploring Anglo-Scottish acculturation since the Union ...

The Amazing …

Jonathan Lethem: My Spidey, 6 June 2002

Spider-Man 
directed by Sam Raimi.
May 2002
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... and seamless plastic, and go lengths to prove things we don’t need or even want proven. As A.O. Scott has written, the impulse to knit together improbable, breakneck, still-photographic comic book panels into a flow of smoothly animated movement is a self-defeating one. The real evocation and mystery inherent in the comic form is found in the white lines of ...

Nae new ideas, nae worries!

Jonathan Coe: Alasdair Gray, 20 November 2008

Old Men in Love: John Tunnock’s Posthumous Papers 
by Alasdair Gray.
Bloomsbury, 311 pp., £20, October 2007, 978 0 7475 9353 9
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Alasdair Gray: A Secretary’s Biography 
by Rodge Glass.
Bloomsbury, 341 pp., £25, September 2008, 978 0 7475 9015 6
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... case for drugs to be decriminalised, the need for Scottish independence and the novels of Walter Scott. These passages are invigorating not because of the originality of the insights, but because of the unanswerable plainness with which Gray voices them. At one point Tunnock finds himself wakened from a ‘dream of a Scottish Pope being Fascist ...

Baffled Traveller

Jonathan Rée: Hegel, 30 November 2000

Hegel: An Intellectual Biography 
by Horst Althaus, translated by Michael Tarsh.
Polity, 292 pp., £45, May 2000, 0 7456 1781 6
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Hegel: Biographie 
by Jacques D'Hondt.
Calmann-Lévy, 424 pp., frs 150, October 1998, 2 7021 2919 6
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... He regarded the restoration of the French monarchy as a ‘farce’, and was disgusted by Walter Scott’s Life of Napoleon. (Scott was ‘arrogant’ and ‘insipid’, Hegel wrote: ‘unacquainted with the characteristic principles that distinguish the essence of the Revolution and give them their almost immeasurable ...

Mr Trendy Sicko

James Wolcott, 23 May 2019

White 
by Brett Easton Ellis.
Picador, 261 pp., £16.99, May 2019, 978 1 5290 1239 2
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... their divergences became more evident. McInerney achingly, almost poignantly, longed for the F. Scott Fitzgerald doomed glamour of extravagance and careless waste, raptures of the deep followed by hangovers of the damned. McInerney, you felt, craved critical and collegial approval, the respect of his peers and elders (he and Norman Mailer became friends), a ...

Gobsmacked

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare, 16 July 1998

Lyric Wonder: Rhetoric and Wit in Renaissance English Poetry 
by James Biester.
Cornell, 226 pp., £31.50, May 1997, 0 8014 3313 4
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Reason Diminished: Shakespeare and the Marvellous 
by Peter Platt.
Nebraska, 271 pp., £42.75, January 1998, 0 8032 3714 6
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Shakespeare and the Theatre of Wonder 
by T.G. Bishop.
Cambridge, 222 pp., £32.50, January 1996, 0 521 55086 6
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The Genius of Shakespeare 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 386 pp., £20, September 1997, 0 330 35317 9
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... the key to Renaissance courtly poetry in its strategies for eliciting astonishment. Back home, Jonathan Bate is gobsmacked by the sheer Genius of Shakespeare. It’s perhaps as well to remember that in cooler moments Jonson complained that ‘Shakespeare wanted Art’ and Milton berated Charles I for preferring the Bard to more serious ...

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