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Tariq Ali: So much for England, 23 January 2020

... rejection of the referendum outcome at its bubble party conference last September did them in. John McDonnell was right to take the blame for the defeat. His insistence on a second referendum was a huge strategic blunder.Johnson’s first speech as prime minister, delivered to the cameras outside Downing Street, was lucid and effective. This was not the ...

Imbued … with Exigence

Christopher Tayler: Rachel Cusk, 22 September 2005

In the Fold 
by Rachel Cusk.
Faber, 224 pp., £10.99, September 2005, 0 571 22813 5
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... about – in the parlance of creative writing schools – what they “know”.’ She quotes John Gardner saying that ‘great writers tell the truth exactly – and get it right.’ But, she says, ‘for the modern British – more to the point, English – novelist, this notion of truth is a little obscured and inaccessible.’ Historical novels and ...

Dry Lands

Rebecca Solnit: The Water Problem, 3 December 2009

Dead Pool: Lake Powell, Global Warming and the Future of Water in the West 
by James Lawrence Powell.
California, 283 pp., £19.95, January 2010, 978 0 520 25477 0
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... and it is already running out. Water limitations were noticed from the beginning, when Major John Wesley Powell and his crew became the first white men to float down the Colorado. Powell’s 1875 Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons, an expansion of his magazine reports, is still in print. It is a gorgeous book about ...

Defence of the Housefly

Dinah Birch, 14 November 1996

Letters of Emma and Florence Hardy 
edited by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 364 pp., £45, April 1996, 0 19 818609 6
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... many literary callers – Edmund Blunden, E.M. Forster, Leonard and Virginia Woolf, H.G. Wells, Rebecca West, John Drink water – and Florence took an eager interest in their conversation. Quick to forget her own afflictions when she sensed greater distress, she did all she could to help Charlotte Mew, whom she pitied ...

Hooting

Edward Pearce, 22 October 1992

Beaverbrook 
by Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie.
Hutchinson, 589 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 09 173549 1
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... another high-toned writer, I started journalistic life on the Express, initially the Sunday in John Junor’s long days, then the Daily under Roy Wright. Beaverbrook had been dead by then for ten years. The amiable son, who touchingly refused the title in a spirit of unaffected and perhaps warranted humility, reigned rather than ruled in his place and was ...

Megawoman

Penelope Fitzgerald, 13 October 1988

Olive Schreiner: Letters. Vol. 1: 1871-1899 
edited by Richard Rive.
Oxford, 409 pp., £30, February 1988, 0 19 812220 9
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... Rebecca West said that Olive Schreiner was a ‘geographical fact’. Others were reminded of a natural force, admired and dreaded, unchecked by illness, war or poverty, something new coming out of Africa. To fit her into the history of South Africa, of literature or of women’s movements is an exhausting business ...

Dying and Not Dying

Cathy Gere: Henrietta Lacks, 10 June 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks 
by Rebecca Skloot.
Macmillan, 368 pp., £18.99, June 2010, 978 0 230 74869 9
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... long been aware that there is a human story behind HeLa’s blandly commercialised ubiquity; now Rebecca Skloot’s remarkable book has appeared to fill in all the details. The moniker ‘HeLa’ is derived from the name of a young African-American mother of five, whose agonising death in a Jim Crow era charity hospital gave rise to a quiet revolution in ...

Games-Playing

Patrick Parrinder, 7 August 1986

The Golden Gate 
by Vikram Seth.
Faber, 307 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13967 1
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The Haunted House 
by Rebecca Brown.
Picador, 139 pp., £8.95, June 1986, 0 330 29175 0
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Whole of a Morning Sky 
by Grace Nichols.
Virago, 156 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 86068 774 0
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The Piano Tuner 
by Peter Meinke.
Georgia, 156 pp., $13.95, June 1986, 0 8203 0844 7
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Tap City 
by Ron Abell.
Secker, 273 pp., £10.95, July 1986, 0 436 00025 3
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... are not Russian transplants, but Californians seen in their native habitat. We begin and end with John, an upwardly-mobile computer scientist whose work is connected (just how is never made clear) with nuclear weapons manufacture. At the age of 26, John belatedly realises that he is a workaholic with no private ...

Devil take the hindmost

John Sutherland, 14 December 1995

Shadows of the Future: H.G. Wells, Science Fiction and Prophecy 
by Patrick Parrinder.
Liverpool, 170 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 85323 439 6
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The History of Mr Wells 
by Michael Foot.
Doubleday, 318 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 385 40366 6
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A Modern Utopia 
by H.G. Wells, edited by Krishan Kumar.
Everyman, 271 pp., £5.99, November 1994, 0 460 87498 5
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... he opted for schemes that make us shudder today.’ At the same time as Coren’s assault, John Carey in The Intellectuals and the Masses branded Wells an inveterate despiser of the common man. All in all, 1992 was a bad year for the Wellsian cause. Coren’s book was dealt with in this paper by Patrick Parrinder (8 April 1993). Parenthetically ...

Something about her eyes

Patricia Beer, 24 June 1993

Daphne du Maurier 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 455 pp., £17.99, March 1993, 0 7011 3699 5
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... and should give it. Du Maurier’s novels, it seems to me, do not. Margaret Forster singles out Rebecca as one of du Maurier’s very best books, and it is probably the best-known, so it can fairly be taken as an example of her complete lack of concentration on anything other than the story. Though it was a bad sign that a determined writer should be so ...

Check out the parking lot

Rebecca Solnit: Hell in LA, 8 July 2004

Dante's Inferno 
by Sandow Birk and Marcus Sanders.
Chronicle, 218 pp., £15.99, May 2004, 0 8118 4213 4
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... language and an association of speaking with opening up, compromising and otherwise surrendering. John Wayne, she points out, spoke in monosyllables, often to denounce communication and chatter. Yup. Nope. It was, after all, gay men who would argue in the heyday of Aids activism that silence = death, an equation that goes well with Tompkins’s argument that ...

Rapture in Southend

Stefan Collini: H.G. Wells’s​ Egotism, 27 January 2022

The Young H.G. Wells: Changing the World 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 256 pp., £20, November 2021, 978 0 241 23997 1
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... then further fictionalising their situation in The New Machiavelli. The editor of the Spectator, John St Loe Strachey, a pillar of the National Social Purity Crusade (no, really), foamed at the novel’s ‘poisonous and pernicious teaching’, finding it ‘in its essence depraved’ (the book, it should be said, contains no description of sexual activity ...

Prodigals

John Sutherland, 19 August 1982

A Prodigal Child 
by David Storey.
Cape, 319 pp., £7.50, June 1982, 0 224 02027 7
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The Prodigal Daughter 
by Jeffrey Archer.
Hodder, 447 pp., £7.95, July 1982, 0 340 27687 8
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Ralph 
by John Stonehouse.
Cape, 318 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 0 224 02019 6
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The Man from St Petersburg 
by Ken Follett.
Hamish Hamilton, 292 pp., £7.95, May 1982, 0 241 10783 0
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The Patriot Game 
by George Higgins.
Secker, 237 pp., £7.50, July 1982, 0 436 19589 5
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... which it represents is quite remarkable. If Jeffrey Archer embodies rebounding success, John Stonehouse’s book breathes failure. Stripped down, Ralph is the story of a successful politician who grows restless with his good life, gets into a terrible pickle, assumes a false identity, escapes and comes to a disastrous end. It’s not, one might ...

Imparadised

Colin Burrow: Cultivation and desire in Renaissance gardens, 19 February 2004

Green Desire: Imagining Early Modern English Gardens 
by Rebecca Bushnell.
Cornell, 198 pp., £18.95, August 2003, 0 8014 4143 9
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... products of nature rather than art. Artifice was often required to create these sensual paradises: John Evelyn, at the end of the 17th century, describes how to make what he calls a ‘Phonotactic Cylinder, or giant musical box’, which used water to produce sounds similar to birdsong (the alternative was to have an aviary). The synaesthetic delights of ...

Woman in Love

Marghanita Laski, 1 April 1983

... of letters. Of her siblings, a younger sister is Beatrix Lehmann, the actress, her younger brother John Lehmann, poet, and fructifying editor and founder of the London Magazine. Most sensitive, literate girls write out the agonies of growing up, at least in private poetry or prose. But from such a family as Rosamond Lehmann’s, one writes to publish. In an ...

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