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Four Funerals and a Wedding

Andrew O’Hagan: If something happens to me…, 5 May 2005

... Necropolis.’ ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘The sign could say: “Up here, something did happen to Andrew O’Hagan. Like each of us, he wondered if it would happen. And it did.”’ Something happened to my second ever schoolteacher, Mrs Wallace. We saw her totally somethinged in her coffin under a huge crucifix of Jesus Christ, to whom, by the look of the ...

Answering back

James Campbell, 11 July 1991

The Intended 
by David Dabydeen.
Secker, 246 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 436 20007 4
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by Caryl Phillips.
Bloomsbury, 185 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 0 7475 0886 0
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by Jamaica Kincaid.
Cape, 176 pp., £11.99, April 1991, 0 224 03055 8
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... under the guidance first of the great W.E.B DuBois, then of the poets Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown, and next a line of novelists headed by Richard Wright, began the task of reclamation about two generations earlier than the Caribbean writers who identified – if one can nowadays put it that way – with Europe, specifically England. Their literary ...


Alice Munro, 30 July 1998

... second storey was like a roof, covered in shingles. The shingles were dark green or maroon or brown. The porches came to within a few feet of the sidewalk and the spaces between the houses seemed narrow enough for people to reach out the side windows and shake hands. Children were playing on the sidewalk, but Queenie took no more notice of them than if ...

It’s Hard to Stop

Michael Wood: Sartre’s Stories, 18 April 2019

... who uses fiction philosophically rather than someone who, let’s say, just writes it. A glance at Andrew Brown’s excellent translation of The Wall and/or at the French text shows us at once what we have been missing, and the glance very quickly turns into a long look.* It’s hard to stop reading. The title of the book is that of the opening story, set ...
Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature 
by Harry Greene.
California, 351 pp., $45, August 1997, 0 520 20014 4
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... even quite big ones like Jamaica – are routinely snakeless or nearly so, and why, when the brown tree snake, Boiga irregularis, was introduced on Guam in the Forties or Fifties (probably by accident in a military cargo) it wreaked havoc on the island’s bird population. Compared with other major groups of terrestrial vertebrates, snakes are not ...


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

... like that, but Wootton Bassett is out on its own. Today, there are two subjects: first, Gordon Brown’s letter to the mother of a dead soldier, Grenadier Guardsman Jamie Janes, in which the prime minister misspelled the serviceman’s name; and two, the news that £47 million has been made available for Ministry of Defence staff bonuses. Up and down the ...

Travelling Southwards

Andrew O’Hagan: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, 19 July 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey 
by E.L. James.
Arrow, 514 pp., £7.99, April 2012, 978 0 09 957993 9
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... very handsome, devastatingly handsome, ‘the most beautiful man on the planet’, with unruly brown hair and the kind of chest you can only achieve if you swim a lap every time you make a million dollars. It’s true he’s very rich but he’s also very generous; he wants to feed the world’s poor. Christian Grey was adopted, you see, and he has quite a ...

Corbyn’s Progress

Tariq Ali, 3 March 2016

... What appealed to the young and to the many who had left the party in disgust during the Blair/Brown years – what appealed to the people who turned the campaign into a genuine social movement – was precisely what alienated the political and media cliques. Corbyn’s campaign generated a mass movement that renewed the base of the Labour Party – nearly ...


David Runciman: How the coalition was formed, 16 December 2010

22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition 
by David Laws.
Biteback, 335 pp., £9.99, November 2010, 978 1 84954 080 3
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... Britain’s Labour Party, which had spurned at least three opportunities to replace Gordon Brown with someone more palatable, smelled of exhaustion. Laws describes the various meetings that took place in the days following the election between the Lib Dem negotiating team and its Labour counterparts, to see if they could thrash out a deal. On the ...

Will We Care When Labour Loses?

Ross McKibbin: Gordon Brown’s Failures, 26 March 2009

... Where do we go from here? It’s pretty clear that Gordon Brown doesn’t know and that Alistair Darling and the other members of the cabinet don’t either. Nor, it seems, does anyone else. It was much easier to predict that something nasty was going to happen than it is to know now when and how the nastiness will end ...

Blame it on the boogie

Andrew O’Hagan: In Pursuit of Michael Jackson, 6 July 2006

On Michael Jackson 
by Margo Jefferson.
Pantheon, 146 pp., $20, January 2006, 0 375 42326 5
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... is all of the showbusiness spectacles we have ever known rolled into one: Barnum & Bailey to James Brown, Edgar Allan Poe to Shirley Temple, and David Blaine, and Peter Pan, all the way back to Neverland. We want to see him as pop’s greatest distortion of human nature, which he may be, but isn’t he also the most interesting person on the ...

Not in the Mood

Adam Shatz: Derrida’s Secrets, 22 November 2012

Derrida: A Biography 
by Benoît Peeters, translated by Andrew Brown.
Polity, 629 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 0 7456 5615 1
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... Anyone reading these notes without knowing me,’ Jacques Derrida wrote in his diary in 1976, ‘without having read and understood everything of what I’ve written elsewhere, would remain blind and deaf to them, while he would finally feel that he was understanding easily.’ If you think you can understand me by reading my diaries, he might have been warning future biographers, think again ...

The Excursions

Andrew O’Hagan, 16 June 2011

... experience fighting against the kinds of common experience labelled ‘heritage’. There are brown signs directing you off the road to crucial destinations, but in Cumberland, for instance, the land itself is the naked truth, the thing that the heritage industry can’t quite bottle and label. There’s just this immensity, with the clouds scudding over ...

Our Guy

John Barnie: Blair’s Style, 20 January 2011

... blokes of whom he approves. Bill Clinton is ‘a great guy’, as is the Taoiseach John Bruton. Andrew Smith is ‘a nice guy’, and so is Guy Verhofstadt; Andrew Adonis is ‘a thoroughly nice guy’. John Hutton is also ‘a thoroughly nice guy’, while the footmen at Balmoral are ‘very nice guys’. The president ...

What was it that drove him?

David Runciman: Gordon Brown, 4 January 2018

My Life, Our Times 
by Gordon Brown.
Bodley Head, 512 pp., £25, November 2017, 978 1 84792 497 1
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... Like many​ recent political memoirists, Gordon Brown begins his story in medias res. Given his rollercoaster time in Downing Street, punctuated by the gut-wrenching drama of the financial crisis, there should have been plenty of arresting moments to choose from. Some, though, are already taken. Alistair Darling, for instance, starts Back from the Brink, his 2011 account of what it was like being Brown’s chancellor, on Tuesday, 7 October 2008, when Sir Tom McKillop, the chairman of RBS, called him to announce that his bank was about to go bust and to ask what the government planned to do about it ...

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