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Patrick Cockburn: The 1956 Polio Epidemic, 7 May 2020

... were smiling and waving frantically. I wasn’t entirely separated from my family: my brother Andrew, three years older than me, had been admitted to the hospital a few days after me. He had been called back from his school in Dublin when I was diagnosed and Claud met him at Cork railway station. ‘I really thought that all might be well up to the very ...
Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot 
by Michael Rogin.
California, 320 pp., $24.95, May 1996, 0 520 20407 7
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... business hang-out of the era, Jolson makes his first appearance as the mature Jakie, now known as Jack Robin. The entire scene is redolent of his liberation from tribal taboo. Jack wolfs down an unkosher breakfast with ragtime ebullience, turns a lusty eye on his gentile patroness and then launches into ...

The Obdurate Knoll

Colin Kidd: The Obdurate Knoll, 1 December 2011

Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan 
by Jeff Greenfield.
Putnam, 434 pp., £20.25, March 2011, 978 0 399 15706 6
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11.22.63 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 740 pp., £19.99, November 2011, 978 1 4447 2729 6
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... Texas governor, John Connally; and Oswald’s own murder while in police custody at the hands of Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner. Despite these anomalous features, Kennedy’s assassination was – conceptually speaking – a straightforward event. While academic historians have had plenty to say about his politics and legacy, they have largely ignored ...

I’m being a singer

Andrew O’Hagan: Dandy Highwaymen, 8 October 2020

Sweet Dreams: The Story of the New Romantics 
by Dylan Jones.
Faber, 663 pp., £20, October 2020, 978 0 571 35343 9
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... Hadley, the Thatcherite singer in an otherwise left-leaning band, was holding a glass of Jack Daniels. He seemed in touch with his audience and every bit as drunk. I’m not sure whether the audience knew his politics, but they heard the totemic sound of the 1980s in his voice, and a thousand facets of contemporary Britain seemed to sparkle in his ...

Questionably Virtuous

Stuart Middleton: Harold Wilson, 8 September 2016

Harold Wilson: The Unprincipled Prime Minister? Reappraising Harold Wilson 
edited by Andrew Crines and Kevin Hickson.
Biteback, 319 pp., £20, March 2016, 978 1 78590 031 0
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... spluttering: ‘But the bloody man plays golf!’ While serious interest in the question posed by Andrew Crines and Kevin Hickson’s book – whether Wilson was ‘unprincipled’ – has long since been exhausted, what remains intriguing is the way in which his foibles, the hypocrisy and evasion that marked his premierships, were connected to broader ...

They don’t say that about Idi Amin

Andrew O’Hagan: Bellow Whinges, 6 January 2011

Saul Bellow: Letters 
edited by Benjamin Taylor.
Viking, 571 pp., $35, November 2010, 978 0 670 02221 2
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... of the human faculties as he seeks to fight or flee. The letters of a lesser contemporary, Jack Kerouac for instance, appear almost luminary next to these gripes and gashings. Kerouac at least described a sensibility and a falling away, punctuated with adventure and open-heartedness. With Bellow’s letters, by the time we get to him crushing ...

Imps and Ogres

Marina Warner, 6 June 2019

Big and Small: A Cultural History of Extraordinary Bodies 
by Lynne Vallone.
Yale, 339 pp., £20, November 2017, 978 0 300 22886 1
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... Their contrasting size makes them peculiar in a nursery way, like the Walrus and the Carpenter or Jack Sprat and his wife, but Mazzetti subtly lets their silence speak of other causes of persecution. The children play a last prank on the pair, and the film ends in a searing, understated disaster. Presented without comment or sequel, it reminds us again that ...

My Old, Sweet, Darling Mob

Iain Sinclair: Michael Moorcock, 30 November 2000

King of the City 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 421 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 684 86140 2
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Mother London 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 496 pp., £6.99, May 2000, 0 684 86141 0
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... Blair’s latest consensus hair policy, Lord Archer’s ironic, pre-penitentiary crop, the way Andrew Motion carries off his loden coat as he swirls between taxi and station platform. Julian Barnes’s novels are depilated at source, fat-free. Frisking them for a Moorcockian digression, a set of cellulite-heavy parentheses, would be like checking a tub of ...

Russia’s Managed Democracy

Perry Anderson: Why Putin?, 25 January 2007

... expressing dutiful regrets at the shadows or side effects of progress. Inside Putin’s Russia by Andrew Jack, the paper’s Moscow correspondent, illustrates the genre. Decent space is accorded the failings of the regime, and proper anxiety voiced about the future of liberties under it, without dwelling unnecessarily on these – ‘criticising without ...

Short Cuts

James Meek: Anglospheroids, 21 March 2013

... John Norton-Griffiths, ‘Empire Jack’, engineer and strapping essence of imperial British manliness, was sent to Romania in 1916 to destroy that country’s oil industry before the Germans overran it. He had the Romanian government’s permission but local staff would occasionally try to interfere as he went at the oil wells with fire, dynamite and his personal sledgehammer ...

Flat-Nose, Stocky and Beautugly

James Davidson: Greek Names, 23 September 2010

A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Vol. V.A Coastal Asia Minor: Pontos to Ionia 
edited by T. Corsten.
Oxford, 496 pp., £125, March 2010, 978 0 19 956743 0
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... I was surrounded by boys with what I still think of as normal classic names: Simon, Mark, Peter, Andrew, Paul, Martin, Michael, Stephen, Richard, Robert, David. Girls’ names remained more modish: some Sarahs, Anns and Elizabeths and even some residual Marys, but also plenty of Janets, Jackies, Lisas and Debbies, who soared and plummeted through the ...

At Piano Nobile

Eleanor Birne: Jean Cooke, 18 April 2019

... Sylvester wrote to describe the work of Bratby and others – Derrick Greaves, Edward Middleditch, Jack Smith – who were busy painting chip fryers, dustbins, toilets. The Kitchen Sink realists were soon famous in a time of Angry Young Men; a decade later Bratby painted Paul McCartney. But Cooke wanted to paint too, and Bratby didn’t like it: couldn’t she ...

Jackson breaks the ice

Andrew Forge, 4 April 1991

Jackson Pollock: An American Saga 
by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.
Barrie and Jenkins, 934 pp., £19.95, March 1990, 0 7126 3866 0
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Abstract Expressionism 
by David Anfam.
Thames and Hudson, 216 pp., £5.95, August 1990, 0 500 20243 5
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Night Studio: A Memoir of Philip Guston 
by Musa Mayer.
Thames and Hudson, 256 pp., £8.95, February 1991, 0 500 27633 1
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... support artists in 1935. By now, Pollock was beginning to attract the attention of other painters, Jack Tworkov remembered hearing him spoken of by the head of the mural division of the WPA as a great hope for American painting. When Siqueiros came to New York in 1936, with his intoxicating mixture of political activism and technical experiment, the Pollock ...

Brief Encounters

Andrew O’Hagan: Gielgud and Redgrave, 5 August 2004

Gielgud's Letters 
edited by Richard Mangan.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £20, March 2004, 0 297 82989 0
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Secret Dreams: A Biography of Michael Redgrave 
by Alan Strachan.
Weidenfeld, 484 pp., £25, April 2004, 0 297 60764 2
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... in the film of Graham Greene’s The Man Within, the ventriloquist Maxwell Frere in Dead of Night, Jack Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest – tended to make a dark festival out of the business of being everything but the one thing specified. Trust is an actor’s medicine, they spoon it into themselves for comfort, but in Redgrave’s case the ...

All Together Now

John Lloyd: The British Trade Union, 19 October 2000

British Trade Unions and Industrial Politics. Vol. I: The Postwar Compromise, 1945-64 
edited by John McIlroy and Nina Fishman et al.
Ashgate, 335 pp., £35, January 2000, 0 7546 0018 1
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British Trade Unions and Industrial Politics. Vol. II: The High Tide of Trade Unionism, 1964-79 
edited by John McIlroy and Nina Fishman et al.
Ashgate, 389 pp., £35, January 2000, 0 7546 0018 1
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The TUC: From the General Strike to New Unionism 
by Robert Taylor.
Palgrave, 299 pp., £45, September 2000, 0 333 93066 5
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... at Chequers which brought together Wilson, his First (and Employment) Secretary Barbara Castle, Jack Jones of the Transport Workers, Hugh Scanlon of the Engineers and Vic Feather, the recently elected TUC General Secretary. The hours of argument circled round the Government’s need – political as much as economic – for legally enforceable constraints ...

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