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Young and Old

John Sutherland, 15 October 1981

Life Stories 
by A.L. Barker.
Hogarth, 319 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 7012 0538 5
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Many Men and Talking Wives 
by Helen Muir.
Duckworth, 156 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 7156 1613 7
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Good Behaviour 
by Molly Keane.
Deutsch, 245 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 9780233973326
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A Separate Development 
by Christopher Hope.
Routledge, 199 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 7100 0954 2
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From Little Acorns 
by Howard Buten.
Harvester, 156 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 7108 0390 7
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Fortnight’s Anger 
by Roger Scruton.
Carcanet, 224 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 85635 376 0
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... as far as Thackeray: gentility’s struggle to preserve itself against invading shabbiness. The St Charles family is first discovered living a pre-war, prosperous ‘leisured life’. 1914 brings catastrophe and gradual decline. The heroine’s dashing father loses a leg in the Great War and survives a whisky-sodden philanderer. The family’s only son is ...

Who was he?

Charles Nicholl: Joe the Ripper, 7 February 2008

The Fox and the Flies: The World of Joseph Silver, Racketeer and Psychopath 
by Charles van Onselen.
Cape, 672 pp., £20, April 2007, 978 0 224 07929 7
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... the room. The bare facts are enough to convey the shock of being there, of having this glimpse, as Charles van Onselen puts it, into ‘the Angel of Death’s laboratory’. Van Onselen’s long, disturbing and magnificently dogged book, The Fox and the Flies, takes us through a grim terrain spread across three continents, a world of squalor and violence, of ...

Keeping Their Distance

Charles Tripp: Muqtada al-Sadr, 17 July 2008

Muqtada Al-Sadr and the Fall of Iraq 
by Patrick Cockburn.
Faber, 289 pp., £16.99, April 2008, 978 0 571 23974 0
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... waiting to see what the US election will bring. For their part, the Americans are hoping against hope that the present lull in violence is the sign of an emerging order rather than one of the many illusory ‘tipping points’ that they have imagined during the last five years. Meanwhile, Nouri al-Maliki’s government is trying to persuade itself and the ...

Waiting to Watch the War

Charles Glass: A report from an observation post in Northern Iraq, 3 April 2003

... all plan to pass through them on their way to territory evacuated by a collapsing Iraqi Army. Some hope to witness the fall, or liberation, of Kirkuk. Others will go to Mosul, another oil centre that the Americans and the Turks do not want to fall into Kurdish hands. The Kurds are less likely to bother with Mosul, which even they admit does not have a Kurdish ...

Two Poems

John Ashbery, 6 February 2014

... Dans le Métro Miracle sans nom à la station Javel …          ‘Y a de la joie’, Charles Trenet We got in on the bottom line at Duck Alley. Ten feet of onions to hoe and a disruptive sneeze blew in from the Sissy Isles. What I hope to say … What I hope to say is, out ...
... It does also happen to be winter, a beautiful but drought-stricken winter. There seems little hope that the murk surrounding the Boipatong tragedy will lift. The Police have appealed in vain for witnesses to come forward with evidence. A body calling itself the Independent Investigation Board claims to have already gathered over thirty statements from ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Tayler: King Charles the Martyr, 21 February 2019

... John paid homage to Philip II at Le Goulet in 1200’ – and he must have enjoyed expressing his hope that it would ‘not be necessary for Her Majesty’s stay at Sandringham to be interrupted by her in person having to prorogue Parliament’. Speaking the next day at a Women’s Institute meeting in West Newton village hall, however, the queen herself ...

Balls and Strikes

Charles Reeve: Clement Greenberg, 5 April 2007

Art Czar: The Rise and Fall of Clement Greenberg 
by Alice Goldfarb Marquis.
Lund Humphries, 321 pp., £25, April 2006, 0 85331 940 5
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... of kitsch – late in life, he called it ‘an ongoing emergency’ – committed him to the hope that its audience could be rescued. But it also required him to believe that the fans of kitsch wanted and needed saving. As his audience expanded, Greenberg’s taste narrowed, its tight focus reflected in his personal collection. Presumably he liked much ...

What Is He Supposed To Do?

David Cannadine, 8 December 1994

The Prince of Wales 
by Jonathan Dimbleby.
Little, Brown, 620 pp., £20, November 1994, 0 316 91016 3
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... not coincidental that many of the same things are now being said about His Royal Highness Prince Charles Philip Arthur George. For while, in some ways, the British monarchy is constantly developing and evolving, in other respects it is remarkably consistent and unchanging, and one of its most unvarying features during the last three hundred years has been ...

On Luljeta Lleshanaku

Michael Hofmann: Luljeta Lleshanaku, 4 April 2019

... who is ideally placed to traffic between the land of her birth and her adopted homeland, the way Charles Simic has done since the 1960s with Serbia (see his anthology of Serbian poetry, The Horse Has Six Legs, and his numerous single volumes of Lalic, Tadic, Ristovic, Salamun and many more). I wish her patience, talented originals, and many ...

Plague Fiction

Charles Nicholl, 23 July 1987

The Darker Proof 
by Adam Mars-Jones and Edmund White.
Faber, 250 pp., £3.95, July 1987, 0 571 15068 3
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... deep, and applied the carbolic soap to those parts of our lives that even Mrs Thatcher couldn’t hope to reach. We’re back on the straight and narrow now. We’re taking it decaff in case it keeps us awake. We can’t cure the virus, but in the current sexual climate there’s just a chance it’ll die of boredom. It is one thing to sense that the Aids ...

In a flattened world

Richard Rorty, 8 April 1993

The Ethics of Authenticity 
by Charles Taylor.
Harvard, 142 pp., £13.95, November 1992, 0 674 26863 6
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... it as a culture of tolerance. If you have mixed feelings, you might settle for the description Charles Taylor suggests: it is a culture of authenticity. Taylor says that we ought neither to boost this culture (in the manner of the truly dreadful books produced by representatives of ‘the human potential movement’) nor knock it (in the manner of Lasch ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Meeting the Royals, 19 February 2015

... It was​ in Charles Dickens’s upstairs sitting room that I met the future king of England. The Duchess of Cornwall was wearing a red paisley silk coat and dress by Anna Valentine. I know that because I was peeping out of the window and heard a lady from the Daily Mail say so into her mobile phone while she stalked the pavement outside ...

Learned Insane

Simon Schaffer: The Lunar Men, 17 April 2003

The Lunar Men: The Friends who Made the Future 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 588 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 571 19647 0
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... Soon after his 70th birthday, Charles Darwin sat down to compose a Life of his grandfather Erasmus, poet and sage of 18th-century Lichfield, brilliant physician, mechanical inventor, incorrigible heretic and evolutionist.* The biography was a mix of piety and polemic. Erasmus Darwin’s fate, his chronic diseases, strenuous urging of social and organic progress, and posthumous obloquy, were too close for comfort to his grandson’s hopes and fears ...

Melancholy Actions

Charles Glass: Scuttling the French Fleet, 17 December 2009

England’s Last War against France: Fighting Vichy 1940-42 
by Colin Smith.
Weidenfeld, 490 pp., £25, July 2009, 978 0 297 85218 6
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... to capitulate to the invader. Few of the soldiers and almost none of the sailors recognised Charles de Gaulle, an armoured corps colonel temporarily elevated to brigadier general, as their leader. To them, de Gaulle seemed more of a traitor to his fellow officers for siding with Britain than Maréchal Pétain for seeking accommodation with ...

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