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The Vicar of Chippenham

Christopher Haigh: Religion and the life-cycle, 15 October 1998

Birth, Marriage and Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Oxford, 641 pp., £25, May 1998, 0 19 820168 0
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... visitation complaints and defamation suits, and the answers have always been ‘it all depends.’ David Cressy’s excellent book suggests a different approach, examining conflicts over ritual and offering stories rather than statistics. Despite Coverdale, Gouge and the Admonition, a wedding was not only a religious ceremony, but the culmination of weeks or ...

Well, duh

Dale Peck, 18 July 1996

Infinite Jest 
by David Foster Wallace.
Little, Brown, 1079 pp., £17.99, July 1996, 0 316 92004 5
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... essay in Harper’s magazine the young novelist Jonathan Franzen declares Pynchon a personal hero. David Foster Wallace moves beyond admiration to adulation – if not, to put it more plainly, outright imitation. It is, in fact, a virtuoso performance that has eclipsed its progenitor: Wallace out-Pynchons Pynchon, and his third book, Infinite Jest, may ...


Liam McIlvanney: The House of Blackwood, 5 June 2003

The House of Blackwood: Author-Publisher Relations in the Victorian Era 
by David Finkelstein.
Pennsylvania State, 199 pp., £44.95, April 2002, 0 271 02179 9
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... students loved him. Modern critics – especially Scottish ones – have been less impressed. For David Daiches, Wilson is an ‘absolute impostor’ and a ‘windbag’; Andrew Noble tags him ‘the clay-footed prophet of the British-Scots middle-class’. In some respects, Wilson deserves all he gets. As an academic he was a charlatan; as a critic a ...
The Correspondence of Thomas Hobbes: Vols I-II 
edited by Thomas Hobbes and Noel Malcolm.
Oxford, 592 pp., £60, September 1994, 0 19 824065 1
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... then he is of a weak and servile spirit; if grave, then proud; if considerate in danger, then a coward; if valorous, rash; if silent, cunning; if a discourses, then one that loves to hear himself talk. When John Baptist came neither eating, nor drinking, they said he had a devil; and when our Saviour came eating, and drinking, they said, ‘Behold a ...


David Craig: Episodes on the Rock, 13 May 1993

... Broken lines in ink mark Metroway on the left, climbed by Smiler Cuthbertson, Don Whillans, and D. Coward, and Regina Mater on the right, climbed by Ben and Marion Wintringham. Adrian has told us how he was hit by a falling block, which broke his arm. He had to be rescued from the Notch, the col between the massif and Devil’s Tower. Cuthbertson has ...

Memories of Lindsay Anderson

Alan Bennett, 20 July 2000

... thoughts occur like ‘I bet Tom Stoppard doesn’t have to do this’ or ‘There is no doubt David Hare would have deputed this to an underling.’ So I was happy to read in Gavin Lambert’s Mainly about Lindsay Anderson* that Lindsay harboured similar thoughts about such self-imposed menialities. On the eve of filming O Lucky Man Lindsay has his ailing ...

Trouble down there

Ferdinand Mount: Tea with Sassoon, 7 August 2003

Siegfried Sassoon: The Making of a War Poet 1886-1918 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Duckworth, 600 pp., £9.99, September 2002, 0 7156 2894 1
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Siegfried Sassoon: The Journey from the Trenches 1918-67 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Duckworth, 526 pp., £30, April 2003, 0 7156 2971 9
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Sassoon: The Worlds of Philip and Sybil 
by Peter Stansky.
Yale, 295 pp., £25, April 2003, 0 300 09547 3
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... There is much about the succession of lovers or near-lovers – Gabriel Atkin, Ivor Novello, Noël Coward, Rex Whistler and above all the unbearable Stephen Tennant with his pearls and tantrums – but these tortuous episodes, in which Sassoon often gave as much hell as he got, are greatly revealing of his dissatisfaction as well as evocative of the ...

People shouldn’t be fat

Zachary Leader, 3 October 1996

Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu 
by Simon Callow.
Cape, 640 pp., £20, March 1995, 0 224 03852 4
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Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles 
by David Thomson.
Little, Brown, 460 pp., £20, September 1996, 0 316 91437 1
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... a triple-decker steak sandwich washed down with bourbon’. Lunch, ‘inhaled’ (this is David Thomson’s word) while rehearsing The Shoemaker’s Holiday, soon to be Welles’s second hit for the Mercury Players, was comparably stupefying. Callow depicts Welles perched at a table in the stalls, ‘roaring out instructions and mock abuse as he ...

Two Hares and a Priest

Patricia Beer: Pushkin, 13 May 1999

by Elizabeth Feinstein.
Weidenfeld, 309 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 297 81826 0
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... with the diplomatic and historical background of Pushkin’s life. Feinstein also mentions David Magarshack’s biography respectfully for what was at the time – 1967 – its up-to-date research but reprovingly for its lack of notes and references. (In fact notes do often appear in Magarshack’s book, as parentheses in the text, and there is an ...


August Kleinzahler: Too Bad about Mrs Ferri, 20 September 2001

... was Southern Italian. You might as well have been in Palermo, except the buildings were newer. David Chase, The Sopranos’ creator, grew up in Essex County. Fort Lee is Bergen County, but never you mind. I played as a child with Tony Soprano and his pals, if you can imagine them as eight-year-olds. During recess and the lunch hour the schoolyard at #4 ...

Iniquity in Romford

Bernard Porter: Black Market Britain, 23 May 2013

Black Market Britain 1939-55 
by Mark Roodhouse.
Oxford, 276 pp., £65, March 2013, 978 0 19 958845 9
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... with wartime controls was an aberration. (Wartime America was much less obedient.) Cartoon by David Langdon for ‘Punch’, November 1949. Mark Roodhouse’s answer to the crude question of just how much black market activity there was in Britain, both during the war and in the period of postwar austerity, is that, though widespread, it was far less so ...


Rachel Kushner: Bad Captains, 22 January 2015

... where the Concordia capsized, a ship that could cost more than a billion pounds to scrap: he was a coward. ‘Vada a bordo, cazzo!’ a Livorno coastguard captain told him, the call famously recorded, then played and replayed: Vada a bordo, Vada a bordo. I wouldn’t want to get back on board. Who would? It doesn’t seem so pleasant, to have to go down with ...


David Bromwich: I met a Republican, 7 March 2019

... testimony showed, was a third. An excellent investigative report in the New York Times by David Barstow, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner took us back to the origins of Trump’s business ethic: he followed his father in sailing close to the wind, and in learning how to hide evidence under one shell or another. It began with New York housing, in rental ...

The God Squad

Andrew O’Hagan: Bushland, 23 September 2004

... country’s armed forces and willingly gave it some thought afterwards, can be characterised as a coward and an enemy of freedom, while his opponent is engulfed in glory for having had a father influential enough to keep him out of harm’s way. With their advertisements on television paid for by well-connected Republicans, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ...

Bags and Iron

Sylvia Lawson, 15 August 1991

Patrick White: A Life 
by David Marr.
Cape, 715 pp., £20, July 1991, 0 224 02581 3
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... not enough to confirm the greatness of greatness; we want to know our business with the dead. David Marr unfolds it, steadily, over seven hundred pages. The first vindication of his huge and wonderful book is that it offers ways into all of White’s work, uncovering materials which were taken up and transformed in the making of the novels, the stories ...

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