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Seventeen Million Words

Richard Poirier, 7 November 1985

The Inman Diary: A Public and Private Confession 
edited by Daniel Aaron.
Harvard, 1661 pp., £35.95, March 1986, 0 674 45445 6
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... On 5 December 1963, the day Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, a man in Boston named Arthur Inman, having made several earlier attempts on his own life, managed to put a bullet through his head. A variety of chronic ailments and complaints had made him an invalid for nearly all of his 68 years, and except for brief excursions in his ancient chauffeur-driven Cadillac, he had since 1919 confined himself to an apartment building in downtown Boston named Garrison Hall ...

Lines in the Sand

Keith Kyle, 7 February 1991

Saddam’s War: The Origins of the Kuwait Conflict and the International Response 
by John Bulloch and Harvey Morris.
Faber, 194 pp., £13.99, January 1991, 0 571 16387 4
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Unholy Babylon: The Secret History of Saddam’s War 
by Adel Darwish and Gregory Alexander.
Gollancz, 352 pp., £9.99, January 1991, 0 575 05054 3
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Cambridge International Document Series: Vol. 1 The Kuwait Crisis 
edited by E. Lauterpacht, C.J. Greenwood, Mark Weller and Daniel Bethlehem.
Grotius Publication, 330 pp., £35.17, January 1991, 0 949009 86 5
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Air Power and Colonial Control 
by David Omissi.
Manchester, 260 pp., £35, January 1990, 0 7190 2960 0
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... Saddam’s War and Unholy Babylon have been put together with great speed. John Bulloch and Harvey Morris, the authors of the first book, and Adel Darwish, one of the authors of the second, all write for the Independent, and regular readers of that paper will not find in Saddam’s War much (except for the earlier history, whose presentation is not ...

Post-Paranoid

Michael Wood: Underworld by Don Delillo, 5 February 1998

Underworld 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 832 pp., £10, February 1998, 0 330 36995 4
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... There is a world inside the world,’ Lee Harvey Oswald repeats in Don DeLillo’s novel Libra (1988). The phrase suggests wheels within wheels, partly because Oswald is obsessively riding the New York subway when we first hear it. ‘There’s more to it,’ David Ferrie says in the same novel ...

Possessed by the Idols

Steven Shapin: Does Medicine Work?, 30 November 2006

Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm Since Hippocrates 
by David Wootton.
Oxford, 304 pp., £16.99, June 2006, 0 19 280355 7
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... writing his only history of science. It is still more surprising that it should come from David Wootton, an early modern intellectual historian whose 1983 study of Paolo Sarpi, a late Renaissance theologian, concluded by cautioning historians not to act as a ‘jury’. There are two stories folded into Wootton’s Bad Medicine: one concerns the ...

Separation Anxiety

David Hollinger: God and Politics, 24 January 2008

The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West 
by Mark Lilla.
Knopf, 334 pp., $26, September 2007, 978 1 4000 4367 5
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... This emphasis meant the pushing aside of scripture, the historical particularities of which David Friedrich Strauss and countless others were just then demonstrating. Romantic conceptions of the self and wissenschaftliche approaches to the Bible combined to produce a liberal theology according to which the Bible was a cultural document rather than a ...

Strange Stardom

David Haglund: James Franco, 17 March 2011

Palo Alto: Stories 
by James Franco.
Faber, 197 pp., £12.99, January 2011, 978 0 571 27316 4
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... Actors don’t lodge in the culture as once they did,’ David Thomson writes in the entry on Heath Ledger in the latest edition of his Biographical Dictionary of Film. ‘They are a type of celebrity now.’ He contrasts Ledger, who died three years ago at the age of 28, with James Dean, who died 55 years ago at the age of 24 and became the standard against which all young, handsome, would-be acting geniuses in Hollywood are measured ...

Diary

David Thomson: ‘Vertigo’ after Weinstein, 21 June 2018

... was devious, a fantasist, a voyeur and a predator. It isn’t just that no matter how many Harvey Weinsteins are exposed, it could never be enough to deliver justice to those who have been wronged and exploited. It isn’t even that men invented and have dominated the command and control of the movies, both as art and business: that they have been the ...

Culture Wars

W.J.T. Mitchell, 23 April 1992

... intensity in such media ‘events’ as the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, and the David Duke campaign. Conspiracy theories detailed the infiltration of American higher education by ‘politically correct’ militants, and lamented the takeover of the art world by feminists, homosexuals and ethnic minorities. In short, for Americans who watch ...

Not Mackintosh

Chris Miele, 6 April 1995

‘Greek’ Thomson 
edited by Gavin Stamp and Sam McKinstry.
Edinburgh, 249 pp., £35, September 1994, 0 7486 0480 4
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... thereby greatly weakened. The sources of Thomson’s style are well documented by Charles McKean, David Walker and David Watkin. It is clear that he looked closely at the works of the vigorous school of northern Classicism, and he admitted to having certain favourites. In an 1866 pamphlet attacking Scott’s Gothic designs ...

That’s Liquor!

Nick James, 7 March 1996

Leaving Las Vegas 
directed by Mike Figgis.
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... figure eventually has to let him go, triggering a suicidal binge. Although largely a creation of David O. Selznick, a producer with a predilection for sentimental narratives, What Price Hollywood? draws on the career and decline into alcoholism of the silent era director Lowell Sherman, who himself plays the dissipated drunkard Maximillian Cady. Cady and his ...

The Positions He Takes

John Barrell: Hitchens on Paine, 30 November 2006

Thomas Paine’s ‘Rights of Man’: A Biography 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Atlantic, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2006, 1 84354 513 6
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... we shall require an age of reason,’ wrote Christopher Hitchens last year on the dust jacket of Harvey Kaye’s recent book on Paine.* And as if to reinforce that message, he has now himself published a little book on Paine, a ‘biography’ of Rights of Man. It begins with a dedication, ‘by permission’, to President Jalal Talabani: ‘first elected ...

Touches of the Real

David Simpson: Stephen Greenblatt, 24 May 2001

Practising New Historicism 
by Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt.
Chicago, 249 pp., £17.50, June 2000, 0 226 27934 0
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... it was already a restrike, minted from a prototype used by Wesley Morris in 1972 or perhaps by Roy Harvey Pearce in 1958. Greenblatt himself came to prefer the term ‘cultural poetics’, but by the time he said so the nominal territory had already been claimed: ‘new historicism’ it was going to be, and has been ever since in the anthologies and ...

Eden and Suez

David Gilmour, 18 December 1986

Anthony Eden 
by Robert Rhodes James.
Weidenfeld, 665 pp., £16.95, October 1986, 0 297 78989 9
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Descent to Suez: Diaries 1951-56 
by Evelyn Shuckburgh, edited by John Charmley.
Weidenfeld, 380 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 297 78993 7
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Cutting the Lion’s Tail: Suez through Egyptian Eyes 
by Mohamed Heikal.
Deutsch, 242 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 233 97967 0
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The Suez Affair 
by Hugh Thomas.
Weidenfeld, 255 pp., £5.95, October 1986, 0 297 78953 8
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... moustache’. This view has been assailed, from opposite angles, by both of Eden’s biographers. David Carlton* is critical of many aspects of Eden’s career, and argues that his views on foreign policy in the Thirties were less wise and consistent than is usually believed. Robert Rhodes James, however, not only endorses the traditional appreciation of ...

Abishag’s Revenge

Steven Shapin: Who wants to live for ever?, 26 March 2009

Mortal Coil: A Short History of Living Longer 
by David Boyd Haycock.
Yale, 308 pp., £18.99, June 2008, 978 0 300 11778 3
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... Now King David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat. Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat ...

I’m hip. I live in New York

Theo Tait: Leonard Michaels, 3 March 2016

Sylvia 
by Leonard Michaels.
Daunt Books, 131 pp., £9.99, June 2015, 978 1 907970 55 9
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... misogynistic’ have followed it around. It was made into a film, with a strong cast (Harvey Keitel, Roy Scheider, Stockard Channing), but was by all accounts awful. Michaels didn’t like it much himself, as he describes in his essay ‘Kishkas’: after he saw the rough cut, ‘disgrace, like internal bleeding, seeped into my bones and ...

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