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Founding Moments

Stuart Macintyre, 11 March 1993

The Oxford History of Australia. Vol. II, 1770-1860: Possessions 
by Jan Kociumbas.
Oxford, 397 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 19 554610 5
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The Rule of Law in a Penal Colony: Law and Power in Early New South Wales 
by David Neal.
Cambridge, 266 pp., £30, March 1992, 9780521372640
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Waterloo Creek: The Australia Day Massacre of 1838, George Gipps and the British Conquest of New South Wales 
by Roger Milliss.
McPhee Gribble, 965 pp., February 1992, 0 86914 156 2
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Living in a New Country: History, Travelling and Language 
by Paul Carter.
Faber, 214 pp., £14.99, July 1992, 0 571 16329 7
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... and family life, on which the settlement’s ‘blueprint for growth’ was premised. By contrast, David Neal’s monograph opens with a successful legal action brought by a convict couple against one of the First Fleet captains. Neal is concerned to show how the establishment of the rule of law in a penal colony, at once a tautology and an oxymoron, created ...

A Funny Feeling

David Runciman: Larkin and My Father, 4 February 2021

... sextet playing Sidney Bechet and Bix Beiderbecke and a stentorian reading from Ecclesiastes by Ted Hughes. Jill Balcon read a selection of Larkin’s verse, including ‘Church Going’. I couldn’t recall whether any mention was made of Larkin’s fear of death and his certainty that it meant oblivion, but the order of service, available in the abbey’s ...

Beefcake Ease

Miranda Carter: Robert Mitchum and Steve McQueen, 14 January 2002

Robert Mitchum: Solid, Dad, Crazy 
by Damien Love.
Batsford, 208 pp., £15.99, December 2001, 0 7134 8707 0
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Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don’t Care 
by Lee Server.
Faber, 590 pp., £20, October 2001, 0 571 20994 7
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McQueen: The Biography 
by Christopher Sandford.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £16.99, October 2001, 0 00 257195 1
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... a habit of dropping his trousers and removing his clothes when provoked and, famously, peeing on David O. Selznick’s carpet (in the middle of a meeting about a film version of A Doll’s House). He was articulate and rude to journalists, which also generated copy. ‘Booze, broads, all true,’ he told hacks. ‘Make up some more if you want to.’ Mitchum ...


Stephen Sedley: Judges’ Lodgings, 11 November 1999

... tutor-organiser for Durham, to tell her if she’d ever be a writer, I asked her and her husband David to dinner when I was sitting in the North-East and exposed my dilettantish flank by letting slip that I was barely halfway through Regeneration. Even so we have remained friends. Coming to Devon in the winter of 1998 on my last-ever circuit, I wrote to ask ...

Something to Do

David Cannadine, 23 September 1993

Witness of a Century: The Life and Times of Prince Arthur of Connaught, 1850-1942 
by Noble Frankland.
Shepheard-Walwyn, 476 pp., £22.95, June 1993, 0 85683 136 0
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... Expeditionary Force and the provision of rifles. Connaught took a particularly dim view of Sir Sam Hughes, the maverick Minister of Militia, the full extent of whose devious and corrupt activities is here revealed for the first time. But his relations with the Conservative Prime Minister, Sir Robert Borden, were mostly cordial, his term of office was generally ...


Paul Driver, 19 August 1993

Shining Brow 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 86 pp., £5.99, February 1993, 0 571 16789 6
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... activity; and his most recent full-length opera, Gawain, has an ambitious verse libretto by David Harsent. Ted Hughes once wrote a libretto for Gordon Crosse. The Story of Vasco, whose subject-matter involves crows, is an interesting opera by a composer who has now, regrettably, stopped composing. The poet John ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies, 26 January 2012

An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... the Communist Party as a career move: ‘You will meet big people.’ By the end of that year, David Platt, the Daily Worker’s movie reviewer (a witness frequently summoned by Hoberman for counterpoint), announced that ‘never before in the history of the screen have there been so many forward-looking people in positions of responsibility as in ...

Black and White Life

Mark Greif: Ralph Ellison, 1 November 2007

Ralph Ellison: A Biography 
by Arnold Rampersad.
Knopf, 657 pp., $35, April 2007, 978 0 375 40827 4
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... Ellison like to make lists of the amazing prodigies that flowed to him from his single novel. David Remnick, writing in the New Yorker in 1994, noted the ‘National Book Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres, a place in the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a position at New York University as ...

Last in the Funhouse

Patrick Parrinder, 17 April 1986

Gerald’s Party 
by Robert Coover.
Heinemann, 316 pp., £10.95, April 1986, 0 434 14290 5
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by Edmund White.
Picador, 342 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 330 29291 9
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Lake Wobegon Days 
by Garrison Keillor.
Faber, 337 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 571 13846 2
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In Country 
by Bobbie Ann Mason.
Chatto, 245 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 7011 3034 2
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... of the social group who form Bobbie Ann Mason’s subject, the Vietnam veterans. Samantha Hughes, the central figure of In Country, ought to have grown up on a farm. Instead, her father enlisted in the Army and was blown to pieces in Vietnam in 1966. (Most of the names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington are, we are told, ‘country boy ...

The Mothering of Montgomery

John Keegan, 2 July 1981

Monty: The Making of a General, 1887-1942 
by Nigel Hamilton.
Hamish Hamilton, 871 pp., £12, June 1981, 0 241 10583 8
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The War between the Generals: Inside the Allied High Command 
by David Irving.
Allen Lane, 446 pp., £9.95, June 1981, 0 7139 1344 4
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... word. We look forward with anticipation to the next instalment. With The War between the Generals David Irving has turned away from the German side of the last war, where he is almost uniquely at home, to bring his methods to bear on the making of Allied strategy. The period he has chosen is that which runs from the American entry to the achievement of ...

What if he’d made it earlier?

David Runciman: LBJ, 5 July 2012

The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. IV: The Passage of Power 
by Robert Caro.
Bodley Head, 712 pp., £30, June 2012, 978 1 84792 217 5
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... he was back in Washington was that he had a judge in mind to perform the task. Her name was Sarah Hughes, a long-time Johnson ally from Dallas whom he had nominated as a federal district judge in 1961, at the start of his vice-presidency. As a Texas appointment he had assumed this was in his gift. But the Justice Department (Bobby’s fiefdom) had told him ...

On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move, 13 September 2018

Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... strange being alone with these two books; even the names of the poets – Charles Tomlinson, or David Gascoyne, or Robert Conquest, or John Holloway, or Christopher Middleton, or Geoffrey Hill – stood for a world that was fully England. Looking at the list of poets was like having one’s Irish nose pushed up against the polished glass of a posh window in ...

I’m an intelligence

Joanna Biggs: Sylvia Plath at 86, 20 December 2018

The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. I: 1940-56 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1388 pp., £35, September 2017, 978 0 571 32899 4
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The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. II: 1956-63 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1025 pp., £35, September 2018, 978 0 571 33920 4
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... 1962, after she’d torn the phoneline out of the wall during an argument with her husband, Ted Hughes, and he had left her and their two infant children in Devon, there were only letters. ‘I am fine,’ she wrote to her mother in America. ‘Just need a settled nanny & to rest & write & letters. I love & live for letters.’ Sylvia Plath and Frieda ...

Quod erat Hepburn

John Bayley, 3 April 1986

Katharine Hepburn: A Biography 
by Anne Edwards.
Hodder, 395 pp., £12.95, March 1986, 0 340 33719 2
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... waiters, until it becomes their proper nature. It is the same with writers and artists. Byron or David or Robert Lowell cannot slink off and become their ordinary selves in the intervals of being poets and painters and men of the age. Greta Garbo is always Greta Garbo, once she has found the part. But there is quite a different category of actor, as of ...

On Roy DeCarava

Gazelle Mba, 7 April 2022

... Black New Yorker in the middle of the 20th century.In the recent DeCarava retrospective at the David Zwirner gallery, Hallway stood out among the rows of silver gelatin prints. At first glance, it appears as a dense mass of what the curator Zoé Whitley called his ‘infinite palette of grey tonalities’, which take on volume in their shadowiness. It ...

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