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This Charming Man

Frank Kermode, 24 February 1994

The Collected and Recollected Marc 
Fourth Estate, 51 pp., £25, November 1993, 1 85702 164 9Show More
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... leaving it; and then, without serious intermission, he became and remained famous in London. And so, throughout his life, he was unwittingly acquiring eulogists. The blurb of this book calls him ‘irresistible’, and the contents concur. They include a lavish visual celebration of Marc as cartoonist and caricaturist, and a collection of pieces by eloquent ...

Spadework

John Brown, 18 November 1982

Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett 
by Richard Layman.
Junction, 285 pp., £9.95, August 1981, 0 86245 027 6
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... Shadow Man Richard Layman supplies a terse explanation. It appears that Lillian Hellman, Hammett’s closest friend from 1931 onwards, took steps soon after his death to acquire legal control of all the novelist’s copyrights (despite the terms of Hammett’s will), using as an argument ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: When is a planet not a planet?, 18 August 2005

... When is a planet not a planet? When it’s a warrior princess. On 29 July, astronomers at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory announced the discovery of an object larger than Pluto in the outer reaches of the Solar System. It’s currently known only as 2003 UB313, because it was first seen – or, rather, ‘the data from which the object was discovered were obtained’, as one of its discoverers, Michael Brown, carefully puts it – in the second half of October 2003 (the 21st fortnight of the year; U is the 21st letter of the alphabet ...

Betting big, winning small

David Runciman: Blair’s Gambles, 20 May 2004

... Is Iraq Tony Blair’s Suez? The parallels are certainly hard to avoid, and Blair’s critics have not been slow to point them out. First, there is a strong suspicion that, like Suez, the whole Iraq escapade was the result of a private deal cooked up between the belligerents. The decision to send British and French troops to Egypt in 1956 was sealed during a secret meeting at Sèvres in France, where British, French and Israeli representatives agreed on a plan that would allow the Israelis to attack the Egyptians, and the British and French to intervene in order to separate them, reclaiming the canal in the process ...

This Guilty Land

Eric Foner: Every Possible Lincoln, 17 December 2020

Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times 
by David S. Reynolds.
Penguin, 1066 pp., £33.69, September, 978 1 59420 604 7
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The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln and the Struggle for American Freedom 
by H.W. Brands.
Doubleday, 445 pp., £24, October, 978 0 385 54400 9
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... man and liberator of the slaves, has been the subject of more than 16,000 books, according to David S. Reynolds’s new biography, Abe. That’s around two a week, on average, since the end of the American Civil War. Almost every possible Lincoln can be found in the historical ...

Nostalgia for the Vestry

James Buchan: Thatcherism, 30 November 2006

Thatcher and Sons: A Revolution in Three Acts 
by Simon Jenkins.
Allen Lane, 375 pp., £20, October 2006, 0 7139 9595 5
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... Dispair [sic]-Hope. These are the bones of the prayer attributed (not very plausibly) to St Francis of Assisi that Margaret Thatcher quoted on the steps of 10 Downing Street on her first day as prime minister, 4 May 1979: ‘Where there is discord, may we bring harmony.’ Thatcher had just called on the queen and no doubt wrote the words as an ...

Short Cuts

Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Gordon Brown, 7 June 2007

... fortune through some startling and, on occasion, clandestine publishing and movie contracts, as David Reynolds has shown in his riveting In Command of History. Then there is self-justification after retirement, which almost always produces memoirs of numbing boredom: I assume – or hope – that no one alive has actually read every page of all the volumes ...

Success and James Maxton

Inigo Thomas, 3 January 2008

... Labour Party MP, socialist, orator, Scotsman and the subject of a biography written by Gordon Brown twenty years ago – was not a successful leader, although some of his contemporaries in the 1920s thought he might become one. ‘Maxton was never a government minister,’ Brown wrote of his subject, ‘and his failure ...

Doing Chatting

Eleanor Birne: Asperger’s, 9 October 2003

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time 
by Mark Haddon.
Cape, 272 pp., £10.99, May 2003, 0 224 06378 2
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... found out my mother was going to marry my father, she asked my mother to reconsider. ‘What about David?’ she said. ‘Wouldn’t you like to marry David instead?’ David is my father’s brother. He still lives alone in the council house my ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Flashman, 9 May 2002

... It’s hard to imagine anyone settling down to write the further adventures of that Harry Potter of the 1830s, Tom Brown; even harder to imagine anyone settling down to read them. (Thomas Hughes did in fact write a sequel, Tom Brown at Oxford, but it’s never done as well as Tom Browns Schooldays: Amazon ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: Ed Balls, 22 September 2016

... the LRB archive, responding in 1991 to a piece by Ross McKibbin praising his and Harold Wilson’s record in government: ‘it is rather nice,’ he wrote, ‘to cease to be a kind of non-person.’ Still, for all the pathos, Callaghan was 68 when he resigned in 1980, the only man to have held all four of the great offices of state, and had been in ...

Cover Stories

Patrick Parrinder, 4 April 1985

Lives of the Poets: A Novella and Six Stories 
by E.L. Doctorow.
Joseph, 145 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 0 7181 2529 0
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The Pork Butcher 
by David Hughes.
Constable, 123 pp., £5.95, April 1984, 0 09 465510 3
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Out of the Blue 
by John Milne.
Hamish Hamilton, 309 pp., £8.95, March 1985, 0 241 11489 6
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... Here’s something out of the quaint past, a man reading a book,’ remarks E.L. Doctorow’s narrator as he rides the New York subway. The other passengers in the subway are not readers but listeners, hooked to their earphones and tape-players, ‘listening their way back from literacy ...

Who’s on the Ropes Now?

Ross McKibbin: A Bad Week for Gordon Brown, 1 November 2007

... All those articles written only a couple of weeks ago and giving entirely good reasons why Gordon Brown was on top and David Cameron on the ropes now look faintly embarrassing. But at the beginning of October Brown was on top and no one can be faulted for failing to see his impending ...

Sergeant Farthing

D.A.N. Jones, 17 October 1985

A Maggot 
by John Fowles.
Cape, 460 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 224 02806 5
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The Romances of John Fowles 
by Simon Loveday.
Macmillan, 164 pp., £25, August 1985, 0 333 31518 9
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... are riding westward from London when a fifth rider joins them, a man in a red coat and dragoon’s hat. The year is 1736 and they are on horseback. Arriving at a Devonshire country inn, they tell the innkeeper and an intrusive parson about themselves and the purpose of their journey, but we suspect them of lying. They are an odd set, by the standards of both ...

Institutional Hypocrisy

David Runciman: Selling the NHS, 21 April 2005

Restoring Responsibility: Ethics in Government, Business and Healthcare 
by Dennis Thompson.
Cambridge, 349 pp., £16.99, November 2004, 0 521 54722 9
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NHS plc: The Privatisation of Our Healthcare 
by Allyson Pollock.
Verso, 271 pp., £15.99, September 2004, 1 84467 011 2
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Browns Britain 
by Robert Peston.
Short Books, 369 pp., £14.99, January 2005, 1 904095 67 4
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... is a system of government that institutionalises distrust, as the price we pay for handing over so much power to our representatives, it is all the more important that we shouldn’t destroy what little trust remains, by imposing impossibly high standards. ‘We should learn to tolerate some inconsistency between the promises and performances of ...

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