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R.W. Johnson: World Cup Diary, 22 July 2010

... R.W. Johnson’s article in this issue is taken from some of his blog posts during the South Africa 2010 World Cup. More of his posts, and those of some other LRB contributors, can be found at June. South Africa is being worked up by an endless media barrage into a state of great excitement and expectancy about the World Cup ...

Day 5, Day 9, Day 16

LRB Contributors, 24 March 2022

... been hastily updated to include new sanctions in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Boris Johnson said the bill would ‘tighten the noose around Putin’s regime’. Anti-corruption experts are more circumspect: the measures are piecemeal and there is little sign of meaningfully increased investment in enforcement. A veteran financial transparency ...

What is a pikestaff?

Colin Burrow: Metaphor, 23 April 2015

by Denis Donoghue.
Harvard, 232 pp., £18.95, April 2014, 978 0 674 43066 2
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... transferre, to translate, transfer – or, in the unfortunate press release that accompanied Denis Donoghue’s civilised and informative book, ‘in classical Greek metaphor means “a carrying or bearing of a cross”.’ Oops. This mistake isn’t Donoghue’s fault, of course, but it is rather a good one, since Donoghue’s view of metaphor is not ...


Christopher Ricks, 3 May 1984

Swift: The Man, His Works and the Age: Vol III. Dean Swift 
by Irvin Ehrenpreis.
Methuen, 1066 pp., £40, December 1983, 0 416 85400 1
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Swift’s Tory Politics 
by F.P. Lock.
Duckworth, 189 pp., £18, November 1983, 0 7156 1755 9
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Jonathan Swift: Political Writer 
by J.A. Downie.
Routledge, 391 pp., £25, March 1984, 0 7100 9645 3
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The Character of Swift’s Satire 
edited by Claude Rawson.
Associated University Presses, 343 pp., £22.50, April 1984, 0 87413 209 6
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... point to the frequency of such reversals in Swift; in his dealings with Esther Johnson and Mrs Dingley, even while ‘establishing for himself a fantasy family in which he might act father, brother, lover or husband as he chose’, Swift ‘was also reversing the old relationship which once made him dependent upon two women’. Reversing is ...

Geek Romance

Philip Connors: Junot Díaz, 20 March 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao 
by Junot Díaz.
Faber, 340 pp., £12.99, February 2008, 978 0 571 17955 8
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... writers casting about for inspiration in the 1990s, two books showed the way. The first was Denis Johnson’s Jesus’s Son (1992), a collection of autobiographical stories revolving around the misadventures of a character known mostly as Fuckhead. It mined Johnson’s life during his years as a drug addict in ...


David Runciman: Thatcher’s Rise, 6 June 2013

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography. Vol. I: Not for Turning 
by Charles Moore.
Allen Lane, 859 pp., £30, April 2013, 978 0 7139 9282 3
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... of whisky and ginger ale, ‘but she was never drunk,’ and she did not get through as much as Denis, who could more or less subsist on gin. She didn’t have hangovers and she didn’t get ill (she sometimes had toothache). Her skin continued to glow and her eye remained fierce. More striking than the amount of sleep she needed was her ability to sleep at ...

Divorce me

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 17 December 1981

Love, Sex, Marriage and Divorce 
by Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy.
Cape, 384 pp., £8.50, November 1981, 0 224 01602 4
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... After the annals of sexual prowess, the annals of sexual infirmity. After Kinsey, Masters and Johnson – ‘it was around the clitoris that they made major discoveries.’ Sex is a problem because it is no longer supposed to be a problem. ‘Throughout history men have boasted of their conquests, and in liberated ages, women too,’ writes ...

On Thatcher

Karl Miller, 25 April 2013

... wrote about her included Ian Gilmour, W.G. Runciman, Neal Ascherson, Christopher Hitchens, R.W. Johnson, Ross McKibbin, E.P. Thompson, Tam Dalyell and Peter Clarke. What they wrote seemed excellent to me, with Runciman bearing the palm for aphoristic conciseness. In embarking on a review, also in 1989, of Hugo Young’s biography of her, R.W. ...

Conspire Slowly, Act Quickly

David Runciman: Thatcher Undone, 2 January 2020

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography Vol. III: Herself Alone 
by Charles Moore.
Allen Lane, 1072 pp., £35, October 2019, 978 0 241 32474 5
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... Her relations with her children, Mark and Carol, were strained. She had little to do. Her husband, Denis, was dead, having succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2003, aged 88. Their last years together were not especially happy. When he took a trip to South Africa for his health, as he had done earlier in their marriage, she became convinced he was leaving ...

Pepys’s Place

Pat Rogers, 16 June 1983

The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Vol X: Companion and Vol XI: Index 
edited by Robert Latham.
Bell and Hyman, 626 pp., £19.50, February 1983, 0 7135 1993 2
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The Diary of John Evelyn 
edited by John Bowle.
Oxford, 476 pp., £19.50, April 1983, 0 19 251011 8
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The Brave Courtier: Sir William Temple 
by Richard Faber.
Faber, 187 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 571 11982 4
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... with Matthews), without often being read or assessed as literature. Books such as Boswell’s Johnson and Macaulay’s History once gave rise to the same apparent category error, but they have long since received the full hermeneutic treatment. So far Pepys has survived intact, greater in the public imagination than his own words. The fulfilment of this ...
... finds her measuring ‘my performance against that of other countries in the real world’.R.W. Johnson, 20 April 1989If​ you want to see the cutting edge of Thatcherism, go to Basingstoke. There, as we learn in Paul Hirst’s After Thatcher, the local council (careful, no doubt, with its ratepayers’ money) has allowed an insurance company to take over ...

Grande Dame

D.A.N. Jones, 18 July 1985

With Open Eyes: Conversations with Matthieu Galey 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Beacon, 271 pp., £19.95, October 1984, 0 8070 6354 1
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The Dark Brain of Piranesi, and Other Essays 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated with the author Richard Howard.
Aidan Ellis, 232 pp., £9.50, June 1985, 0 85628 140 9
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by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated with the author Walter Kaiser.
Aidan Ellis, 105 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 0 85628 138 7
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Coup de Grâce 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated with the author Grace Frick .
Black Swan, 112 pp., £2.50, October 1984, 9780552991216
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... to her work, imbued with an unexpected spirit of comedy, rather like Boswell’s life of Johnson – for Mme Yourcenar, like Johnson, is a weighty and judicial writer, contemplating many eras and continents, while Matthieu Galey is a journalist determined to ask ‘Just exactly how do you feel?’ about the issues ...

Vibrations of Madame de V***

John Mullan: Malcolm Bradbury, 20 July 2000

To the Hermitage 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Picador, 498 pp., £16, May 2000, 0 330 37662 4
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... Denis Diderot, the hero of Malcolm Bradbury’s new novel, has one niche in the English language with ‘esprit de l’escalier’, his only entry in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations: ‘An untranslatable phrase, the meaning of which is that one only thinks on one’s way downstairs of the smart retort one might have made in the drawing room ...

The Darth Vader Option

Colin Kidd: The Tories, 24 January 2013

The Conservatives since 1945: The Drivers of Party Change 
by Tim Bale.
Oxford, 372 pp., £55, September 2012, 978 0 19 923437 0
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The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron 
by Tim Bale.
Polity, 471 pp., £14.99, January 2011, 978 0 7456 4858 3
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Reconstructing Conservatism? The Conservative Party in Opposition, 1997-2010 
by Richard Hayton.
Manchester, 166 pp., £60, September 2012, 978 0 7190 8316 7
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... approach extended beyond public relations to matters of substance. Indeed, the Labour chancellor Denis Healey described the quest to identify policy in Thatcher’s first election manifesto as like ‘looking for a black cat in a dark coal cellar’. Not only did Thatcher become more narrowly ideological, but this intransigence constituted her bequest to the ...


Thomas Karshan: John Updike, 31 March 2005

by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 321 pp., £17.99, February 2005, 9780241143087
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... them if it cannot find them. He took this, his ‘overriding thesis’, from the Swiss writer Denis de Rougemont, the author of Love in the Western World (1939), and found it ‘corroborated’ everywhere. In loving the goodness of things at rest, Updike, like Frank in ‘Natural Colour’, also wants to disturb them. It is usually morbid to speculate on ...

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