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Dismantling the class war

Paul Addison, 25 July 1991

The Cambridge Social History of Britain, 1750-1950. Vol I.: Regions and Communities 
edited by F.M.L. Thompson.
Cambridge, 608 pp., June 1990, 0 521 25788 3
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The Cambridge Social History of Britain, 1750-1950. Vol II.: People and Their Environment 
edited by F.M.L. Thompson.
Cambridge, 392 pp., June 1990, 0 521 25789 1
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The Temper of the Times: British Society since World War Two 
by Bill Williamson.
Blackwell, 308 pp., £30, August 1990, 0 631 15919 3
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... between government and society. Pat Thane tackles the period from 1750 to 1914, while Jose Harris, fortunately, takes no notice of the 1950 boundary, and carries the discussion forward into the early Eighties. Her chapter, which includes a searching analysis of the mismatch between a centralising state and a libertarian society after 1940, is ...


Adam Phillips: Charm, 16 November 2000

Lost Years: A Memoir 1945-51 
by Christopher Isherwood, edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 388 pp., £25, July 2000, 0 7011 6931 1
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... considerations; and the temptations in story-telling – what he called ‘the difficulty of being frank without being indiscreet’, the eagerness to tell things for effect – become dramas in themselves. The embarrassment of the narrators in his fiction interests him as much as their confidence or their fluency. What is wonderful about Isherwood is that he ...

Even When It’s a Big Fat Lie

Alex Abramovich: ‘Country Music’, 8 October 2020

Country Music 
directed by Ken Burns.
PBS, eight episodes
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... Bare, Garth Brooks, Roseanne Cash, Charlie Daniels, Little Jimmy Dickens, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Rhiannon Giddens, Kris Kristofferson, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Randy Scruggs, Connie Smith, Marty Stuart, Dwight Yoakam – a who’s who of Nashville, Austin and Bakersfield turned out for Burns’s camera, 85 ...

I need money

Christian Lorentzen: Biden Tries Again, 10 September 2020

Yesterday’s Man: The Case against Joe Biden 
by Branko Marcetic.
Verso, 288 pp., £12.99, March 2020, 978 1 83976 028 0
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... was called outside the South) in Delaware in the 1970s, as his future running mate, Kamala Harris, pointed out in a primary debate (though it was later revealed that they were both in favour of the half-measure of voluntary busing). In 1977 he moved from the Senate’s banking committee to the judiciary committee, where he focused on crime ...

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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... and no doubt it contributed, visibly and invisibly, to her success. It may even have been what Frank Capra had in mind when he produced the somewhat confused statement that ‘there are women and there are women – and then there is Kate. There are actresses and actresses – then there is Hepburn.’ The Garbos and Monroes had been nothing until they ...

Good enough for Jesus

Charlotte Brewer, 25 January 1990

The State of the Language: 1990 Edition 
edited by Christopher Ricks and Leonard Michaels.
Faber, 531 pp., £17.50, January 1990, 9780571141821
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Clichés and Coinages 
by Walter Redfern.
Blackwell, 305 pp., £17.50, October 1989, 0 631 15691 7
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Rhetoric: The Wit of Persuasion 
by Walter Nash.
Blackwell, 241 pp., £25, October 1989, 0 631 16754 4
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... Speaking’) on feminism, Gorbachev and deconstruction, which is in some ways engagingly frank about its aims, in some ways (I think) mistaken in achieving them. He sets out to perform ‘a great service ... to the dwindling body of linguistic reactionaries’ – namely, to provide an argument for the use of he as opposed to he or she, s/he etc. He ...


Andrew O’Hagan, 11 May 1995

... as this, named after his own town. Angus McInnes’s father had been a fisherman on the Isle of Harris; Angus had sailed with Forfar since early in the war, working as a lamp-trimmer. He was good pals with an assistant cook called James Wilson McGinlay, who was a bit younger. McGinlay’s father was a coachman at Milton, in Glasgow, a fact which eventually ...

Painting the map red

William Boyd, 5 September 1985

The Randlords: The Men who made South Africa 
by Geoffrey Wheatcroft.
Weidenfeld, 314 pp., £12.95, July 1985, 0 297 78437 4
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... silence. This is even more true of the minor figures, such as Rhodes’s henchman Rutherfoord Harris, his partner Charles Rudd, or even Leander Starr Jameson. Paradoxically, there exists a first-rate scholarly account of Rhodes’s involvement with the annexation of Bechuanaland – yet no similar treatment of his life. Even the most recent biography (by ...

Parcelled Out

Ferdinand Mount: The League of Nations, 22 October 2015

The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire 
by Susan Pedersen.
Oxford, 571 pp., £22.99, June 2015, 978 0 19 957048 5
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... to listen to anyone. The Senate would pass his treaty or it would pass no treaty at all. Senator Frank Brandegee of Connecticut declared: ‘The president has strangled his own child.’ The flood of idealism that Wilson had unleashed dried up overnight. The enormous hope of yoking the exceptional destiny of the United States to the cause of world peace and ...

Mockney Rebels

Thomas Jones: Lindsay Anderson, 20 July 2000

Mainly about Linsay Anderson 
by Gavin Lambert.
Faber, 302 pp., £18.99, May 2000, 0 571 17775 1
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... Anderson explored the idea of a character challenging the notion of reality as others conceive it: Frank Machin in This Sporting Life (1963) tries (and ultimately fails) to wrest control of his destiny from the forces of the establishment. At one point, in the dressing-room after a rugby match, Machin has a hosepipe turned on him as a joke. His immediate ...


Karl Miller: On Doubles, 2 May 1985

... the day. It is certainly time for some second thoughts. Graeme Souness has written, abetted by Bob Harris, an unusually frank football book.† Formerly of the Liverpool midfield and now of Sampdoria, Souness has long been a target for the sympathies and antipathies of many thousands of people, and it shows. What he has to ...


Michael Rogin, 5 September 1996

Imagineering Atlanta 
by Charles Rutheiser.
Verso, 324 pp., £44.95, July 1996, 1 85984 800 1
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... première of The Birth of a Nation and after the respectable citizens of Cobb County lynched Leo Frank. (Stirred up by anti-semitic hysteria, an Atlanta jury wrongly convicted the Jewish pencil factory manager of molesting and murdering a white female employee.) Atlanta was the headquarters of the powerful Twenties’ Klan, which augmented the negrophobia of ...


Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett, 7 November 1985

... down the details. Long thin legs clad in long thin trousers, immaculately pressed. Orange-coloured Harris tweed jacket, immaculately cut, but not in the shapeless fashion of the day. Clearly he had taken it out of mothballs and hung it over a steaming bathtub before setting out for the Théâtre de l’Odéon where the jackets are out at the elbows and the ...

We Laughed, We Clowned

Michael Wood: Diana Trilling, 29 June 2017

The Untold Journey: The Life of Diana Trilling 
by Natalie Robins.
Columbia, 399 pp., £25, June 2017, 978 0 231 18208 9
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... and reviews for a host of other New York papers and journals, and a number of books, including Mrs Harris, an account of the trial of a headmistress accused of murdering her lover. She famously said of her literary collaboration with her husband that ‘Lionel taught me to think; I taught him to write.’ ‘It was a great marriage,’ she said, ‘not one of ...


Jenny Turner: ‘T2 Trainspotting’, 16 February 2017

... so you want hame. It’s the great rhythm of the Scottish diaspora from the Clearances to Calvin Harris, it’s a basic rhythm of the world’s migrating peoples, and it’s there in all the Trainspotting stories, deep down but dominant, like the Hunt Sales drumbeat on ‘Lust for Life’. Being Scottish myself and, like Welsh, an Iggy Pop fan from the ...

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