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Looking Away

Stephen Holmes: Questions of Intervention, 14 November 2002

A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide 
by Samantha Power.
Basic Books, 640 pp., £21.99, January 2002, 0 465 06150 8
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War in a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton and the Generals 
by David Halberstam.
Bloomsbury, 540 pp., £20, April 2002, 0 7475 5946 5
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... and unjust. Another example of this shameful but persistent pattern makes arresting reading today. George H.W. Bush’s largesse towards Iraq outdid Ronald Reagan’s, even after Saddam Hussein’s murder of a hundred thousand Iraqi Kurds had been amply documented. The credits provided by Bush ‘freed up currency for Hussein to fortify and modernise his more ...

No Grand Strategy and No Ultimate Aim

Stephen Holmes: US policy in Iraq, 6 May 2004

Incoherent Empire 
by Michael Mann.
Verso, 278 pp., £15, October 2003, 1 85984 582 7
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... of the world’, he has decided to make the leap from scholar to activist, in an effort to unseat George W. Bush. He does this in his own bookish way, situating Bush’s foreign policy in a broad historical context and exposing its pathologies without resorting to ‘high moral rhetoric’. Instead of denouncing American power as evil, he charges it with ...

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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... played by Dennis Hoey, whose most famous role was to be that of Inspector Lestrade in six Sherlock Holmes films during the Forties. One of the virtues of Anne Edwards’s book is that she gives in a footnote a potted biography of every actor and actress she mentions. These notes have great period interest, as well as commending themselves to film buffs. The ...
From Idiocy to Mental Deficiency: Historical Perspectives on People with Learning Disabilities 
edited by David Wright and Anne Digby.
Routledge, 238 pp., £45, October 1996, 9780415112154
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... caper across the heath of history crying out ‘come not in here, nuncle,’ or who, as with George Austen, achieve a glimmer of reflected glory. Sister Jane left her novels: the mentally defective brother, boarded out with a poor family near Basingstoke and eventually buried in an unmarked grave, no word at all. A few parish records register that he ...

Madly Excited

John Bayley, 1 June 1989

The Life of Graham Greene. Vol. I: 1904-1939 
by Norman Sherry.
Cape, 783 pp., £16.95, April 1989, 0 224 02654 2
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... is particularly mechanical, and can seem repellent. Conan Doyle may have identified with Sherlock Holmes and with Watson too, as most of us do, but this is very different from turning oneself into a technique, identifying with a method. Greene’s particular brand of Roman Catholicism becomes a vital part of it, and the part in which the higher ...

Joke Book?

A.D. Nuttall, 23 November 1989

The Anatomy of Melancholy: Vol. I 
by Robert Burton, edited by Thomas Faulkner, Nicholas Kiessling and Rhonda Blair.
Oxford, 675 pp., £70, October 1989, 0 19 812448 1
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... scientific curiosity. It is a little like the historic first meeting of Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes: Holmes, horrifically, had just been beating the corpses in the hospital dissecting-room in order to verify how far bruises might be produced after death. Democritus anatomised the animals in order to find the seat of ...

Doctors’ Orders

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 18 February 1982

‘All that summer she was mad’: Virginia Woolf and Her Doctors 
by Stephen Trombley.
Junction, 338 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 9780862450397
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... from behind the trees in Regent’s Park – and prefers death to doctors. Hearing the dreaded Dr Holmes about to burst into the room, Septimus flings himself ‘vigorously, violently’ out of the window, to be fatally impaled on the railings below. ‘It was a subject that I have kept cooling in my mind until I felt I could touch it without bursting into ...


Michael Rogin, 20 August 1998

Celebrity Caricature in America 
by Wendy Wick Reaves.
Yale, 320 pp., £29.95, April 1998, 0 300 07463 8
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... 1935 collage. There’s Al Freuh’s jaunty economical outline of, unmistakably, the showman George M. Cohan spinning his cane, Paolo Garretto’s Babe Ruth as home run baseball floating in the air, unmistakably baseball and unmistakably Ruth. And Henry Major’s Ernst Lubitsch, Will Cotton’s Theodore Dreiser, Hirschfeld’s Bojangles Robinson, and ...

Playing Fields, Flanders Fields

Paul Delany, 21 January 1982

War Diary 1913-1917: Chronicle of Youth 
by Vera Brittain, edited by Alan Bishop.
Gollancz, 382 pp., £8.50, September 1981, 0 575 02888 2
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The English Poets of the First World War 
by John Lehmann.
Thames and Hudson, 144 pp., £6.95, August 1981, 0 500 01256 3
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Voices from the Great War 
by Peter Vansittart.
Cape, 303 pp., £7.95, November 1981, 0 224 01915 5
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The Little Field-Marshal: Sir John French 
by Richard Holmes.
Cape, 427 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 0 224 01575 3
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... cuts a very appealing figure. She charts her course like a heroine from her favourite novelist, George Eliot: first the escape from a stifling provincialism, then a place at Oxford, followed by a vocation among ‘the poor and striving and thoughtful’. Her feminism was both instinctive and brave; unwilling to be traded on the Buxton marriage market, she ...

Hanging out with Higgins

Michael Wood, 7 December 1989

Silent Partner 
by Jonathan Kellerman.
Macdonald, 506 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 356 17598 7
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‘Murder will out’: The Detective in Fiction 
by T.J. Binyon.
Oxford, 166 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780192192233
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Devices and Desires 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 408 pp., £11.99, October 1989, 0 571 14178 1
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by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 287 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 670 82258 2
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by George V. Higgins.
Deutsch, 213 pp., £11.95, November 1989, 0 233 98513 1
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Polar Star 
by Martin Cruz Smith.
Collins Harvill, 373 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 00 271269 5
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... an arrangement of names and dates. Binyon looks at ‘professional amateurs’ from Dupin and Holmes to a whole assortment of private eyes – I’m not quite sure how they get amateur status, by being underpaid maybe; ‘amateur amateurs’ from various academics to Lovejoy; and a whole run of policemen: plodders, aristocrats, Maigret, the guys at the ...

Thinking Persons

John Ellis, 14 May 1992

Addressing Frank Kermode: Essays in Criticism and Interpretation 
edited by Margaret Tudeau-Clayton and Martin Warner.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £40, July 1991, 9780333531372
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The Poverty of Structuralism: Literature and Structuralist Theory 
by Leonard Jackson.
Longman, 317 pp., £24, July 1991, 0 582 06697 2
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Inconvenient Fictions: Literature and the Limits of Theory 
by Bernard Harrison.
Yale, 293 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 300 05057 7
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Reading Minds: The Study of English in the Age of Cognitive Science 
by Mark Turner.
Princeton, 298 pp., £18.99, January 1992, 0 691 06897 6
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Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics 
by Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson.
Stanford, 530 pp., $49.50, December 1990, 0 8047 1821 0
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... of the contributors do, however, engage Kermode’s thought in a fairly serious way: John Stokes, George Hunter and Patrick Parrinder. Two ways of doing so were possible. Either Kermode’s general view of the critic’s task or his ideas concerning specific texts or groups of texts could have been the focus of attention. Stokes and Hunter choose the second ...


John Sutherland: The pushiness of young men in a hurry, 5 May 2005

by Tom Maschler.
Picador, 294 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 330 48420 6
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British Book Publishing as a Business since the 1960s 
by Eric de Bellaigue.
British Library, 238 pp., £19.95, January 2004, 0 7123 4836 0
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Penguin Special: The Life and Times of Allen Lane 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Viking, 484 pp., £25, May 2005, 0 670 91485 1
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... Maschler’s achievements as a general trade publisher rank him with Archibald Constable, George Smith, John Blackwood, George Routledge, Frederick Macmillan, David Garnett, Ian Parsons, Allen Lane. It was one of the most highly regarded of today’s younger publishers, Peter Straus (now an agent), who commissioned ...

‘Turbot, sir,’ said the waiter

E.S. Turner, 4 April 1991

After Hours with P.G. Wodehouse 
by Richard Usborne.
Hutchinson, 201 pp., £15.99, February 1991, 0 09 174712 0
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... unemployed as gardeners). Usborne the indefatigable has resolved to read more of a writer called George Ade, who had a pretty turn of phrase and may have influenced the master. His Knocking the Neighbours (1911) contains the following:    He had a temperature of 102 and his ears were hanging down. Also, during the period of coma, someone had extracted ...

Walking on Eyeballs

E.S. Turner: The history of gout, 7 January 1999

Gout: The Patrician Malady 
by Roy Porter and G.S. Rousseau.
Yale, 393 pp., £25, September 1998, 0 300 07386 0
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... chalkstones and liquid chalk’, as if from a burst pipe. The authors have spotted in a Sherlock Holmes story an old man ‘cram full of gout’ of whom it was said that he could chalk his billiard cue with his knuckles. Relief from gout was sought in many ways, often heroic, sometimes idiotic. The New Testament injunction ‘If thine eye offend thee, pluck ...


David Runciman: How the coalition was formed, 16 December 2010

22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition 
by David Laws.
Biteback, 335 pp., £9.99, November 2010, 978 1 84954 080 3
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... from ‘the unpalatable to the disastrous’. Still, he consoles himself with a line from Sherlock Holmes: once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. In the end, a deal with Labour was impossible. Propping up a minority Conservative administration was also out of the question, since it would have meant ...

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