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Hot Dogs

Malcolm Bull, 14 June 1990

Mine eyes have seen the glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America 
by Randall Balmer.
Oxford, 246 pp., $19.95, September 1989, 0 19 505117 3
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In God’s Country: Travels in the Bible Belt, USA 
by Douglas Kennedy.
Unwin Hyman, 240 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 0 04 440423 9
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The Divine Supermarket 
by Malise Ruthven.
Chatto, 336 pp., £14.95, August 1989, 0 7011 3151 9
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The Democratisation of American Christianity 
by Nathan Hatch.
Yale, 312 pp., £22.50, November 1989, 0 300 44470 2
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Religion and 20th-Century American Intellectual Life 
edited by Michael Lacey.
Cambridge/Woodrow Wilson Centre for Scholars, 214 pp., £27.50, November 1989, 0 521 37560 6
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New Religions and the Theological Imagination in America 
by Mary Farrell Bednarowski.
Indiana, 175 pp., $25, November 1989, 0 253 31137 3
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... memorials to Brigham Young, Martin Luther King and Thomas Merton, and ends at the grave of Thomas Jefferson – has a distinctly antiquarian flavour. Ruthven believes that myths ‘become plausible when canonised by arts that penetrate the collective cultural psyche’, and he seems happier visiting monuments than talking to people more credulous than himself ...

Along the Voie Sacrée

Inigo Thomas, 8 November 2018

... advance that began in September 1918 and ended with the signing of the Armistice on 11 November. George Marshall, after whom the Marshall Plan is named, drew up the order of battle for the American Expeditionary Force. More than a million American soldiers fought in what is known as the Hundred Days Offensive: 122,000 were injured; 26,000 were killed. The ...

Blessed, Beastly Place

Douglas Dunn, 5 March 1981

Precipitous City 
by Trevor Royle.
Mainstream, 210 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 906391 09 1
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RLS: A Life Study 
by Jenni Calder.
Hamish Hamilton, 362 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 241 10374 6
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Gillespie 
by J. MacDougall Hay.
Canongate, 450 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 903937 79 4
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Scottish Satirical Verse 
edited by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 236 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 85635 183 0
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Collected Poems 
by Robert Garioch.
Carcanet, 208 pp., £3.95, July 1980, 0 85635 316 7
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... he expanded and elucidated Virgil, his translation left nothing out. Royle is right to mention Sir George MacKenzie of Rosehaugh as ‘one of the few intellectual giants of his day’ – ‘that noble wit of Scotland’, as Dryden called him – but he might have told us that his Aretina (1660) was the first novel by a Scotsman (and he mght have mentioned Sir ...

The Monster Plot

Thomas Powers: James Angleton, Spymaster, 10 May 2018

The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton 
by Jefferson Morley.
Scribe, 336 pp., £20, December 2017, 978 1 911344 73 5
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... years, was not the ideal spy. The ideal spy is a mouse-coloured blur in the crowd, someone like George Smiley, described by his wife as ‘breathtakingly ordinary’. There was nothing ordinary about Angleton. Once experienced, his history, his appearance, his manner, and his stubborn refusal to be clear were all indelible. I spent an afternoon with him ...

Absent Framers

Andreas Teuber, 31 March 1988

... in my power, to avoid becoming the draughtsman of papers to be reviewed by a public body’. Jefferson did not exhibit the same self-knowledge and when he complained to Franklin during the course of the debate over the Declaration of Independence about the ‘degradations’ and ‘mutilations’ of his draft, Franklin was reminded of an incident from ...

Fine Chances

Michael Wood, 5 June 1986

Literary Criticism 
by Henry James, edited by Leon Edel.
Cambridge, 1500 pp., £30, July 1985, 0 521 30100 9
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Henry James: The Writer and his Work 
by Tony Tanner.
Massachusetts, 142 pp., £16.95, November 1985, 0 87023 492 7
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... edition of which these volumes form a part. How does he look, posing for posterity alongside Poe, Jefferson, Melville, Mark Twain, Jack London, Harriet Beecher Stowe and others? Is he smiling at some of the company he is keeping; frowning momentarily at the presence of Whitman, who at first he thought was not a poet but a man merely ‘bullied by the ...

Everybody’s Friend

D.A.N. Jones, 15 July 1982

William Cobbett: The Poor Man’s Friend 
by George Spater.
Cambridge, 318 pp., £15, March 1982, 0 521 22216 8
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... Political Register came out almost every week from 1802 until his death in 1835. According to George Spater, this once powerful paper is now largely forgotten ‘except by historians who occasionally take a hasty glance here and there into its vast bulk of some 42,000 pages’. The existence of that bulk represents part of the difficulty in writing a ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘A Serious Man’, 17 December 2009

A Serious Man 
directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.
November 2009
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... seem to pass. The receptionist says: ‘He’s thinking.’ The second sage, Rabbi Nachtner (George Wyner), nearly steals the movie, because of his air of infinite if never tested wisdom, and his grand indifference to anything other than the sound of his own beautifully modulated voice. He seeks to help Larry by telling him a story, the central version ...

Diary

David Bromwich: The Establishment President, 13 May 2010

... The right to offshore drilling for oil, which Democrats had held back for eight years under George W. Bush, was granted by Obama without a word of contest. The coal industry, too, doubtless will be accommodated as a prelude to cap-and-trade bargaining, but the recent mining disaster in West Virginia has rendered an early statement inadvisable. Once ...

Hating

Patrice Higonnet, 14 November 1996

Benjamin Franklin and his Enemies 
by Robert Middlekauf.
California, 276 pp., £19.95, March 1996, 0 520 20268 6
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... if brought up to revere him in Public School, USA. Abraham Lincoln is the father of his people; George Washington, of his nation; but Benjamin Franklin – as it happens, a basically very decent man – hovers over the entire tradition of American ‘Babbittry’. Some subterranean but essential link runs from Poor Richard to Disneyland, Mozart on the muzak ...

Washed White

Michael Rogin, 10 June 1993

The Rites of Assent: Transformations in the Symbolic Construction of America 
by Sacvan Bercovitch.
Routledge, 424 pp., £40, November 1992, 9780415900140
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Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America 
by Garry Wills.
Simon and Schuster, 315 pp., £17.99, April 1993, 0 671 76956 1
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... survived the death of Puritanism. Carrying along nationalist historians like the Jacksonian George Bancroft, American Renaissance writers such as Hawthorne and Melville, and political leaders like Lincoln, the sacralisation of the United States created ‘the single most cohesive culture in the modern world’. Americans share not a common middle-class ...

Crop Masters

Daniel Aaron, 19 January 1989

Tobacco Culture: The Mentality of the Great Tidewater Planters on the Eve of the Revolution 
by T.H. Breen.
Princeton, 216 pp., $9.95, February 1988, 0 691 04729 4
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... Some hoped to become solvent by moving to fresh lands in the Piedmont. Others, like George Washington, switched from tobacco to wheat, thereby transforming themselves from ‘planters’ to ‘farmers’. ‘New crops generated new symbols,’ as Breen observes, and although wheat, Virginia’s second staple by the 1770s, did not displace ...

Diary

Frank Kermode: American Books, 1 April 1983

... one to come. Parkman’s two volumes will appear in the autumn, along with the collected works of Jefferson in one volume, one of four Henry Adams volumes, and one of four Emersons. James will fill eight volumes, and the first, soon to appear, includes Watch and Ward and four other early works. His critical writing will occupy two volumes, which will be not ...

Sea Slugs, Wombats, Microbes

Richard Fortey: Species Seekers, 28 April 2011

The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth 
by Richard Conniff.
Norton, 464 pp., £19.99, November 2010, 978 0 393 06854 2
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... kingdom above the level of the earthworm had yet to reach this remote spot. The entomologist George McGavin’s eyes still light up when he describes the strange insects he recognised there as species distinct from all those previously known to science. As well as esoteric specialities, there were huge beetles and an ant that had evolved to resemble a ...

The Lie that Empire Tells Itself

Eric Foner: America’s bad wars, 19 May 2005

The Dominion of War: Empire and conflict in North America 1500-2000 
by Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton.
Atlantic, 520 pp., £19.99, July 2005, 1 903809 73 8
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... has seemed distasteful, a relic of a less enlightened era of international relations. America, George W. Bush insisted during the 2000 election campaign, had ‘never been an empire’ and had no intention of becoming one. Politicians still shy away from the term. But since the attacks of 11 September 2001, the term ‘empire’ has been used without ...

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