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Gang of Four

Christopher Driver, 22 December 1983

The String Quartet: A History 
by Paul Griffiths.
Thames and Hudson, 240 pp., £12, October 1983, 9780500013113
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Gyorgy Ligeti 
by Paul Griffiths.
Robson, 128 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 86051 240 1
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... The gang of four, discoursing melodically and harmonically within the gamut of some five octaves, was a relatively late response to the acoustic properties of the violin family. Once formed, however, a couple of centuries ago, it acquired within our culture a more-than-musical resonance, comparable with the development potential of the novel, the intimacy of the still-life, the proportionality of Georgian domestic architecture, the numinosity of Cranmer’s collects ...

Couples

Anne Summers, 25 March 1993

Rules of Desire: Sex in Britain, World War One to the Present 
by Cate Haste.
Chatto, 356 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 9780701140168
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Marie Stopes and the Sexual Revolution 
by June Rose.
Faber, 272 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 05 711620 2
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Familiar Exploitation: A New Analysis of Marriage in Contemporary Western Societies 
by Christine Delphy and Diana Leonard.
Polity, 301 pp., £45, June 1992, 0 7456 0858 2
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The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies 
by Anthony Giddens.
Polity, 212 pp., £19.50, July 1992, 0 7456 1012 9
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... The creation of identity, the invention and re-invention of the self, is as emblematic of the modern era as technological invention. Of the many revolutions our species has witnessed in the last two centuries, the one which has probably contributed most to the development of the ‘plastic’ self has been the process by which, in the West, family size has been permanently reduced ...

They never married

Ian Hamilton, 10 May 1990

The Dictionary of National Biography: 1981-1985 
edited by Lord Blake and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 518 pp., £40, March 1990, 0 19 865210 0
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... On the dust-jacket of the latest supplement to the Dictionary of National Biography there are photographs of David Niven, Diana Dors, Eric Morecambe, John Betjeman and William Walton. Dors has a leering ‘Come up and read me sometime’ expression on her face and Niven wears his yacht-club greeter’s smile. Morecambe seems to be laughing at one of his own jokes ...

Trouble with a Dead Mule

Lawrence Rosen: Pashas, 5 August 2010

Pashas: Traders and Travellers in the Islamic World 
by James Mather.
Yale, 302 pp., £25, October 2009, 978 0 300 12639 6
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... Somehow, the traders seem to get there first. Before the armies, before the missionaries or travellers or bureaucrats or busybodies, they arrive, in search of furs and spices, rare textiles and strange foods. To prehistoric groups whose burial sites contain items brought from a continent away, or woodsmen in pursuit of goods lying just beyond the frontier, the trader brought many other things: stories of the exotic, knowledge of the unknown, foreign songs and dress, religion, disease, inventions and slaves ...

Love, Loss and Family Advantage

Rosalind Mitchison, 1 September 1983

Family Forms in Historic Europe 
edited by Richard Wall.
Cambridge, 606 pp., £37.50, March 1983, 0 521 24547 8
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Servants in Husbandry in Early Modern England 
by Ann Kussmaul.
Cambridge, 245 pp., £22, December 1981, 0 521 23566 9
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The Subversive Family: An Alternative History of Love and Marriage 
by Ferdinand Mount.
Cape, 282 pp., £9.50, July 1982, 0 224 01999 6
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... Family Forms in Historic Europe is a collection of local studies from different parts of Europe, mostly based on ‘listings’: that is, on descriptions of the occupants of a local unit on a specific date, usually by household. Who is resident at any moment in a household depends on traditions of family structure, on birth, marriage and death rates, on the employment prospects of the inmates, or the needs of the family occupation, and sometimes on the active pressure of governing bodies, the landowner or the state ...

Confronting Defeat

Perry Anderson: Hobsbawm’s Histories, 17 October 2002

... Presented as a pendant to Age of Extremes, a personal portrait hung opposite the historical landscape, what light does Interesting Times throw on Eric Hobsbawm’s vision of the 20th century, and overall narrative of modernity?1 In overarching conception, The Age of Revolution, The Age of Capital, The Age of Empire and Age of Extremes can be regarded as a single enterprise – a tetralogy which has no equal as a systematic account of how the contemporary world was made ...

Why Fascism is the Wave of the Future

Edward Luttwak, 7 April 1994

... That capitalism unobstructed by public regulations, cartels, monopolies, oligopolies, effective trade unions, cultural inhibitions or kinship obligations is the ultimate engine of economic growth is an old-hat truth now disputed only by a few cryogenically-preserved Gosplan enthusiasts and a fair number of poorly-paid Anglo-Saxon academics. That the capitalist engine achieves growth as well as it does because its relentless competition destroys old structures and methods, thus allowing more efficient structures and methods to rise in their place, is the most famous bit of Schumpeteriana, even better-known than the amorous escapades of the former University of Czernowitz professor ...

Manly Scowls

Patrick Parrinder, 6 February 1986

An Artist of the Floating World 
by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Faber, 206 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 571 13608 7
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Revolutionary Road 
by Richard Yates.
Methuen, 337 pp., £4.50, January 1986, 0 413 59720 2
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Young Hearts Crying 
by Richard Yates.
Methuen, 347 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 9780413597304
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Ellen 
by Ita Daly.
Cape, 144 pp., £8.95, January 1986, 0 224 02833 2
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... Now that the three-volume novel and the circulating library are dead,’ I imagine someone as saying around the year 1900, ‘novels will have to be shorter, sharper, more up to date. The future lies with an Associated Press dispatch, not with the slow unfolding of generations. Nobody wants to read elaborate descriptions of things that might have happened, but didn’t, decades ago ...

The Iceman Cometh

Ross McKibbin: Tony Adams, 6 January 2000

Addicted 
by Tony Adams and Ian Ridley.
HarperCollins, 384 pp., £6.99, August 1999, 0 00 218795 7
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... For those who do not admire it, football must seem like American popular culture does to those who do not admire America: something whose spread is both inexorable and destructive. Football is not just the ‘beautiful game’, it is the ‘world game’; something not simply to be played or watched, but an activity powered by all the resources of global wealth and technology ...

Lifting the Shadow

V.G. Kiernan, 15 April 1982

Death and the Enlightenment: Changing Attitudes to Death among Christians and Unbelievers in l8th-Century France 
by John McManners.
Oxford, 619 pp., £17.50, November 1981, 0 19 826440 2
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Mirrors of Mortality: Studies in the Social History of Death 
edited by Joachim Waley.
Europa, 252 pp., £19.50, October 1981, 0 905118 67 7
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... The common reader may feel inclined to lay the same embargo on his writers as the Duke in the Elizabethan tragedy on his courtiers. Great tact, and a sustained intellectual animation to balance the much that is repulsive in the theme, were needed to make a very long book about it as attractive, as well as instructive, as this one is. It is a study of birth as well as death, and among what it shows perishing, besides human victims deserving or undeserving of their fate, are gangrened beliefs and ossified customs, leaving room for a fresher air to blow in ...

Versatile Monster

Marilyn Butler, 5 May 1988

In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity and 19th-century Writing 
by Chris Baldick.
Oxford, 207 pp., £22.50, December 1987, 0 19 811726 4
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... The plot of Frankenstein, Chris Baldick points out, can be summed up in two sentences. ‘Frankenstein makes a living creature out of bits of corpses. The creature turns against him and runs amok.’ The mystery is why so many people know the plot of Frankenstein, and have known it, as this book ably demonstrates, since shortly after the work’s first appearance in 1818, without necessarily reading a line of Mary Shelley’s prose ...

Sour Notes

D.A.N. Jones, 17 November 1983

Peter Hall’s Diaries: The Story of a Dramatic Battle 
edited by John Goodwin.
Hamish Hamilton, 507 pp., £12.95, November 1983, 0 241 11047 5
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... Sir Peter Hall is a man of Notes. He is a director of plays who has become Director of the National Theatre. The skills of play directors are not those of performers (like his predecessor at the National, Lord Olivier). Play directors pride themselves on their ability to give what they call Notes. This sort of Note (scarcely recognised by dictionaries) is not the sort manual workers make, in notebooks or on notepaper: it is mouth work ...

Thinking Women

Jane Miller, 6 November 1986

... I have been reading the Twentieth Century’s special number on women, which is pink with a palely gleaming Mona Lisa on its cover. It’s odd that I’ve not read it before, since it came out in August 1958 and contains what could be described as my first appearance in print. The actual copy I have belonged to Betty Miller, and it is in her article, which is called ‘Amazons and Afterwards’, that I appear, anonymously and representatively, as Afterwards ...

Like Cooking a Dumpling

Mike Jay: Victorian Science Writing, 20 November 2014

Visions of Science: Books and Readers at the Dawn of the Victorian Age 
by James Secord.
Oxford, 306 pp., £18.99, March 2014, 978 0 19 967526 5
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... In 1802​ , the young Humphry Davy introduced his first full course of chemistry lectures at the Royal Institution by addressing the fear that science was a Trojan horse for social or political reform. In ‘a bright day, of which we already behold the dawn,’ he announced, ‘we may look forward with confidence to a state of society in which the different orders and classes of men will contribute more effectively to the support of each other than they have hitherto done ...
The Aristocracy in England, 1660-1914 
by J.V. Beckett.
Blackwell, 512 pp., £22.50, September 1986, 0 631 13391 7
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... As Britain chips away at her manufacturing base and slides towards becoming one vast open-air museum and tourist attraction, her aristocracy has emerged as the most dignified and venerable of museum pieces. Country houses are prized and revered as architectural gems, as art galleries and as period museums, and the frequently bizarre mixture of the excellent and the ordinary in their collections, or their downright second-rate quality, is successfully concealed by the adroit salesmanship which portrays all this in the full glory of its variety and eclecticism as a central part of the national heritage ...

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