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Disaster

Ronan Bennett, 16 December 1993

De Valera: Long Fellow, Long Shadow 
by Tim Pat Coogan.
Hutchinson, 772 pp., £20, October 1993, 9780091750305
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... London negotiations, Nixon was never arrested or charged. He became an embarrassment only when Sir James Craig and the Unionist hierarchy got involved with the Governments of the Irish Free State and Britain in the delicate negotiations about the border. Nixon was forced out of the police, although not before being awarded an MBE for ‘valuable services ...

Divinely Ordained

Jackson Lears: God loves America, 19 May 2011

A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided 
by Amanda Foreman.
Penguin, 988 pp., £12.99, June 2011, 978 0 14 104058 5
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... both academic and popular, most prominently in the Pulitzer-prize winning synthesis of James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom (1988) – whose title alone suggested that we were back on familiar terrain – and in the sepia-tinted sentimentality of Ken Burns’s documentary. In McPherson’s influential work, a fixation on racial rather than ...

Out of the Gothic

Tom Shippey, 5 February 1987

Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction 
by Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove.
Gollancz, 511 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 575 03942 6
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Eon 
by Greg Bear.
Gollancz, 504 pp., £10.95, October 1986, 0 575 03861 6
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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Four Parts 
by Douglas Adams.
Heinemann, 590 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 434 00920 2
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Humpty Dumpty in Oakland 
by Philip K. Dick.
Gollancz, 199 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 575 03875 6
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The Watcher 
by Jane Palmer.
Women’s Press, 177 pp., £2.50, September 1986, 0 7043 4038 0
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I, Vampire 
by Jody Scott.
Women’s Press, 206 pp., £2.50, September 1986, 0 7043 4036 4
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... from Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids (very clearly a novel about conflict between species) to James Blish’s A Case of Conscience (surely the only novel ever to have been based on a thorough reading of George Gosse’s Omphalos, his totally discredited reconciliation of Darwin and the Book of Genesis). Yet the questions remain, are even stimulated by ...

Peter Conrad’s Flight from Precision

Richard Poirier, 17 July 1980

Imagining America 
by Peter Conrad.
Routledge, 319 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7100 0370 6
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... He died, in fact, while on a final lecture tour in England, collapsing after a reading in St James Hall in March 1870. Nor is Conrad any less misleading about Dickens’s first trip to America. Having served up some ersatz fare about American Notes (‘in Dickens’s nightmarish America, there is emptiness: panic has driven away even the ...

More Pasts Than One

Eric Foner, 23 March 1995

Telling the Truth about History 
by Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob.
Norton, 322 pp., £19.95, August 1994, 0 393 03615 4
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... on the stage of history. In the works of turn-of-the-century ‘nationalist’ historians like James Ford Rhodes and Edward McMaster, the war – in which both sides fought for noble causes – was seen as a tragic disruption of the great national family and its most enduring legacy was the preservation and strengthening of the national state. Half a ...

A Preference for Strenuous Ghosts

Michael Kammen: Theodore Roosevelt, 6 June 2002

Theodore Rex 
by Edmund Morris.
HarperCollins, 772 pp., £25, March 2002, 0 00 217708 0
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... Truman (1992) was on the bestseller lists for the better part of a year, and his John Adams (2001) is providing an astonishing repeat performance. Robert Caro’s dramatically detailed look at The Years of Lyndon Johnson has been unfolding since 1982, and large chunks of Volume Three have been serialised in the New Yorker. In the meantime, Robert ...

Ahead of the Game

Daniel Finn: The Official IRA, 7 October 2010

The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party 
by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar.
Penguin, 658 pp., £9.99, April 2010, 978 0 14 102845 3
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... credit as pioneers, although the compliment is usually offered in the hope of embarrassing Gerry Adams and his comrades. It was the Official IRA that argued, when the IRA split, for an end to armed struggle and in favour of an internal settlement. The Provos finally accepted the idea two decades later, having in the meantime denounced the Officials as ...

Simple Facts and Plain Truths

David A. Bell: Common Sense, 20 October 2011

Common Sense: A Political History 
by Sophia Rosenfeld.
Harvard, 337 pp., £22.95, 0 674 05781 3
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... what Rosenfeld calls ‘an actual philosophy of common sense’. Thomas Reid and his follower James Beattie were devout Protestants, inspired by English dissenters as well as by their often rigid Presbyterian colleagues. They were horrified by the progress of philosophical scepticism, exemplified by David Hume, which they saw as corroding the foundations ...

Understanding Forwards

Michael Wood: William James, 20 September 2007

William JamesIn the Maelstrom of American Modernism 
by Robert Richardson.
Mariner, 622 pp., £15, September 2007, 978 0 618 43325 4
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... He was always around the corner and out of sight,’ Henry James wrote of his older brother William as a child. ‘He was clear out before I got well in.’ The philosopher C.S. Peirce said something similar about the grown man. ‘He so concrete, so living, I a mere table of contents.’ Josiah Royce, a life-long friend and Harvard colleague of William James, with whom he agreed philosophically scarcely ever, offered a fine parody of the pragmatism so closely associated with his companion’s name ...

How did she get those feet?

Alice Spawls: The Female Detective, 20 February 2014

The Notting Hill Mystery: The First Detective Novel 
by Charles Warren Adams.
British Library, 312 pp., £8.99, February 2012, 978 0 7123 5859 0
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The Female Detective: The Original Lady Detective 
by Andrew Forrester.
British Library, 328 pp., £8.99, October 2012, 978 0 7123 5878 1
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Revelations of a Lady Detective 
by William Stephens Hayward.
British Library, 278 pp., £8.99, February 2013, 978 0 7123 5896 5
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... of the fragment and then an attempt to complete and translate it. The book’s author, Charles Adams, may have been trying to compensate for the flimsy plot. Twin girls, who share a psychic ability to feel each other’s pain, are separated as children when the younger, Catherine, is stolen by Gypsies. The elder, Gertie, grows up and gets married but is ...

Christian v. Cannibal

Michael Rogin: Norman Mailer and American history, 1 April 1999

The American Century 
by Harold Evans.
Cape, 710 pp., £40, November 1998, 0 224 05217 9
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The Time of Our Time 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 1286 pp., £25, September 1998, 0 316 64571 0
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... begin his 1980 Presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where the civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were murdered in 1964. The American Century details J. Edgar Hoover’s personal and the FBI’s institutional linking of white supremacist and anti-Communist hysterias, to which America’s national police ...

Diary

Frank Kermode: American Books, 1 April 1983

... 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 the ...

Uncrownable King and Queen

Christopher Sykes, 7 February 1980

The Windsor Story 
by J. Bryan and Charles Murphy.
Granada, 602 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 246 11323 5
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... Carroll with Edward Lear – and ascribe that ridiculous but famous play What Every Woman Knows to James Bourke! On the credit side, they show real understanding of the man’s character, especially in his later years, and commendably recognise one of the finest deeds of his life, and one of the worst of his reign. The former concerns his saving of his brother ...

Photo-Finish

John Hedley Brooke, 23 May 1985

Just Before the Origin: Alfred Russel Wallace’s Theory of Evolution 
by John Langdon Brooks.
Columbia, 284 pp., $39, January 1984, 0 231 05676 1
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China and Charles Darwin 
by James Reeve Pusey.
Harvard, 544 pp., £21.25, February 1984, 0 674 11735 2
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... image of heroic discovery. But a classic case of simultaneity, the discovery of Neptune by J.C. Adams and U.J.J. Le Verrier, shows how the public image may conceal events of considerable complexity. A preliminary point is that the optical discovery of Neptune in 1846 was a direct consequence of theoretical prediction, the existence of the planet having been ...

Howl, Howl, Howl!

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Fanny Kemble, 22 May 2008

Fanny Kemble: A Performed Life 
by Deirdre David.
Pennsylvania, 347 pp., £26, June 2007, 978 0 8122 4023 8
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... as a young woman. Louisa May Alcott thought Kemble ‘a whole stock company in herself’. Henry James, who recalled hearing her read King Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a boy in London, professed himself still waiting some forty years later ‘for any approach to the splendid volume of Mrs Kemble’s “Howl, howl, howl!” in the one, or to the ...

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