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Lauraphobia

Jenny Turner, 10 March 1994

In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding 
by Deborah Baker.
Hamish Hamilton, 462 pp., £25, October 1993, 9780241128343
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... jumped straight on a train to Nashville, there to meet with her friends-and-collaborators-to-be. John Crowe Ransom, then a key member of the Fugitive group, tells the story of what happened next. Undoubtedly we were rather absurd in the way we received Laura at Nashville – prim, formidable and stiff. What she came for was human companionship of the most ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: Reagan and Rambo, 3 October 1985

... came, Rogin believes, in 1981. ‘To confirm the President’s faith in the power of film, John Hinckley, imitating the plot of the movie Taxi Driver, deliberately shot the President on the day of the Academy Awards.’ It so fell out that Reagan had already recorded a breezy, upbeat salute to the audience at the Oscar ceremony: ‘the television ...

Farewell Hong Kong

Penelope Fitzgerald, 24 February 1994

The Mountain of Immoderate Desires 
by Leslie Wilson.
Weidenfeld, 374 pp., £15.99, February 1994, 0 297 81371 4
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... father and mother. He believes that he is the illegitimate son of Queen Victoria by her servant John Brown, who must have ‘lifted his kilt’ on some unrecorded occasion. Everywhere, on tea-caddies and biscuit-tins, he looks proudly at images of his mother’s face. Samuel believes it, but we don’t, any more than we believe Pip’s great expectations ...

Games-Playing

Patrick Parrinder, 7 August 1986

The Golden Gate 
by Vikram Seth.
Faber, 307 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13967 1
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The Haunted House 
by Rebecca Brown.
Picador, 139 pp., £8.95, June 1986, 0 330 29175 0
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Whole of a Morning Sky 
by Grace Nichols.
Virago, 156 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 86068 774 0
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The Piano Tuner 
by Peter Meinke.
Georgia, 156 pp., $13.95, June 1986, 0 8203 0844 7
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Tap City 
by Ron Abell.
Secker, 273 pp., £10.95, July 1986, 0 436 00025 3
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... are not Russian transplants, but Californians seen in their native habitat. We begin and end with John, an upwardly-mobile computer scientist whose work is connected (just how is never made clear) with nuclear weapons manufacture. At the age of 26, John belatedly realises that he is a workaholic with no private ...

It’s she, it’s she, it’s she

Joanna Biggs: Americans in Paris, 2 August 2012

Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis 
by Alice Kaplan.
Chicago, 289 pp., £17, May 2012, 978 0 226 42438 5
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As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Diaries 1964-80 
by Susan Sontag.
Hamish Hamilton, 544 pp., £18.99, April 2012, 978 0 241 14517 3
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... of baguette between her teeth so you can’t see her smile. Back in the US, Bouvier got engaged to John Husted, a Wall Street stockbroker, but once her mother learned that he earned just $17,000 a year, the engagement was called off. She made gestures towards an entry-level position at the CIA and won the Paris Prize at Vogue – six months working at the ...

A.E. Housman and Biography

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 22 November 1979

A.E. Housman 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Routledge, 304 pp., £9.75
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... loss of his mother and his faith, the failure in Greats, the relationships with Moses and Adalbert Jackson. One could write a more interesting book by cutting biographical data to a minimum and concentrating on Housman’s work. One might then place his poetry in its historical context and assess it critically, taking account of the literary attitudes ...
The Dons 
by Noël Annan.
HarperCollins, 357 pp., £17.99, November 1999, 0 00 257074 2
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A Man of Contradictions: A Life of A.L.Rowse 
by Richard Ollard.
Allen Lane, 368 pp., £20, October 1999, 0 7139 9353 7
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... to, almost, the present day, each one made to stand for a particular type of donnish character: John Henry Newman (‘The Charismatic Don’); Maurice Bowra (‘The Don as Wit’); George Rylands (‘The Don as Performer’); John Sparrow (‘The Don as Dilettante’); Isaiah Berlin (‘The Don as Magus’). The scheme ...

Every single one matters

Elaine Showalter and English Showalter: The first black female novelist?, 18 August 2005

In Search of Hannah Crafts: Critical Essays on ‘The Bondwoman’s Narrative’ 
edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr and Hollis Robbins.
Basic Books, 458 pp., £17.50, January 2005, 0 465 02708 3
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... was the story of a woman’s life as a house slave on the North Carolina plantation of John Hill Wheeler, her escape to New Jersey in 1857, and her composition of an autobiographical fiction incorporating ‘elements of the many sentimental sagas she had evidently borrowed from Mr Wheeler’s shelf’. Although ‘replete with the heavy-handed ...

Oops

Ian Stewart, 4 November 1993

The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier 
by Bruce Sterling.
Viking, 328 pp., £16.99, January 1993, 0 670 84900 6
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The New Hacker’s Dictionary 
edited by Eric Raymond.
MIT, 516 pp., £11.75, October 1992, 0 262 68079 3
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Approaching Zero: Data Crime and the Computer Underworld 
by Bryan Clough and Paul Mungo.
Faber, 256 pp., £4.99, March 1993, 0 571 16813 2
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... buy The Hacker Crackdown. To continue its Story: on 1 March 1990, the Secret Service raided Steve Jackson Games, a computer game publisher that employed 15 people and had an annual turnover of $500,000. It was looking for a ‘handbook of computer crime’, allegedly being published by the company. It took away every item of computing ...

The Devil upon Two Sticks

Charles Nicholl: Samuel Foote, 23 May 2013

Mr Foote’s Other Leg: Comedy, Tragedy and Murder in Georgian London 
by Ian Kelly.
Picador, 462 pp., £18.99, October 2012, 978 0 330 51783 6
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... to metropolitan notice through a sensational murder case involving two of his maternal uncles: Sir John Dineley-Goodere, who was the victim; and his younger brother Captain Samuel Goodere (after whom Foote was named), who was executed for the murder. The back story was a saga of legal wrangling over some hugely valuable estates so wrapped around with ...

Back of Beyond

John Barrell, 9 April 1992

Keeping a rendezvous 
by John Berger.
Granta, 252 pp., £14.99, January 1992, 0 14 014229 0
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... they look so hard.’ Throughout this very varied book, and especially when writing on art, John Berger invites us to acknowledge the absolutes and universals which, he insists, lie behind the surfaces of things. He doesn’t have a great deal to say about those absolutes, and asks us to be content with terms like the essential, the invisible, the ...

The Nominee

Andrew O’Hagan: With the Democrats, 19 August 2004

... sidewalk before slowing to a halt outside the green house at 83 Beals Street, the house where John Kennedy was born. The windows on the ground floor had curtains of Irish lace. ‘That dog has no right to be walking over there,’ said the lady. The young man smiled and snapped his fingers. ‘Dog got no sense of history,’ he said, then he ...

Then came the Hoover

Hugh Pennington: The Allergy Epidemic, 22 June 2006

Allergy: The History of a Modern Malady 
by Mark Jackson.
Reaktion, 288 pp., £25, May 2006, 1 86189 271 3
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... 16th century. And when Sherlock Holmes in the ‘Adventure of the Norwood Builder’ (1903) greets John Hector McFarlane, who has just burst unceremoniously into 221b Baker Street, with the words ‘you mentioned your name, as if I should recognise it, but I assure you that, beyond the obvious facts that you are a bachelor, a solicitor, a Freemason, and an ...

Waving

Anthony Thwaite, 27 October 1988

Stevie Smith: A Critical Biography 
by Frances Spalding.
Faber, 331 pp., £15, October 1988, 0 571 15207 4
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... poems and her nature cropped so that she might be plausibly rendered on stage and screen by Glenda Jackson’. I can see Ricks’s objections to Hugh Whitemore’s film Stevie without entirely sharing them. When Whitemore wrote to me, telling me of his project and asking whether I had anything to contribute, I found the whole notion so unlikely that I ...

A Poetry of Opposites

C.H. Sisson, 9 July 1992

Housman’s Poems 
by John Bayley.
Oxford, 202 pp., £25, April 1992, 0 19 811763 9
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... not so overwhelming as to stop him going on with his work as a Classical scholar. His friend Moses Jackson, with whom he had shared a flat for some time, but who apparently did not suffer from a reciprocal emotional arrest, went off to India, and married. Housman became Professor of Latin at London University, and later ended his career at Cambridge, amidst ...

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