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Who’s the real cunt?

Andrew O’Hagan: Dacre’s Paper, 1 June 2017

Mail Men: The Unauthorised Story of the ‘Daily Mail’, the Paper that Divided and Conquered Britain 
by Adrian Addison.
Atlantic, 407 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 1 78239 970 4
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... his death. ‘He loved the old smells of lead and ink.’ But what spare love he had, after loving Margaret Thatcher, was kept for a version of Britain in which the natural condition was to be white and born here, in which the unemployed were scroungers and the rich (or some of them) were heroes, where single mothers were letting the side down and ‘political ...

No Longer Here

William Deresiewicz: Julio Llamazares, 25 September 2003

The Yellow Rain 
by Julio Llamazares, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Harvill, 130 pp., £10.99, March 2003, 9781860469541
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... images and metaphors. Everywhere we encounter figures such as these: ‘the weight of silence and snow’; ‘the abandoned machinery of the mill and of my heart’. Physical and psychological qualities become interchangeable as objects and the emotions projected onto them melt together. The most important of these figures is the novel’s title. The yellow ...

How one has enjoyed things

Dinah Birch: Thackeray’s daughter, 2 December 2004

Anny: A Life of Anne Thackeray Ritchie 
by Henrietta Garnett.
Chatto, 322 pp., £18.99, January 2004, 0 7011 7129 4
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... as Anny was chaotic, welcomed the young women into his ‘sweet old prim, chill house wrapped in snow’. Tennyson was a close friend, and the Isle of Wight, where Anny and Minny were sheltered by the irrepressible Julia Margaret Cameron, became a lifelong refuge. Anny relished the island isolation, which allowed for ...

Name the days

Marina Warner: Holy Spirits, 4 February 2021

Angels & Saints 
by Eliot Weinberger.
Norton, 159 pp., £21.99, September 2020, 978 0 8112 2986 9
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... of absurdist wisdom, echoing Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell but nothing like as sublime: ‘Snow cannot burst into flames’; ‘Waves never leave the sea’; and the oddly timely ‘A man who has heard himself sentenced to death will not worry about the way theatres are run.’Weinberger describes many visions of angels: St Teresa of Avila’s ...

Palmers Greenery

Susannah Clapp, 19 December 1985

by Jack Barbera and William McBrien.
Heinemann, 378 pp., £15, November 1985, 0 434 44105 8
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... sea – prompted, one poem suggests, by a baleful look shot by the poet from her pram – Florence Margaret Smith lived in her Palmers Green house; from her mid-twenties, nicknamed Stevie after the jockey Steve Donoghue, she lived there alone with her aunt, producing three novels and a torrent of poems and articles, and working as a secretary at Newnes and ...

Driving through a Postcard

Christian Lorentzen: In New Hampshire, 3 March 2016

... Mention of Hillary Clinton induced fatigue. Even those fond of Bernie Sanders were ready to quote Margaret Thatcher’s quip about socialism and other people’s money. By this point the Bruins had beaten Buffalo, and the post-game shows were replaying a scene from another match where a player had knocked a referee down onto the ice. Later I watched a replay ...

Here you are talking about duck again

Mark Ford: Larkin’s Letters Home, 20 June 2019

Philip Larkin: Letters Home, 1936-77 
edited by James Booth.
Faber, 688 pp., £40, November 2018, 978 0 571 33559 6
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... of malice in Amis’s allusion? There certainly was in his portrayal of Monica Jones – full name Margaret Monica Beale Jones – as Margaret Peel (in the manuscript Margaret Beale, but altered at Larkin’s insistence) as a neurotic, needy academic. Larkin’s relationship with Monica ...


Arthur Gavshon, 6 June 1985

The Falklands War: Lessons for Strategy, Diplomacy and International Law 
edited by Alberto Coll and Anthony Arend.
Allen and Unwin, 252 pp., £18, May 1985, 0 04 327075 1
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... Edgar Snow, the famous American foreign correspondent, once asked Mao Tse-tung for his appraisal of the social implications of the French Revolution. Mao reflected a while and then, shaking his head, said: ‘I think it’s still a bit too early to tell.’ The late Chinese leader’s caution might seem excessive even to the most obsessive historians ...


Frank Kermode, 8 June 1995

Angus Wilson 
by Margaret Drabble.
Secker, 714 pp., £20, May 1995, 0 436 20038 4
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... story, but it is also the sort of thing that he himself would in principle have deplored. As Margaret Drabble emphasises, he disliked that anti-American reflex, attributing it (perhaps too simply) to simple envy. He loved the USA, where he had dozens of friends, whom he treated, so far as one can tell, with his usual amiability and generosity. Yet the ...

Main Man

Michael Hofmann, 7 July 1994

Walking Possession: Essays and Reviews 1968-1993 
by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 302 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 7475 1712 6
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Gazza Italia 
by Ian Hamilton.
Granta, 188 pp., £5.99, May 1994, 0 14 014073 5
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... atmosphere, their identical reference points of hands and heads and hair and flowers and grass and snow and shadow. That ‘silence on other subjects’ that Brecht mentioned in a quite different context, is part of the effect. Nothing else, Hamilton implies, can have any being next to such losses. Each individual poem is pruned back to an austere and ...

Fashionable Gore

Katherine Rundell: H. Rider Haggard, 3 April 2014

King Solomon’s Mines 
by H. Rider Haggard.
Vintage, 337 pp., £7.99, May 2013, 978 0 09 958282 3
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by H. Rider Haggard.
Vintage, 317 pp., £8.99, May 2013, 978 0 09 958283 0
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... months the temperature in the Chimanimanis is between 12 and 15 degrees Celsius; Nyangani last had snow in 1935. Haggard knew Southern Africa – he made his first trip to South Africa as secretary to the governor of Natal at 19 and was later master and registrar of the High Court in the Transvaal – but the land he paints is as lurid and fantastical as the ...

God’s Endurance

Peter Clarke, 30 November 1995

by Roy Jenkins.
Macmillan, 698 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 333 60216 1
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... words. So Jenkins persuasively argues; but he shows himself less ready to accept the driven-snow interpretation of Gladstone’s night-rescue operations than most previous biographers. Indeed Gladstone himself, as a prig but not a hypocrite, is cited as acknowledging that, in a five-year spell during which he had been involved with eighty or ninety ...

Bitter as never before

David Blackbourn: Einstein, 3 February 2000

Einstein's German World 
by Fritz Stern.
Princeton, 335 pp., £15.95, October 1999, 9780691059396
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... sides of the Atlantic, he was one of the scholars convened at Chequers in March 1990 to instruct Margaret Thatcher on the German question. Perhaps prolonged exposure to important men of affairs, living and dead, explains why Stern sometimes sounds more like C.P Snow than Lionel Trilling. This is a book in which issues are ...

I blame Foucault

Jenny Diski: Bush’s Women, 22 September 2005

Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species 
by Laura Flanders.
Verso, 342 pp., £10, July 2005, 1 84467 530 0
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... heads that, barring some anatomy, women are very like men. Being able to write their name in the snow when they pee doesn’t entitle men to rule the world, but shaving under their arms doesn’t stop women being self-serving believers in rampant capitalism. And what about the women voters who were persuaded by Bush’s women that the war is defensible, that ...

Had we lived …

Jenny Diski: The Afterlife of Captain Scott, 9 February 2006

Scott of the Antarctic: A Life of Courage and Tragedy in the Extreme South 
by David Crane.
HarperCollins, 637 pp., £25, November 2005, 0 00 715068 7
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... since his final bid for the South Pole. From 1913, when the news arrived of his death in the snow, until the late 1970s, Robert Falcon Scott’s reputation was frozen as the apotheosis of duty, Britishness and the selfless, good death. Then, just in time for the arrival of Margaret Thatcher’s brash, commercial vision ...

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