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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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... introduction to All What Jazz (1970), a collection of mainly unimpressed reviews of John Coltrane, Miles Davis et al that initially appeared in the Telegraph. ‘Sometimes I imagine them,’ he muses of the readers of his monthly column,sullen fleshy inarticulate men, stockbrokers, sellers of goods, living in thirty-year-old detached houses among the golf ...

True Bromance

Philip Clark: Ravi Shankar’s Ragas, 15 July 2021

Indian Sun: The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar 
by Oliver Craske.
Faber, 672 pp., £12.99, June, 978 0 571 35086 5
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... George Avakian, the head of popular music at Columbia Records who had signed Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis, heard Shankar play at New York Town Hall and invited him to record for the label, which resulted in The Sounds of India. Also present was Richard Bock, head of Pacific Jazz in Los Angeles, who recorded Shankar when he visited the West Coast a ...

Kindergarten Governor

Gary Indiana: It’s Schwarzenegger!, 6 November 2003

... a quixotic canard then became a surrealist juggernaut, culminating in the ousting of Governor Gray Davis and the risible election of Arnold Schwarzenegger, action figure, as the custodian of the world’s fifth largest economy. Like Schwarzenegger, Congressman Issa has a piquant history. In the early 1980s, his car-alarm company, which did work for a much ...

Neo-Catastrophism

Eric Klinenberg: Sinful Cities?, 9 October 2003

The Unfinished City: New York and the Metropolitan Idea 
by Thomas Bender.
New Press, 287 pp., $30, September 2002, 1 56584 736 9
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Dead Cities: and Other Tales 
by Mike Davis.
New Press, 448 pp., $16.95, October 2003, 1 56584 844 6
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... of creative destruction, refusing to let any obstacle block its path? Thomas Bender and Mike Davis are two of America’s leading urban scholars. Bender is a cultural historian known for his accounts of the intellectual and aesthetic life of US cities, and for tracing the distinctively metropolitan influences on American arts, letters and politics. He ...

It should have ended with Verdi

John Davis: The Battle of Adwa, 24 May 2012

The Battle of Adwa: African Victory in the Age of Empire 
by Raymond Jonas.
Harvard, 413 pp., £22.95, November 2011, 978 0 674 05274 1
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... of mules and camels and 44 elephants in India, and shipped them to the Red Sea. After marching 780 miles overland to Tewodros’s capital, he defeated the imperial army (with the loss of two British soldiers) and burned Magdala to the ground. Tewodros committed suicide, and Napier, his job done (at the cost of £9 million to the British taxpayer), marched back ...

Southern Comfort

Claude Rawson, 16 April 1981

Jefferson Davis gets his citizenship back 
by Robert Penn Warren.
Kentucky/Transatlantic Book Service, 114 pp., £4.85, December 1980, 0 8131 1445 4
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Being here: Poetry 1977-1980 
by Robert Penn Warren.
Secker, 109 pp., £4.95, October 1980, 0 436 36650 9
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Ways of light: Poems 1972-1980 
by Richard Eberhart.
Oxford, 68 pp., £5.95, January 1981, 9780195027372
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... native Todd County, Kentucky, to attend ceremonies in honor of another native son – Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, whose United States citizenship had just been restored, ninety years after his death, by a special act of Congress.’ The scene is set for a fine old feast of Southern Nostalgia, a versatile literary property whose ...

Go girl

Jacqueline Rose: The intimate geography of women, 30 September 1999

Woman: An Intimate Geography 
by Natalie Angier.
Virago, 398 pp., £17.99, March 1999, 1 86049 685 7
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Midnight Salvage: Poems 1995-98 
by Adrienne Rich.
Norton, 75 pp., £14.95, March 1999, 0 393 04682 6
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... York subway,’ she writes in a note to ‘The Night Has a Thousand Eyes’: ‘I conjure Crane, Miles Davis, Muriel Rukeyser, Julia de Burgos and Paul Goodman, or their descendants.’ Poems are dedicated to René Char and Tina Modotti. On the page the poems are mosaics of quotes, all the voices running to and from each other (the poetic ...

Hubbub

Nicholas Spice, 6 July 1995

Repeated Takes: A Short History of Recording and its Effects on Music 
by Michael Chanan.
Verso, 204 pp., £39.95, May 1995, 1 85984 012 4
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Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak Easy Listening and other Moodsong 
by Joseph Lanza.
Quartet, 280 pp., £10, January 1995, 0 7043 0226 8
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... that momentary delusion that we are going somewhere. At the end of an evening with friends, the Miles Davis track ‘Mood’ can seem to bind the good things together. The sound of a Bach organ prelude thundering up the stairwell on a bright Sunday morning stirs us, as we brush our teeth, with the feeling that life might, after all, be rather grand.We ...

No Longer Merely the Man Who Ate His Boots

Thomas Jones: The Northwest Passage, 27 May 2010

Arctic Labyrinth: The Quest for the Northwest Passage 
by Glyn Williams.
Allen Lane, 440 pp., £25, October 2009, 978 1 84614 138 6
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Franklin: Tragic Hero of Polar Navigation 
by Andrew Lambert.
Faber, 428 pp., £20, July 2009, 978 0 571 23160 7
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... to the passage, which he called Frobisher’s Straits; in fact he had penetrated a hundred miles or so into an inlet on Baffin Island now known as Frobisher Bay. But he also appeared to have found something even better: a gold mine. He led another expedition the following year and returned to England with 200 tonnes of ore that his men had ‘dug out ...

Schusterism

C.H. Sisson, 18 April 1985

Diaries: 1923-1925 
by Siegfried Sassoon, edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Faber, 320 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 571 13322 3
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... about such technological history, one may be surprised, too, to find that Sassoon’s car did 50 miles to the gallon. Of somewhat wider historical interest is the fact – which everyone knows in general but which it is more difficult to imagine concretely – that one could then quite unremarkably drive from door to door in Central London and park one’s ...

Natural Learning

John Murray, 20 September 1984

... so LPs on display. ‘Electric jazz,’ whispered Logan, in a sort of trance. ‘Look, there’s Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew! In Calcutta ...’ Gokhale, who clearly didn’t understand this astonishment of Logan’s, asked politely about this Mr Miles Davis. He stared in great surprise at the bright and ...

At least they paid their taxes

Linda Colley, 25 July 1991

Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorised Biography 
by Kitty Kelley.
Bantam, 532 pp., £16.99, April 1991, 0 593 02450 8
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... an aunt. Only when her mother married again, this time to a rightwing Chicago surgeon called Loyal Davis, was Nancy able to begin the climb out of her unsatisfactory origins. She dropped her real father and got Davis to adopt her. She began to lose her puppy fat. And she enrolled in Smith College – like all the so-called ...

I want to be an Admiral

N.A.M. Rodger: The Age of Sail, 30 July 2020

Sons of the Waves: The Common Seaman in the Heroic Age of Sail 1740-1840 
by Stephen Taylor.
Yale, 490 pp., £20, April, 978 0 300 24571 4
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... officer, gunner of the Caesar. In 1809 he was taken prisoner at the Basque Roads action. Joshua Davis was an earlier naval prisoner, an American who in 1778 was taken by the frigate Surprise aboard the Jason of Boston, a rebel privateer. He changed sides several times after his capture. He describes himself as ‘an American citizen who was pressed and ...

Swoonatra

Ian Penman, 2 July 2015

Sinatra: London 
Universal, 3 CDs and 1 DVD, £40, November 2014Show More
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... musics. (After the war the ‘hillbilly’ Chet Baker ended up playing cool West Coast jazz, while Miles Davis huddled with Gil Evans and exulted in European melancholy.) Air travel became cheaper and more widely available, and Sinatra slipped easily into the role of poet laureate of the new global leisure; think of all those great songs celebrating ...

Hogged

E.S. Turner, 22 January 1998

Shipwrecks of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Eras 
by Terence Grocott.
Chatham, 430 pp., £30, November 1997, 1 86176 030 2
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... the survivors of the East Indiaman Sydney, who reached those treacherous parts after four thousand miles of tropical seas in a longboat, possibly a record. In the wine-laden galliot which picked up the crew of the frigate Apollo, rank distinctions were observed: the 22 officers crowded for three days into the galliot’s cabin, where they ate, drank and slept ...

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