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Alan Bennett: What I did in 2000, 25 January 2001

... of the two images he would have found all that was wrong with England. 2 October. Finish Peter Nichols’s Diaries, a good read and hard to put down. He’s blessed, as Osborne was, with droves of relatives to whom he seems far more attentive and considerate than ever I managed to be to my few. Still they repay the attention and are a good source of ...


Graham Coster, 12 September 1991

Paradise News 
by David Lodge.
Secker, 294 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 436 25668 1
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... in a surfing accident by Terry and Tony, the gay couple, and not only are Sidney and Lilian Brooks from Croydon converted to proud parents of a brave son but Cecily, the hoity bride (who has been able to resuscitate her husband with mouth-to-mouth technique fortunately learned in the Guides), is reconciled to the respiring Russ by the fright of nearly ...

What makes Rupert run?

Ross McKibbin: Murdoch’s Politics, 20 June 2013

Murdoch’s Politics: How One Man’s Thirst for Wealth & Power Shapes Our World 
by David McKnight.
Pluto, 260 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 0 7453 3346 5
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... likely to have – and Murdoch has done his bit in furthering it. He and Robert Stigwood financed Peter Weir’s film Gallipoli (1981), which stands in this tradition. A ‘radical’ rhetoric armed Murdoch for his invasion of the United States. In what McKnight calls a ‘deep political transformation’, America and a neoconservative view of the country ...


Ronald Bryden, 10 December 1987

The Life of Kenneth Tynan 
by Kathleen Tynan.
Weidenfeld, 407 pp., £16.95, September 1987, 9780297790822
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... Tynan was the first, and flamboyantly the foremost, of their number. In fact, his father Sir Peter Peacock, chairman of the family chain of Midland drapery stores, could easily have sent him to a public school, and wished to. But his mother, Letitia Rose Tynan, feared that if he left home, he might discover his parents’ guilty secret. She and Sir ...

Shag another

Katrina Forrester: In Bed with the Police, 7 November 2013

Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police 
by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis.
Faber and Guardian Books, 346 pp., £12.99, June 2013, 978 0 571 30217 8
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... to chart the history of secret policing. Their prize source is the former undercover officer Peter Francis, who spied on minor anti-fascist and anti-racist groups in North London in the early 1990s before infiltrating his target group, Anti-Fascist Action. While undercover, he lived alone in Highbury, drove a van and got a day job working in a school for ...

Identity Parade

Linda Colley, 25 February 1993

People and Places: Country House Donors and the National Trust 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 232 pp., £19.99, October 1992, 0 7195 5145 5
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The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Authorship, 1660-1769 
by Michael Dobson.
Oxford, 266 pp., £30, October 1992, 0 19 811233 5
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Myths of the English 
edited by Roy Porter.
Polity, 280 pp., £39.50, October 1992, 0 7456 0844 2
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Fields of Vision: Landscape Imagery and National Identity in England and the United States 
by Stephen Daniels.
Polity, 257 pp., £39.50, November 1992, 0 7456 0450 1
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... wars – Constable’s drowsy cottages, studiously picturesque hay-wains, ambling sheep, shining brooks, long-established oak-trees, and sunlit clouds are the essence of England, the yardstick by which its countryside should be judged. Yet, as Daniels points out, Constable was in fact a painter of London, not just of the Stour Valley in Suffolk. It was ...

Horror like Thunder

Germaine Greer: Lucy Hutchinson, 21 June 2001

Order and Disorder 
by Lucy Hutchinson, edited by David Norbrook.
Blackwell, 272 pp., £55, January 2001, 0 631 22061 5
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... to hidden nets betrayed; No snares for the unwary creatures laid; No fishes caught in rivers or in brooks With treacherous baits upon their unseen hooks … At the beginning of Canto 10, a scribal note reads, ‘the[s]e were taken out of the old notes after they were dead’, which might be taken as evidence that ‘Genesis’ was a collaborative work. Here ...

If everybody had a Wadley

Terry Castle: ‘Joe’ Carstairs, the ‘fastest woman on water’, 5 March 1998

The Queen of Whale Cay: The Eccentric Story of ‘Joe’ Carstairs, Fastest Woman on Water 
by Kate Summerscale.
Fourth Estate, 248 pp., £12.99, August 1997, 1 85702 360 9
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... affected Carstairs more than any other private loss.Elsewhere Summerscale compares Carstairs to Peter Pan, finding in her yearning for a secret hideaway and her dream of perpetual boyishness – she exercised fiercely all her life to ‘ward off womanliness’ – an affinity with Barrie’s perpetual boy:As Wadley was an image of her soul, Whale Cay was ...

In the Shady Wood

Michael Neill: Staging the Forest, 22 March 2018

The Shakespearean Forest 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 185 pp., £75, August 2017, 978 0 521 57344 3
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... imaginary woodlands, developing and expanding material from earlier lectures and essays. As Peter Holland’s eloquent afterword reminds us, Barton’s interest in the topic had first been excited by her reading of Ben Jonson’s Robin Hood play, The Sad Shepherd, for her monograph on Shakespeare’s great rival. Given this history, it may seem ...

So Ordinary, So Glamorous

Thomas Jones: Eternal Bowie, 5 April 2012

Starman: David Bowie, the Definitive Biography 
by Paul Trynka.
Sphere, 440 pp., £9.99, March 2012, 978 0 7515 4293 6
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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s 
by Peter Doggett.
Bodley Head, 424 pp., £20, September 2011, 978 1 84792 144 4
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... later played down the importance of his partnership with Ronson. In The Man Who Sold the World, Peter Doggett quotes from an interview with Melody Maker at the beginning of 1976 (though you can’t really trust anything Bowie said in that period): ‘I honestly can’t remember Mick that well these days,’ he said. ‘He’s just like any other band member ...

Protocols of Machismo

Corey Robin: In the Name of National Security, 19 May 2005

Arguing about War 
by Michael Walzer.
Yale, 208 pp., £16.99, July 2004, 0 300 10365 4
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Chain of Command 
by Seymour Hersh.
Penguin, 394 pp., £17.99, September 2004, 0 7139 9845 8
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Torture: A Collection 
edited by Sanford Levinson.
Oxford, 319 pp., £18.50, November 2004, 0 19 517289 2
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... interest, the fact is that they seldom, if ever, reach a conclusion about it. As Nye points out, Peter Trubowitz’s exhaustive study of the way Americans defined the national interest throughout the 20th century concluded that ‘there is no single national interest. Analysts who assume that America has a discernible national interest whose defence should ...

Pipe down back there!

Terry Castle: The Willa Cather Wars, 14 December 2000

Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism 
by Joan Acocella.
Nebraska, 127 pp., £13.50, August 2000, 0 8032 1046 9
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... near enough to tell us what we need to know about Antonia or Jim or the professor, Godfrey St Peter, but not so near as to infringe on their privacy or essential dignity. She observes her characters respectfully, as if across the width of a farmhouse supper table, or from a distance equivalent to that between one furrow and the next in a neatly ploughed ...

Why do white people like what I write?

Pankaj Mishra: Ta-Nehisi Coates, 22 February 2018

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy 
by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Hamish Hamilton, 367 pp., £16.99, October 2017, 978 0 241 32523 0
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... could use the American military to promote its values. The subtitle of The Good Fight (2006) by Peter Beinart, the then editor of the New Republic, insisted ‘Why Liberals – and Only Liberals – Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again’. ‘It’s time to think of torture,’ Newsweek declared a few weeks after 9/11. ‘Focused ...

What was it that drove him?

David Runciman: Gordon Brown, 4 January 2018

My Life, Our Times 
by Gordon Brown.
Bodley Head, 512 pp., £25, November 2017, 978 1 84792 497 1
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... for access to the details they held on him. The Sun in particular, under the editorship of Rebekah Brooks, made repeated intrusions into his private life in order to get him on the back foot. Brown calls it ‘a direct attempt to distort and suborn the policy of the government’. He accepts that the Tory press was always likely to be hostile, and that ...


Alan Bennett: Bennett’s Dissection, 1 January 2009

... my table, where I listen to BBC7’s This Sceptred Isle, a history of England read by Anna Massey, Peter Jeffrey, Christopher Lee and Paul Eddington. Afterwards I take the tray back downstairs to get my midday pills: two Omega 3 tablets, one selenium and one Saw palmetto plus a piece of dark chocolate and a cup of green tea. It probably sounds nicer than I ...

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