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Falling Stars

Alan Coren, 5 November 1981

Richard Burton 
by Paul Ferris.
Weidenfeld, 212 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77966 4
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Peter Sellers 
by Alexander Walker.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77965 6
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... which is the better book. Richard Burton was printed by Butler and Tanner Limited, Peter Sellers by the Fakenham Press, and since the one establishment is in Somerset and the other in Norfolk, it is fair to absolve both of them from the sort of catchpenny opportunist hustling which these days has the publishing world of London by the ...

State of the Art

John Lanchester, 1 June 1989

Manchester United: The Betrayal of a Legend 
by Michael Crick and David Smith.
Pelham, 246 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 7207 1783 3
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Football in its Place: An Environmental Psychology of Football Grounds 
by David Canter, Miriam Comber and David Uzzell.
Routledge, 173 pp., £10.95, May 1989, 0 415 01240 6
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... of the early Seventies. Several of the players – Billy Bremner, Norman Hunter, Johnny Giles, Peter Lorimer, Alan ‘Sniffer’ Clarke – had a lot of ability, but they also tended to have Jekyll-and-Hyde natures, the Hyde component of which their manager, Don Revie, did nothing to suppress. The fact that the most successful team in English football was ...

Too Much

Barbara Taylor: A history of masturbation, 6 May 2004

Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation 
by Thomas Laqueur.
Zone, 501 pp., £21.95, March 2003, 1 890951 32 3
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... well. While some increase in luxury was an inevitable concomitant of commercial progress, Dr Peter Kürn wrote in 1792, when the sum of sensual pleasures surpasses the sum of more noble and more useful pursuits, when natural needs can no longer be distinguished from the crowd of imagined and fantastic ones, when reason does not choose, but only ...

Lucky Boy

Kevin Kopelson, 3 April 1997

Shine 
directed by Scott Hicks.
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Shine: The Screenplay 
by Jan Sardi.
Bloomsbury, 176 pp., £7.99, January 1997, 0 7475 3173 0
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The Book of David 
by Beverley Eley.
HarperCollins, 285 pp., £8.99, March 1997, 0 207 19105 0
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Love You to Bits and Pieces: Life with David Helfgott 
by Gillian Helfgott, with Alissa Tanskaya.
Penguin, 337 pp., £6.99, January 1997, 0 14 026546 5
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... arty but commercially viable biopic about a man – David Helfgott (played by Geoffrey Rush, Noah Taylor and Alex Rafalowicz) – who is abnormally inarticulate. Helfgott’s very first words are: ‘Kissed them all, I kissed them all, always kissed cats, puss-cats, kissed them, always did; if a cat’d let me kiss it, I’d kiss it – Cat on a fence I’ll ...

Knife and Fork Question

Miles Taylor: The Chartist Movement, 29 November 2001

The Chartist Movement in Britain 1838-50 
edited by Gregory Claeys.
Pickering & Chatto, £495, April 2001, 1 85196 330 8
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... led him eventually to work for the Ancient Foot Paths Association. The wonderfully melodramatic Dr Peter McDouall, who urged on the General Strike in 1842, gets space, too. In his long black cape and with his dark tousled mane, McDouall – ‘the little doctor’ – seemed straight off the stage, although Victorians probably remembered him as the purveyor of ...

Ambifacts

Gary Taylor, 7 January 1993

Shakespeare: The Later Years 
by Russell Fraser.
Columbia, 380 pp., $35, April 1992, 0 231 06766 6
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Shakespeare: His Life, Work and Era 
by Dennis Kay.
Sidgwick, 368 pp., £20, May 1992, 0 283 99878 4
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William Shakespeare: The Anatomy of an Enigma 
by Peter Razzell.
Caliban, 188 pp., May 1992, 1 85066 010 7
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Politics, Plague and Shakespeare’s Theatre: The Stuart Years 
by Leeds Barroll.
Cornell, 249 pp., £20.80, January 1992, 0 8014 2479 8
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Shakespeare Verbatim: The Reproduction of Authenticity and the 1790 Apparatus 
by Margreta de Grazia.
Oxford, 244 pp., £30, February 1991, 0 19 811778 7
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... and Kay, Barroll and de Grazia and Razzell all made me think again about a life I thought I knew. Peter Razzell’s is the slightest of these three books, but it makes two important contributions to any reading of William Shakespeare’s life in Stratford. First, it places the career of William’s father John in the larger contexts of ...

Diary

Tobias Jones: The politics of football, 7 May 1998

... which became coffins’, Colin Ward writes in All Quiet on the Hooligan Front (1996). Lord Justice Taylor produced his interim report on the tragedy on 1 August that year. The chief superintendent in charge, Taylor decided, ‘could not face the enormity of the decision to open the gates and all that flowed there from’. He ...

How We Got to Where We Are

Peter Ghosh, 28 November 1996

Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-1990 
by Peter Clarke.
Allen Lane, 454 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 7139 9071 6
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... of England (1949-55) – we see the first fruits of the appointment. It goes without saying that Peter Clarke’s volume is all his own, but it stands nonetheless in the shadow of the General Editor. Not only has Cannadine issued a prospectus to go with the new series, re-stating those views which supply the criteria by which it is to be measured, but ...

Lowellship

John Bayley, 17 September 1987

Robert Lowell: Essays on the Poetry 
edited by Steven Gould Axelrod and Helen Deese.
Cambridge, 377 pp., £17.50, June 1987, 0 571 14979 0
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Collected Prose 
by Robert Lowell, edited and introduced by Robert Giroux.
Faber, 269 pp., £27.50, February 1987, 0 521 30872 0
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... more with that almost gay, charmed, doomed circle – Berryman, Jarrell, Delmore Schwartz, Peter Taylor. They are written about not as authors but as friends, or, like Eliot and John Crowe Ransom, avuncular elders to be lovingly gossiped about. Eliot, on their second meeting, asked him if he didn’t hate being compared with his relatives? ‘I ...

Zeitgeist Man

Jenny Diski: Dennis Hopper, 22 March 2012

Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel 
by Peter Winkler.
Robson, 376 pp., £18.99, November 2011, 978 1 84954 165 7
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... malice. Vincent Price was too camp to be really alarming, even as the witchfinder general. Peter Lorre was heartbreaking as a child murderer. James Gandolfini, playing an incorrigibly mean-minded godfather for seven years, strangely held on to the affection of most of his mass audience. James Cagney had his moments of deadpan nastiness, but there’s ...

Who ruins Britain?

Peter Clarke, 22 November 1990

Friends in High Places: Who runs Britain? 
by Jeremy Paxman.
Joseph, 370 pp., £16.99, September 1990, 0 7181 3154 1
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The Sunday Times Book of the Rich 
by Philip Beresford.
Weidenfeld, 336 pp., £18.95, October 1990, 0 297 81115 0
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... The term ‘Establishment’, in its secular modern sense, seems to have originated with A.J.P. Taylor in 1953. He stretched its provenance from the Established Church to cover the governing classes in general. What Henry Fairlie did two years later in a famous article in the Spectator was to gloss the term as identifying a particular sort of informal power ...

East Hoathly makes a night of it

Marilyn Butler, 6 December 1984

The Diary of Thomas Turner 1754-1765 
edited by David Vaisey.
Oxford, 386 pp., £17.50, November 1984, 0 19 211782 3
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John Clare’s Autobiographical Writings 
edited by Eric Robinson.
Oxford, 185 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 19 211774 2
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John Clare: The Journals, Essays, and the Journey from Essex 
edited by Anne Tibble.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 85635 344 2
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The Natural History Prose Writings of John Clare 
edited by Margaret Grainger.
Oxford, 397 pp., £35, January 1984, 0 19 818517 0
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John Clare and the Folk Tradition 
by George Deacon.
Sinclair Browne, 397 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 86300 008 8
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... lives, talk and attitudes of the vast majority of the population in past times belong to what Peter Laslett calls, hauntingly, the world we have lost. The Diary of Thomas Turner claims notice as a sustained insider’s account of how ordinary people lived from day to day in a pre-industrial English village. On Thursday 27 December 1756 two of Turner’s ...

In the Hands of the Cannibals

Neal Ascherson, 20 February 1997

Europe: A History 
by Norman Davies.
Oxford, 1365 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 19 820171 0
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... obligatory references to dark, peripheral events like the Partitions of Poland or the reforms of Peter the Great – now fa1l into oblivion, not because they are incomplete but because they are distortions. Neither is this a matter of crude ‘equating’: of setting out to prove that the Counter-Reformation in Central Europe was as important as it ...

Why Do the Tories Always Have the Luck?

Peter Clarke, 23 February 1995

Conservative Century: The Conservative Party since 1900 
edited by Anthony Seldon and Stuart Ball.
Oxford, 842 pp., £20, October 1994, 0 19 820238 5
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... designed to exert checks and balances, the same aim has been pursued by different methods. Peter Catterall offers a nicely-judged account of the influence of religion, suggesting that the breakdown in the Conservatives’ traditionally cosy relationship with the Church of England has been exaggerated. Indeed, in his revisionist conclusion, he ...

Diary

R.W. Johnson: Alan Taylor, Oxford Don, 8 May 1986

... College, Oxford, the fact that my vote at college meetings counted the same as that of A.J.P. Taylor seemed to me, as it still does, a glorious democratic quirk of the Oxford collegiate system. I was just 26 and the youngest fellow; he was probably the most famous historian in the world. I was not long to think of him by his initials, for Alan was the ...

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