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Better and Worse Worsts

Sadakat Kadri: American Trials, 24 May 2007

The Trial in American Life 
by Robert Ferguson.
Chicago, 400 pp., £18.50, March 2007, 978 0 226 24325 2
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... On 16 October 1859, a white anti-slavery agitator called John Brown led 21 followers in a raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. A previous expedition against a Kansas slave-owning settlement had ended in five deaths, but Brown had far grander hopes for his new enterprise – to start an insurrection across the South ...

Shtum

John Lanchester: Alastair Campbell’s Diaries, 16 August 2007

The Blair Years: Extracts from the Alastair Campbell Diaries 
edited by Alastair Campbell and Richard Stott.
Hutchinson, 794 pp., £25, July 2007, 978 0 09 179629 7
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... know: let’s find our angriest, shoutiest, most tribal, most aggressive party loyalist. As Craig Brown joked in the Mail on Sunday, it is as if, instead of turning to Doctor Watson for advice, Sherlock Holmes had instead consulted the Hound of the Baskervilles. Campbell is a political journalist who, as part of a not-all-that-complex self-loathing, despises ...

At the V&A

Peter Campbell: Penguin’s 70th birthday, 2 June 2005

... and elegant. He hated the pages of black sans serif type, punctuated with illustrations, which Richard Hollis – working with Berger and others – had produced. Beatrice Warde, advocating the kind of tailored designs which Tschichold (briefly, but brilliantly) and Schmoller produced at Penguin, said that a book, like a wine glass, should not draw ...

Outside Swan and Edgar’s

Matthew Sweet: The life of Oscar Wilde, 5 February 1998

The Wilde Album 
by Merlin Holland.
Fourth Estate, 192 pp., £12.99, October 1997, 1 85702 782 5
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Cosmopolitan Criticism: Oscar Wilde’s Philosophy of Art 
by Julia Prewitt Brown.
Virginia, 157 pp., $30, September 1997, 9780813917283
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The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde 
edited by Peter Raby.
Cambridge, 307 pp., £37.50, October 1997, 9780521474719
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Wilde The Novel 
by Stefan Rudnicki.
Orion, 215 pp., £5.99, October 1997, 0 7528 1160 6
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Oscar Wilde 
by Frank Harris.
Robinson, 358 pp., £7.99, October 1997, 1 85487 126 9
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Moab is my Washpot 
by Stephen Fry.
Hutchinson, 343 pp., £16.99, October 1997, 0 09 180161 3
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Nothing … except My Genius 
by Oscar Wilde.
Penguin, 82 pp., £2.99, October 1997, 0 14 043693 6
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... snorted Christopher Hart on the day Brian Gilbert’s movie Wilde was released). Julia Prewitt Brown sees him as a philosophical heavyweight; and celebrates his ‘dodginess’ in order to instal him in a post-dualist tradition of aesthetic theory – a missing link between Kierkegaard and Adorno. For Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield, he’s the ...

‘We wrapped the guns in plastic bags’

Piero Gleijeses: Revolutionaries at Large, 2 November 2017

Cuba’s Revolutionary World 
by Jonathan Brown.
Harvard, 600 pp., £25, April 2017, 978 0 674 97198 1
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... once again the absence of Cuban documents rules out certainty. I was hoping that Jonathan Brown’s study would fill in some frustrating blanks. Cuba’s Revolutionary World is divided into two parts. The first examines the insurgency against Castro that developed in the early 1960s. Armed and abetted by the CIA, anti-Castro rebels engaged in urban ...

Imperial Project

Richard Drayton, 19 September 1996

Kew: The History of the Royal Botanic Gardens 
by Ray Desmond.
Harvill/Royal Botanical Gardens, 466 pp., £25, November 1995, 1 86046 076 3
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... of their son, George III. After 1760, Augusta spent more than £30,000 on Kew, and gave Capability Brown permission to level her mother-in-law’s follies. The Dowager Princess then employed William Chambers to build her own: a remarkable range of buildings, including a mosque, a gothic cathedral, an alhambra and the Pagoda, which is the finest survival of ...

Got to go make that dollar

Alex Abramovich: Otis Redding, 3 January 2019

Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life 
by Jonathan Gould.
Crown, 544 pp., £12.99, May 2018, 978 0 307 45395 2
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... Reddings moved back to Tindall Heights. The year Redding turned 14 was also the year that Little Richard – a Macon native who had made a small name for himself as a gospel singer before switching over to rhythm and blues – recorded ‘Tutti Frutti’. Redding fell in love with the song, and with Little Richard’s ...

Liberation Music

Richard Gott: In Memory of Cornelius Cardew, 12 March 2009

Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished 
by John Tilbury.
Copula, 1069 pp., £45, October 2008, 978 0 9525492 3 9
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... avant-garde – Webern, Boulez and Stockhausen – to which his contemporaries Susan Bradshaw and Richard Rodney Bennett were also drawn. The mecca for music students in those days was Stockhausen’s headquarters at Darmstadt, where the ‘Darmstadt Headbangers’, as Tom Lubbock describes them, treated Britten and Shostakovich with derision as ...

Want-of-Tin and Want-of-Energy

Dinah Birch: The lives of the Rossettis, 20 May 2004

The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Formative Years 1835-62: Charlotte Street to Cheyne Walk. Volume One 
edited by William Fredeman.
Brewer, 464 pp., £95, July 2002, 9780859915281
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The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Formative Years 1835-62: Charlotte Street to Cheyne Walk. Volume Two 
edited by William Fredeman.
Brewer, 640 pp., £95, July 2002, 0 85991 637 5
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William and Lucy: The Other Rossettis 
by Angela Thirlwell.
Yale, 376 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 300 10200 3
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... of the earliest letters, written when Gabriel was seven, records his ‘reading Shakespeare’s Richard the 3rd for my amusement . . . I, Maria, and William know several scenes by heart. I have bought a picture of Richard and Richmond fighting, and I gilded it after which I cut it out with no white.’ This self-assured ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bad Manners, 6 July 2000

... Wicked Etiquette: Over Seven Hundred Faux pas to Avoid – in Bed and out (Collins and Brown, 192 pp., £9.99, 22 June, 1 85585 795 2) is an anthology of mainly Victorian advice collected by Sarah Kortum from such books as the anonymous Gems of Deportment (1880) and Things that Are Not Done by Edgar and Diana Woods (1937 ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

Peter Campbell: Painting the Century, 16 November 2000

... in you will be made more interested by the painting. Other pictures here are more like reportage: Richard Hamilton’s worked up photograph of Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser (1968), handcuffed and covering their faces after being arrested for possessing drugs, derives from a news picture. But it was also personal – Fraser was Hamilton’s dealer at the time ...

At Inverleith House

Hal Foster: Richard Hamilton, 14 August 2008

... Richard Hamilton’s ‘Protest Pictures’ have turned the galleries of Inverleith House in Edinburgh into a time-machine.* News events from the last fifty years flash up in every room, from a drug bust and a student murder in the 1960s, through the Troubles in the 1970s and 1980s, to the Gulf debacles of the last two decades ...

Answering back

James Campbell, 11 July 1991

The Intended 
by David Dabydeen.
Secker, 246 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 436 20007 4
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Cambridge 
by Caryl Phillips.
Bloomsbury, 185 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 0 7475 0886 0
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Lucy 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Cape, 176 pp., £11.99, April 1991, 0 224 03055 8
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... under the guidance first of the great W.E.B DuBois, then of the poets Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown, and next a line of novelists headed by Richard Wright, began the task of reclamation about two generations earlier than the Caribbean writers who identified – if one can nowadays put it that way – with ...

Off-Screen Drama

Richard Mayne, 5 March 1981

European Elections and British Politics 
by David Butler.
Longman, 208 pp., £9.95, February 1981, 0 582 29528 9
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Political Change in Europe: The Left and the Future of the Atlantic Alliance 
edited by Douglas Eden.
Blackwell, 163 pp., £8.95, January 1981, 0 631 12525 6
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... and myths. I’ve even been told, by a country grocer, that I couldn’t buy eggs in a brown paper-bag any more ‘because of the Common Maaarket’. Perhaps it’s natural for a latecomer to the Community to feel uncomfortable, struggling to get alterations in a ready-made suit of policies which feels rather a tight fit. Moral: be a founder-member ...

Spliffing

Richard Davenport-Hines: Drugs, 2 November 2000

The Science of Marijuana 
by Leslie Iversen.
Oxford, 278 pp., £18.99, April 2000, 0 19 513123 1
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Drug Diplomacy in the 20th Century: An International History 
by William McAllister.
Routledge, 344 pp., £16.99, September 1999, 0 415 17989 0
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The Control of Fuddle and Flash: A Sociological History of the Regulation of Alcohol and Opiates 
by Jan-Willem Gerritsen.
Brill, 278 pp., €52, April 2000, 90 04 11640 0
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Drugs and the Law: Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 
Police Foundation, 148 pp., £20, March 2000, 0 947692 47 9Show More
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... were arrested in Old Compton Street and accused of offering to supply raw opium. In fact, the brown substance in their possession was hashish, which it was then legal to possess, and the case was abandoned. But it provided the excuse for an alarmist series of cheap newspaper articles in the silly season – including a supposed interview in the Daily Mail ...

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