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How to Serve Coffee

Rory Stewart: Aleppan Manners, 16 February 2017

Aleppo Observed: Ottoman Syria through the Eyes of Two Scottish Doctors, Alexander and Patrick Russell 
by Maurits H. van den Boogert.
Arcadian Library, 254 pp., £120, September 2015, 978 0 19 958856 5
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... English Civil War.Alexander Russell had read many of these earlier accounts of the city – Ross Burns, in his excellent summary of Aleppo’s long history, counts 17 separate accounts produced in the late 17th century alone – and he didn’t think the previous descriptions were outdated; he uses the 1574 account of the German doctor Leonhard Rauwolff ...


Ferdinand Mount: British Weeping, 17 December 2015

Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears 
by Thomas Dixon.
Oxford, 438 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 0 19 967605 7
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... when she saw Louis XVI being taken to his trial. This suspicion of tears in high places still burns hot and strong. After George Osborne wept at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, he was cross-questioned at some length on the Today programme by John Humphrys, who, as Dixon points out, seemed unable to credit that a grown man could genuinely grieve for his ...

What Wotan Wants

Jerry Fodor, 5 August 2004

Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner’s ‘Ring’ 
by Philip Kitcher and Richard Schacht.
Oxford, 241 pp., £14.99, April 2004, 0 19 517359 7
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... What could possibly be down there? Two new fish have risen to this bait. Philip Kitcher and Richard Schacht’s Finding an Ending proceeds from their conviction that ‘Wagner’s libretto, ponderous and mannered though it may sometimes seem (and be), is charged with life and significance.’ They therefore propose ‘to probe its philosophical ...

This is America, man

Michael Wood: ‘Treme’ and ‘The Wire’, 27 May 2010

The Wire 
created by David Simon.
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created by Eric Overmyer and David Simon.
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... producer. He is a reporter who became a full-time writer of books: Homicide (1991) and, with Ed Burns, The Corner (1997), both of which were turned into successful TV series. Both concern drugs and death in Baltimore; Simon has said that ‘what drugs have not destroyed, the war on them has.’ The Wire is different, though: more ambitious, more ...

Bastard Foreigners

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare v. the English, 2 July 2020

Shakespeare’s Englishes: Against Englishness 
by Margaret Tudeau-Clayton.
Cambridge, 245 pp., £75, October 2019, 978 1 108 49373 4
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... on at least one military recruitment broadside during the Napoleonic Wars, but they are spoken by Richard the Lionheart’s illegitimate son over the usurping John’s poisoned corpse. Even without the undercutting produced by a knowledge of its dramatic context, the play’s final couplet contains a big ‘if’: ‘Naught shall make us rue/If England to ...

Little Old Grandfather

Thomas Meaney: Djilas and Stalin, 19 May 2016

Conversations with Stalin 
by Milovan Djilas, translated by Michael Petrovich.
Penguin, 160 pp., £9.99, January 2014, 978 0 14 139309 4
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... idea. Although the political criminal imprisoned for an idea, like the common criminal suffers and burns because of sensual deprivation, he burns from his idea as well. Yet the political prisoner has an advantage, however, doubly inflamed. While burning for or in an idea neither banishes nor mitigates other passions, it ...

She shall be nameless

Nicholas Spice: Marlen Haushofer, 18 December 2014

The Wall 
by Marlen Haushofer, translated by Shaun Whiteside.
Quartet, 211 pp., £12, June 2013, 978 0 7043 7311 2
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Nowhere Ending Sky 
by Marlen Haushofer, translated by Amanda Prantera.
Quartet, 178 pp., £12, June 2013, 978 0 7043 7207 8
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The Loft 
by Marlen Haushofer, translated by Amanda Prantera.
Quartet, 173 pp., £12, May 2011, 978 0 7043 7313 6
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... by a housewife. As a way of clearing her mind, a woman makes use of a weekend when her husband, Richard, is away, to set down on paper what has been happening over the previous months. Stella, a teenager, just out of high school, comes to stay as a guest of the family. Under the eyes of his wife, Richard seduces ...

His Bonnet Akimbo

Patrick Wright: Hamish Henderson, 3 November 2011

Hamish Henderson: A Biography. Vol. I: The Making of the Poet (1919-53) 
by Timothy Neat.
Polygon, 416 pp., £14.99, May 2009, 978 1 84697 132 7
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Hamish Henderson: A Biography. Vol. II: Poetry Becomes People (1954-2002) 
by Timothy Neat.
Polygon, 395 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 1 84697 063 4
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... defying body and convention to ‘soar like an eagle’ in the way of the blessed inebriate in Richard Thompson’s song ‘God Loves a Drunk’ (‘His shouts and his curses they are just hymns and praises/To kick-start his mind now and then’)? Timothy Neat writes not in order to leave his late friend in a heap on the floor, least of all the floor of ...

Freaks of Empire

V.G. Kiernan, 16 July 1981

Revolutionary Empire: The Rise of the English-Speaking Empires from the 15th Century to the 1780s 
by Angus Calder.
Cape, 916 pp., £16.50, April 1981, 0 224 01452 8
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... the 1770s, there were a hundred Campbells in Jamaica; it may be recalled that at one time Robert Burns was on the verge of joining them. Migration of ‘Scotch-Irish’ – a term coined before the end of the 17th century – to North America was ‘one of the most remarkable folk movements in history’, Calder writes; and in wars with Indians they ...

Blite and Whack

Paul Seabright, 19 January 1984

A Pocket Popper 
edited by David Miller.
Fontana, 479 pp., £4.95, August 1983, 0 00 636414 4
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The Postscript to the Logic of Scientific Discovery. Vol. I: Realism and the Aim of Science 
by Karl Popper, edited by W.W. Bartely.
Hutchinson, 420 pp., £20, March 1983, 0 09 151450 9
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The Philosophy of Popper 
by T.E. Burke.
Manchester, 222 pp., £16, July 1983, 0 7190 0904 9
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In Pursuit of Truth: Essays in Honour of Karl Popper’s 80th Birthday 
edited by Paul Levinson.
Harvester, 337 pp., £25, May 1983, 0 7108 0424 5
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Science and Moral Priority 
by Roger Sperry.
Blackwell, 135 pp., £12.50, February 1983, 9780631131991
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Art, Science and Human Progress 
edited by R.B. McConnell.
Murray, 196 pp., £12.50, June 1983, 0 7195 4018 6
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... then, to pick up Art, Science and Human Progress, a volume of lectures sponsored by the Richard Bradford Trust, which was founded in 1969 ‘to explore the relationships between the methods of scientific investigation and of artistic creation in literature, the visual arts, and other art forms’. The Popperian process of conjecture and refutation ...

Ireland at Swim

Denis Donoghue, 21 April 1983

The Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies, 1977-1981 
edited by M.P. Hederman and R. Kearney, with a preface by Seamus Heaney.
Blackwater Press/Colin Smythe, 930 pp., £25, October 1982, 9780905471136
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A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers 
by Hugh Kenner.
Knopf, 352 pp., $16.95, April 1983, 0 394 42225 2
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... of keeping out of McDonald’s. The Crane Bag has much brooding about myth, especially Richard Kearney’s essay ‘Myth and Terror’, in which he resorts to Mircea Eliade and Paul Ricoeur to understand and, apparently, to pacify the mythic repetitions – of sacrifice, blood and apocalypse – he finds in modern Ireland. There is also much ...


Andrew Scull, 29 October 1987

The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture 1830-1980 
by Elaine Showalter.
Virago, 309 pp., £6.95, May 1987, 0 86068 869 0
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... the fact that nearly two-thirds of those who consulted the 17th-century astrological physician Richard Napier for treatment of their mopish or melancholic moods were women, one must set the observation that, as best one can judge from the admittedly defective data, men greatly outnumbered women among the inmates of 18th and early 19th-century madhouses. It ...

Carnival Time

Peter Craven, 18 February 1988

The Remake 
by Clive James.
Cape, 223 pp., £10.95, October 1987, 0 224 02515 5
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In the Land of Oz 
by Howard Jacobson.
Hamish Hamilton, 380 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 241 12110 8
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... himself to what he knows) a fine literary critic. As a critic, James not only has his charm, he burns very bright. Admittedly, he can sometimes look too much like a moth confronting the flame of his own verbal self-indulgence. Sometimes he recalls A. Alvarez’s crack that Kenneth Tynan, with his endless name-dropping glitter, was much brighter than Edmund ...

‘Who is this Ingrid Bergman?’

Gilberto Perez: Stroheim and Rossellini, 14 December 2000

by Arthur Lennig.
Kentucky, 514 pp., £25, December 1999, 0 8131 2138 8
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The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini 
by Tag Gallagher.
Da Capo, 802 pp., £16.95, October 1998, 0 306 80873 0
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... back of the room, the smell of mimeographed programme notes. It tells an interesting story, but Richard Koszarski told it better, with more critical and historical acumen, in his 1983 study, The Man You Loved to Hate. There are still some unresolved points in the story, however. Stroheim himself was an unreliable narrator. Only after his death in ...

Lacan’s Ghost

Wendy Doniger: The mirror, 3 January 2002

The Mirror: A History 
by Sabine Melchior-Bonnet, translated by Katharine Jewett.
Routledge, 308 pp., £16.99, January 2001, 0 415 92447 2
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... perceptions of the human form, changing the consciousness of the body. Such mirrors enabled us, as Burns once wished, ‘to see oursels as others see us’ – from the back, for instance, always a sobering experience; an engraving from the mid-17th century shows ‘a woman craning her neck in order to see her back in a mirror. A skeleton emerges from the ...

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