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Blunder around for a while

Richard Rorty, 21 November 1991

Consciousness Explained 
by Daniel Dennett.
Little, Brown, 514 pp., $27.95, October 1991, 0 316 18065 3
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... all really influential and durable philosophy books, this book’s power lies not in propounding a nice, clean, sharp, conclusive argument, but in its details: in the elegant way in which Dennett’s novel metaphors allow him to handle all sorts of odd and paradoxical little facts, and to undermine all sorts of seemingly self-evident truths. The reader of ...

At Christie’s

Paul Myerscough: Buying Art, 21 February 2008

... be on offer a few days later at the first big Christie’s sale of 2008. Viewings like this are a nice city secret: free admittance to room after room of modern classics, some of which can be seen only for these few days as they slip from one private collection into another. It isn’t like being in a regular gallery; there’s something different about the ...

At the Hayward

Hal Foster: ‘The Painting of Modern Life’, 1 November 2007

... However, as the 1960s began, Rugoff continues, artists associated with Pop and photorealism – Richard Hamilton, Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, Richard Artschwager, Vija Celmins and Malcolm Morley – turned again to photography, not only as a source of images but as a way to convey the look of consumer society, already ...

Broken Knowledge

Frank Kermode, 4 August 1983

The Oxford Book of Aphorisms 
edited by John Gross.
Oxford, 383 pp., £9.50, March 1983, 0 19 214111 2
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The Travellers’ Dictionary of Quotation: Who said what about where? 
edited by Peter Yapp.
Routledge, 1022 pp., £24.95, April 1983, 0 7100 0992 5
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... Richard Rorty has made us familiar with the distinction between two sorts of philosophy, which he calls ‘systematic’ and (I think infelicitously) ‘edifying’. The first sticks to the central epistemological tradition, which assumes that it can deal systematically and progressively with reality; the second is essentially of the periphery, and its exponents are pragmatical opponents of the institutional tradition ...

Back to the futuh

Robert Irwin, 1 August 1996

The Middle East: 2000 Years of History from the Birth of Christianity to the Present Day 
by Bernard Lewis.
Weidenfeld, 433 pp., £20, September 1995, 0 297 81345 5
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... school, perhaps because the man portrayed appears to be blind in one eye, as was Saladin.’ Nice try, but there is no evidence at all that Saladin was blind in one eye.) To return to the Maqamat miniature, al-Hariri and al-Wasiti were major figures in their respective fields. If the dust-jacket of a book about Western culture featured one of ...

The Limit

Rosemary Hill, 2 November 1995

Christopher Wood: An English Painter 
by Richard Ingleby.
Allison and Busby, 295 pp., £25, May 1995, 0 85031 849 1
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Barbara Hepworth: A Life of Forms 
by Sally Festing.
Viking, 343 pp., £20, May 1995, 0 670 84203 6
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... explained to his mother. What he did not tell her was how he had landed such a grand invitation. Richard Ingleby cannot tell us either, but Kahn was the first of many men and women to be charmed by Wood. His good looks and ‘friendliness’, the quality that people singled out as the key to his appeal, enabled him to drift with apparent inevitability to the ...


Richard Jenkyns, 3 April 1997

Art and the Victorian Middle Class: Money and the Making of Cultural Identity 
by Dianne Sachko Macleod.
Cambridge, 375 pp., £65, October 1996, 0 521 55090 4
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... her love child by a professor of sociology, rampages through the text. Sometimes there is a nice derangement of metaphors: ‘The acuity of a trained eye, then, can be counted as one of the motivations for collecting which blunted the harsher trajectory of art’s profitability.’ ‘Sweeping ties with the past proclaimed an illusion of ...

‘Equality exists in Valhalla’

Richard J. Evans: German Histories, 4 December 2014

Germany: Memories of a Nation 
by Neil MacGregor.
Allen Lane, 598 pp., £30, November 2014, 978 0 241 00833 1
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Germany: Memories of a Nation 
British Museum, until 25 January 2015Show More
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... the Federal Republic (East Germany gets its place, but only a very small one; it would have been nice to see a Trabant opposite the Beetle). Clearly an exhibition illustrating the high standards of German workmanship and its contribution to European culture through the ages is going to concentrate on objects produced for the rich and powerful. But this ...

On the Beaches

Richard White: In Indian Country, 21 March 2002

Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America 
by Daniel Richter.
Harvard, 317 pp., £17.95, January 2002, 0 674 00638 0
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... assimilation of Indians to European norms or mutual toleration and coexistence. Trade provides a nice example of the complexity that Richter has in mind. European manufactures had an immense impact on native North America, but their introduction did not involve a straightforward replacement of native material culture nor was it evidence of a ravenous and ...

Our Hero

C.H. Sisson, 25 January 1990

Richard Aldington: A Biography 
by Charles Doyle.
Macmillan, 379 pp., £19.95, November 1989, 0 333 46487 7
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... Charles Doyle’s biography of Richard Aldington opens so readily at the 24 excellent photographs with which the book is illustrated that the temptation to look at them, before one gets involved with the text, is irresistible. The series starts with a rather determined-looking boy with cap and striped jersey, holding a football ...


Conrad Russell, 5 September 1985

The Restoration: A Political and Religious History of England and Wales 1658-1667 
by Ronald Hutton.
Oxford, 379 pp., £17.50, June 1985, 0 19 822698 5
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... Republican England, as presented by Dr Hutton, shows a surprising amount of vitality even in 1659. Richard Cromwell’s regime appears as enjoying a considerable body of support, and there is much food for thought in the fact, illustrated by the career of General Monck, that on the whole Monarchy and Protectorate, through the crises of 1659-60, drew support ...

Winner’s History

Howard Erskine-Hill, 20 August 1981

Some Intellectual Consequences of the English Revolution 
by Christopher Hill.
Weidenfeld, 100 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 297 77780 7
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The Century of Revolution, 1603-1714 
by Christopher Hill.
Nelson, 296 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 17 712002 9
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... Revolution’. What came out, however, was not necessarily originated by the period. It is a nice problem to distinguish causation from succession. In 12 short and easygoing chapters, originally the Merle Curti Lectures at the University of Wisconsin, Professor Hill’s account slides to and fro from causation to succession. For example: ‘Locke drew on ...

Good Girls

Lauren Elkin: Leïla Slimani, 21 February 2019

by Leïla Slimani, translated by Sam Taylor.
Faber, 209 pp., £12.99, February 2019, 978 0 571 33195 6
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... encounters but zero orgasms. Adèle, an attractive Parisian woman in her thirties, with a husband, Richard, a child and a desultory job as a journalist, has what the DSM-5 would describe as a hypersexual disorder, that is, if sex addiction weren’t such a controversial diagnosis that the DSM-5 clinicians decided not to include it. ‘Adèle has been ...

The Silences of General de Gaulle

Douglas Johnson, 20 November 1980

Mon Général 
by Olivier Guichard.
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Lettres, Notes et Carnets: Vol.1 1905-1918, Vol.2 1919-1940; 
by Charles de Gaulle.
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Le Colonel de Gaulle et les Blindés 
by Paul Huard.
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... Giscard d’Estaing is centre right and seeks to appear as if he were centre left. Foot is too nice, so much so that he is the nicest prime minister we will never have, but Healey is not nice enough and his past bullying of the unions has lost him their enthusiasm if not their support. Foot is romantic, Healey ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Da Vinci Code’, 8 June 2006

The Da Vinci Code 
directed by Ron Howard.
May 2006
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... grey and grainy, washed out in places, but then the stock must be very old, and there are some nice splashes of colour, especially the reds and indigos. These are unmistakably moving (and talking) pictures, presumably long buried in some tomb whose discovery might have saved the Lumière brothers quite a bit of trouble. In a ruined church somewhere near ...

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