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Purple Days

Mark Ford, 12 May 1994

The Pugilist at Rest 
by Thom Jones.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 571 17134 6
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The Sorrow of War 
by Bao Ninh, translated by Frank Palmos.
Secker, 217 pp., £8.99, January 1994, 0 436 31042 2
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A Good Scent from Strange Mountain 
by Robert Olen Butler.
Minerva, 249 pp., £5.99, November 1993, 0 7493 9767 5
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Out of the Sixties: Storytelling and the Vietnam Generation 
by David Wyatt.
Cambridge, 230 pp., £35, February 1994, 9780521441513
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... Marooned in the ‘painful but glorious days’ of his past, he rather resembles the characters of Robert Olen Butler’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of short stories, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain: all of these concern South Vietnamese immigrants who have settled, for the most part happily, in Louisiana, yet who hark constantly back to their ...

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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... The belief underlies his veneration for the great ‘talking heads’ like Lord Clark and Robert Hughes, as in a more general way it underlies his love affair with British TV ‘culture’ when it is not merely mausoleum-like. Clearly James’s feeling for British culture is that of the outsider who can dissimulate an insider’s manner, but who will ...

Something an academic might experience

Michael Neve, 26 September 1991

The Faber Book of Madness 
edited by Roy Porter.
Faber, 572 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 571 14387 3
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... example to enthusiastic religious groups, or to wayward individuals, served certain purposes. That Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy was, as Johnson thought, magisterial, and unread. Above all, that madness was proximate to Reason, indeed twinned to the idea of ‘Reason’, and that madness was the secret history of the Enlightenment, its exhausted ...

Fitz

John Bayley, 4 April 1985

With Friends Possessed: A Life of Edward FitzGerald 
by Robert Bernard Martin.
Faber, 313 pp., £17.50, February 1985, 0 571 13462 9
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... several copies out of the bargain box and gave some to friends, including Monckton Milnes, Richard Burton and D.G. Rossetti. Ruskin and Burne-Jones discovered it; Meredith was bowled over by it. By the century’s end it had already gone through hundreds of editions. In his ABC of Reading Ezra Pound proposed the critical exercise: try to find out why the ...

Quick with a Stiletto

Malcolm Gaskill: Europe’s Underground War, 7 July 2022

Resistance: The Underground War in Europe, 1939-45 
by Halik Kochanski.
Allen Lane, 932 pp., £35, March, 978 0 241 00428 9
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... killed (elsewhere it had been even worse: fifty for every German). Kappler – played by Richard Burton in George P. Cosmatos’s film Massacre in Rome (1973) – had to come up with names very quickly: the killings were to be carried out within 24 hours of the attack. In the film we see Burton at a desk, adding the names ...

Enfield was nothing

P.N. Furbank: Norman Lewis, 18 December 2003

The Tomb in Seville 
by Norman Lewis.
Cape, 150 pp., £14.99, November 2003, 0 224 07120 3
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... and escapes’ – the very things which, for good or evil, Evelyn Waugh and Peter Fleming and Robert Byron, not to mention Redmond O’Hanlon, assume to be the heart of travel writing. This leads us to the reflection that travel writing, or anyway the best sort, only pretends to be informative. The author, out of self-respect, and by mugging up or other ...

Hey, Mister, you want dirty book?

Edward Said: The CIA, 30 September 1999

Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War 
by Frances Stonor Saunders.
Granta, 509 pp., £20, July 1999, 1 86207 029 6
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... and ‘democracy’ against Soviet totalitarianism. One of the rare dissenters, Charles Burton Marshall, is quoted here as saying that this bizarre operation to ‘counter Communism’ by trying ‘to break down ... doctrinaire thought patterns’ and anti-American attitudes throughout the world was ‘just about as totalitarian as one can ...

A Narrow Band of Liberties

Glen Newey: Global order, 25 January 2001

Profit over People: Neo-Liberalism and Global Order 
by Noam Chomsky.
Seven Stories, 175 pp., £26, October 1998, 1 888363 82 7
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Acts of Aggression: Policing ‘Rogue’ States 
by Noam Chomsky and Ramsey Clark, edited by Edward Said.
Seven Stories, 62 pp., £4.99, May 1999, 1 58322 005 4
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The Umbrella of US Power: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Contradictions of US Policy 
by Noam Chomsky.
Seven Stories, 78 pp., £3.99, December 1998, 1 888363 85 1
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The New Military Humanism: Lessons from Kosovo 
by Noam Chomsky.
Pluto, 199 pp., £30, November 1999, 0 7453 1633 6
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... One ground for saying this, apparently endorsed by Chomsky and certainly held by anarchists like Robert Paul Wolff, is that coercion itself – the state’s big shtick – is never justified. The truth is not that power corrupts, but that power’s rationale is corruption, and the best to be hoped for from its use is not that it makes people better, but ...

Huw should be so lucky

Philip Purser, 16 August 1990

Sir Huge: The Life of Huw Wheldon 
by Paul Ferris.
Joseph, 307 pp., £18.99, June 1990, 0 7181 3464 8
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... He hunted down giants for Monitor – Henry Moore, Sir Thomas Beecham, E.M. Forster, Max Ernst, Robert Graves. He had the fine, if expensive idea of filming the artist or administrator in a setting germane to his or her work. They went to Athens to profile Katina Paxinou, to the Metropolitan Opera in New York to observe Rudolf Bing in the post that had been ...

You’ve got it or you haven’t

Iain Sinclair, 25 February 1993

Inside the Firm: The Untold Story of the Krays’ Reign of Terror 
by Tony Lambrianou and Carol Clerk.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.99, October 1992, 0 330 32284 2
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Gangland: London’s Underworld 
by James Morton.
Little, Brown, 349 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 356 20889 3
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Nipper: The Story of Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read 
by Leonard Read and James Morton.
Warner, 318 pp., £5.99, September 1992, 0 7515 0001 1
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Smash and Grab: Gangsters in the London Underworld 
by Robert Murphy.
Faber, 182 pp., £15.99, February 1993, 0 571 15442 5
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... the cognoscenti like a confederation of secret masters: Gerald Kersh, James Curtis, Mark Benney, Robert Westerby, Alexander Baron, John Lodwick, Jack Trevor Story. They have been struck from the canon, these technicians, these life-enhanced witnesses. They are noticed only by slumming journalists (who have built up their own collections of the stuff) or by ...

Gentlemen Travellers

D.A.N. Jones, 15 September 1983

George Borrow: Eccentric 
by Michael Collie.
Cambridge, 275 pp., £19.50, November 1982, 0 521 24615 6
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A World of his Own: The Double Life of George Borrow 
by David Williams.
Oxford, 178 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 19 211762 9
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Eothen: Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East 
by Alexander Kinglake and Jan Morris.
Oxford, 279 pp., £2.95, November 1982, 0 19 281361 7
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Eothen 
by Alexander Kinglake and Jonathan Raban.
Century, 226 pp., £6.95, September 1982, 0 7126 0031 0
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... Jan Morris, for the Oxford edition. ‘His influence may be traced down the generations from Robert Curzon’s Monasteries of the Levant (1849) to Robert Byron’s Road to Oxiana (1937) or Paul Theroux’s Great Railway Bazaar (1975).’ For the Century edition, Jonathan Raban likewise sees a link with Theroux and ...

Je sui uns hom

Tom Shippey, 1 June 1989

Medieval Civilisation 400-1500 
by Jacques Le Goff, translated by Julia Barrow.
Blackwell, 393 pp., £19.95, November 1988, 0 631 15512 0
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The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Middle Ages. Vol. I: 350-950 
edited by Robert Fossier, translated by Janet Sondheimer.
Cambridge, 556 pp., £30, February 1989, 0 521 26644 0
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The Medieval Imagination 
by Jacques Le Goff, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Chicago, 293 pp., £21.95, November 1988, 0 226 47084 9
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Concepts of Cleanliness: Changing Attitudes in France since the Middle Ages 
by Georges Vigarello, translated by Jean Birrell.
Cambridge/Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 239 pp., £25, October 1988, 0 521 34248 1
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Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas and Power 
by Jesse Byock.
California, 264 pp., $32.50, October 1988, 0 520 05420 2
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... to grasp the idea of interest (which meant low capital investment); and people like the abbot of Burton, who told his peasants that they owned nothing, nothing of their own, nihil praeter ventrem, ‘nothing except their bellies’. If you read Medieval Civilisation in some moods, it sounds as if ‘civilisation’ is ironic; it’s also a wonder that the ...

Schusterism

C.H. Sisson, 18 April 1985

Diaries: 1923-1925 
by Siegfried Sassoon, edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Faber, 320 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 571 13322 3
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... There are scattered in this volume some excellent sketches of his contemporaries. There is Robert Bridges, Poet Laureate, whose ‘father and mother went to Rome in their own carriage’ and whose son became Permanent Secretary to the Treasury. Tennyson himself, Sassoon says, ‘never looked more bard-like than Bridges did when I arrived this evening ...
By the Banks of the Neva: Chapters from the Lives and Careers of the British in 18th-Century Russia 
by Anthony Cross.
Cambridge, 496 pp., £60, November 1996, 0 521 55293 1
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... the height of fashion. A British ambassador in Catherine’s reign speaks of the popularity of Burton ale, a visiting cleric claims he has ‘never tasted English beer and porter in greater abundance’. We even hear about the subscription ball, where Country Boamkin, as they call Country Bumkin, is a very favourite dance, tho’ they make it quite ...

Lowry’s Planet

Michael Hofmann, 27 January 1994

Pursued by Furies: A life of Malcolm Lowry 
by Gordon Bowker.
HarperCollins, 672 pp., £25, October 1993, 0 00 215539 7
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The Collected Poetry of Malcolm Lowry 
edited by Kathleen Scherf.
British Columbia, 418 pp., £25, January 1992, 0 7748 0362 2
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... the prospect of becoming his own assembly line, all he could think of was Under Under the Volcano. Robert Lowell writes: I memorised tricks to set the river on fire, somehow never wrote something to go back to. Lowry was the absolute opposite, no tricks and a work he was unable to get away from. He described himself as ‘a sometimes subtle if not good ...

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