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Shopping for Soap, Fudge and Biscuit Tins

John Pemble: Literary Tourists, 7 June 2007

The Literary Tourist 
by Nicola J. Watson.
Palgrave, 244 pp., £45, October 2006, 1 4039 9992 9
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... a pantheon. So the nation took its atavism elsewhere: to places like Stoke Poges, where Thomas Gray was buried in the churchyard he’d made legendary, and especially to Stratford, sanctified by the grave of Shakespeare. This argument about nationalism isn’t watertight, since it was London that spoke for the nation, and London never got Shakespeare ...

Don’t let that crybaby in here again

Steven Shapin: The Manhattan Project, 7 September 2000

In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist 
by S.S. Schweber.
Princeton, 260 pp., £15.95, May 2000, 0 691 04989 0
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Atomic Fragments: A Daughter’s Questions 
by Mary Palevsky.
California, 289 pp., £15.95, June 2000, 0 520 22055 2
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... plutonium bomb exploded on the Jornada del Muerto near Alamogordo, New Mexico, on 16 July 1945, Robert Oppenheimer, the Scientific Director of Los Alamos, remembered the line from the Bhagavad Gita where Vishnu says: ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ One other remark deserves to be immortalised, which Oppenheimer himself later judged the ...

Knives, Wounds, Bows

John Bayley, 2 April 1987

Randall Jarrell’s Letters 
edited by Mary Jarrell.
Faber, 540 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 571 13829 2
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The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore 
edited by Patricia Willis.
Faber, 723 pp., £30, January 1987, 0 571 14788 7
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... Barzun, R.P. Blackmur, Alfred Kazin, Lionel Trilling, Delmore Schwartz, Allen Tate, Kenneth Burke, Robert Fitzgerald, Leslie Fiedler and John Crowe Ransom – this last its founder as a school of literary criticism ‘to teach those who teach it’. Marianne Moore, in Brooklyn, had a quieter time, but was just as much in touch with them all through friends and ...

I have written as I rode

Adam Smyth: ‘Brief Lives’, 8 October 2015

‘Brief Lives’ with ‘An Apparatus for the Lives of Our English Mathematical Writers’ 
by John Aubrey, edited by Kate Bennett.
Oxford, 1968 pp., £250, March 2015, 978 0 19 968953 8
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John Aubrey: My Own Life 
by Ruth Scurr.
Chatto, 518 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 0 7011 7907 6
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... round … wears boots of Spanish leather, laced or tied along the side with black ribbons’. That Robert Hooke is ‘melancholy and giddy … and … has strange dreams of riding and eating cream’. That Mary Sidney, countess of Pembroke, with her lovers, peered through a ‘vidette’ or peephole to gaze on mating horses at Wilton House. That William Harvey ...

Of the Mule Breed

David Bromwich: Robert Southey, 21 May 1998

Robert Southey: A Life 
by Mark Storey.
Oxford, 405 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 19 811246 7
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... for poetry, he thrived at Oxford, and wrote an ‘Ode to Contemplation’ in the manner of Gray and Collins: ‘In short quick circles the shrill bat flits by,/And the slow vapour curls along the ground’ – a bad poem and one of his favourites. By the time he attends the trial of the radical William Frend in the Senate House at Cambridge, he is ...

Born in a Land where Yoghurt Rules the Roost

Paul Driver: Sibelius, 26 November 1998

Sibelius. Vol. III: 1914-57 
by Erik Tawaststjerna, edited by Robert Layton.
Faber, 384 pp., £30, January 1997, 0 571 19085 5
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... in the present version of Tawaststjerna’s book. Aping Sibelius’s own habits of compression, Robert Layton has run the last two Swedish Finnish volumes into one, truncating or omitting the musicological I chapters that counterpoint the biographical narrative throughout and unbalancing his own English version, which retains them in Volumes I (a ...

Veni, vidi, video

D.A.N. Jones, 18 August 1983

Dangerous Pursuits 
by Nicholas Salaman.
Secker, 192 pp., £7.50, June 1983, 0 436 44086 5
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Monimbo 
by Robert Moss.
Weidenfeld, 384 pp., £7.95, August 1983, 0 297 78166 9
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The Last Supper 
by Charles McCarry.
Hutchinson, 427 pp., £8.96, May 1983, 0 09 151420 7
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Heartburn 
by Nora Ephron.
Heinemann, 179 pp., £7.95, July 1983, 0 434 23700 0
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August 1988 
by David Fraser.
Collins, 235 pp., £8.50, July 1983, 0 00 222725 8
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The Cure 
by Peter Kocan.
Angus and Robertson, 137 pp., £5.95, July 1983, 9780207145896
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... is gradually revealed as he tells us with disgust about an American marketing executive with a Robert Redford moustache who is ordering Pimm’s in an irritating manner, spoiling the atmosphere of a pub which Croucher favours. This bounder is called Tony (Croucher’s least favourite name) and kisses a British girl ‘full on the lips’. This is ‘not ...

Excellence

Patrick Wright, 21 May 1987

Creating excellence: Managing corporate culture, strategy and change in the New Age 
by Craig Hickman and Michael Silva.
Allen and Unwin, 305 pp., £12.50, April 1985, 0 04 658252 5
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Intrapreneuring: Why you don’t have to leave the corporation to become an entrepreneur 
by Gifford Pinchot.
Harper and Row, 368 pp., £15.95, August 1985, 0 06 015305 9
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The IBM Way: Insights into the World’s Most Successful Marketing Organisation 
by Buck Rodgers.
Harper and Row, 224 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 06 015522 1
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Innovation: The Attacker’s Advantage 
by Richard Foster.
Macmillan, 316 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 333 43511 7
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Ford 
by Robert Lacey.
Heinemann, 778 pp., £15, July 1986, 0 434 40192 7
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Company of Adventurers: The Story of the Hudson’s Bay Company 
by Peter Newman.
Viking, 413 pp., £14.95, March 1986, 0 670 80379 0
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Augustine’s Laws 
by Norman Augustine.
Viking, 380 pp., £12.95, July 1986, 9780670809424
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Peak Performers: The New Heroes in Business 
by Charles Garfield.
Hutchinson, 333 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 09 167391 7
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Going for it: How to Succeed as an Entrepreneur 
by Victor Kiam.
Collins, 223 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 00 217603 3
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Take a chance to be first: The Secrets of Entrepreneurial Success 
by Warren Avis.
Macmillan, 222 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 02 504410 9
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The Winning Streak 
by Walter Goldsmith and David Clutterbuck.
Weidenfeld/Penguin, 224 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 297 78469 2
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The Roots of Excellence 
by Ronnie Lessem.
Fontana, 318 pp., £3.95, December 1985, 0 00 636874 3
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The New Management of Local Government 
by John Stewart.
Allen and Unwin, 208 pp., £20, October 1986, 0 00 435232 7
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... books of the Eighties have been American, and ‘excellence’ is their creed. Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman Junior’s In Search of Excellence1 appeared in 1982 and it quickly established itself as the best-selling management book ever. Here was an unambiguous riposte to the Japanese economic miracle, that Pearl Harbour of the Carter era. Excellence ...

Shop Talk

John Lennard, 27 January 1994

Jargon: Its Uses and Abuses 
by Walter Nash.
Blackwell, 214 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 9780631180630
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... In this light John Major’s cricketpersonhood is no accident, since the person who put the ‘gray’ back in Great Britain knows very well that cricket washes whiter. Nash avoids such immediately topical reference in favour of an old and valued sitting duck, Newbolt’s ‘Vitai Lampada’: in setting it up and knocking it down, however, he makes one of ...

The South

Colm Tóibín, 4 August 1994

One Art: The Selected Letters of Elizabeth Bishop 
Chatto, 668 pp., £25, April 1994, 0 7011 6195 7Show More
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... stayed in an apartment overlooking the beach. ‘It is such a wonderful apartment,’ she wrote to Robert Lowell in 1958, that we’ll never rent it again, no matter what heights rents soar to, I think. Top floor, 11th, a terrace around two sides, overlooking all that famous bay and beach. Ships go by all the time, like targets in a shooting gallery, people ...

Grass Green Stockings

Eleanor Hubbard: A Spinster’s Accounts, 21 March 2013

The Business and Household Accounts of Joyce Jeffreys, Spinster of Hereford, 1638-48 
edited by Judith Spicksley.
Oxford, 413 pp., £90, March 2012, 978 0 19 726432 4
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... 1642, she recorded paying five shillings ‘for two leaps for my greate coatch mare, and my gray mare, of Mr Shewards & Mr Brabazon horses’. No great reader, Jeffreys’s most expensive purchase was the works of the Bishop of Exeter at thirty shillings, but usually she preferred secular books, especially Greek and Roman histories in translation. A ...

Paper this thing over

Colin Kidd: The Watergate Tapes, 5 November 2015

The Nixon Tapes: 1971-72 
by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 758 pp., $35, July 2014, 978 0 544 27415 0
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The Nixon Defence: What He Knew and When He Knew It 
by John W. Dean.
Penguin, 784 pp., £14.99, June 2015, 978 0 14 312738 3
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Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall 
by Elizabeth Drew.
Duckworth Overlook, 450 pp., £20, August 2014, 978 0 7156 4916 9
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Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair and the Origins of Watergate 
by Ken Hughes.
Virginia, 228 pp., $16.95, August 2015, 978 0 8139 3664 2
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The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan 
by Rick Perlstein.
Simon and Schuster, 860 pp., £25, August 2014, 978 1 4767 8241 6
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... out Nixon’s order to fire Cox; Richardson’s deputy, William Ruckelshaus, followed. Eventually Robert Bork, the solicitor-general and next in the chain of command at Justice, sacked Cox. Ziegler announced the abolition of the special prosecutor’s office. But the public outcry at the ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ was so great that Nixon was forced to ...

Extreme Gothic Americana

James Lasdun, 6 June 2019

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee 
by Casey Cep.
Heinemann, 314 pp., £20, May 2019, 978 1 78515 073 9
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... funeral took place before the report came in, and, as the ceremony was ending, a man called Robert Burns – Shirley Ann’s uncle – took out a Beretta and shot the reverend three times in the head. There was no insurance, but Radney was quick to see fresh opportunities. Burns had done what half the town dreamed of doing, and few people wanted to see ...

‘What is your nation if I may ask?’

Colm Tóibín: Jews in Ireland, 30 September 1999

Jews in 20th-century Ireland: Refugees, Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust 
by Dermot Keogh.
Cork, 336 pp., £45, March 1998, 9781859181492
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... of Nations. But there was always a difficult undertow. Among de Valera’s greatest supporters was Robert Briscoe, a Jew who later became Lord Mayor of Dublin (as did his son Ben Briscoe), but he was never a minister in any Fianna Fáil government because of what Keogh calls ‘an undercurrent of hostility towards Jews in the country which even de Valera ...

Time and Men and Deeds

Christopher Driver, 4 August 1983

Blue Highways: A Journey into America 
by William Least Heat Moon.
Secker, 421 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 0 436 28459 6
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... of curiosity: historical, technical, geographical. The result falls short of the masterpiece that Robert Penn Warren hails on the jacket. It needs a bigger and better-stocked mind to carry the reader from one individually satisfying sketch to another over such a long span. But for a writer’s first published book it is a formidable achievement, combining the ...

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