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‘I’m English,’ I said

Christopher Tayler: Colin Thubron, 14 July 2011

To a Mountain in Tibet 
by Colin Thubron.
Chatto, 227 pp., £16.99, February 2011, 978 0 7011 8379 0
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... into transcendental meditation and gets written up as a Muscovite avatar of a character out of Robert Stone or Joan Didion: Often silences fell between us. Much of the time I felt that she was not in my company at all, nor I in hers. She would close her eyes for long, still minutes, smiling crookedly … I don’t know how she conceived of me. She ...

A Small, Sharp Stone

Ange Mlinko: Lydia Davis’s Lists, 2 December 2021

Essays One 
by Lydia Davis.
Hamish Hamilton, 512 pp., £20, November 2019, 978 0 241 37147 3
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Essays Two 
by Lydia Davis.
Hamish Hamilton, 571 pp., £20, December, 978 0 241 55465 4
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... Do you ease a scruple? Or do you calm a scruple? A scruple, etymologically, is a small, sharp stone. I often think of that etymology when I have an actual small, sharp stone in my shoe.’I’m unsure. The pieces in Essays One – divided into categories on ‘The Bible, Memory and the Passage of Time’, ‘The ...

What, how often and with whom?

Lawrence Stone, 3 August 1995

The Social Organisation of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States 
by Edward Laumann, John Gagnon, Robert Michael and Stuart Michaels.
Chicago, 742 pp., £39.95, October 1994, 0 226 46957 3
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Sex in America: A Definitive Survey 
by Robert Michael, John Gagnon, Edward Laumann and Gina Kolata.
Little, Brown, 289 pp., £16.99, November 1994, 0 316 91191 7
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Sexual Behaviour in Britain: The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Life-Styles 
by Kaye Wellings, Julia Field, A.M. Johnson and Jane Wadsworth.
Penguin, 464 pp., £15, January 1994, 0 14 015814 6
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... In the early Eighties, Western governments, notably those of America, Britain and France, were anxious to assess the probable rate of growth and pathways of infection of Aids. They sponsored extensive sex surveys in order to find out, for example, the number of sexual partners an average male had in his lifetime and how many used safe sex. The British survey was carried out by four women, primarily trained in medical statistics, epidemiology and health care ...

Ozymandias Syndrome

Robert Irwin, 24 August 1995

Islamic Architecture 
by Robert Hillenbrand.
Edinburgh, 645 pp., £49.50, November 1994, 0 7486 0479 0
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The Art and Architecture of Islam 1250-1800 
by Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom.
Yale, 348 pp., £45, August 1994, 0 300 05888 8
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The Mosque: History, Architectural Development and Regional Diversity 
edited by Martin Frishman and Hassan-Uddin Khan.
Thames and Hudson, 288 pp., £36, November 1994, 0 500 34133 8
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Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey 
by Nurhan Atasoy and Julian Raby.
Alexandria Press/Laurence King, 384 pp., £60, July 1994, 1 85669 054 7
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... ruins became teaching aids in a series of lectures on the sinfulness and transience of tyranny. Robert Hillenbrand’s meditations on Eastern ruins may similarly lead his readers to thoughts of mortality and transience. Many of the buildings he studies in Islamic Architecture have an overt function – whether prayer, teaching, interment or pleasure – yet ...

Holocaust Art

Robert Taubman, 10 January 1983

Schindler’s Ark 
by Thomas Keneally.
Hodder, 432 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 340 27838 2
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... differs from the prototypes of the Romantic revolutionary, and his prison is not a camp but a stone vault. You wouldn’t think that more than a hundred years had passed since Fidelio. But as the names Dachau or Buchenwald began to appear more widely in the literature of the Thirties, it was clear that they referred to a new phenomenon – not to ...

I was trying to find the edge

J. Robert Lennon: Cusk-alike, 3 June 2021

Second Place 
by Rachel Cusk.
Faber, 224 pp., £14.99, May, 978 0 571 36629 3
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... comic effects that function like a jeweller’s steel blade, cleaving faceted gems out of rough stone. It represents a new mode of organising the fragments of perspective that the trilogy exploded: a deannihilated novel, and a very good ...

There Goes Valzer

László Krasznahorkai, translated by George Szirtes: A Story, 20 March 2014

... My name​ is Róbert Valzer and I like walking, not that I have anything to do with the famous Robert Walser, nor do I think it strange that walking should be my favourite hobby. I call it a hobby but I accept – or rather I am prepared to entertain the fact – that where I live in this Central European country I am considered to be too unstable to be regarded as a normal person and that my hobby is not to be compared with other people’s hobbies ...

Diary

Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett, 7 November 1985

... designed it was a miracle of discretion, because the artist himself emerges nowhere from the stone. A worshipping lady emerges in bas-relief, and is largely concealed behind a bush. One could do worse than to recommend a similar modesty to artists at large, wherever they may temporarily hide. Verlaine did not suffer from it. He scowls down at us from the ...
Bowie 
by Jerry Hopkins.
Elm Tree, 275 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 241 11548 5
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Alias David Bowie 
by Peter Gillman and Leni Gillman.
Hodder, 511 pp., £16.95, September 1986, 0 340 36806 3
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... David Robert Jones, alias David Bowie, is now in his 40th year. His creepy, chilling phrases pop out of pub jukeboxes, and extracts from his movies catch the eye on pub videos, whether he is embracing a Chinese girl or being executed by Japanese soldiers; his image appears in the Sunday-paper magazines, artistically displayed in sundry poses ...

Jack and Leo

John Sutherland, 27 July 1989

The Letters of Jack London 
edited by Earle Labor, Robert Leitz and Milo Shepard.
Stanford, 1657 pp., $139.50, October 1988, 0 8047 1227 1
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Tolstoy 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 572 pp., £16.95, May 1988, 0 241 12190 6
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... The Book of Jack London was needed. In 1934, Charmian was approached by a young biographer, Irving Stone, who had just produced his popular biography of Van Gogh, Lust for Life. Charmian liked Stone’s technicolour vision of the tormented painter and gave the go-ahead.’ Stone took as ...

Diary

Robert Irwin: Pinball and Despair, 7 July 1994

... to fit in with the theme. In ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, the silver ball hurtles along dark, stone-flagged corridors and up cobwebbed ramps, bounces off battlements and disappears from time to time into catacombs. An odd feature is an additional ball which is occasionally released, seemingly at random, and which wobbles somnambulistically across the ...

Use Use Use

Robert Baird: Robert Duncan’s Dream, 24 October 2013

Robert Duncan: The Ambassador from Venus 
by Lisa Jarnot.
California, 509 pp., £27.95, August 2013, 978 0 520 23416 1
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... As a boy, Robert Duncan had a recurring dream. He would imagine himself in the middle of a treeless field. The ripe grass rippled, though there was no wind, and the light, as he later remembered, ‘was everywhere’, though there was no sun to be seen. Seeing himself in the centre of a circle of children, all of them singing and playing ‘Ring a Ring o’ Roses’, Duncan understood that he was ‘it’: ‘the Chosen One … a “King” or victim of the children’s round dance ...

Consider the lions

Peter Campbell, 22 July 1993

The House of Gold 
by Richard Goy.
Cambridge, 304 pp., £60, January 1993, 0 521 40513 0
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The Palace of the Sun 
by Robert Berger.
Pennsylvania State, 232 pp., £55, April 1993, 0 271 00847 4
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... but it is still the most impressive and among the most magisterially consistent. Richard Goy and Robert Berger, in their respective accounts of the construction of the Cà d’Oro and of Louis XIV’s Louvre, remove ambiguities which hang around the word ‘built’. They ask who made decisions, who paid, and how much, and why each building took this form ...

Landlord of the Moon

David Craig: Scottish islands, 21 February 2002

Sea Room: An Island Life 
by Adam Nicolson.
HarperCollins, 391 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 00 257164 1
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... know them entirely and understand the reason each feature, natural or civilised, is as it is. That stone-heap on a west-facing slope, is it scree, or a cairn, or the remains of a house? Who made those cup-holes in a reef by the shore, and why? When did somebody last dig those lazy-beds, the ridges for potatoes or barley that corduroy the rough ...

What happened that night on the Acropolis?

Robert Cioffi: Hymn to Demetrius, 10 February 2022

Demetrius the Besieger 
by Pat Wheatley and Charlotte Dunn.
Oxford, 496 pp., £100, April 2020, 978 0 19 883604 9
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... manifestly shaped by his own agenda. On some matters, Wheatley and Dunn can turn to other sources: stone inscriptions, the coins that Demetrius and Antigonus both minted, other historians of the period. But they often find themselves in the position of a trial jury, having to decide whether the story they have been told is true and where it is most likely to ...

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