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What makes a waif?

Joanne O’Leary, 13 September 2018

The Long-Winded Lady: Tales from the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 215 pp., £10.99, January 2017, 978 1 906539 59 7
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Maeve Brennan: Homesick at the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Angela Bourke.
Counterpoint, 360 pp., $16.95, February 2016, 978 1 61902 715 2
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The Springs of Affection: Stories 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 368 pp., £8.99, May 2016, 978 1 906539 54 2
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... two women to be admitted to the Irish Republican Brotherhood. After the Rising was suppressed, Robert, her father, narrowly escaped the firing squad, and was in Lewes Prison when Maeve was born. Her childhood was punctuated by raids from ‘unfriendly men dressed in civilian clothes carrying revolvers’; they were looking for her father, who was often on ...

Female Bandits? What next!

Wendy Doniger: The incarnations of Robin Hood, 22 July 2004

Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography 
by Stephen Knight.
Cornell, 247 pp., £14.50, May 2003, 0 8014 3885 3
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... And I guess the "robin” means he stole birds.’ Robin is more likely to be a nickname for Robert, though the resonance with ‘robber’ may also count for something, and Hood may suggest his frequent disguises, for Robin is a great trickster whose masquerades inevitably bamboozle his foolish oppressors: he specialises in pretending to help people ...

Knucklehead Truman

Douglas Johnson, 2 June 1983

The Eisenhower Diaries 
edited by Robert Ferrell.
Norton, 445 pp., £15.25, April 1983, 0 393 01432 0
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The Life and Times of Joe McCarthy: A Biography 
by Thomas Reeves.
Blond and Briggs, 819 pp., £11.95, June 1983, 0 85634 131 2
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The past has another pattern 
by George Ball.
Norton, 544 pp., £14.95, September 1982, 0 393 01481 9
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Torn Lace Curtain 
by Frank Saunders and James Southwood.
Sidgwick, 361 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 283 98946 7
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The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power 
by Robert Caro.
Collins, 882 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 00 217062 0
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The Politician: The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson 
by Ronnie Dugger.
Norton, 514 pp., £13.25, September 1982, 9780393015980
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Years of Upheaval 
by Henry Kissinger.
Weidenfeld/Joseph, 1312 pp., £15.95, March 1982, 0 7181 2115 5
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Richard Nixon: The Shaping of his Character 
by Fawn Brodie.
Norton, 574 pp., £14.95, October 1982, 0 393 01467 3
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Haig: The General’s Progress 
by Roger Morris.
Robson, 458 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 9780860511885
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Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President 
by Jimmy Carter.
Collins, 622 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 00 216648 8
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Crisis: The Last Year of the Carter Presidency 
by Hamilton Jordan.
Joseph, 431 pp., £12.95, November 1982, 0 7181 2248 8
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Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser 1977-81 
by Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Weidenfeld, 587 pp., £15, April 1983, 0 297 78220 7
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... newspaper pundits have created persistent legends; and it is to combat one of these legends that Robert Ferrell has edited Eisenhower’s diaries. Professor Ferrell is not the first historian who has sought to show that the General-President, far from being a confused nonentity, was, on the contrary, a hard-working, shrewd and purposive leader who ...

Rug Time

Jonathan Steinberg, 20 October 1983

Kissinger: The Price of Power 
by Seymour Hersh.
Faber, 699 pp., £15, October 1983, 0 571 13175 1
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... is a typical sentence: ‘The revived interest in the White House wiretaps also prompted William Sullivan, who was then in the midst of a power struggle with J. Edgar Hoover, to visit Robert Mardian, head of the Justice Department’s Internal Security Division, and warn him, as Mardian later testified, that Hoover could ...

Peter Conrad’s Flight from Precision

Richard Poirier, 17 July 1980

Imagining America 
by Peter Conrad.
Routledge, 319 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7100 0370 6
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... at being himself’. Why would a man already cartooned in Punch and burlesqued by Gilbert and Sullivan in Patience, which had opened in New York and other American cities months before his arrival, still ‘need’ America to ‘liberate’ him or to make him celebrated? In what sense is a man, not convicted of any crime until 1895, who was to marry in ...
Dust-bowl Migrants in the American Imagination 
by Charles Shindo.
Kansas, 252 pp., £22.50, January 1997, 0 7006 0810 9
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In the Country of Country 
by Nicholas Dawidoff.
Faber, 365 pp., £12.99, June 1997, 0 571 19174 6
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... inconsistent with the migrants’ own desires’. Similarly, the folklorists Charles Todd and Robert Sonkin, sent west under the aegis of Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress to record what might be left of the migrants’ musical lore, paid no attention to what the Okies – by now into commercialised country and western music – wanted to hear, play ...

Diary

W.G. Runciman: You had better look out, 10 December 1998

... reading the newspapers of the time can have something of the same effect, as is well conveyed by Robert Kee’s The World We Left behind. But it’s not the same as a single person’s day-by-day account of – not, of course, wie es eigentlich gewesen ist, but – what it eigentlich felt like to that person. The dilemma is whether publication should or ...

The Ugly Revolution

Michael Rogin: Martin Luther King Jr, 10 May 2001

I May Not Get there with You: The True Martin Luther King Jr 
by Michael Eric Dyson.
Free Press, 404 pp., £15.99, May 2000, 0 684 86776 1
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The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr. Vol. IV: Symbol of the Movement January 1957-December 1958 
edited by Clayborne Carson et al.
California, 637 pp., £31.50, May 2000, 0 520 22231 8
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... freedom struggle. The four political assassinations that define the 1960s – those of John and Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X and King – stand in for the very large numbers (almost all black and lost to national public memory) martyred to racial justice. It is now a commonplace that, instead of protecting Southern civil rights workers, the FBI (with the ...

Call a kid a zebra

Daniel Smith: On the Spectrum, 19 May 2016

In a Different Key: The Story of Autism 
by John Donvan and Caren Zucker.
Allen Lane, 670 pp., £25, January 2016, 978 1 84614 566 7
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NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter about People Who Think Differently 
by Steve Silberman.
Allen and Unwin, 534 pp., £9.99, February 2016, 978 1 76011 364 3
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... that Susan was autistic.) Appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show shortly after Rain Man opened, Ruth Sullivan, the doyenne of American parent advocates, said that the movie had ‘advanced the field of autism by 25 years’. The new public fascination with autism, coupled with the rise in diagnoses, gave activist groups a long-awaited chance to secure funding ...

Seeing Stars

Alan Bennett: Film actors, 3 January 2002

... have seen him as Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist and Jaggers in Great Expectations. It was Francis L. Sullivan, whose huge bulk must have been gracing the stage of the Grand that week, though we did not know it, thinking only that a creature from the celestial realms of film had materialised in, of all places, Leeds. We rushed home to tell ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 1998, 21 January 1999

... makes the scene even more touching. 6 February. I am reading a history of the Yorkshire Dales by Robert White, one of a series, Landscape through Time, published by English Heritage. During the enclosures of the 18th and 19th centuries, most of the land enclosed was added to existing farms, but in 1809 John Hulton used the land allotted to him from the ...

On Some Days of the Week

Colm Tóibín: Mrs Oscar Wilde, 10 May 2012

Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde 
by Franny Moyle.
John Murray, 374 pp., £9.99, February 2012, 978 1 84854 164 1
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The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition 
by Oscar Wilde, edited by Nicholas Frankel.
Harvard, 295 pp., £25.95, April 2011, 978 0 674 05792 0
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... to see the highest development of the modern artistic spirit.’ Two years later, Gilbert and Sullivan caricatured Wilde in Patience as a ‘greenery-yallery-Grosvenor-Gallery-foot-in-the-grave-young-man’. When Basil Hallward completes his portrait of Dorian Gray in Wilde’s novel, Lord Henry Wotton says: ‘It is your best work, Basil, the best thing ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: A Shameful Year, 8 January 2004

... as once, at least, the river has seen slaughter. It was in 1388 that Richard II’s favourite, Robert Vere, led his army floundering along this flooded valley, desperate to escape his baronial pursuers, who eventually caught up and cut most of them down a little upstream at Radcot Bridge.15 February. R. and I go down to Leicester Square at noon, the Tube ...

A Short History of the Trump Family

Sidney Blumenthal: The First Family, 16 February 2017

... exposed his thin skin. For him, Manhattan has always been the opposite of what home was for Robert Frost, ‘the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.’ Wa-a-a-a-h!Winning the presidency was never a deep desire, more a branding scheme that spun out of control, but Trump has tried to turn his victory into a means to compel ...

Upriver

Iain Sinclair: The Thames, 25 June 2009

Thames: Sacred River 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Vintage, 608 pp., £14.99, August 2008, 978 0 09 942255 6
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... is the journey I decide to take; the legend of Grain, from Hogarth’s drunken boat party, through Robert Hamer’s moody film The Long Memory (1952), to the climate camp protests at Kingsnorth, was history enough for me. Ackroyd provided my starting point: London Stone. This beacon, on the east bank of the Yantlet Creek, is said to mark the point at which the ...

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