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With What Joy We Write of the New Russian Government

Ferdinand Mount: Arthur Ransome, 24 September 2009

The Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome 
by Roland Chambers.
Faber, 390 pp., £20, August 2009, 978 0 571 22261 2
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... other enthusiasts were to say similar things, then and later (Lincoln Steffens, the Webbs, H.G. Wells, Walter Duranty of the New York Times, Bernard Shaw), but it was Ransome who first coined those glowing phrases that lingered in the Western mind for so long. He was thus a valuable commodity, as his great friend Karl Radek, the presiding genius of the ...

What’s the big idea?

Jonathan Parry: The Origins of Our Decline, 30 November 2017

The Age of Decadence: Britain 1880 to 1914 
by Simon Heffer.
Random House, 912 pp., £30, September 2017, 978 1 84794 742 0
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... stamps issued in his reign. Stamp-collecting was made fashionable by the pharmacist Edward Stanley Gibbons, who was also remarkable for his prolific sexual adventures and the fact that three of his wives succumbed to ailments that suggested poison. Joseph Boehm, who designed the commemorative coins for the 1887 Jubilee, may – but then again may not ...

The Sponge of Apelles

Alexander Nehamas, 3 October 1985

The Skeptical Tradition 
by Myles Burnyeat.
California, 434 pp., £36.75, June 1984, 0 520 03747 2
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The Modes of Scepticism: Ancient Texts and Modern Interpretations 
by Julia Annas and Jonathan Barnes.
Cambridge, 204 pp., £20, May 1985, 0 521 25682 8
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Skepticism and Naturalism: Some Varieties 
by P.F. Strawson.
Methuen, 98 pp., £10.95, March 1985, 0 416 39070 6
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Hume’s Skepticism in the ‘Treatise of Human Nature’ 
by Robert Fogelin.
Routledge, 195 pp., £12.95, April 1985, 0 7102 0368 3
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The Refutation of Scepticism 
by A.C. Grayling.
Duckworth, 150 pp., £18, May 1985, 0 7156 1922 5
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The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism 
by Barry Stroud.
Oxford, 277 pp., £15, July 1985, 0 19 824730 3
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... positions of Austin, Moore, Kant, Carnap and Quine, as well as in the diagnoses of its sources in Stanley Cavell and Thompson Clark. One could easily take issue with a number of Stroud’s specific claims. But the book is engaging because it is unusual to find a philosopher who is not so concerned with offering the final word on a problem, and who is trying ...

Old Literature and its Enemies

Claude Rawson, 25 April 1991

The Death of Literature 
by Alvin Kernan.
Yale, 230 pp., £18.95, October 1990, 0 300 04783 5
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Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopedia, Genealogy and Tradition 
by Alasdair MacIntyre.
Duckworth, 241 pp., £12.95, August 1990, 0 7156 2337 0
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Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man 
by David Lehman.
Poseidon, 318 pp., $21.95, February 1991, 0 671 68239 3
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... you can rely on being told that she was displaying ‘qualities that must have once made H.G. Wells wonder what he had gotten into’. There is in this book too much snide misrepresentation and sheer error to report in detail, but most of it pales beside the dottiness of his idea that the Chatterley trial showed ‘literature’s lack of any theoretical ...

Orwell and Biography

Bernard Crick, 7 October 1982

... break with one book – disc recordings for the archive were only set up for the very great, like Wells and Shaw, or for people absolutely assured of a permanent place in the history of English letters, like Sir Max Beerbohm and J. B. Priestley. Orwell’s privacy was not pathological, it was perfectly normal: but it makes things difficult for a ...

One Night in Maidenhead

Jean McNicol, 30 October 1997

Noel Coward and Radclyffe Hall: Kindred Spirits 
by Terry Castle.
Columbia, 150 pp., £15.95, November 1996, 0 231 10596 7
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Your John: The Love Letters of Radclyffe Hall 
edited by Joanne Glasgow.
New York, 273 pp., £20, March 1997, 0 8147 3092 2
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Radclyffe Hall: A Woman Called John 
by Sally Cline.
Murray, 434 pp., £25, June 1997, 9780719554087
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... their former head gardener in an attempt to make sure that Mrs Leonard had not gone to Malvern Wells to see the country house which Ladye and John had owned, the layout of which is endlessly and confusingly discussed in the séances. Their ingenious explanations of Feda’s more inaccurate remarks merely betray their determination to believe the wily Mrs ...

Little England

Patrick Wright: The view through a bus window, 7 September 2006

Great British Bus Journeys: Travels through Unfamous Places 
by David McKie.
Atlantic, 359 pp., £16.99, March 2006, 1 84354 132 7
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... sources to create a compensatory postwar cult of the southern English chalk downs, and also by Stanley Spencer, whose paintings of the Berkshire village of Cookham had much in common with Chesterton’s defensive advocacy of England: the smaller and more localised the better; the less your knowledge of the wider world, the more profound your experience is ...

Too Fast

Thomas Powers: Malcolm X, 25 August 2011

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention 
by Manning Marable.
Allen Lane, 592 pp., £30, April 2011, 978 0 7139 9895 5
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... kind. His friends included the black novelist Richard Wright and critics like Kenneth Burke and Stanley Edgar Hyman; his heroes were Joyce and Eliot; he studied The Golden Bough for the mythical themes he hoped would make his novel immortal. Ellison aspired mightily and he dressed the part as he imagined it: Man of Letters, with carefully knotted tie, dark ...

In Hyperspace

Fredric Jameson, 10 September 2015

Time Travel: The Popular Philosophy of Narrative 
by David Wittenberg.
Fordham, 288 pp., £18.99, March 2013, 978 0 8232 4997 8
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... them. But these historical variants are not genuine time-travel narratives on the order of H.G. Wells’s Time Machine (1895), which inaugurates the standard narrative of the history of science fiction, to the detriment of Jules Verne or that other increasingly popular recent candidate, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). But where did the genre come ...

The Best Stuff

Ian Jack: David Astor, 2 June 2016

David Astor: A Life in Print 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 400 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 0 224 09090 2
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... many of them held on Astor leases, the investment reaped a prodigious annual return. H.G. Wells said of one of John Jacob’s great-grandchildren, William Waldorf Astor, that he extracted rents ‘as effectively as a ferret draws blood from a rabbit’, though by Wells’s day spending rather than getting had become ...

Liquored-Up

Stefan Collini: Edmund Wilson, 17 November 2005

Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature 
by Lewis Dabney.
Farrar, Straus, 642 pp., £35, August 2005, 0 374 11312 2
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... to putting things into categories’. This required a constant responsiveness sustained by deep wells of intellectual energy. Part of Wilson’s subsequent standing, and much of his status as a fantasy object, is due to the stamina he displayed in fulfilling his regular reviewing duties. The sheer miscellaneousness of what he covered has its own ...

The Man in the Clearing

Iain Sinclair: Meeting Gary Snyder, 24 May 2012

... told me, ‘has to be converted, in the most organised fashion, into hundreds and thousands of gas wells. It’s like the original oil era. They’ve tricked a lot of public land by offering inducements that haven’t been followed up on. It’s rocks and hard places for everybody, in terms of energy, from now on.’ The windscreen of the hired car detaches us ...

Whose century?

Adam Tooze: After the Shock, 30 July 2020

Schism: China, America and the Fracturing of the Global Trading System 
by Paul Blustein.
McGill-Queen’s, 356 pp., £27.99, September 2019, 978 1 928096 85 6
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Superpower Showdown: How the Battle between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War 
by Bob Davis and Lingling Wei.
Harper, 480 pp., £25, June 2020, 978 0 06 295305 6
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Trade Wars Are Class Wars: How Rising Inequality Distorts the Global Economy and Threatens International Peace 
by Matthew C. Klein and Michael Pettis.
Yale, 288 pp., £20, June 2020, 978 0 300 24417 5
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The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Metropolitan Elite 
by Michael Lind.
Atlantic, 224 pp., £14.99, February 2020, 978 1 78649 955 4
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... interests to them. US manufacturers such as Boeing, GE and Pepsi, banks like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan, and the insurance giant AIG all wanted the new market, and they wanted the cheap labour. From 1994, when the Clinton administration abandoned its hard line on the legacies of Tiananmen, the thrust of policy was to open up new markets and ...

My Heroin Christmas

Terry Castle: Art Pepper and Me, 18 December 2003

... real guy, quavering away at the piano!), Busoni’s Bach arrangements, Ginette Neveu, the Stanley Brothers, Tessie O’Shea, Milton Babbitt, The Rough Guide to Rai, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Charles Trenet, Ska Almighty, John Dowland, the organ music of Johann Fux (heh heh), Ian Bostridge, the Ramones, Astor Piazzola, Ethel Merman’s Disco ...

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