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I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters, 24 January 2013

Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... but would never think of saying a word, asking a word, about anyone else’s work … Caroline Kennedy (Schlossberg) was there. The Pete Gurneys, daughter a graduate of the Yale English school, now a financial officer at the ad agency whose long name still ends in Benton and Bowles. That little rat, Jerzy R. Kosinski, thought Conrad was a good subject to ...

Losing the War

Robert Dallek, 23 November 1989

A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam 
by Neil Sheehan.
Cape, 861 pp., £15.95, April 1989, 0 224 02648 8
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... officers aimed to hide unpleasant decisions and realities from them. From 1961 to 1965, when the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations expanded US commitments in Vietnam, the realities of what we were doing and the difficulties confronting us were muted – partly to discourage public debate and inhibitions on executive freedom to make policy, and partly out ...

Like a boll weevil to a cotton bud

A. Craig Copetas, 18 November 1993

New York Days 
by Willie Morris.
Little, Brown, 400 pp., £19.45, September 1993, 0 316 58421 5
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... how those dreams had been deferred. Yet tonight the cemetery of hope and idealism is empty. Jack Kennedy is alive. Martin Luther King is alive. Bobby Kennedy is alive. James Baldwin is alive. Janis Joplin is alive. Jack Kerouac is alive. Jimi Hendrix is alive. Lyndon Johnson is alive. James Jones is alive. Jim Morrison and ...

Hopi Mean Time

Iain Sinclair: Jim Sallis, 18 March 1999

Eye of the Cricket 
by James Sallis.
No Exit, 190 pp., £6.99, April 1998, 1 874061 77 7
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... New Orleans, the setting for Sallis’s Griffin novels, is a mob town with murky connections to Kennedy conspiracies, voodoo, vampire faggots, jazz, child brothels and all the trash, black and white, of the Delta. It wasn’t a place – with its ‘meaty, rich smell of frying shrimp’, its ‘palms, hibiscus, yucca trees and rubber plants’ – to be ...

Racist Litter

Randall Kennedy: The Lessons of Reconstruction, 30 July 2020

The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution 
by Eric Foner.
Norton, 288 pp., £18.99, October 2019, 978 0 393 65257 4
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... rendition mirrored the depiction of Reconstruction offered by leading academics such as William Dunning of Columbia University, who served as president of both the American Historical Association and the American Political Science Association. ‘The negro,’ Dunning wrote in Reconstruction, Political and Economic, 1865-77 (1907),had no pride of ...

The Most Beautiful Icicle

Inigo Thomas: Apollo 11, 15 August 2019

Reaching for the Moon: A Short History of the Space Race 
by Roger D. Launius.
Yale, 256 pp., £20, July 2019, 978 0 300 23046 8
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The Moon: A History for the Future 
by Oliver Morton.
Economist Books, 334 pp., £20, May 2019, 978 1 78816 254 8
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... moon – the view of Earth from a spacecraft window is another famous Apollo photograph, taken by William Anders two missions before Armstrong’s. ‘It’s unreal,’ Collins said. And then: I’ve lost a Hasselblad. Has anybody seen a Hasselblad floating by? It couldn’t have gone very far – big son of a gun like that … Well, that pisses me ...

Britain’s Thermonuclear Bluff

Norman Dombey and Eric Grove, 22 October 1992

... forthcoming obituary, in the Biographical Memoirs of the Fellows of the Royal Society, of Sir William Cook, scientific director of the Grapple test series; some recent disclosures on the part of John Ward, who was employed at the British nuclear weapons laboratory at Aldermaston for six months during 1955; and a group of declassified US documents obtained ...

Memoriousness

E.S. Turner, 15 September 1988

Memories of Times Past 
by Louis Heren.
Hamish Hamilton, 313 pp., £15.95, July 1988, 0 241 12427 1
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Chances: An Autobiography 
by Mervyn Jones.
Verso, 311 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 0 86091 167 5
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... Heren, the veteran foreign correspondent, had hoped to become editor of the Times in succession to William ReesMogg, when Rupert Murdoch bought the newspaper. Heren was told that, at 61, he was too old. Under Harold Evans he failed to flourish (‘Evans trashes me, to use the US Army expression, and most of my former colleagues in his book Good Times, Bad ...

Diary

Paul Foot: The Buttocks Problem, 5 September 1996

... In his Foreword to a new biography of Anthony Chenevix-Trench,* one-time headmaster of Eton, Sir William Gladstone writes that Trench’s ‘interest was in drawing out the best from boys as individuals’. Another interest, not mentioned by Sir William, lay in drawing down the underpants of boys – as individuals ...

How can it work?

David Runciman: American Democracy, 21 March 2013

... or two, the people wake up, and the ship of state slowly rights itself. The British historian Paul Kennedy, in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, published in 1987, offers a very different view. This is not the story of twenty to thirty-year cycles of intervention and laissez-faire, but of two to three hundred-year cycles of imperial ascendancy and ...

Rut after Rut after Rut

Thomas Jones: Denis Johnson’s Vietnam, 29 November 2007

Tree of Smoke 
by Denis Johnson.
Picador, 614 pp., £16.99, November 2007, 978 0 330 44920 5
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... is a little slower. The novel begins on 23 November 1963: ‘Last night at 3 a.m. President Kennedy had been killed.’ It was midday in Dallas when Kennedy was shot; ‘Seaman Houston and the other two recruits’ who ‘slept while the first reports travelled around the world’ must be far from home. It may be ...

Opportunities

David Gilmour, 1 June 1989

Prepared for the worst: Selected Essays and Minority Reports 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Chatto, 357 pp., £15.95, April 1989, 0 7011 3459 3
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... of the Villains section would be devoted to American politicians. Jeane Kirkpatrick and John F. Kennedy are high up in this league, but the top place is rightly reserved for Henry Kissinger. One of the mysteries about international affairs is the state of this man’s reputation. In every continent of the world (except Australia) Kissinger created ...

Short Cuts

Inigo Thomas: The Hudson Plane Crash, 11 February 2010

... of a plane in the middle of the Hudson waiting to be rescued, as others might queue for a bus. William Langewiesche was for 15 years a professional pilot who flew air-taxis and cargo planes across the US and overseas. He has written about how planes fly, about why they crash, and about the way air traffic controllers stop them colliding in mid air. Now, in ...

Who’s in charge?

Chalmers Johnson: The Addiction to Secrecy, 6 February 2003

Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers 
by Daniel Ellsberg.
Viking, 498 pp., $29.95, October 2002, 0 670 03030 9
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... had repeatedly warned the Government that things would only go from bad to worse.* But Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon were interested above all in the effects the war would have on the elections of 1964, 1968 and 1972 respectively. The source of the revelations was not a long-haired anti-war radical but one of us: a Marine officer, an insider’s ...

Laundering Britain’s Past

Marilyn Butler, 12 September 1991

The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830 
by Paul Johnson.
Weidenfeld, 1095 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 297 81207 6
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... in order to address the American reader. At a thousand pages Johnson’s book is longer than Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, 1988 (subtitle, ‘Economic Change and Military Conflict, 1500-2000’), or Simon Schama’s Citizens, 1989. At first glance it looks as if the reader gets a smaller return, a mere 15 years of history at a point ...

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