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Defeated Armies

Scott Sherman: Castro in the New York Times, 5 July 2007

The Man Who Invented Fidel: Castro, Cuba, and Herbert L. Matthews of the ‘New York Times’ 
by Anthony DePalma.
PublicAffairs, 308 pp., £15.99, September 2006, 1 58648 332 3
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... Colleagues shunned him; the FBI investigated him; congressional subcommittees harassed him; and William F. Buckley taunted him with nicknames like ‘Sherbert Matthews’. He also received death threats from Cuban exiles in Miami, and once had to flee a platform at the University of New Mexico because the local police believed there might be a bomb in the ...

In a Frozen Crouch

Colin Kidd: Democracy’s Ends, 13 September 2018

How Democracy Ends 
by David Runciman.
Profile, 249 pp., £14.99, May 2018, 978 1 78125 974 0
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Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy Is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth – And How to Fix It 
by Dambisa Moyo.
Little, Brown, 296 pp., £20, April 2018, 978 1 4087 1089 0
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How Democracies Die 
by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.
Viking, 311 pp., £16.99, January 2018, 978 0 241 31798 3
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Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy 
by William Galston.
Yale, 158 pp., £25, June 2018, 978 0 300 22892 2
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... shared in the 1970s and early 1980s. In February 1974 the head of the home civil service, Sir William Armstrong, suffered a dramatic nervous breakdown in Downing Street, convinced that democracy itself was at stake in the miners’ confrontation with Ted Heath’s government. When Armstrong’s colleague Sir Douglas Allen, the permanent secretary at the ...

Brief Shining Moments

Christopher Hitchens: Donkey Business in the White House, 19 February 1998

Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65 
by Taylor Branch.
Simon and Schuster, 746 pp., $30, February 1998, 0 684 80819 6
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‘One Hell of a Gamble’: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958-64 
by Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali.
Murray, 416 pp., September 1997, 0 7195 5518 3
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The Dark Side of Camelot 
by Seymour Hersh.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £8.99, February 1998, 9780006530770
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Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson , Bobby Kennedy and the Feud that Defined a Decade 
by Jeff Shesol.
Norton, 591 pp., £23.50, January 1998, 9780393040784
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The Year the Dream Died 
by Jules Witcover.
Warner, 512 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 446 51849 2
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Without Honor: The Impeachment of President Nixon and the Crimes of Camelot 
by Jerry Zeifman.
Thunder's Mouth, 262 pp., $24.95, November 1996, 9781560251286
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The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis 
edited by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow.
Howard, 740 pp., £23.50, September 1997, 0 674 17926 9
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Lyndon B. Johnson’s Vietnam Papers: A Documentary Collection 
edited by David Barrett.
Texas A & M, 906 pp., $94, June 1997, 0 89096 741 5
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Taking Charge: The Johnson Whitehouse Tapes 1963-64 
edited by Michael Beschloss.
Simon and Schuster, 624 pp., £20, April 1998, 0 684 80407 7
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Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes 
edited by Stanley Kutler.
Free Press, 675 pp., $30, November 1997, 0 684 84127 4
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The Other Missiles of October: Eisenhower, Kennedy and the Jupiters, 1957-63 
by Philip Nash.
North Carolina, 231 pp., £34.70, October 1997, 0 8078 4647 3
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... can one object, except aesthetically, to the silly term ‘Camelot’. Mrs Kennedy did indeed tell William Manchester, for a fawning profile that he wrote just after the assassination, that her late husband – who loathed the classical music soirées that she arranged at the White House for artists like Pablo Casals – had thoroughly enjoyed the mediocre ...

Terror on the Vineyard

Terry Castle: Boss Ladies, Watch Out!, 15 April 1999

A Likely Story: One Summer with Lillian Hellman 
by Rosemary Mahoney.
Doubleday, 273 pp., $23.95, November 1998, 9780385479318
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... relationship, is often taken retroactively as a political parable – an attack on those in the McCarthy period who ‘named names’ – yet the heart of the drama lies in its depiction of the girl’s shocking misogyny and its dire consequences. (One of the teachers commits suicide.) In the early Eighties Hellman got embroiled in her own ugly mess when ...

Still Superior

Mark Greif: Sex and Susan Sontag, 12 February 2009

Reborn: Early Diaries, 1947-64 
by Susan Sontag, edited by David Rieff.
Hamish Hamilton, 318 pp., £16.99, January 2009, 978 0 241 14431 2
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... United States, the one she had been reading since she was a teenager. Its editors, Philip Rahv and William Phillips, no longer worked in tandem as they had in the old days; Phillips alone discovered Sontag and took her up as a representative and promising young writer. He memorably misassigned her to the journal’s theatre column, the post that had been held ...

Karl Miller Remembered

Neal Ascherson, John Lanchester and Andrew O’Hagan, 23 October 2014

... sense, though, Edinburgh did adopt him. His talents took him to the Royal High School, where William Drummond, Henry Mackenzie and Walter Scott had been before him. There Karl became favourite pupil and close friend of Hector MacIver, that incomparable teacher of literature, who recognised his gifts and took him with his other clever boys down the Calton ...

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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... about Randall Jarrell’s possible suicide, Bill’s own depression. And I talked to him about William James’s own breakdown and his resuscitation through faith. What in hell am I doing with all these theatre types? Alfred Kazin’s journals, 26 December 1986 Discount Kazin’s weary, load-bearing sigh in this characteristic entry from his ...

An Agreement with Hell

Eric Foner, 20 February 1997

Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution 
by Jack Rakove.
Knopf, 439 pp., $35, April 1996, 0 394 57858 9
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... a prediction confirmed, for example, at the time of the First World War and again during the McCarthy era, when all the branches of government joined in sanctioning egregious violations of free speech. Indeed, in 1798, only a decade after ratification, Congress enacted the Sedition Act, outlawing public criticism of the federal government – a clear ...

Clan Gatherings

Inigo Thomas: The Bushes, 24 April 2008

The Bush Tragedy: The Unmaking of a President 
by Jacob Weisberg.
Bloomsbury, 271 pp., £16.99, February 2008, 978 0 7475 9394 2
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... he wasn’t such a damn hick’. Hick or not, he was considered dangerous enough. He funded Joseph McCarthy, and Lyndon Johnson wasn’t joking when he told a colleague that he believed Hunt was responsible for inciting the riots in Newark and Detroit in 1964: he thought the tycoon was trying to derail the passage of civil rights legislation. Hunt launched an ...

Bounty Hunter

John Sutherland, 17 July 1997

Riders of the Purple Sage 
by Zane Grey.
Oxford, 265 pp., £4.99, May 1995, 0 19 282443 0
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The Man of the Forest: The Authorised Version 
by Zane Grey.
Nebraska, 383 pp., $15, September 1996, 0 8032 7062 3
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The Thundering Herd: The Authorised Version 
by Zane Grey.
Nebraska, 400 pp., $16, September 1996, 0 8032 7065 8
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... until the Forties. They were aided by films (and in the Forties and Fifties a TV series) starring William Boyd – a star who in the geriatric last stages of his career had barely a hop left in him. At the crucial stage of Zane Grey’s career, 1905-8, Lina took charge as her husband’s literary agent, editor and financial patron. Using his wife’s ...

Try It on the Natives

James C. Scott: Colonial Intelligence Agencies, 9 October 2008

Empires of Intelligence: Security Services and Colonial Disorder after 1914 
by Martin Thomas.
California, 428 pp., £29.95, October 2007, 978 0 520 25117 5
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... Communist Party was a pale shadow of what it had been two decades earlier. Thanks to the FBI, the McCarthy hearings in the Senate and the Un-American Activities Committee in the House of Representatives, blacklists, firings and generalised fear, the Party’s ranks had been radically thinned. And still it lived. That it survived was in no small measure due to ...

Diary

Christian Lorentzen: Homo Trumpiens, 3 November 2016

... was the home of Robert La Follette Sr, the Senate’s greatest progressive, and of Joseph McCarthy, its most infamous reactionary. It has voted for Democratic presidential candidates in every election since 1988. But off-year elections with low voter turnout – and proportionally higher turnout by older white voters – have allowed Republicans to ...

To Stir up the People

John Barrell: Pitt’s Reign of Alarm, 23 January 2014

Unusual Suspects: Pitt’s Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s 
by Kenneth Johnston.
Oxford, 376 pp., £30, July 2013, 978 0 19 965780 3
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... In April 1792, William Pitt, the ‘heaven-born minister’ as his Tory supporters liked to call him, made what we can now recognise as one of the first of many attempts to cast off the perception that the Tories are the nasty party. The slave trade, he told the Commons, was ‘the greatest practical evil that ever has afflicted the human race’, and a ‘stigma on our national character ...

The Tarnished Age

Richard Mayne, 3 September 1981

David O. Selznick’s Hollywood 
by Ronald Haver.
Secker, 425 pp., £35, December 1980, 0 436 19128 8
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My Early life 
by Ronald Reagan and Richard Hubler.
Sidgwick, 316 pp., £7.95, April 1981, 0 283 98771 5
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Naming Names 
by Victor Navasky.
Viking, 482 pp., $15.95, October 1980, 0 670 50393 2
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... or the dictates of justice. Bullying opportunists like J. Parnell Thomas, later jailed, and Joseph McCarthy, together with such men as John E. Rankin and Richard M. Nixon, posed as crusaders, hounding writers, actors, directors, and ordinary citizens whose political opinions were their only crime. The ensuing black list infected Hollywood like dry rot. The ...

Yes and No

John Bayley, 24 July 1986

Lionel Trilling and the Fate of Cultural Criticism 
by Mark Krupnick.
Northwestern, 207 pp., $25.95, April 1986, 0 8101 0712 0
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... self in its health and validity’. But it can also make him a bit absurd, as in his essay on ‘William Dean Howells and the Roots of Modern Taste’, in which he exalts the rather dim American novelist as embodying the whole and confident self in his characters, who are fully able to participate in the commonplace joys of life. As Krupnick says, the essay ...

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