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Diary

Andrew O’Hagan: Hating Football, 27 June 2002

... A new deputy headmaster came to the school; you could tell by looking at his hair that he was all brown rice and liberal experiment, so I wrote him a well-spelled note about reversing the method used for the picking of teams. I remember the day and the very hour. ‘O’Hagan,’ the PE assistant said, ‘pick your team.’ I walked the few yards onto the ...

What was it that drove him?

David Runciman: Gordon Brown, 4 January 2018

My Life, Our Times 
by Gordon Brown.
Bodley Head, 512 pp., £25, November 2017, 978 1 84792 497 1
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... Like many​ recent political memoirists, Gordon Brown begins his story in medias res. Given his rollercoaster time in Downing Street, punctuated by the gut-wrenching drama of the financial crisis, there should have been plenty of arresting moments to choose from. Some, though, are already taken. Alistair Darling, for instance, starts Back from the Brink, his 2011 account of what it was like being Brown’s chancellor, on Tuesday, 7 October 2008, when Sir Tom McKillop, the chairman of RBS, called him to announce that his bank was about to go bust and to ask what the government planned to do about it ...

Emotional Sushi

Ian Sansom: Tony, Nick and Simon, 9 August 2001

One for My Baby 
by Tony Parsons.
HarperCollins, 330 pp., £15.99, July 2001, 0 00 226182 0
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How to Be Good 
by Nick Hornby.
Viking, 256 pp., £16.99, May 2001, 0 670 88823 0
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Little Green Man 
by Simon Armitage.
Viking, 246 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 0 670 89442 7
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... Or as Harry puts it, ‘card schools at our house every Boxing Day … Scotch at Christmas and the brown ale at weddings’. If Harry and Alfie are the same character with different names, Man and Boy and One for My Baby are the same novel with different titles. So why would anyone bother to read the second book? For exactly the same reason they bothered with ...

Questionably Virtuous

Stuart Middleton: Harold Wilson, 8 September 2016

Harold Wilson: The Unprincipled Prime Minister? Reappraising Harold Wilson 
edited by Andrew Crines and Kevin Hickson.
Biteback, 319 pp., £20, March 2016, 978 1 78590 031 0
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... spluttering: ‘But the bloody man plays golf!’ While serious interest in the question posed by Andrew Crines and Kevin Hickson’s book – whether Wilson was ‘unprincipled’ – has long since been exhausted, what remains intriguing is the way in which his foibles, the hypocrisy and evasion that marked his premierships, were connected to broader ...

Wigs and Tories

Paul Foot, 18 September 1997

Trial of Strength: The Battle Between Ministers and Judges over Who Makes the Law 
by Joshua Rozenberg.
Richard Cohen, 241 pp., £17.99, April 1997, 1 86066 094 0
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The Politics of the Judiciary 
by J.A.G. Griffith.
Fontana, 376 pp., £8.99, September 1997, 0 00 686381 7
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... to the repressive regime whence they came. Hoorah for the brave and decent Mr Justice Collins. Yet Andrew Collins QC was sharply criticised by the Scott Report for not disclosing documents vital to the defence of six men charged with illegally exporting fuses to Iraq. Another judge who simply could not believe that Parliament, in the shape of Peter ...

Three Women

Andrew O’Hagan: Work in progress, 10 December 1998

... in Glasgow?’ she said. ‘St Mungo’s,’ he said. She smiled at the water, green turning brown. He loved the way she spoke. It was singing. She was bold. He put his mouth in her hair and they leaned on the railings. He could see a light giving out on the mainland. A nice kisser she said. Noise coming down from the steep hotels. Let’s go back to the ...

The Money

Adam Shatz: What the War is Costing, 6 March 2008

... a figure of $50-60 billion, some of which he said would be supplied by America’s friends. Andrew Natsios, the head of the Agency for International Development, told Ted Koppel on Nightline that postwar Iraq could be rebuilt for $1.7 billion. Koppel was astonished: ‘No more than that?’ ‘For the reconstruction,’ Natsios replied. ‘And then ...

Who now cares about Malinowski?

Robert Ackerman, 23 May 1996

After Tylor: British Social Anthropology 1888-1951 
by George Stocking.
Athlone, 570 pp., £50, January 1996, 0 485 30072 9
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... to know the Other. The founders of modern anthropology, in particular Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown, have been depicted as men with feet of clay, with the clay sometimes extending up to the shoulders. And finally, and perhaps most withering of all, to many of the younger generation, Post-Modern critiques have made historical inquiry seem peripheral and ...

You can’t put it down

Fintan O’Toole, 18 July 1996

The Fourth Estate 
by Jeffrey Archer.
HarperCollins, 550 pp., £16.99, May 1996, 0 00 225318 6
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Tickle the Public: One Hundred Years of the Popular Press 
by Matthew Engel.
Gollancz, 352 pp., £20, April 1996, 9780575061439
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Newspaper Power: The New National Press in Britain 
by Jeremy Tunstall.
Oxford, 441 pp., £35, March 1996, 0 19 871133 6
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... Quayle, blamed that eruption of violence on the eponymous heroine of the television sitcom Murphy Brown, who was ‘mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another “lifestyle choice” ’. In the next episode of the show, Candice Bergen, playing the fictional Murphy Brown, herself ...

Preacher on a Tank

David Runciman: Blair Drills Down, 7 October 2010

A Journey 
by Tony Blair.
Hutchinson, 718 pp., £25, September 2010, 978 0 09 192555 0
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... He faced two serious and determined enemies during his time in Downing Street: al-Qaida and Gordon Brown. One, he concluded, represented a force so strong and rooted that it had to be uprooted and destroyed, since confrontation was inevitable; the only question was when and how. The other had to be contained, because stepping over the line would have been ...

Inner Mongolia

Tony Wood: Victor Pelevin, 10 June 1999

The Life of Insects 
by Victor Pelevin, translated by Andrew Bromfield.
Faber, 176 pp., £6.99, April 1999, 0 571 19405 2
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The Clay Machine-Gun 
by Victor Pelevin, translated by Andrew Bromfield.
Faber, 335 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 571 19406 0
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A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia and Other Stories 
by Victor Pelevin, translated by Andrew Bromfield.
Harbord, 191 pp., £9.99, May 1999, 1 899414 35 5
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... on the book. Much of his work is now available in English, smoothly and wittily translated by Andrew Bromfield. Pelevin has a relentlessly black sense of humour, and a satirical touch and use of the fantastic reminiscent of Bulgakov. His mastery of street language goes with a gift for extravagant simile: the sky is ‘like an old, worn mattress drooping ...

The Cult of Celebrity

Jacqueline Rose, 20 August 1998

... out of the most hideous of crimes) to the pleasure she was said to have taken in murdering Martin Brown and Brian Howe? Again: how could anyone know? Given the profit that these papers were making out of their horror at her profit (an obvious point), not to say out of the horror they drew their readers into – given, that is, their own traffic in the ...

The Tower

Andrew O’Hagan, 7 June 2018

... he said, “I want a new one.” The one he wanted cost £900. We bought it.’Nicholas Paget-Brown​ , who was then the leader of the council, lives alone not far from the Fulham Road. His gentle manners precede him, in the style of a decently prepped, slightly fogeyish man of the 1950s, and he acts as if he might find the modern world fascinating were ...

An Ugly Baby

Andrew Berry: Alfred Russel Wallace, 18 May 2000

Footsteps in the Forest: Alfred Russel Wallace in the Amazon 
by Sandra Knapp.
Natural History Museum, 96 pp., £16.95, November 1999, 0 565 09143 3
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... am afraid you would call it an ugly baby,’ he wrote to his mother, ‘for it has dark brown skin and red hair.’ With his first hand knowledge of the ‘lowest’ humans and ‘highest’ animals, he could conceptualise the gulf between humans and other animals, and it may be that his recognition of its vastness contributed to his refusal to ...

So Many Handbags, So Little Time

Andrew O’Hagan: The Bling Ring, 20 June 2013

The Bling Ring 
by Nancy Jo Sales.
HarperCollins, 288 pp., £7.99, May 2013, 978 0 00 751822 7
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... that I wore six-inch Louboutin heels to court with my tweed skirt, when I wore four-inch little brown Bebe shoes. Alexis suddenly felt assailed by all the attention. ‘I keep telling myself,’ she told E! News, ‘if Buddha can sit under a tree for four days and meditate, I can do this.’ The Neiers’s reality show was cancelled after one season ...

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