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Mares and Stallions

Tom Wilkie, 18 May 1989

Games, Sex and Evolution 
by John Maynard Smith.
Harvester, 264 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 0 7108 1216 7
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... think of asking the question. And it turns out that sex is a very big problem for biologists, as John Maynard Smith explains in one of the most readable essays of this book, an essay that he has simply entitled, ‘Why sex?’. Maynard Smith is an emeritus professor of biology at the University of Sussex and the foremost theoretical biologist in ...

Whitehall Farces

Patrick Parrinder, 8 October 1992

Now you know 
by Michael Frayn.
Viking, 282 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 9780670845545
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... and that Little Dorrit is a favourite in the Home Office.’ Lawyers these days doubtless read John Mortimer, and dons read the new university wits like David Lodge and Tom Sharpe. But in any wider competition for the post of English humorist-in-residence, Michael Frayn would surely be a prime contender. Now verging on sixty, his collected plays and ...

Is the lady your sister?

E.S. Turner: An innkeeper’s diary, 27 April 2000

An Innkeeper's Diary 
by John Fothergill.
Faber, 278 pp., £23.95, January 2000, 0 571 15014 4
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... John Fothergill, the high-handed host of the Spreadeagle at Thame between the world wars, described himself in Who’s Who as ‘Pioneer Amateur Innkeeper’. Evelyn Waugh, sending him a copy of Decline and Fall, inscribed it to ‘Oxford’s only civilising influence’. To those who, in 1931, goggled and giggled at his innkeeping confessions, Fothergill was the contumacious dandy for ever locked in combat with ‘clients’ who fell short of his standards, a man prepared to track down and rebuke a brigadier-general who, with his wife, dropped in to the Spreadeagle to use the lavatory without a please or thank you ...

Loafing with the Sissies

Colm Tóibín: The Trials of Andy Warhol, 10 September 2020

Warhol: A Life as Art 
by Blake Gopnik.
Allen Lane, 931 pp., £35, March, 978 0 241 00338 1
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... lore had Warhol moving into bed with his mother while his father slept upstairs with Paul and John [Warhol’s siblings],’ Gopnik writes. When Julia moved to New York to live with her son, people ‘thought she was stupid’, a friend said, ‘but she was brilliant beyond belief … and much smarter than Andy.’In high school, Warhol was not known for ...

Never Mind the Bollocks

Hilary Rose and Steven Rose: Brains and Gender, 28 April 2011

Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences 
by Rebecca Jordan-Young.
Harvard, 394 pp., £25.95, September 2010, 978 0 674 05730 2
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... 14 per cent heavier than women’s. Broca’s data were elegantly picked apart by Stephen Jay Gould in The Mismeasure of Man. Most of the difference is accounted for by differences in height and build between men and women, and once corrected for these, the gross difference evaporates. After Broca’s death – it turned out at his post-mortem that his ...

Public Enemy

R.W. Johnson, 26 November 1987

Secrecy and Power: The Life of J. Edgar Hoover 
by Richard Gid Powers.
Hutchinson, 624 pp., £16.95, August 1987, 0 02 925060 9
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... War movement was the same man who had, half a century before, hounded Emma Goldman and John Reed and, later, put Leon Trotsky under surveillance in Mexico. This longevity makes Hoover’s biography a wonderful subject. Powers’s book is painfully neutral and somewhat pedestrian at times, but his authoritative command of his sources makes it ...

One of the Cracked

Dinah Birch: Barbara Bodichon, 1 October 1998

Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon: Feminist, Artist and Rebel 
by Pam Hirsch.
Chatto, 390 pp., £20, July 1998, 0 7011 6797 1
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... was not tempting. Her mother’s example provided a bleak warning of the hazards of licence. John Chapman, publisher and sexual opportunist, tried very hard to persuade her to give herself (and her money) to him, arguing that she ‘would be able without fear and undue anxiety and without the knowledge of the world to be really united with me and to look ...

Bus Lane Strategy

Tristram Hunt: London Governments, 31 October 2002

Governing London 
by Ben Pimlott and Nirmala Rao.
Oxford, 208 pp., £15.99, May 2002, 0 19 924492 8
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... that by all means in this country,’ Alderman Roberts of Grantham was moved to remark in 1946. As John Davis concluded in the Cambridge Urban History of Britain (2000), the second half of the 20th century saw local authorities reduced to ‘agents of the central welfare state, their incapacity off-set by central subsidies which covered over 60 per cent of ...

Nutty Professors

Hal Foster: ‘Lingua Franca’, 8 May 2003

Quick Studies: The Best of ‘Lingua Franca’ 
edited by Alexander Star.
Farrar, Straus, 514 pp., $18, September 2002, 0 374 52863 2
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... or literature in society’. And a decade ago, when controversy over the curriculum was at a peak, John Guillory added that debates about literary and artistic canons merely disguised the simple fact that they weren’t very important to anyone’s self-fashioning. By the late 1990s the humanities appeared marginal even to the universities, driven as they were ...

Colonel Cundum’s Domain

Clare Bucknell: Nose, no nose, 18 July 2019

Itch, Clap, Pox: Venereal Disease in the 18th-Century Imagination 
by Noelle Gallagher.
Yale, 288 pp., £55, March 2019, 978 0 300 21705 6
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... in war was connected with suffering in love. Even doctors played up the metaphors. The physician John Sintelaer wrote a long treatise on venereal disease called The Scourge of Venus and Mercury (1709), in which he discussed the case of a ‘certain great Officer in the Army’ who ‘had receiv’d a very deep Wound in the Wars of Venus’, and counselled ...

Bring out the lemonade

Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite: What the Welsh got right, 7 April 2022

Brittle with Relics: A History of Wales, 1962-97 
by Richard King.
Faber, 526 pp., £25, February, 978 0 571 29564 7
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... that put the issue back on the agenda in Wales. During his brief time as Labour leader, John Smith tasked Davies with drawing up plans for devolution in Wales. Smith was a true believer, unlike Tony Blair. But Blair inherited fully formed plans for devolution in Scotland and Wales when he became leader in 1994, and Smith’s commitment to hold ...

Living with Monsters

Ferdinand Mount: PMs v. the Media, 22 April 2010

Where Power Lies: Prime Ministers v. the Media 
by Lance Price.
Simon & Schuster, 498 pp., £20, February 2010, 978 1 84737 253 6
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... into a full-blown paranoid belief that the security services were plotting a coup against him. John Major was not far behind. He would leave a cabinet discussion to go and read the latest edition of the Evening Standard in the anteroom, then come back to suggest they begin the discussion again in the light of what the Standard was saying. In his memoirs he ...

It’s life but not as we know it

Tim Radford, 3 July 1997

... to the standard of Einstein or Jeffrey Archer in this galaxy alone. So where are they all? When John Logie Baird invented television, he also invented a microwave messaging system broadcast through interstellar space. For forty years, programmes like I Love Lucy and Rawhide and Dynasty have been spearheading planet Earth’s attempt to get in ...

What is going on in there?

Hilary Mantel: Hypochondria, 5 November 2009

Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives 
by Brian Dillon.
277 pp., £18.99, September 2009, 978 1 84488 134 5
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... Why must we exist in perpetual uncertainty (only ended by death) as to whether we are well or ill? John Donne speaks of illness as an invader, which sets up a kingdom and conceals ‘secrets of State, by which it will proceed, and not be bound to declare them’. So profound are the effects of the belief that we are ill that hypochondria must be seen as a ...


Alan Bennett: A Shameful Year, 8 January 2004

... of yellow wood spurge, an arrangement more effective than anything you’d get at Pulbrook and Gould.29 May. That Tony Blair (as today talking to troops in Basra) will often say ‘I honestly believe’ rather than just ‘I believe’ says all that needs to be said. ‘To be honest’ another of his frank-seeming phrases.11 June. Why isn’t more fuss ...

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