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Half Bird, Half Fish, Half Unicorn

Paul Foot, 16 October 1997

Peter Cook: A Biography 
by Harry Thompson.
Hodder, 516 pp., £18.99, September 1997, 0 340 64968 2
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... a political party without quickly being disgusted by its humbug or convulsed by its absurdity. Jonathan Miller was surely wrong when he said to Thompson: ‘The idea that Peter had an anarchic, subversive view of society is complete nonsense. He was the most upstanding, traditional upholder of everything English and everything Establishment.’ My own ...

What’s wrong with that man?

Christian Lorentzen: Donald Antrim, 20 November 2014

The Emerald Light in the Air: Stories 
by Donald Antrim.
Granta, 158 pp., £12.99, November 2014, 978 1 84708 649 5
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... of US fiction writers around his age that includes the late David Foster Wallace, George Saunders, Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides. There are a few things that set Antrim apart: he’s Southern; his strongest affinity to a writer in the previous generation is to Donald Barthelme, not Don DeLillo; he’s the least likely to be topical, to dramatise a few ...


Ian Campbell Ross: ‘provincial genius’, 23 October 2003

Hermsprong; or Man as He Is Not 
by Robert Bage, edited by Pamela Perkins.
Broadview, 387 pp., £8.99, March 2002, 1 55111 279 5
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... were mediated through fiction.) Among non-fictional accounts, Bage draws on Pierre de Charlevoix, Jonathan Carver and John Long. He borrows material selectively, transforming it in the process. Chief among his sources were Voltaire’s L’Ingénu (or The Huron) and Benjamin Franklin’s ‘Remarks concerning the Savages of North America’. So, while ...

When the beam of light has gone

Peter Wollen: Godard Turns Over, 17 September 1998

The Films of Jean-Luc Godard 
by Wheeler Winston Dixon.
SUNY, 290 pp., £17.99, March 1997, 0 7914 3285 8
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Speaking about Godard 
by Kaja Silverman and Harun Farocki.
New York, 256 pp., $55, July 1998, 0 8147 8066 0
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... film which is up on the screen turns out to be Budd Boetticher’s Westbound, one of the Randolph Scott cycle, although the voice that we hear on the soundtrack is mysteriously speaking some lines of poetry by Guillaume Apollinaire. In a way, this aberrant moment summed up Godard’s appeal for me – the perverse mixture of Modernism with B-movies, as if an ...


Benjamin Markovits: What It Takes to Win at Sport, 7 November 2013

... gentlemen’s clubs. A cricket club doesn’t sell season tickets, Durham’s commercial director, Scott Sherrard, told me: it sells membership. A member isn’t just a fan, he’s one of us. So it seems unlikely, on the face of it, that England could owe its cricketing success to the strategies of Billy Beane. A cricket club feels very much like an insider ...

The Person in the Phone Booth

David Trotter: Phone Booths, 28 January 2010

... form and function, the K2, built out of cast iron to a neoclassical design by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and painted a glossy Post Office red all over, came into service in 1927. It was as much emblem as shelter: ventilation came from holes pierced through the top fascia in the shape of a crown. The smaller and more durable K6, also designed by ...

The Tangible Page

Leah Price: Books as Things, 31 October 2002

The Book History Reader 
edited by David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery.
Routledge, 390 pp., £17.99, November 2001, 0 415 22658 9
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Making Meaning: ‘Printers of the Mind’ and Other Essays 
by D.F. McKenzie, edited by Peter D. McDonald and Michael F. Suarez.
Massachusetts, 296 pp., £20.95, June 2002, 1 55849 336 0
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... of the most prominent figures missing from Finkelstein and McCleery’s Reader, David Scott Kastan, has riffed on ‘New Criticism’, ‘New Historicism’ and ‘New Bibliography’ to dub his expertise the ‘New Boredom’.) The New Critics took ‘the poem itself’ where they found it, in cheap paperback reprints available even at ...

Miracle on Fleet Street

Martin Hickman: Operation Elveden, 7 January 2016

... to public officials could be justified if there was ‘overwhelming public interest’. Her QC, Jonathan Laidlaw, took her through each story, asking whether, had she known the source was a public official, she would have sanctioned payment. It was a masterstroke: the exercise stressed which stories were in the public interest and which weren’t, but the ...

Ruthless and Truthless

Ferdinand Mount: Rotten Government, 6 May 2021

The Assault on Truth: Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and the Emergence of a New Moral Barbarism 
by Peter Oborne.
Simon and Schuster, 192 pp., £12.99, February, 978 1 3985 0100 3
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Political Advice: Past, Present and Future 
edited by Colin Kidd and Jacqueline Rose.
I.B. Tauris, 240 pp., £21.99, February, 978 1 83860 120 1
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... to squeeze whatever fun might be had.The stage was set for what Tony Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, claimed would be ‘a change from a feudal system of barons to a more Napoleonic system’. The staff at Number Ten used, notoriously, to be no larger than the staff of a mayor in a middle-sized German town. Over the last decades, it has swelled ...

Point of Wonder

A.D. Nuttall, 5 December 1991

Marvellous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Oxford, 202 pp., £22.50, September 1991, 0 19 812382 5
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... echo of this imperfectly acknowledged transformation in the more avowedly Marxist work of Jonathan Dollimore. In his absorbing book Radical Tragedy Dollimore made free use of the term ‘essentialism’, meaning the ascription of a permanent, necessary form to reality. He wrote, in a way which still seems bizarre to me, as if Karl Popper had never ...

You can’t prove I meant X

Clare Bucknell, 16 April 2020

Poetics of the Pillory: English Literature and Seditious Libel, 1660-1820 
by Thomas Keymer.
Oxford, 352 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 0 19 874449 8
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... no radical publications of recent years could match the virulence and courage of Fielding’s Jonathan Wild (1743): ‘had he lived now he would have been denounced … as the grand Mouth-piece and Factionary of the revolutionists.’ The 17th and early 18th centuries were remembered as periods in which the pillory was an object of real terror for ...

Reasons for Liking Tolkien

Jenny Turner: The Hobbit Habit, 15 November 2001

... societies, when he was at King Edward’s School in Birmingham, the setting most recently of Jonathan Coe’s novel The Rotters’ Club.5 The last, and most famous, was the Inklings, with C.S. Lewis (‘Jack’) and Charles Williams, at Oxford in the 1930s. On this subject, Humphrey Carpenter’s 1978 study, The Inklings, last revised in 1997, is the ...

The Club and the Mob

James Meek: The Shock of the News, 6 December 2018

Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now 
by Alan Rusbridger.
Canongate, 464 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 1 78689 093 1
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... not have been pursued had the Guardian and its like not been around, from the investigation into Jonathan Aitken, who ended up being jailed for perjury, to Nick Davies’s exposure of tabloid phone-hacking, which led to the closure of the News of the World. For Rusbridger the culmination of his editorship was the Guardian’s role in the revelation in 2013 ...

Last Exit

Murray Sayle, 27 November 1997

The Last Governor: Chris Patten and the Handover of Hong Kong 
by Jonathan Dimbleby.
Little, Brown, 461 pp., £22.50, July 1997, 0 316 64018 2
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In Pursuit of British Interests: Reflections on Foreign Policy under Margaret Thatcher and John Major 
by Percy Cradock.
Murray, 228 pp., £18.99, September 1997, 0 7195 5464 0
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Hong Kong Under Chinese Rule: The Economic and Political Implications of Reversion 
edited by Warren Cohen and Li Zhao.
Cambridge, 255 pp., £45, August 1997, 0 521 62158 5
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The Hong Kong Advantage 
by Michael Enright, Edith Scott and David Dodwell.
Oxford, 369 pp., £20, July 1997, 0 19 590322 6
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... has none. The last governor, arriving on 9 July 1992, soon began to sound very much like Lee. Jonathan dimbleby’s The Last Governor makes brisk, almost effortless reading for a book on a complex subject. This child’s-guide effect is achieved by a simple moral scheme, avoiding analytic subtleties and conflicts of principle. Claiming Patten as a ...

Karl Miller Remembered

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

... 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 Hill to Rose Street. In those days, a sort ...

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