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Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... are snitches. What did the local liquor store owner in Woody Creek, Colorado, know about Hunter Thompson? The make of his car and that he was going to appear on the Today show. The main snitch in Ray Bradbury’s file was the actor and screenwriter Martin Berkeley, a former Communist Party member who gave around 160 names to the House Committee on ...

Shee Spy

Michael Dobson, 8 May 1997

The Secret Life of Aphra Behn 
by Janet Todd.
Deutsch, 545 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 233 98991 9
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... not excluding Paradise Lost (the wonder is that it hasn’t already been filmed, with Emma Thompson as the narrator and Denzel Washington in the title-role). Meanwhile, Behn’s plays have attracted stars as expensive as Jeremy Irons and Christopher Reeve, and she herself, now conscripted to the cause of postcolonialism as well as that of feminism, has ...

The Crumbling of Camelot

Peter Riddell, 10 October 1991

Kennedy v. Khrushchev: The Crisis Years 1960-63 
by Michael Beschloss.
Faber, 816 pp., £18.50, August 1991, 0 571 16548 6
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A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy 
by Thomas Reeves.
Bloomsbury, 510 pp., £19.99, August 1991, 0 7475 1029 6
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... of revisionist historians to rehabilitate the myth of Camelot on the Potomac. Almost, but not yet. Michael Beschloss’s absorbing and authoritative study of US-Soviet relations from January 1961 until Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963 adds significantly to the case amassed by the demolition squad. Like many US authors, Beschloss assumes that his ...

Diary

R.W. Johnson: Alan Taylor, Oxford Don, 8 May 1986

... a single taker for his doughty defence of Beaverbrook’s reputation, or for the proposition that Michael Foot would make a great prime minister. For many people mention of Alan’s name immediately brings to mind the great brouhaha over the Regius Chair in History. His friends, perhaps not entirely discouraged by Alan, have tended to treat this as a sort of ...

Plain girl’s revenge made flesh

Hilary Mantel, 23 April 1992

Madonna Unauthorised 
by Christopher Andersen.
Joseph, 279 pp., £14.99, December 1991, 0 7181 3536 9
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... likes to encourage it amongst her friends and co-workers. One of her other biographers, Douglas Thompson, quotes her as saying that she thinks of homosexual men as her ‘alter ego’. This is interesting, but Andersen does not pursue it. He is more concerned at this stage to describe her intellectual development. She had decided to grow the hair on her ...

Missing Elements

Rosalind Mitchison, 14 May 1992

Strategic Women: How do they manage in Scotland? 
by Elizabeth Gerver and Lesley Hart.
Aberdeen University Press, 216 pp., £9.95, June 1991, 0 08 037741 6
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A Guid Cause: The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Scotland 
by Leah Leneman.
Aberdeen University Press, 304 pp., £11.95, June 1991, 0 08 041201 7
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Marriage and Property: Women and Marital Customs in History 
edited by Elizabeth Craik.
Aberdeen University Press, 192 pp., £6.95, June 1991, 9780080412054
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A Woman’s Claim of Right in Scotland 
Polygon, 142 pp., £7.95, August 1991, 0 7486 6103 4Show More
Nationalism in the Nineties 
edited by Tom Gallagher.
Polygon, 192 pp., £7.95, August 1991, 0 7486 6098 4
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Cultural Weapons: Scotland and Survival in a New Europe 
by Christopher Harvie.
Polygon, 119 pp., £7.95, March 1992, 0 7486 6122 0
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Literature and Nationalism 
edited by Vincent Newey and Ann Thompson.
Liverpool, 286 pp., £27.50, June 1991, 0 85323 057 9
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The Invention of Scotland: The Stuart Myth of the Scottish Identity, 1638 to the present 
by Murray Pittock.
Routledge, 198 pp., £30, September 1991, 0 415 05586 5
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Scotland: A New History 
by Michael Lynch.
Century, 499 pp., £18.99, August 1991, 0 7126 3413 4
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... of politics, where decision making is the main topic of study, continue to think in state units, Michael Lynch’s big single-volume history of Scotland must take the foreground for anyone who wishes to know about the country and its past. It is a distinguished achievement, covering from the earliest records to the present day the story of a country still ...

At the Centre Pompidou

Jeremy Harding: Beat Generation, 8 September 2016

... a few years later. Peter Orlovsky and Allen Ginsberg at the Hotel de Londres, Paris in 1957. Bob Thompson, ‘LeRoi Jones and his Family’ (1964) Brion Gysin, ‘Calligraphy’ (1960) Brion Gysin, William S. Burroughs, Untitled (Primrose Path, the Third Mind, p.12, 1965) Ettore Sottsass, ‘Neal Cassady, Los Gatos, California’ (1962) Bernard ...

Shameless, Lucifer and Pug-Nose

David A. Bell: Louis Mandrin, 8 January 2015

Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of a Global Underground 
by Michael Kwass.
Harvard, 457 pp., £35, April 2014, 978 0 674 72683 3
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... the most famous criminal in the country’s history, Louis Mandrin, established his reputation. As Michael Kwass explains in his excellent book, flourishing global trade and domestic economic expansion had combined to create a vast new consumer market for imported goods: sugar, chocolate, coffee, tea, tobacco, porcelain, fabrics, spices and much else. By the ...

Heart of Darkness

Christopher Hitchens, 28 June 1990

Not Many Dead: Journal of a Year in Fleet Street 
by Nicholas Garland.
Hutchinson, 299 pp., £16.95, April 1990, 0 09 174449 0
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A Slight Case of Libel: Meacher v. Trelford and Others 
by Alan Watkins.
Duckworth, 241 pp., £14.95, June 1990, 0 7156 2334 6
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... general and President Reagan in particular. Entry for 18 April 1986, Not Many Dead The success of Michael Moore’s film about Roger Smith and General Motors has aroused an envious spirit of emulation in my breast. ‘Conrad and Me’, a script which I hone and burnish in slack moments, has the following points of mild interest. In the summer of 1985, I wrote ...

Rongorongo

John Sturrock: The Rosetta Stone, 19 September 2002

Keys of Egypt 
by Lesley Atkins and Roy Atkins.
HarperCollins, 335 pp., £7.99, September 2001, 0 00 653145 8
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The Rosetta Stone: The Story of the Decoding of Hieroglyphics 
by Robert Solé and Dominique Valbelle, translated by Steven Rendall.
Profile, 184 pp., £7.99, August 2002, 1 86197 344 6
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Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World’s Undeciphered Scripts 
by Andrew Robinson.
McGraw Hill, 352 pp., £25.99, June 2002, 0 07 135743 2
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The Man who Deciphered Linear B: The Story of Michael Ventris 
by Andrew Robinson.
Thames and Hudson, 168 pp., £12.95, April 2002, 0 500 51077 6
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... thereupon knew what he must do with his life. The story fits almost too neatly with that of Michael Ventris, the decipherer of Linear B, who went with a school party at the age of 14 to a London exhibition of Greek and Minoan artefacts and happened to hear Sir Arthur Evans no less, the excavator of Knossos, explain that no one had yet been able to ...

Diary

Christian Lorentzen: Are books like nappies?, 2 August 2012

... were accosted by the head of a mission from Moscow. Her offerings included the complete works of Michael Cunningham in Russian. She wouldn’t let us leave without a copy of Sense, a novel by a Chechen called Arslan Khasavov, 24-year-old winner of the Debut Prize. The novel shows ‘the limits to which an indifferent and hypocritical society can push a ...

Boys will be soldiers

Brian Harrison, 20 October 1983

Sure and Stedfast: A History of the Boys’ Brigade, 1883-1984 
edited by John Springhall.
Collins, 304 pp., £10, June 1983, 0 00 434280 1
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... what it is like to be a child, though the occasional exceptions – Dickens, Orwell and Flora Thompson – sketch in the outline of this vast unexplored continent. Perhaps this is one reason why historians have so rarely written about childhood. And even if they do write about it – when discussing the history of education, for example – they often ...

Re-Readings

Chris Baldick, 10 November 1988

Poetry, Language and Politics 
by John Barrell.
Manchester, 174 pp., £21.50, May 1988, 0 7190 2441 2
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Garden – Nature – Language 
by Simon Pugh.
Manchester, 148 pp., £25, May 1988, 0 7190 2824 8
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Writing Ireland: Colonialism, Nationalism and Culture 
by David Cairns and Shaun Richards.
Manchester, 178 pp., £21.50, May 1988, 0 7190 2371 8
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The Shakespeare Myth 
edited by Graham Holderness.
Manchester, 215 pp., £25, May 1988, 0 7190 1488 3
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... cheers to Charles Marowitz, none to Stoppard. The only solidly informative piece, though, is Ann Thompson’s review of recent feminist works on Shakespeare, which points out incidentally but revealingly that no woman has ever been admitted to the exclusive club which edits the major tragedies. Unlike Michael Bogdanov, who ...

Prinney, Boney, Boot

Roy Porter, 20 March 1986

The English Satirical Print 1600-1832 
edited by Michael Duffy.
Chadwyck-Healey, February 1986
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... that alert middling urban culture so conspicuously neglected by 18th-century historians from E.P. Thompson to J.C. Clark. Making sense of political prints, their texts and contexts, is thus no easy matter, and they have not been well served by scholars. Art historians have cold-shouldered them, which may be just as well (what mincemeat Hogarth would have made ...

Protestant Country

George Bernard, 14 June 1990

Humanism, Reform and the Reformation: The Career of Bishop John Fisher 
edited by Brendan Bradshaw and Eamon Duffy.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £27.50, January 1989, 0 521 34034 9
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The Blind Devotion of the People: Popular Religion and the English Reformation 
by Robert Whiting.
Cambridge, 302 pp., £30, July 1989, 0 521 35606 7
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The Reformation of Cathedrals: Cathedrals in English Society, 1485-1603 
by Stanford Lehmberg.
Princeton, 319 pp., £37.30, March 1989, 0 691 05539 4
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Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Weidenfeld, 271 pp., £25, October 1989, 0 297 79343 8
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The Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religious and Cultural Change in the 16th and 17th Centuries 
by Patrick Collinson.
Macmillan, 188 pp., £29.50, February 1989, 0 333 43971 6
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Life’s Preservative against Self-Killing 
by John Sym, edited by Michael MacDonald.
Routledge, 342 pp., £29.95, February 1989, 0 415 00639 2
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Perfection Proclaimed: Language and Literature in English Radical Religion 1640-1660 
by Nigel Smith.
Oxford, 396 pp., £40, February 1989, 0 19 812879 7
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... essays emphasise Fisher’s career as an outstanding scholar. An important paper by Stephen Thompson shows that he was also a model bishop, residing in his diocese, preaching, ordaining priests in person, generous in his charitable giving. Henry Chadwick offers a sketch of the royal supremacy that Fisher was combating, but discusses it as a matter of ...

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