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Up from the Cellar

Nicholas Spice: The Interment of Elisabeth Fritzl, 5 June 2008

by Elfriede Jelinek, translated by Martin Chalmers.
Serpent’s Tail, 340 pp., £7.99, July 2008, 978 1 84668 666 5
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... On 1 May, only five days after news broke that a 73-year-old man, Josef Fritzl, had immured one of his seven children, his 18-year-old daughter Elisabeth, in a specially fortified cellar under his house in the small town of Amstetten in Lower Austria, and kept her there for 24 years, abusing her persistently and fathering seven more children on her, Elfriede Jelinek, Austria’s Nobel Prize winning novelist, posted a short essay on her website under the title ‘Im Verlassenen ...

Is Wagner bad for us?

Nicholas Spice, 11 April 2013

... In one of the European galleries at the British Museum, there’s a bronze medal of Erasmus made in Antwerp in 1519 by the artist Quentin Metsys. A portrait of Erasmus in profile is on the front of the medal. On the reverse, the smiling bust of Terminus, the Roman god of boundaries, and the words ‘concedo nulli’ – ‘I yield to no one.’* It’s said that Erasmus kept a figurine of the god Terminus on his desk ...

How to play the piano

Nicholas Spice, 26 March 1992

Music Sounded Out 
by Alfred Brendel.
Robson, 258 pp., £16.95, September 1990, 0 86051 666 0
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Glenn Gould: A Life and Variations 
by Otto Friedrich.
Lime Tree, 441 pp., £12.99, October 1990, 9780413452313
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... It’s unfashionable these days to play Bach on the piano. This, plus the fact that the authentic piano repertoire is Classical and Romantic, makes it easy for us to forget that the piano is above all a polyphonic instrument. No other keyboard instrument permits such subtle differentiation of parts (voice-leading, as it is called) through variation in the intensity and tone colour separately allotted to them ...

A Talent for Beginnings

Michael Wood: Musil starts again, 15 April 1999

Diaries 1899-1942 
by Robert Musil, translated by Philip Payne.
Basic Books, 557 pp., £27.50, January 1999, 0 465 01650 2
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... 1918. No one knows war is coming, and with it the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire itself. As Nicholas Spice said, writing about the novel a year and a half or so ago (LRB, 16 October 1997), it is part of its genius to make us almost forget the catastrophe which hangs over it. ‘Almost but not quite: we experience the unreal and troubled somnolence ...

Where are we now?

LRB Contributors: Responses to the Referendum, 14 July 2016

... James Meek, Pankaj Mishra, Jan-Werner Müller, Susan Pedersen, J.G.A. Pocock, Nick Richardson, Nicholas Spice, Wolfgang Streeck, Daniel TrillingDavid RuncimanSo who​ is to blame? Please don’t say the voters: 17,410,742 is an awful lot of people to be wrong on a question of this magnitude. They are not simply suckers and/or closet racists – in ...
London Reviews 
edited by Nicholas Spice.
Chatto, 222 pp., £5.95, October 1985, 0 7011 2988 3
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The New Review Anthology 
edited by Ian Hamilton.
Heinemann, 320 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 31330 0
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Night and Day 
edited by Christopher Hawtree, by Graham Greene.
Chatto, 277 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 07 011296 7
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Lilliput goes to war 
edited by Kaye Webb.
Hutchinson, 288 pp., £10.95, September 1985, 9780091617608
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Penguin New Writing: 1940-1950 
edited by John Lehmann and Roy Fuller.
Penguin, 496 pp., September 1985, 0 14 007484 8
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... to the LRB could work the same trick on Karl Miller, who for this anthology hands over to Nicholas Spice, who in turn sensibly makes sure that Karl Miller’s long essay about the LRB heads the list of contents. This essay is to be relished, not least when it is most uncertain. If the style is less tortuous than usual, the stylist is even more ...


John Bayley, 4 September 1986

An Academic Question 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 182 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 333 41843 3
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A Misalliance 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 191 pp., £9.95, August 1986, 0 224 02403 5
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... was in danger of falling out.’ In these matters Pym has an undoubted resemblance to Jane Austen. Nicholas Spice, in his perceptive review of Crampton Hodnet in these columns, pointed out that in many ways the Pym world is as black as hell, the vision of marriage or celibacy, work and play, equally scarifying. D.W. Harding and other academic critics have ...

The Browse Function

John Sutherland, 27 November 1997

Webonomics: Nine Essential Principles for Growing Your Business on the World Wide Web 
by Evan Schwartz.
Penguin, 244 pp., £11.99, October 1997, 9780140264067
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... listed as ‘hard to find’ (though will try) and one – a 1986 anthology edited by Nicholas Spice – is described as ‘out of print but if you place an order we may be able to find you a used copy within one to three months’. Where really challenges the traditional bookshop is in its hypertext links and its 22 ‘browsing ...

So-so Skinny Latte

James Francken: Giles Foden’s Zanzibar, 19 September 2002

by Giles Foden.
Faber, 389 pp., £12.99, September 2002, 0 571 20512 7
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... equivocal. Its closed-mouthed narrator keeps tabs on his emotions and ignores much of his past. Nicholas Garrigan is a young doctor from Edinburgh, on secondment in Uganda and wet behind the ears, when he ends up, by chance, as personal physician to Idi Amin. According to his version of things, he was just another lickspittle making the most of the ...

Roth, Pinter, Berlin and Me

Christopher Tayler: Clive James, 11 March 2010

The Blaze of Obscurity: The TV Years 
by Clive James.
Picador, 325 pp., £17.99, October 2009, 978 0 330 45736 1
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... living on TV in that decade, appearing in the corners of living-rooms by night to interview the Spice Girls while animadverting by day on Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners in the New Yorker. For anyone born after, say, 1970, the Spice Girls side of his activities was what mostly stood out. When in ...

How to Perfume a Glove

Adam Smyth: Early Modern Cookbooks, 5 January 2017

Recipes for Thought: Knowledge and Taste in the Early Modern English Kitchen 
by Wendy Wall.
Pennsylvania, 328 pp., £53, November 2015, 978 0 8122 4758 9
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... to the beholders’. Cooking, here, is something like writing a Petrarchan sonnet, or painting a Nicholas Hilliard miniature, or dancing a pavane. Wall wants to resist the urge to trivialise what she calls ‘food wit’, preferring instead to take seriously a ‘transmutationalist gastronomy’ in which women took on the skills associated with the kind of ...


Alan Ryan, 26 November 1987

Ruling Performance: British Governments from Attlee to Thatcher 
edited by Peter Hennessy and Anthony Seldon.
Blackwell, 344 pp., £25, October 1987, 0 631 15645 3
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The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Institutions 
edited by Vernon Bogdanor.
Blackwell, 667 pp., £45, September 1987, 0 631 13841 2
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by David Pannick.
Oxford, 255 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 19 215956 9
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... local Labour parties and trade-union activists, we shall continue to be governed by Mrs Thatcher, Nicholas Ridley and John Major. David Marquand insists on a few truisms, but is decently cautious about what they imply. He fears the effects of selfishness and moral anarchy. As he says, a society which degenerates into a Hobbesian war of all against all is no ...

Holy Relics

Alan Milward, 3 April 1986

Selling Hitler: The story of the Hitler Diaries 
by Robert Harris.
Faber, 402 pp., £10.95, February 1986, 0 571 13557 9
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... by a religious view of politics. The stories of young Adolf’s life in Vienna which have added spice to the biographies by Maser, Toland and others and helped to interpret him as a figure beyond our rational political understanding are just another version of Fred Hitler’s diary. Josef Greiner, who, two years after Hitler’s death, invented his life ...

Agh, Agh, Yah, Boo

David Wheatley: Ian Hamilton Finlay, 4 December 2014

Midway: Letters from Ian Hamilton Finlay to Stephen Bann, 1964-69 
edited by Stephen Bann.
Wilmington Square, 426 pp., £25, May 2014, 978 1 905524 34 1
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... cover. Like many of his plans from this period it came to nothing. In any case, sugar and spice weren’t really Finlay’s thing. When he started writing to Bann he was almost forty and an intermittently published short-story writer, playwright and poet. He had just published Rapel: Ten Fauve and Suprematist Poems (1963), his first foray into the new ...

Rodinsky’s Place

Patrick Wright, 29 October 1987

White Chappell: Scarlet Tracings 
by Iain Sinclair.
Goldmark, 210 pp., £12.50, October 1987, 1 870507 00 2
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... Brick Lane: in the urban economy as much as in any flourishing Indian restaurant, variety is the spice of life. Iain Sinclair is himself no stranger to marginal commerce, but his route into Spitalfields is different. A glance at his early writings reveals that he started out in the ‘Poundian revolution’. Here are ample signs of American ...

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