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Tang and Tone

Stephen Fender: The Federal Writer’s Project’s American epic, 18 March 2004

Portrait of America: A Cultural History of the Federal Writers’ Project 
by Jerrold Hirsch.
North Carolina, 293 pp., £16.50, November 2003, 0 8078 5489 1
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... of the writers who signed up to the project were unknown, and would remain so. Others, such as Nelson Algren (the director of its Illinois branch), Conrad Aiken, Saul Bellow and John Cheever, had already begun to make their reputations. Studs Terkel would find his calling when the FWP sent him out onto the streets of Chicago to collect oral history. Most ...

All Monte Carlo

James Francken: Malcolm Braly, 23 May 2002

On the Yard 
by Malcolm Braly.
NYRB, 438 pp., £8.99, March 2002, 9780940322967
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... the coat in a pool hall a few months later, a student who had reported the theft of the coat from Nelson Cleaners and was able to identify a cigarette burn on the hem: the police had their burglar. There are a welter of coincidences and head-to-head encounters in the memoir, Braly tending to cast himself as the hopeless chancer. He fumbled his way through ...

Mr Trendy Sicko

James Wolcott, 23 May 2019

by Brett Easton Ellis.
Picador, 261 pp., £16.99, May 2019, 978 1 5290 1239 2
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... Manhattan’s bohemian answer to Hollywood’s Brat Pack (Emilio Estevez, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald – almost any actor who appeared in a John Hughes teen film qualified). The Literary Brat Pack was a journalistic readymade, roping together a number of writers who may have scarcely known each other and treating them as a ...

The Politics of Now

David Runciman: The Last World Cup, 21 June 2018

The Fall of the House of Fifa 
by David Conn.
Yellow Jersey, 336 pp., £9.99, June 2017, 978 0 224 10045 8
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... when trying to secure its bid for the 2010 World Cup, the South African FA sent the 85-year-old Nelson Mandela, already frail and in poor health, on a 17-hour trip to Trinidad to meet Warner in a final attempt to secure his precious three votes. In the end, South Africa won the final bidding round 14-10, so we may infer that the trip was a success. But ...

But I wanted a crocodile

Thomas Meaney: Castro in Harlem, 4 February 2021

Ten Days in Harlem: Fidel Castro and the Making of the 1960s 
by Simon Hall.
Faber, 276 pp., £17.99, September 2020, 978 0 571 35306 4
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... in southern Angola, which jump-started the disintegration of apartheid. It was no surprise when Nelson Mandela made one of his first trips as president to Havana.New York City has long been used as a propaganda venue for outspoken critics of America, who figure that they are unlikely to be assassinated in the vicinity of Wall Street and Rockefeller ...

How confident should she be?

Richard Lloyd Parry: Aung San Suu Kyi, 26 April 2012

The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi 
by Peter Popham.
Rider, 446 pp., £20, November 2011, 978 1 84604 248 5
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... Thein Sein was ‘sincere’, he replied that it was because the ‘the Lady’ thought so. Unlike Nelson Mandela, she has always rejected armed struggle. Unlike the Dalai Lama, she didn’t flee from persecution. On top of this, she is slim, beautiful, witty, cultured and English-speaking. Her uniform of traditional Burmese blouse and skirt, with a tropical ...

Falklands Title Deeds

Malcolm Deas, 19 August 1982

The Struggle for the Falkland Islands 
by Julius Goebel, introduced by J.C.J. Metford.
Yale, 482 pp., £10, June 1982, 0 300 02943 8
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The Falklands Islands Dispute: International Dimensions 
edited by Joan Pearce.
Chatham House, 47 pp., £2.75, April 1982, 0 905031 25 3
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The Falkland Islands: The Facts 
HMSO, 12 pp., £50, May 1982, 0 11 701029 4Show More
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... wonders how such land-bound creatures as the Spaniards managed to get to America at all. Did Sir Richard Hawkins say his latitude was 48°, three degrees north of where he ought to have been? Then he meant 50° 48' – ‘how so obvious an error got into the text is immaterial.’ He saw a peopled country with many fires? That could easily be the uninhabited ...

Touch of Evil

Christopher Hitchens, 22 October 1992

Kissinger: A Biography 
by Walter Isaacson.
Faber, 893 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 571 16858 2
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... liberals. This was published by the Council on Foreign Relations. Book the second was written for Nelson Rockefeller and called for ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons. Book the third, wisely entitled The Necessity for Choice, refined the case for massive conventional war with thermonuclear options only as ‘a last resort’. In office, of course, Kissinger flung ...

Who’s in charge?

Chalmers Johnson: The Addiction to Secrecy, 6 February 2003

Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers 
by Daniel Ellsberg.
Viking, 498 pp., $29.95, October 2002, 0 670 03030 9
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... he gave a full set of the Papers to Senator Fulbright and tried to interest Senators Gaylord Nelson and George McGovern in publicising them or printing them in the Congressional Record. But Congressional courage, then as now, was in short supply. No Senator, not even Fulbright, accepted his offer. On 2 March 1971, Ellsberg called Neil Sheehan of the New ...

South African Stories

R.W. Johnson: In South Africa, 2 March 2000

... child? Leaving Carol, my 80-year-old mother and my daughter relatively secure in the cars, my son Richard and I plunged down the hill, going from hut to hut asking for the little girl. Directed ever further down we soon found ourselves accompanied – ‘surrounded’ does more justice to the tenseness of the situation – by a crowd of young men with ...


Alan Bennett: Bennett’s Dissection, 1 January 2009

... week. 15 April. I have given all my literary archive to the Bodleian Library and this afternoon Richard Ovenden, the keeper of special collections, comes round to load up the hundred or so box files and take them to Oxford. There will be more in due course, including all my notebooks and the annotated copies of the printed stuff, but I’m very happy to see ...


Sylvia Lawson, 18 February 1988

Australians: A Historical Library 
Fairfax, Syme and Weldon, AUS $695Show More
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... and authorship in the past thirty years. Very good entries on Law (Ross Cranston), Culture (Richard White) and on K.R. Murdoch (David Bowman) are exceptions to the general level. Even granting their own terms – those of closed and authoritative, rather than open and provisional history – the Dictionary and chronology could be much more ...

North and South

Raphael Samuel, 22 June 1995

Coming Back Brockens: A Year in a Mining Village 
by Mark Hudson.
Cape, 320 pp., £16.99, October 1994, 0 224 04170 3
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... fun’, and that choosing it in preference to its rivals – Juliet Barker’s The Brontës and Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom – would set the cat among the pigeons. Was it really such a maverick choice? Might it not, rather, owe its appeal to a family resemblance with other popular literary modes – post-holocaust science-fiction, say, in ...


Barbara Everett: Coleridge the Modernist, 7 August 2003

Coleridge’s Notebooks: A Selection 
edited by Seamus Perry.
Oxford, 264 pp., £17.99, June 2002, 0 19 871201 4
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works I: Poems (Reading Text) 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1608 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 00483 8
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works II: Poems (Variorum Text) 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1528 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 00484 6
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works III: Plays 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1620 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 09883 2
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... of the poetry have followed this tendency: it is not rare now for critics like, for instance, Richard Holmes in his agreeable volumes of biography, to find Coleridge’s crown as a poet among the ‘Conversation Poems’ – quietly meditative post-Cowper colloquial writing such as ‘This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison’, and ‘Frost at ...

Cheering us up

Ian Jack, 15 September 1988

In for a Penny: The Unauthorised Biography of Jeffrey Archer 
by Jonathan Mantle.
Hamish Hamilton, 264 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 241 12478 6
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... Lola Howard Archer, lived separately over the Thames at a now-vanished address in Southwark – 18 Nelson Square – which was bombed later that year. It was she who registered her son’s birth at Finsbury Register Office more than a month later, on 17 May. Later in 1940 – perhaps to escape the Blitz – the family moved to Weston-super-Mare, the Somerset ...

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