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D.A.N. Jones, 1 November 1984

by William Kennedy.
Viking, 227 pp., £7.95, September 1984, 0 670 40176 5
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In Custody 
by Anita Desai.
Heinemann, 204 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 9780434186358
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Flaubert’s Parrot 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 190 pp., £8.50, October 1984, 0 241 11374 1
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... all in the literary-prize-winning league, tell us of areas with which we are probably unfamiliar. William Kennedy’s Ironweed is about Albany, capital of the State of New York. Julian Barnes writes about the France of Gustave Flaubert, as discussed in an irrational, pedantic manner by a British admirer of Flaubert’s work. Anita Desai, daughter of a German ...

Aid for the starving

Keith Griffin, 6 December 1984

The Quality of Mercy: Cambodia, Holocaust and Modern Conscience 
by William Shawcross.
Deutsch, 464 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 0 233 97691 4
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... William Shawcross’s The Quality of Mercy is a fascinating, detailed and moving study of the famine that struck Cambodia – or Kampuchea as it is now called – five years ago, and of the response of the rest of the world to the disaster that followed. The book can be read at several levels: as a memorial to a society that no longer exists, as a footnote to the history of the wars in Indochina and their aftermath, as the story of a large international relief operation, and as a cautionary tale of how humanitarian motives can become subverted by local and global political forces ...

One Summer in America

Eliot Weinberger, 26 September 2019

... and toddlers who have been taken from their parents. Some are as young as five months. In one camp, five hundred children are confined in a windowless warehouse. In others, they are encaged behind chain-link fences. In some camps, there are no hot meals. There are outbreaks of chickenpox, flu, measles, scabies and mumps, and infestations of lice. There ...


Tom Vanderbilt: ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, 21 August 2003

The Manchurian Candidate: BFI Film Classics 
by Greil Marcus.
BFI, 75 pp., £8.99, July 2002, 0 85170 931 1
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... haunted the pages of Time, while in Battle for the Mind (1957), the British psychologist William Sargent noted the Third Reich’s penchant for mass brainwashing: ‘Hitler never concealed his method, which included deliberately producing such phenomena by organised excitement and mass hypnotism, and even boasted how easy it was to impose “the lie ...

Poison and the Bomb

Norman Dombey, 20 December 2018

... Project, as Merkulov discovered, had commissioned three plants, known as Camps X, W and Y. Camp X, at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was devoted to uranium enrichment; Camp W, at Hanford in Washington State, housed the reactors for producing plutonium; and Camp Y, at Los Alamos in New ...


John Sutherland, 7 June 1984

The Place of Dead Roads 
by William Burroughs.
Calder, 306 pp., £9.95, April 1984, 0 7145 4030 7
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by Denis Johnson.
Chatto, 209 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 7011 2777 5
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Moll Cutpurse: Her True History 
by Ellen Galford.
Stramullion, 221 pp., £4.50, May 1984, 0 907343 03 1
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... the newspaper account of a doubly fatal shoot-out in Boulder, Colorado between two men of mystery: William Seward Hall, a real-estate speculator and writer, and Mike Chase. Neither man shot his weapon (later we learn that Hall carried a 44 special action; Chase a 455 Webley; Burroughs loves guns). Both died simultaneously by rifle-fire from an unknown third ...

Baffled at a Bookcase

Alan Bennett: My Libraries, 28 July 2011

... self-help in the house but the only non-library book of autobiography was I Haven’t Unpacked by William Holt, who had got away from the dark, satanic mills by buying a horse and riding through England. The Armley library was at the bottom of Wesley Road, the entrance up a flight of marble steps under open arches, through brass-railed swing doors panelled in ...


Pamela Thomas: Tea with Marshal Tito, 6 October 2005

... intrepid sorts went to Dubrovnik and stayed in designated hotels, but that was all. So my father, William Woods, decided we should go. He was struggling to finish his novel Manuela (later made into a film, with Trevor Howard in the lead), and we were very short of cash. I suspect that he was also being pressed by several creditors. What better way to deal ...

At the Queen’s Gallery, Edinburgh

Tom Crewe: Roger Fenton, 16 November 2017

... fierce heat that had succeeded an iron winter: already in March, the month of Fenton’s arrival, William Russell of the Times was cursing the hand-knitted mittens still arriving in their thousands from worried mothers. The rising temperatures interfered disastrously with the chemicals, necessitating longer exposure times, cooking the nitrate, drying out the ...

Places Never Explained

Colm Tóibín: Anthony Hecht, 8 August 2013

The Selected Letters of Anthony Hecht 
edited by Jonathan Post.
Johns Hopkins, 365 pp., £18, November 2012, 978 1 4214 0730 2
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... and Classification Department. It was hardly a heroic war.’ But he did write heroically. William Pritchard, in his biography of Jarrell, says that ‘in letter after letter, Jarrell turned the routine, the boredom, the loneliness and the wastefulness of army life far from the zones of combat into the figures of something like art.’ In February ...

It’ll all be over one day

James Meek: Our Man in Guantánamo, 8 June 2006

Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim’s Journey to Guantánamo and Back 
by Moazzam Begg and Victoria Brittain.
Free Press, 395 pp., £18.99, February 2006, 0 7432 8567 0
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... fears for his family and disillusionment with the practical realities of becoming a Muslim William Wallace in somebody else’s war stifled his yearning to be a righteous soldier. During the Bosnian conflict he visited the barracks of the Kateebah mujahedin, the Bosnian foreign legion, but stayed only three weeks and did not fight, although he ...

In Pyjamas

R.W. Johnson: Bill Deedes’s Decency, 17 November 2005

Dear Bill: A Memoir 
by W.F. Deedes.
Macmillan, 451 pp., £14.99, July 2005, 9781405052665
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... It was appropriate that Deedes should end up with Waugh in Abyssinia, providing the model for William Boot. Anyone who remembers how, on Lord Copper’s orders, Boot is outfitted with all manner of absurd and elaborate equipment before setting out for the war, will be delighted to read of the Post’s determination to fit Deedes out with cedarwood trunks ...

They Supped with the King

Bee Wilson: Mistresses, 6 January 2011

Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman 
by Elizabeth Abbott.
Duckworth, 510 pp., £20, 0 7156 3946 3
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... of the Other Woman’). When the New Yorker writer Lillian Ross embarked on a relationship with William Shawn, the magazine’s married editor, she couldn’t even bear to call it ‘having an affair’, never mind ‘mistressdom’. In Ross’s view, a mistress was ‘a heavily mascaraed woman in a corny movie, wearing a negligee and sitting around sulking ...

Lord Cardigan’s Cherry Pants

Ferdinand Mount: The benefits of the Crimean War, 20 May 2004

The Crimean War: The Truth behind the Myth 
by Clive Ponting.
Chatto, 379 pp., £20, March 2004, 0 7011 7390 4
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... choice between the 79-year-old Lord Dundonald, who was tottering on the verge of insanity, and Sir William Parker, who himself thought he was a fraction past it at 73. Which left only Sir Charles Napier, a mere 67 but a hopeless alcoholic with a vile temper. The commander-in-chief was the 66-year-old Lord Raglan, who had lost an arm at Waterloo but had never ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: Babylon, 18 December 2008

... through them, get beyond archaeological evidence and inference, bypass the fevered imagination of William Blake’s and John Martin’s Bible illustrations and hear the voice of a Mesopotamian Pepys? Well, not exactly, but the range and character of what is written down give some idea of the texture of everyday life in Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon. The majority ...

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