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3 August 1995
The Social Organisation of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States 
by Edward Laumann, John Gagnon, Robert Michael and Stuart Michaels.
Chicago, 742 pp., £39.95, October 1994, 0 226 46957 3
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Sex in America: A Definitive Survey 
by Robert Michael, John Gagnon, Edward Laumann and Gina Kolata.
Little, Brown, 289 pp., £16.99, November 1994, 0 316 91191 7
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Sexual Behaviour in Britain: The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Life-Styles 
by Kaye Wellings, Julia Field, A.M. Johnson and Jane Wadsworth.
Penguin, 464 pp., £15, January 1994, 0 14 015814 6
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... not all, of the same authors. The scholarly version is careful and may be better sociology, but is almost unreadable, being choked with platitudinous and pompous social sciences language, much of which means absolutely nothing: Overall, these profiles of sexual expression suggest that the interests and resources associated with specific social locations lead ...


James Meek: Bobos for Boris?

26 April 2012
... the conductor watching from the open platform at the back, his hand clasping the chrome strut like a mariner gripping the rigging. The next day new buses, authorised by the then mayor Ken Livingstone, ran the route. They were nicknamed ‘bendy buses’, after the concertina joint in the middle that enabled them to twist their 18-metre length around ...

Fox and Crow

David Craig: The Moors

30 July 2014
The Moor: Lives, Landscape, Literature 
by William Atkins.
Faber, 371 pp., £18.99, May 2014, 978 0 571 29004 8
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... to north-east Yorkshire and the Borders at Otterburn. Endearingly, his native moor was not even a moor at all, but a fen scattered with carrs, the sourceland of the Hamble, south-east of Winchester, where as a boy he went, often alone, sometimes with his father, to watch and photograph the deer and kingfishers and herons when they broke cover. So that is ...

Through Plate-Glass

Ian Sansom: Jonathan Coe

10 May 2001
The Rotters’ Club 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 405 pp., £14.99, April 2001, 0 670 89252 1
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... is barely felt again until the end of the novel, when she pops up and says to poor Patrick, a man clearly possessed of the proverbial patience of a saint, who has listened to her for 400 pages without a peep: ‘All right, then: now it’s your turn.’ In case anyone has failed to understand the significance of Sophie’s words, Coe adds in an ...

Rut after Rut after Rut

Thomas Jones: Denis Johnson’s Vietnam

29 November 2007
Tree of Smoke 
by Denis Johnson.
Picador, 614 pp., £16.99, November 2007, 978 0 330 44920 5
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... burned. The thickener was originally made with coprecipitated aluminium salts of naphthenic and palmitic acids, which is how it came to be known as napalm. The first napalm incendiary bombs were dropped on a fuel depot near St Lô during the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944. The stuff ...

A Skeleton My Cat

Norma Clarke: ‘Poor Goldsmith’

21 February 2019
The Letters of Oliver Goldsmith 
edited by Michael Griffin and David O’Shaughnessy.
Cambridge, 232 pp., £64.99, July 2018, 978 1 107 09353 9
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... Goldsmith as ‘an awkward, improvident and slightly ridiculous Irishman … whose genius [Johnson] nevertheless acknowledged and championed’ – though in fact almost every reference to Goldsmith in the Life of Samuel Johnson itself belittles him. Boswell was not alone. After ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Tayler: King Charles the Martyr

21 February 2019
... country to the concept of prorogation – the suspension of Parliament by the monarch. Like Boris Johnson, Rees-Mogg is fond of bogus erudition – the Brexit white paper was, he said, ‘the greatest vassalage since King John paid homage to Philip II at Le Goulet in 1200’ – and he must have enjoyed expressing his hope that it would ‘not be necessary ...

What’s in a Number?

Donald MacKenzie: The $300 Trillion Question

25 September 2008
... I watched the process, which seemed utterly routine, a couple of years ago. Just after 11 a.m. on every weekday that’s not a bank holiday, traders at leading banks send in their estimates of the interest rates at which their banks could borrow money. They do this electronically, but sometimes the co-ordinators make a phone call to a bank that ...

How Mugabe came to power

R.W. Johnson: Wilfred Mhanda

22 February 2001
... quickly that we’d made a terrible mistake: that he was paranoid, authoritarian and ruthless, a man believing only in power. He hasn’t changed. What’s changed is that other people have his measure at last.’ You look at Wilfred, roly-poly, 50 and a quality control manager, and you don’t find it hard to believe that he lives a blameless suburban ...

Find the birch sticks

R.W. Johnson: A spy’s diary

1 September 2005
The Guy Liddell Diaries. Vol. I: 1939-42 
edited by Nigel West.
Frank Cass, 329 pp., £25, February 2005, 0 415 35213 4
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... immersed in his work, who found solace only in the cello. His life seems to have been spent in a male world of friends, colleagues and clubs. Much the same was true of the rest of the often eccentric leadership that fought the war. Churchill set the tone, drinking to all hours, sending his chums – Beaverbrook, Brendon Bracken, Swinton – to wreak ...

Bad Timing

R.W. Johnson: All about Eden

22 May 2003
Eden: The Life and Times of Anthony Eden, First Earl of Avon 1897-1977 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Chatto, 758 pp., £25, March 2003, 0 7011 6744 0
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The Macmillan Diaries: The Cabinet Years 1950-57 
edited by Peter Catterall.
Macmillan, 676 pp., £25, April 2003, 9780333711675
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... Harold Macmillan’s judgment on Anthony Eden, that ‘he was trained to win the Derby in 1938; unfortunately, he was not let out of the starting stalls until 1955,’ was echoed by Anthony Nutting: ‘he had for too long been the Golden Boy of the Tory Party, the glamorous Crown Prince awaiting the summons to mount the throne in place of the ageing Emperor ...


R.W. Johnson: World Cup Diary

22 July 2010
... R.W. Johnson’s article in this issue is taken from some of his blog posts during the South Africa 2010 World Cup. More of his posts, and those of some other LRB contributors, can be found at June. South Africa is being worked up by an endless media barrage into a state of great excitement and expectancy about the World Cup ...

At Los Alamos

Jeremy Bernstein

20 December 2012
... enterprise. I was closer to Ken Bainbridge, who had selected the test site and was in charge of arming the device that was successfully tested at Alamogordo on 16 July 1945. Now he was chair of the Harvard physics department. None of these people ever discussed their wartime activities so I was surprised when Bainbridge called me into his office and asked ...


Mike Davis: California Burns

15 November 2007
... and nervous pets as well as to lorry drivers and joggers (sometimes scythed by razor-sharp palm fronds). Technically, they are ‘föhns’, after the warm winds that stream down from the leeward side of the Alps, but the Southern California term is a ‘Santa Ana’, probably in ironic homage to Mexico’s singularly ...

Adored Gazelle

Ferdinand Mount: Cherubino at Number Ten

20 March 2008
Balfour: The Last Grandee 
by R.J.Q. Adams.
Murray, 479 pp., £30, November 2007, 978 0 7195 5424 7
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... too heavy and big for his willowy figure. He slouched and lounged as he walked. He gave us the warmest greeting, with a simple and childlike smile which is a great charm.’ Even across the width of a fairway, the author of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ was already melting under the impact of A.J.B. Lord Vansittart, a ...

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