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What, how often and with whom?

Lawrence Stone, 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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... In the early Eighties, Western governments, notably those of America, Britain and France, were anxious to assess the probable rate of growth and pathways of infection of Aids. They sponsored extensive sex surveys in order to find out, for example, the number of sexual partners an average male had in his lifetime and how many used safe sex. The British survey was carried out by four women, primarily trained in medical statistics, epidemiology and health care ...

Fox and Crow

David Craig: The Moors, 31 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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... lunar nowherelands. In 1681 Charles Cotton dismissed them as ‘Nature’s pudenda’; in 1775 Dr Johnson was ‘astonished and repelled’ by their ‘wide extent of hopeless sterility’ (though he at least had the hardihood to go and see them for himself); in 1826 Noel Thomas Carrington accused them of ‘shaming the map of England’ with their ...


James Meek: Bobos for Boris?, 26 April 2012

... is exactly what a post-Thatcherite Conservative mayor of London would not do. And it is what Boris Johnson, the post-Thatcherite Conservative mayor of London since he succeeded Livingstone in 2008, did. As he runs for re-election on 3 May, he can say he did what he promised, sort of. Within three years of coming to power, he swept the last bendy bus off ...

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 ...

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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... and dull in the experimental novel Coe turns into entertainment. He is writing a biography of B.S. Johnson – whom he admires – but he writes more like Pamela Hansford Johnson. He has established for himself a set of stylistic conventions – conversational smooth prose, non-sequential narrative, the use of interpolated ...

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 Goldsmith’s death in 1774 stories of ...

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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... On 2 February 1940, Guy Liddell, MI5’s director of counter-espionage, wrote in his diary: An elderly statesman with gout When asked what the war was about In a written reply Said ‘My colleagues and I Are doing our best to find out’ A not inapposite comment on the Phoney War (and we learn from Liddell that there was a good deal of hidden last-minute talk between Chamberlain and Goering), the verse also conveys something of the self-contained world of MI5 ...

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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... in Vietnam who made napalm famous. Napalm is one of the first things that the title of Denis Johnson’s new novel brings to mind. Think of the opening of Apocalypse Now, the paradisal grove of palm trees against a clear sky, gradually obscured by clouds of dust whipped up by helicopter rotor blades, then suddenly obliterated by a salvo of incendiary ...

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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... relationship with John Foster Dulles seems to have been ruined beyond repair by Dulles’s hand-on-arm habits and his halitosis. There were otherwise unexplained enmities towards Eden throughout his career which were surely based on the belief that he was gay, but since homosexuality could not even be named by those who disliked it, all we get here are furious ...

How Mugabe came to power

R.W. Johnson: Wilfred Mhanda, 22 February 2001

... from the Ndebele, the smaller of Rhodesia’s two largest ethnic groups. Kaunda’s long-term aim was to subsume Zanu within Zapu, calculating that one day, using Nkomo as his mouthpiece, he would be in a position to call the shots in Zimbabwe. In Mozambique, after due consideration, Tongogara agreed that Mhanda should go back to Rhodesia disguised as an ...

What’s in a Number?

Donald MacKenzie: The $300 Trillion Question, 25 September 2008

... England overcame its initial anxieties and came tacitly to support the eurodollar market, and the Johnson administration inadvertently encouraged it by trying to stem the flow of dollars overseas. Eurodollar operations conducted in London allowed US banks to circumvent the new controls. The result was that London became – and in many ways remains – the ...


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 ...


R.W. Johnson, 2 December 1993

The Downing Street Years 
by Margaret Thatcher.
HarperCollins, 914 pp., £25, October 1993, 0 00 255049 0
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... some considerable grounds, that the whole programme drove a coach and horses through the SALT and ABM treaties, Once again her luck held. SDI might have launched a terrible and frenzied new phase in the arms-race. Instead it turned out to be the straw which broke the Soviet camel’s back, something that Thatcher could not ...

Otherwise Dealt With

Chalmers Johnson: ‘extraordinary rendition’, 8 February 2007

Ghost Plane: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Secret Rendition Programme 
by Stephen Grey.
Hurst, 306 pp., £16.95, November 2006, 1 85065 850 1
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... assessment of the impact of the American president’s decision to authorise the CIA, his private army, to use ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on people captured or put in its custody. On the first subject, Grey is extremely informative, if not always as smart as he seems. On the second, his reluctance to condemn the CIA outright leaves a nasty taste ...

Fat Bastard

David Runciman: Shane Warne, 15 August 2019

No Spin 
by Shane Warne.
Ebury, 411 pp., £9.99, June 2019, 978 1 78503 785 6
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... into thinking they might get seriously hurt, as happened to England at the hands of Mitchell Johnson during the traumatic tour of Australia in 2013-14 (Jonathan Trott, who left the tour early, called Johnson ‘my executioner’). Spinners can’t do that. But they can scare batsmen into thinking they may end up ...

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