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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 ...

Do Not Scribble

Amanda Vickery: Letter-Writing, 4 November 2010

The Pen and the People: English Letter-Writers 1660-1800 
by Susan Whyman.
Oxford, 400 pp., £30, October 2009, 978 0 19 953244 5
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Becoming a Woman in the Age of Letters 
by Dena Goodman.
Cornell, 408 pp., £24.50, June 2009, 978 0 8014 7545 0
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... my letters are scribbled with all the carelessness & inattention imaginable,’ Alexander Pope claimed in a missive of November 1712. ‘My style, like my soul, appears in its natural undress before my friend.’ When Hester Piozzi wrote in 1788 that personal letters were ‘familiar chat spread upon paper’ she was ...

Bouvard and Pécuchet

C.H. Sisson, 6 December 1984

The Lyttelton Hart-Davis Letters: Correspondence of George Lyttelton and Rupert Hart-Davis. 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 193 pp., £13.50, April 1984, 0 7195 4108 5
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... 48. The entry into this death-grip was an extraordinarily cold-blooded affair – or if that gives a misleading impression of what was surely a generous gesture on the part of an extremely busy publisher with far too much reading and writing on his hands already, it was certainly a remarkably deliberate one. In the normal way letters are written – unless one ...

Diary

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 ...

Diary

Sean Wilsey: Going Slow, 17 July 2008

... to New York City: 2364 miles through desert, suburbs, forests, lake-spattered plains, mountains, farmland, more suburbs and the Holland Tunnel. I got to know both of my travelling companions during a brief period living in the town of Marfa, Texas, which is also where I found the truck, parked in front of the post office: boxy, banged up, covered in sky-blue ...

After the Referendum

LRB Contributors, 8 October 2014

... I felt convalescent and washed out, and fair enough, for the last ten days I’d been living on a mix of Facebook and Nytol – Facebook because you can be everywhere at once and the ‘official’ media had been solidly and relentlessly Unionist. Even the BBC. Facebook brought me the blogs and pictures, cartoons, arguments, discussion and outrage that kept ...

Why the bastards wouldn’t stand and fight

Murray Sayle: Mao in Vietnam, 21 February 2002

China and the Vietnam Wars 1950-75 
by Qiang Zhai.
North Carolina, 304 pp., $49.95, April 2000, 0 8078 4842 5
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None so Blind: A Personal Account of the Intelligence Failure in Vietnam 
by George Allen.
Ivan Dee, 296 pp., $27.50, October 2001, 1 56663 387 7
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No Peace, No Honour: Nixon, Kissinger and Betrayal in Vietnam 
by Larry Berman.
Free Press, 334 pp., $27.50, November 2001, 0 684 84968 2
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... In a word, Vietnam. Only three weeks into the bombing war in Afghanistan, the dreaded word ‘quagmire’ headed a New York Times piece by the Vietnam-era commentator R.W. Apple Jr, pointing out the ‘many echoes’ between the new conflict and the war America tries hard to forget. A rash of articles erupted, explaining how different they really ...

Schadenfreude

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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... Mrs Thatcher’s former Cabinet colleagues, largely because of the sheer outrageousness of those claims to frankness and humility. And there has, of course, been no difficulty in showing that, in these memoirs as in her career, Thatcher has been neither frank nor humble. Mrs Thatcher appears to suffer from a quite advanced form of egomania, or megalomania, or ...

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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... comment; we now have a pretty good idea. The prisoners had disappeared into the CIA’s programme of ‘extraordinary rendition’, a broad euphemism for a US-devised and executed scheme to kidnap people and outsource their torture to other countries – Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Uzbekistan and elsewhere – or to send them to be tortured by US government ...

Unhappy Childhoods

John Sutherland, 2 February 1989

Trollope and Character 
by Stephen Wall.
Faber, 397 pp., £17.50, September 1988, 0 571 14595 7
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The Chronicler of Barsetshire: A Life of Anthony Trollope 
by R.H. Super.
Michigan, 528 pp., $35, December 1988, 0 472 10102 1
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Dickens: A Biography 
by Fred Kaplan.
Hodder, 607 pp., £17.95, November 1988, 0 340 48558 2
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Charlotte Brontë 
by Rebecca Fraser.
Methuen, 543 pp., £14.95, October 1988, 9780413570109
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... Like wine in the cellar, he was maturing, even when we couldn’t see him. The author, Trollope claimed in another rhapsody, must be prepared to argue with his characters, ‘quarrel with them, forgive them, and even submit to them’. Trollope, not to put too fine a point on it, verges on the crazy in his insistence that his characters ‘live’. One would ...

Reviewers

Marilyn Butler, 22 January 1981

Three-Quarter Face 
by Penelope Gilliatt.
Secker, 295 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 9780436179587
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Show People 
by Kenneth Tynan.
Weidenfeld, 317 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 297 77842 0
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When the lights go down 
by Pauline Kael.
Boyars, 592 pp., £8.95, August 1980, 0 7145 2726 2
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... behind the common-or-garden review in favour of something longer, presumably more lucrative, almost certainly more fun to write – the star profile. Profiles and not bread-and-butter reviews make up Tynan’s book and much of Gilliatt’s. Tynan is here bent on recommending his new form, which he does by insinuating that it is an older activity than his ...
Northern Antiquity: The Post-Medieval Reception of Edda and Saga 
edited by Andrew Wawn.
Hisarlik, 342 pp., £35, October 1994, 1 874312 18 4
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Heritage and Prophecy: Grundtvig and the English-Speaking World 
edited by A.M. Allchin.
Canterbury, 330 pp., £25, January 1994, 9781853110856
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... is, had only the ‘Brutus legend’ to guide him to his own history; four centuries later, Dr Johnson was little better informed. Some antiquarians may have noted that the names of the days of the week bore witness to a pagan history (though an Anglo-Saxon, not a Scandinavian one). But neither Vikings nor sagas existed in learned or popular ...

My Israel, Right or Wrong

Ian Gilmour, 22 December 1994

War and Peace in the Middle East: A Critique of American Policy 
by Avi Shlaim</a>.
Viking, 147 pp., $17.95, June 1994, 0 670 85330 5
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... The foreign policy record of the Clinton Administration has been dismal. Even when the United States has shown more sensible and decent inclinations than Europe, as over Bosnia, the White House has failed to evolve and stick to a consistent policy, leaving an impression of bungling vacillation. In one area, however, the Administration has not only claimed credit for success but has sometimes been awarded it; astonishingly enough, that area is the Middle East ...

Diary

Gary Indiana: In Havana, 23 May 2013

... abstract, even occult quality in Cuba, as of things glimpsed through a scrim of fog. Last June, Granma, the country’s only newspaper, reported the death of Whitney Houston four months after the fact, like a suddenly declassified state secret, in an edition otherwise devoid of anything resembling news. (Granma features ...

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