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Giant Eye Watching

Adam Thirlwell: Pola Oloixarac, 10 February 2022

by Pola Oloixarac, translated by Adam Morris.
Serpent’s Tail, 192 pp., £12.99, February, 978 1 78816 988 2
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... Pola Oloixarac​ has written three novels, though calling them novels seems too reassuringly bland. They’re baroquely layered with ideas, hacker theory, anthropology, natural history, mythology, dystopias. I admire them very much, but reading them can also bring moments of boredom or impatience. Ideas are allowed to expand in unexpected habitats ...


Adam Lively, 10 March 1994

The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness 
by Paul Gilroy.
Verso, 261 pp., £11.95, November 1993, 0 86091 675 8
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Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Culture 
by Paul Gilroy.
Serpent’s Tail, 257 pp., £12.99, October 1993, 9781852422981
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... In The Morris Book (1907), a work that did much to foster the 20th-century revival of interest in English folk dancing, Cecil Sharp both acknowledges and attempts to repress the hybrid, extra-national origins of the morris dance: The weight of the testimony must be held to show Morocco as the fount and origin, no matter if the genius of our own folk – so far removed from anything native to Africa – has, in the process of the centuries, altered it until it bears, in spirit, little resemblance to the parent stock ...

Short Cuts

Adam Shatz: Israel and Iran, 23 September 2010

... to predict an Israeli attack. On 18 July 2008 in the New York Times, the Israeli historian Benny Morris claimed that ‘Israel will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months.’ Like Goldberg, he made much of Israel’s fear that ‘its very existence was at stake’ so long as the ...

No wonder it ached

Dinah Birch: George Eliot, 13 May 1999

The Journals of George Eliot 
edited by Margaret Harris and Judith Johnston.
Cambridge, 447 pp., £55, February 1999, 0 521 57412 9
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George Eliot: The Last Victorian 
by Kathryn Hughes.
Fourth Estate, 384 pp., £20, November 1998, 1 85702 420 6
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... the pseudonym ‘George Eliot’ has proved so durable. It persisted long after the identity of Adam Bede’s author had become public knowledge, and there has been no serious attempt to dislodge it since. Why has George Eliot never been known by her own name? One reason is that it has never been quite clear what it was. She began life as Mary Anne ...

‘We would rather eat our cake than merely have it’

Rosemary Hill: Victorian men and women, 4 October 2001

A Circle of Sisters: Georgiana Burne-Jones, Agnes Poynter and Louisa Baldwin 
by Judith Flanders.
Penguin, 392 pp., £17.99, September 2001, 0 670 88673 4
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The Hated Wife: Carrie Kipling 1862-1939 
by Adam Nicolson.
Short Books, 96 pp., £4.99, May 2001, 0 571 20835 5
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Victorian Diaries: The Daily Lives of Victorian Men and Women 
edited by Heather Creaton.
Mitchell Beazley, 144 pp., £14.99, February 2001, 1 84000 359 6
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... stunner, an artistic, if not a liberated alternative to conventional femininity. Unlike Janey Morris, whose remarkable appearance was so close to Rossetti’s pictures of her that Henry James was unsure whether she was an original or a copy, the Macdonald sisters, though strikingly attractive, were not in the heavy-eyed big-haired vein. If they were, as ...

Double Act

Adam Smyth: ‘A Humument’, 11 October 2012

A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel 
by Tom Phillips.
Thames and Hudson, 392 pp., £14.95, May 2012, 978 0 500 29043 9
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... frequently recalls other masters of strange, urgent sentences: Monty Python; Samuel Beckett; Chris Morris in Blue Jam; and perhaps most vividly of all, Vivian Stanshall in Sir Henry at Rawlinson End. In fact, A Humument is a novel of quotation: not only in the sense that all of its words were written first by Mallock (although not, as Eric Morecambe said of ...


Theo Tait: Tom Wolfe’s Bloody Awful Novel, 6 January 2005

I am Charlotte Simmons 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 676 pp., £20, November 2004, 0 224 07486 5
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... of the obnoxious frat boys; Jojo Johanssen, the only white boy on the college basketball team; and Adam Gellin, a poor, resentful, Jewish scholarship student. Hoyt gets there first, when, after several hundred pages of will-she-won’t-she, she forgets her nobler ambitions, gets drunk for the first time ever, and is brutally deflowered in a hotel room. As far ...

Living the Life

Andrew O’Hagan, 6 October 2016

Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency 
by James Andrew Miller.
Custom House, 703 pp., £20, August 2016, 978 0 06 244137 9
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... he loves). In Some Like It Hot, the talent booker, Mr Poliakoff, is on the phone to the William Morris Agency. Standing in his office are Jerry and Joe – Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis – a bass and a saxophone player. Jerry tries to persuade Poliakoff to give them the job – three weeks in Florida with Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators – but ...


Keith Thomas, 20 April 1995

Theatres of Memory. Vol. I: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture 
by Raphael Samuel.
Verso, 479 pp., £18.95, February 1995, 0 86091 209 4
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... bookish, for I remember browsing on the shelves of his college room and picking up a copy of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, a set book for our History prelims, only to find in it the daunting inscription: ‘To Raphael on his eighth birthday.’ Since those days, Samuel has earned a distinctive place in the annals of British historiography as a ...

Open that window, Miss Menzies

Patricia Craig, 7 August 1986

A Taste for Death 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 454 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13799 7
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A Dark-Adapted Eye 
by Barbara Vine.
Viking, 300 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 670 80976 4
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Dead Men’s Morris 
by Gladys Mitchell.
Joseph, 247 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 7181 2553 3
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Laurels are poison 
by Gladys Mitchell.
Hogarth, 237 pp., £2.95, June 1986, 0 7012 1010 9
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Dido and Pa 
by Joan Aiken.
Cape, 251 pp., £7.95, June 1986, 0 224 02364 0
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... akin to Dorothy L. Sayers’s Wimsey. Incidentally, P.D. James’s own detective hero, Commander Adam Dalgliesh, with his supplementary profession of poet, is sometimes singled out for acerbic comment by those to whom the notion of a literary detective is a cause of exasperation: in the same way, Wimsey, with his blue blood, prodigious assets, including ...

At Blythe House

Peter Campbell: The V&A’s Working Store, 24 June 2010

... become the site of The Concise Dictionary of Dress, a collaboration between the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips and the exhibition maker Judith Clark. The project was commissioned by Artangel, which has had a hand in other transformative events – for example, Francis Alÿs’s CCTV footage of a fox exploring the National Portrait Gallery at night. On your ...
... taught, it could make him seem unfeeling. One of his pupils, who was briefly a pupil of mine, was Adam Roberts, now Professor of International Relations at Oxford. Adam was a demy at Magdalen and was thought likely to get a first but didn’t; he was understandably a little mortified but his self-reproach can’t have been ...

Leisure’s Epitaph

John Pemble: The Victorians, 8 March 2007

Consuming Passions: Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian Britain 
by Judith Flanders.
HarperPress, 604 pp., £20, August 2006, 0 00 717295 8
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... its themes, it cannot be described as deeply engaged. A few 18th-century and Victorian gurus – Adam Smith, Bentham, Ruskin – put in brief appearances, and Marx just makes it into a footnote. But of the later sophisticated theorists of things and social behaviour – Durkheim, Gramsci, Barthes, Bourdieu, Lévi-Strauss – there’s never a whisper. The ...

Phantom Gold

John Pemble: Victorian Capitalism, 7 January 2016

Forging Capitalism: Rogues, Swindlers, Frauds and the Rise of Modern Finance 
by Ian Klaus.
Yale, 287 pp., £18.99, January 2015, 978 0 300 18194 4
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... liner in the mid-Atlantic: lurid with suicide, Victorian capitalism got a very bad press. In 1776 Adam Smith had argued in The Wealth of Nations that free-market capitalism was a force for material and moral progress. Capitalism left to itself, he insisted, must produce the best of all possible worlds, since a capitalist pursuing self-interest makes life ...


Adam Mars-Jones: Olga Tokarczuk, 5 October 2017

by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft.
Fitzcarraldo, 400 pp., £12.99, May 2017, 978 1 910695 43 2
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... twice, and was even driven to Hampton Court in the 1980s for conservation, sitting in a red Morris Marina. Bentham suggested that Auto-Icons of ancestors would make suitable adornments for gentlemen’s country estates, covered in gutta-percha for weatherproofing and perhaps alternating with trees in an avenue to demonstrate pedigree for the benefit of ...

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