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Crisis at Ettrick Bridge

William Rodgers, 12 October 1989

A Short History of the Liberal Party 1900-88 
by Chris Cook.
Macmillan, 216 pp., £9.95, August 1989, 0 333 44884 7
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Against Goliath 
by David Steel.
Weidenfeld, 318 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 9780297796787
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Labour’s Decline and the Social Democrats’ Fall 
by Geoffrey Lee Williams and Alan LeeWilliams.
Macmillan, 203 pp., £29.50, July 1989, 0 333 46541 5
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Penhaligon 
by Annette Penhaligon.
Bloomsbury, 262 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 7475 0501 2
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Citizens’ Britain: A Radical Agenda for the 1990s 
by Paddy Ashdown.
Fourth Estate, 159 pp., £5.95, September 1989, 1 872180 45 0
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... and then the grace to accept the outcome of a membership ballot. We were wrong. In their book, the Williams brothers discuss the character of David Owen, of whom they are warm admirers. Straying onto very dangerous ground, they refer to Owen as ‘certainly the cleverest and toughest politician out-of-power since the days of Sir Oswald Mosley’. Unable to ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Allelujah!, 3 January 2019

... when I haven’t heard a word, I sit halfway down the south aisle festooned in hearing aids in the lee of a plaque to Flora Robson. But someone must have taken the acoustics in hand because if anything it’s too noisy and I turn one of them off. It’s a good service, a model, with none of the speakers – his two sons, Richard Eyre and Robert Bathurst ...

What the Twist Did for the Peppermint Lounge

Dave Haslam: Club culture, 6 January 2000

Adventures in Wonderland: A Decade of Club Culture 
by Sheryl Garratt.
Headline, 335 pp., £7.99, May 1999, 0 7472 7680 3
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Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey 
by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton.
Headline, 408 pp., £14.99, November 1999, 0 7472 7573 4
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Saturday Night For Ever: The Story of Disco 
by Alan Jones and Jussi Kantonen.
Mainstream, 223 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 9781840181777
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DJ Culture 
by Ulf Poschardt.
Quartet, 473 pp., £13, January 1999, 0 7043 8098 6
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Energy Flash: A Journey through Rave Music and Dance Culture 
by Simon Reynolds.
Picador, 493 pp., £12.99, July 1998, 0 330 35056 0
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More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction 
by Kodwo Eshun.
Quartet, 208 pp., £10, March 1998, 0 7043 8025 0
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... through texture, beats and effects. Back in 1976, punk set itself against disco wholeheartedly. Alan Jones and Jussi Kantonen describe an occasion in July 1979 at the home stadium of the Chicago White Sox baseball team when thousands of disco records were set alight while the crowd chanted ‘Disco sucks, Disco sucks!’ The 1989 edition of the Penguin ...

Our Island Story

Stefan Collini: The New DNB, 20 January 2005

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 
edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison.
Oxford, sixty volumes, £7,500, September 2004, 9780198614111
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... Stephen noted), but with the help of his indefatigable assistant and eventual successor, Sidney Lee, the ship was put back on an even keel. Curiously, although the Grosart debacle, fully documented in John Bicknell’s edition of Stephen’s letters, is briefly mentioned in Alan Bell’s exemplary entry on Stephen in the ...

I sizzle to see you

John Lahr: Cole Porter’s secret songs, 19 November 2019

The Letters of Cole Porter 
edited by Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh.
Yale, 672 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 0 300 21927 2
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... pep, generating high spirits and good times for others and himself. According to his wife, Linda Lee Porter, he had the ‘wonderful quality’ of ‘making a room come alive’. His songs made him come alive too. Song lent the reserved Porter a come-hither thing in public that was bafflingly absent in private. ‘He is by turns pensive, nervous, mercurial ...

Elective Outsiders

Jeremy Harding, 3 July 1997

Conductors of Chaos: A Poetry Anthology 
edited by Iain Sinclair.
Picador, 488 pp., £9.99, June 1996, 0 330 33135 3
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Nearly Too Much: The Poetry of J.H. Prynne 
by N.H. Reeve and Richard Kerridge.
Liverpool, 196 pp., £25, April 1996, 0 85323 840 5
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Carl Rakosi: Poems 1923-41 
edited by Andrew Crozier.
Sun & Moon, 209 pp., $12.99, August 1995, 1 55713 185 6
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The Objectivists 
edited by Andrew McAllister.
Bloodaxe, 156 pp., £8.95, May 1996, 1 85224 341 4
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... Twenty-five, thirty years after the best of them began to publish – John James, Chris Torrance, Lee Harwood, Andrew Crozier, Peter Riley, J.H. Prynne, Michael Haslam, Douglas Oliver, Barry MacSweeney, Denise Riley – they must nonetheless wonder, from time to time, whether theirs is a case of having missed the boat which would only have been worth catching ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Notes on 1997, 1 January 1998

... January, Yorkshire. Ring Mr Redhead, the coal-merchant at Ingleton. ‘Hello, Mr Redhead, this is Alan Bennett. I’m wanting some coal.’ ‘Goodness me! I am consorting with higher beings!’ Last time I rang Mr Redhead he said: ‘Well, I don’t care how celebrated you are, you’ll never be a patch on your dad.’ I remind him of this. ‘That’s ...

Red silk is the best blood

David Thomson: Sondheim, 16 December 2010

Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-81), with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes 
by Stephen Sondheim.
Virgin, 445 pp., £30, October 2010, 978 0 7535 2258 5
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... are lyrics everyone knows, but not ones Sondheim can hear without squirming. He went to Williams College in Massachusetts and acted a little: the part he craved was the young killer in Emlyn Williams’s Night Must Fall. He had to smoke for that role, and continued for decades. After graduating in 1950, he studied ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Bennett’s Dissection, 1 January 2009

... BBC7’s This Sceptred Isle, a history of England read by Anna Massey, Peter Jeffrey, Christopher Lee and Paul Eddington. Afterwards I take the tray back downstairs to get my midday pills: two Omega 3 tablets, one selenium and one Saw palmetto plus a piece of dark chocolate and a cup of green tea. It probably sounds nicer than I actually find it, which is ...

Hinsley’s History

Noël Annan, 1 August 1985

Diplomacy and Intelligence during the Second World War: Essays in Honour of F.H. Hinsley 
edited by Richard Langhorne.
Cambridge, 329 pp., £27.50, May 1985, 0 521 26840 0
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. I: 1939-Summer 1941, Vol. II: Mid-1941-Mid-1943, Vol. III, Part I: June 1943-June 1944 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 616 pp., £12.95, September 1979, 0 11 630933 4
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... though they were picked principally for their skill at chess. One of them, another Kingsman, was Alan Turing, who, with Gordon Welchman of Sidney Sussex, was foremost among those who decoded Ultra, encyphered on the Enigma machine, and, perhaps more than any single person, helped to save us from defeat in the battle of the Atlantic. When suddenly Japanese ...

The Tower

Andrew O’Hagan, 7 June 2018

... late before trying to get out of his flat. ‘We used to go “totting” together,’ his son, Lee, said. ‘You know, scrap iron. He had a big horse called Lady and a little Shetland’ – he had stabled them under the Westway – and was a friend of Steven Power, the man on the 15th floor with the bull terriers. Anthony was a rogue; he’d been ...

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