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Claire Hall: Horoscopy, 20 May 2021

A Scheme of Heaven: Astrology and the Birth of Science 
by Alexander Boxer.
Profile, 336 pp., £12.99, January, 978 1 78125 964 1
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... generating large quantities of precise data for the astrologer to interpret.In A Scheme of Heaven, Alexander Boxer links ancient and medieval astrology not to modern newspaper horoscopes, but to data science. The task of astrologers was to draw patterns and narratives out of seemingly incomprehensible details: ...

Saint Q

Alan Brien, 12 September 1991

Well, I forget the rest 
by Quentin Crewe.
Hutchinson, 278 pp., £17.99, September 1991, 0 09 174835 6
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... you may even be glad of a wheelchair yourself.’ Until then, I had gloried in what the crippled Alexander Pope bitterly, and brilliantly, categorised as ‘all the arrogance of superfluous health’. For the next thirty years, there was not a day when I could not get up and do a day’s work. But Quentin made me grateful for every one of them, never taking ...

You’ve got it or you haven’t

Iain Sinclair, 25 February 1993

Inside the Firm: The Untold Story of the Krays’ Reign of Terror 
by Tony Lambrianou and Carol Clerk.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.99, October 1992, 0 330 32284 2
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Gangland: London’s Underworld 
by James Morton.
Little, Brown, 349 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 356 20889 3
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Nipper: The Story of Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read 
by Leonard Read and James Morton.
Warner, 318 pp., £5.99, September 1992, 0 7515 0001 1
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Smash and Grab: Gangsters in the London Underworld 
by Robert Murphy.
Faber, 182 pp., £15.99, February 1993, 0 571 15442 5
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... translation of second-generation Mafia mufti. The business for the aspiring businessman, the boxer in the boardroom. (A high-profile exemplar of this style was the magnate, George Walker; once, according to James Morton, an ‘ally’ of Billy Hill and Eddie Chapman, later a frequently puffed adornment of the Thatcherite open market culture.) There is ...

Dithyrambs for Athens

Leofranc Holford-Strevens: The difficulties of reading Pindar, 17 February 2005

Soliciting Darkness: Pindar, Obscurity and the Classical Tradition 
by John T. Hamilton.
Harvard, 348 pp., £17.95, April 2004, 0 674 01257 7
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The First Poets: Lives of the Ancient Greek Poets 
by Michael Schmidt.
Weidenfeld, 449 pp., £20, April 2004, 0 297 64394 0
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... of a Thessalian aristocrat, spent so much time praising Castor and Pollux (the latter himself a boxer) that his patron paid him only half his fee and told him to seek the rest from the Heavenly Twins. Hamilton knows this story, but does not draw the consequence that a feature of the generic style cannot tell us something about any one exponent unless it is ...

Class Traitor

Edward Pearce, 11 June 1992

Maverick: The Life of a Union Rebel 
by Eric Hammond.
Weidenfeld, 214 pp., £16.99, March 1992, 0 297 81200 9
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... ancients, the white carthorse on the steps of Number Ten is dust with Bellerophon, the horse of Alexander. A cruel memory of that age lingers, the TUC trip to Poland at the height of Party-military repression in that country. It was a jaunt which the EEPTU opposed – violently of course, it never did things otherwise – which Mr Basnett approved and of ...

Reel after Seemingly Needless Reel

Tony Wood: Eisenstein in Mexico, 3 December 2009

In Excess: Sergei Eisenstein’s Mexico 
by Masha Salazkina.
Chicago, 221 pp., £27.50, April 2009, 978 0 226 73414 9
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... a Jack London story; it was while working on this that he met Alexandrov, who played an American boxer. But there is little in Eisenstein’s stage designs to suggest he was familiar with Mexican culture: that came later in the 1920s, through Russian literary depictions of Mexico – Ilya Ehrenburg’s Adventures of Julio Jurenito and Mayakovsky’s My ...


Thomas de Waal: War in the North Caucasus, 3 November 2005

... on world politics, threatening his enemies and then promising them extravagant pardons. An ex-boxer with no education, he is said, like the late Uday Hussein, to have a taste for personally torturing his enemies. Putin supports the Kadyrovtsy because they do the bulk of his dirty work for him. In most of mountainous Chechnya, they are now at the forefront ...

Done Deal

Christopher Hitchens: Nixon in China, 5 April 2001

A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China 
by Patrick Tyler.
PublicAffairs, 512 pp., £11.99, September 2000, 1 58648 005 7
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... Chinese leaders had learned many of the American pressure points. Indeed they had. (General Alexander Haig and Henry Kissinger are only two of Christopher’s Foggy Bottom predecessors to have franchised their expertise in this way.) Warren Christopher returned to Washington to find that Clinton was determined to dump the ‘linkage’ policy on which ...

Flying Mud

Patrick Parrinder, 8 April 1993

The Invisible Man: The Life and Liberties of H.G. Wells 
by Michael Coren.
Bloomsbury, 240 pp., £20, January 1993, 0 7475 1158 6
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... great powers were preoccupied with slaughter in the Belgian Congo and the Philippines and with the Boxer Rebellion in China. Part of Wells’s originality was to see these scattered conflicts of the old century as harbingers of a new epoch of world wars. The nightmarish weaponry of a technological age was grotesquely foreshadowed in The War of the ...


Liam McIlvanney: The House of Blackwood, 5 June 2003

The House of Blackwood: Author-Publisher Relations in the Victorian Era 
by David Finkelstein.
Pennsylvania State, 199 pp., £44.95, April 2002, 0 271 02179 9
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... might be inclined to argue that his talents were mainly physical. At Oxford he made his name as a boxer. He studied in hectic bursts in the lulls between strenuous debauches (he coined the word ‘hedonist’) and prodigious feats of athleticism. He was forever knocking people down and leaping across rivers. De Quincey, Wilson’s contemporary at ...

Olivier Rex

Ronald Bryden, 1 September 1988

by Anthony Holden.
Weidenfeld, 504 pp., £16, May 1988, 0 297 79089 7
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... in 1940, Olivier and Vivien Leigh went to lick their wounds for a month in Vermont with ‘the Alexander Woollcotts’. The English period equivalent would be a month in the country with the Beverley Nicholses. Holden is sometimes forgetful, evacuating the wartime Old Vic in one chapter to Burnley, in the next to Barnsley, and poor at sums. He gives the ...


Ben Anderson: In Afghanistan, 3 January 2008

... from behind a fruit and vegetable stall, giving the gunner no time to shoot him. Sergeant Simon Alexander and Lance Corporal Jack Mizon had been in the only other vehicle and had to treat the casualties themselves since there was no medic with them. ‘Sergeant Wilkinson died straight away,’ Jack Mizon said. ‘Sergeant Black got a piece of shrapnel in ...

Memories of Amikejo

Neal Ascherson: Europe, 22 March 2012

... flow by; a long night of chaos and desolation will pass. Those resonant, vatic words come from Alexander Herzen, the Russian democratic exile, and he wrote them shortly after the failure of the 1848 Revolutions in Europe. The old empires had reasserted control. But Herzen knew that 1848 spelled their ultimate doom, even though it was not to come for ...

One Summer in America

Eliot Weinberger, 26 September 2019

... Kremlin connections. In May, Papadopoulos got drunk at a London wine bar and told the story to Alexander Downer, former leader of the Australian Liberal Party and then high commissioner to the UK. In June, Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort held a secret meeting with Russians at Trump Tower. In July, after the hacking of the Democratic ...

Worse than a Defeat

James Meek: Shamed in Afghanistan, 18 December 2014

The Good War: Why We Couldn’t Win the War or the Peace in Afghanistan 
by Jack Fairweather.
Cape, 488 pp., £20, December 2014, 978 0 224 09736 9
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Investment in Blood: The True Cost of Britain’s Afghan War 
by Frank Ledwidge.
Yale, 287 pp., £10.99, July 2014, 978 0 300 20526 8
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British Generals in Blair’s Wars 
edited by Jonathan Bailey, Richard Iron and Hew Strachan.
Ashgate, 404 pp., £19.95, August 2013, 978 1 4094 3736 9
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An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict 1978-2012 
by Mike Martin.
Hurst, 389 pp., £25, April 2014, 978 1 84904 336 6
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... the British armed forces ‘punch above their weight’. ‘This was like telling a lightweight boxer he can only hit his oncoming heavyweight opponent by punching sideways … The army embraced the manoeuvre myth for it gave a veneer of plausibility to an otherwise militarily meaningless proposition.’ Both these traits – the upper echelons of the ...

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