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Hey man, we’re out of runway

Christian Lorentzen: Bad Times for Biden, 18 July 2024

The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden’s White House and the Struggle for America’s Future 
by Franklin Foer.
Penguin, 432 pp., £24, September 2023, 978 1 101 98114 6
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The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House 
by Chris Whipple.
Scribner, 409 pp., £12.99, December 2023, 978 1 9821 0644 7
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The Internationalists: The Fight to Restore American Foreign Policy after Trump 
by Alexander Ward.
Portfolio, 354 pp., £28.99, February, 978 0 593 53907 1
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... Politician and Chris Whipple’s The Fight of His Life put Biden at the centre of the story, while Alexander Ward’s The Internationalists casts the administration’s foreign policy forthrightly as a team effort. All draw on published accounts and interviews with aides and officials – some named (especially in Whipple) and others not, though their ...

Prince of the Track

James Ward: Jane Smiley, 19 October 2000

Horse Heaven 
by Jane Smiley.
Faber, 561 pp., £17.99, June 2000, 0 571 20540 2
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... too, is used to confront conventional expectations, if not to confound them. Rosalind and Alexander P. Maybrick are as bored of their wealth as they are of each other, and horse-racing offers an attractive escape from both. The novel begins and ends in their bed, and with the tight-fitting irony typical of Smiley, shopping (to stock her burgeoning ...

Still it goes on

Paul Foot, 4 November 1993

Ambushed: My Story 
by Judith Ward.
Vermilion, 177 pp., £9.99, September 1993, 0 09 177820 4
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... The answer usually gives some sort of clue as to whether their claims can be justified. In Judith Ward’s case the answer gives no clue at all. She was taken off the streets of Liverpool at half-past six one dark wet February morning in 1974. For several weeks she had been living the life of a drifter, sleeping in railway wagons off Euston Station. She had ...

Don’t pick your nose

Hugh Pennington: Staphylococcus aureus, 15 December 2005

... osteomyelitis and most wound infections after surgery. It was discovered in the late 1870s by Alexander Ogston, a surgeon at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.Alexander Fleming was studying Staphylococcus aureus when he discovered penicillin in 1928, and the first patient to be treated in the first clinical trial of the new ...

Into Your Enemy’s Stomach

Alexander Murray: Louis IX, 8 April 2010

Saint Louis 
by Jacques Le Goff, translated by Gareth Evan Gollrad.
Notre Dame, 947 pp., £61.95, February 2009, 978 0 268 03381 1
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... vary between £7000 and £14,000 annually. And it wasn’t just money. On tours to the sick ward at Royaumont (the Cistercian monastery north of St Denis that Louis and Blanche founded to commemorate Louis VIII), Louis might be seen à la St Francis, hugging a leper whose faced oozed with pus. One reason Le Goff is the most widely read of European ...

Mastering the Art of Understating Your Wealth

Thomas Keymer: The Tonsons, 5 May 2016

The Literary Correspondences of the Tonsons 
edited by Stephen Bernard.
Oxford, 386 pp., £95, March 2015, 978 0 19 870085 2
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... by the Most Eminent Hands, continued for decades and made him an arbiter of modern writing: Alexander Pope made his print debut in the 1709 miscellany, which also contained work by rising names like Anne Finch and Jonathan Swift. His sumptuous editions of classical poets in Latin or English (Catullus, Horace, Juvenal, Lucretius, Ovid, Virgil) cast ...

Bowie’s Last Tape

Thomas Jones, 4 February 2016

... but approaching death – not exactly preparing for it (nothing that stoical) or trying to ward it off (nothing that deluded), maybe just getting through the days – as a musician, by making music. The media’s obituary machine cranked into motion, with everybody – including me – feeling they had the need, and the right, to have their say. I ...

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Adam Shatz: Mass Incarceration, 4 May 2017

Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America 
by James Forman.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 306 pp., £21.98, April 2017, 978 0 374 18997 6
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... from black radio and the church to academic journals. Its most articulate exponent was Michelle Alexander, a professor of law and civil rights attorney who had at one time considered the comparison between Jim Crow and mass incarceration ‘absurd’. In her study The New Jim Crow (2010), she argued that the new version differed from the old only in ‘the ...

Under Rose’s Rule

Tim Hilton, 3 April 1980

John Ruskin and Rose La Touche: Her Unpublished Diaries of 1861 and 1867 
edited by Van Akin Burd.
Oxford, 192 pp., £6.95, January 1980, 0 19 812633 6
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... to listen to Collingwood. She rapidly realised that the view of Ruskin given by E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn in the 39-volume Library Edition, an editorial homage of a scale hither-to accorded to no English writer, was incomplete and often intentionally misleading. Among the manuscripts that Viljoen found and transcribed in those weeks was one that ...

Making history

Neal Ascherson, 21 August 1980

The Oak and the Calf 
by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Collins Harvill, 568 pp., £8.95, July 1980, 0 06 014014 3
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... them. Grant, O Lord, that I may not break as I strike! Let me not fall from Thy hand!’ (1973). Alexander Solzhenitsyn subtitles his book ‘Sketches of Literary Life in the Soviet Union’, and we feel the secondary, invisible inverted commas he claps around ‘sketches’ (read: ‘monumental memoirs’), ‘literary life’ (read: ‘mud-writhings of the ...


Peter Pomerantsev: What fascists?, 19 June 2014

... When​ Putin’s holy war began Alexey checked himself into a psychiatric ward. He had come back to Russia in 2012 after working as a journalist in London, where we met (I had just moved to London after a decade in Moscow). The protests against Putin were cresting, and change seemed imminent. ‘London is boring, everything has already happened here,’ Alexey said ...

Burning isn’t the only way to lose a book

Matthew Battles, 13 April 2000

The Library of Alexandria: Centre of Learning in the Ancient World 
edited by Roy MacLeod.
Tauris, 196 pp., £39.50, February 2000, 1 86064 428 7
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... their authors? We don’t have definitive answers to these questions, nor to many others. When Alexander founded the city in 331 BC, he hoped to see the site flourish as an example of the imperial polity he envisioned: fruitful, multicultural and economically prosperous. The city offered the best port on the Egyptian Mediterranean, and essentially the only ...

The Last Column

Hal Foster: Remnants of 9/11, 8 September 2011

... project. Then, too, there are fragments from actual art objects, such as the steel sculpture by Alexander Calder once sited in the WTC plaza; laid out on white slabs, Bent Propeller now exists in a limbo between art and ruin. (Artworks valued at $100 million were destroyed in the attacks, including an immense tapestry by Joan Miró and a wood bas-relief by ...


Greg Afinogenov: Russia in Central Asia, 25 April 2024

The Russian Conquest of Central Asia: A Study in Imperial Expansion, 1814-1914 
by Alexander Morrison.
Cambridge, 613 pp., £35.99, August 2022, 978 1 107 03030 5
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Iran at War: Interactions with the Modern World and the Struggle with Imperial Russia 
by Maziar Behrooz.
I.B. Tauris, 214 pp., £21.99, May 2023, 978 0 7556 3737 9
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... as ‘the stans’. Though in retrospect the conquest appears rapid and almost inevitable, Alexander Morrison’s study shows that it was in fact the result of a long series of contingent decisions both by central authorities and actors on the ground, driven by a logic of Russian civilisational supremacy.The justification for the conquest most commonly ...

Tricked Out as a Virgin

Bee Wilson: Respectable Enough, 4 November 2021

The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey: A True Story of Sex, Crime and the Meaning of Justice 
by Julia Laite.
Profile, 410 pp., £16.99, April, 978 1 78816 442 9
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... travel and a way out of low-paid jobs. Lapara had met di Nicotera, who was then calling himself Alexander Berard, while walking into the Métro at the Tuileries. He took her back to his ‘très chic’ hotel and introduced her to Carvelli, who invited her to come to London with him and di Nicotera, along with the two other French girls they already had in ...

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