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The Beast on My Back

Gerald Weissmann, 6 June 1996

The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 
by Allan Young.
Princeton, 327 pp., £28, March 1996, 0 691 03352 8
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... self-revealing on the aching whitewashed ceiling. Do you wonder that we drug ourselves from pain? Allan Young, in his scholarly study of the ‘invention’ of PTSD, would disagree with the notion that it has always been with us, arguing that ‘the traumatic memory is a man-made object. It originates in the scientific and clinical discourses of the 19th ...

The Railway Hobby

Ian Jack, 7 January 2021

... On​ a wet and windy Saturday in October a few regulars of the Ian Allan Book and Model Shop gathered inside the premises for the last time. The shop – on Lower Marsh, behind Waterloo Station – would soon be a memory, like many things to do with the railway hobby. One or two customers chatted to the soon to be redundant staff ...

Pretty Letters

Megan Marshall: The Death of Edgar Allan Poe, 21 February 2008

Poe: A Life Cut Short 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Chatto, 170 pp., £15.99, February 2008, 978 0 7011 6988 6
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... surprise to find the prolific genre-bender Peter Ackroyd beginning his brief biography of Edgar Allan Poe with a recounting of his subject’s final days. Never mind that Paul Strathern’s recent biographical study, Poe in 90 Minutes, and a new novel by Matthew Pearl, The Poe Shadow, made the same opening gambit. It is a span of six days that has baffled ...

Too Young

James Davidson: Lord Alfred Douglas, 21 September 2000

Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas 
by Douglas Murray.
Hodder, 374 pp., £20, June 2000, 0 340 76770 7
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... and without any trace of talent for it – as filthy buggers or sodomites or corrupters of young boys. Others he labelled dirty pigs or hogs or in one case ‘Irish Pig-Doctor’, and promised all and sundry a thrashing within an inch of ‘your dirty life’, more specifically a ‘horsewhipping’ or a ‘dog-whipping’, depending on their ...

A History

Allan Massie, 19 February 1981

The Kennaway Papers 
by James Kennaway and Susan Kennaway.
Cape, 141 pp., £5.50, January 1981, 0 224 01865 5
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... is to Kennaway as fog to Dickens). There he finds his son-in-law, son and various rich young men, drinking Bloody Marys, which they call Club’s Blood. ‘It’s the best Bloody Mary in the world,’ he is told. ‘The doctor thought, the Bloody Marys only seem stronger because it is so cold, so very cold outside, with that wind blowing across the ...

Two Ships

Andrew O’Hagan, 6 March 1997

... killed the lady, cut her up and buried her in the coal bunker. He then took up with his lover, a young thing called Ethel le Neve. Like many murders before and since, the one carried out by Dr Crippen came to be seen as a reflection on and of its time. All manner of local customs, fashions, ways of speaking, ways of believing, ways of wanting, seemed to come ...

Poe’s Woes

Julian Symons, 23 April 1992

Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance 
by Kenneth Silverman.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £25, March 1992, 9780297812531
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... case against Edgar A. Poe looks a strong one. Taken in by the Richmond tobacco broker John Allan when left orphaned at the age of two by the death of his actress mother Eliza, brought up as a member of the family and sent to the University of Virginia, he responded by running up gambling debts and drinking, so that he left after a year. Abandonment ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Nephews and Daughters, 23 January 2003

... had known. Bromhall’s explosive theory could probably be found to apply to the Granta Best of Young British Novelists list, which was announced earlier this month, to muted fanfare. Interestingly, the people who were least enthusiastic about the list appeared to be the people who’d compiled it. The Today programme tried to get a dispute going between ...

Bad Nights

D.A.N. Jones, 23 October 1986

The Casualty 
by Heinrich Böll, translated by Leila Vennewitz.
Chatto, 189 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780701129286
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by Allan Massie.
Bodley Head, 339 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 370 30757 7
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Gabriel’s Lament 
by Paul Bailey.
Cape, 331 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 224 02823 5
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The Mind and Body Shop 
by Frank Parkin.
Collins, 221 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 00 217695 5
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... had come to respect him as a Roman Catholic pacifist, a Nobel Prizeman speaking measured words to young idealists. We may have forgotten the work of his youth, the two post-war novels based on his experience of service with the German Army in Russia. The 22 stories in The Casualty were written in the immediately post-war period, 1946 to 1952, so that they are ...


John Upton: George Carman, 9 May 2002

No Ordinary Man: A Life of George Carman 
by Dominic Carman.
Hodder, 331 pp., £18.99, January 2002, 0 340 82098 5
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... of its readers, there is nothing unusual in an ageing QC using his money and position to gain young admirers; nor about a gap between perceptions of the public and the private man. Yet, despite the excesses to which some barristers are prone, it is almost unknown for them to become notorious for their bacchanalian lifestyles. So why is it that George ...

Five Girls on a Rock

Allan Gibbard: Derek Parfit, 7 June 2012

On What Matters 
by Derek Parfit.
Oxford, 540 pp. and 825 pp., £30, May 2011, 978 0 19 926592 3
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... that when intuition is rendered coherent, it supports utilitarianism. When Parfit and I were young in the 1960s, utilitarianism or something close to it was widely accepted among leading moral philosophers. Parfit developed his astoundingly original early ideas in Reasons and Persons (1984), where he examined the logic of alternative forms of ...

Persons outside the Law

Catherine Hall: The Atlantic Family, 19 July 2018

Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833 
by Daniel Livesay.
North Carolina, 448 pp., £45, January 2018, 978 1 4696 3443 2
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... Indies. The family had been Jacobites and urgently needed to repair their finances. His father, Allan, had failed to make a fortune in the East Indies and William knew he had to make good. They had kin on his mother’s side, Frasers, living in Berbice in Dutch Guyana, and so the West Indies seemed the next best possibility. He was appointed as an overseer ...

Thom Gunn in New York

Michael Nott, 22 October 2020

... the new hub of gay life after Stonewall. One night at the International Stud he ran into the young August Kleinzahler – out on a bar crawl with his gay older brother – who later described him as ‘a tall, handsome-looking galoot in a T-shirt and leather vest, with lurid tattoos on his arms. He didn’t look like any sort of poet to me, more like a ...

A Moustache Too Far

Danny Karlin: Melville goes under, 8 May 2003

Herman Melville: A Biography. Vol. II: 1851-91 
by Hershel Parker.
Johns Hopkins, 997 pp., £31, May 2002, 0 8018 6892 0
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... a terrible shock: instead of the ‘white-haired, sweet Singer’ of his imagination, he sees ‘a young man, uncouth, short, thickset and myopic, with a red nose shaped like a snail-shell and a black goatee’. The fantasy Bergotte vanishes, but the caricature that replaces him is not intrinsically more ‘real’. Time radiates in two directions, or ...

Handfuls of Dust

Richard Cronin: Amit Chaudhuri, 12 November 1998

Freedom Song 
by Amit Chaudhuri.
Picador, 202 pp., £13.99, August 1998, 0 330 34423 4
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... more and more into them. Rushdie infected the Indian novel with a similar disease. Novels like I. Allan Sealy’s The Trotter-nama, and Shashi Tharoor’s The Great Indian Novel are driven by a frantic ambition to include within their pages all of India and all of its history. In Amit Chaudhuri’s Freedom Song, however, not much happens, although even this ...

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