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A Poke of Sweeties

Andrew O’Hagan: Neal Ascherson’s Magnificent Novel, 30 November 2017

The Death of the ‘Fronsac’ 
by Neal Ascherson.
Apollo, 393 pp., £18.99, August 2017, 978 1 78669 437 9
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... seem curious now. ‘When the dance was over,’ Edward Gaitens writes in his best-known novel, Neil asked her to come to the door for a breath of fresh air. It was a starry moonlit night flecked with thin racing clouds. Laura said she was tired and was going home. Neil did not propose to see her home but when she left ...

What did you expect?

Steven Shapin: The banality of moon-talk, 1 September 2005

Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth 
by Andrew Smith.
Bloomsbury, 308 pp., £17.99, April 2005, 0 7475 6368 3
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... in January 1972 at the Old Vic, Jumpers came two and a half years after the Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men on the Moon and less than a year before the Apollo 17 astronauts Jack Schmitt and Gene Cernan became the last. Between July 1969 and December 1972, 21 astronauts left on Apollo missions to put men on the ...

Après Brexit

Ferdinand Mount, 20 February 2020

... with the broadcasting media. Ministers are now instructed not to talk to awkward interviewers like Andrew Neil or appear on shows with an alleged anti-government bias, like the Today programme. There are to be new restrictions on the parliamentary lobby’s access to briefings from the PM’s spokesperson, thus making it possible to freeze out unfavoured ...

Fine Women

Neil Rennie, 6 July 1989

The Pacific since Magellan. Vol. III: Paradise Found and Lost 
by O.H.K. Spate.
Routledge, 410 pp., £40, January 1989, 0 415 02565 6
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Captain Bligh: The Man and his Mutinies 
by Gavin Kennedy.
Duckworth, 321 pp., £14.95, April 1989, 0 7156 2231 5
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The Sublime Savage: James Macpherson and the Poems of Ossian 
by Fiona Stafford.
Edinburgh, 208 pp., £22.50, November 1988, 0 85224 569 6
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... The evidence to add to the boots comes rather later, with the quotation of a recollection by Andrew Gallie, at whose manse Macpherson arrived in 1760 with ‘two Ponies laden’ with some of the ‘old Manuscripts’ which the literati had sent him travelling to gather, and from which he was required to produce the promised lost Caledonian ...


Conor Gearty: On Michael Collins, 28 November 1996

... has emerged, which threatens to bar our family’s return to its amnesiac state. Michael Collins, Neil Jordan’s film, is not about us as a family, but we are part of its revolutionary story and provide much of its romance. In May 1917, Michael Collins came down for a few days to Longford, one of those anonymous midland counties that tourists in Ireland pass ...


Andrew O’Hagan, 5 October 1995

Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-56 
edited by Ann Charters.
Viking, 629 pp., £25, August 1995, 0 670 84952 9
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... a melting Richard Nixon; an early episode of I Love Lucy; a dinner-table scene from The Waltons; Neil Armstrong’s One Small Step; the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald; the pilot show of Roseanne. Each viewer wore headphones; all you could hear was the giggles and gasps. On my little TV, where the picture was jumpy at first, was Jack Kerouac. He was ...

I’m being a singer

Andrew O’Hagan: Dandy Highwaymen, 8 October 2020

Sweet Dreams: The Story of the New Romantics 
by Dylan Jones.
Faber, 663 pp., £20, October, 978 0 571 35343 9
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... of Morrissey to ‘blur’ his sexuality, to keep himself mysterious. (‘The first time I heard Neil Tennant describe the Pet Shop Boys as a gay band … I wished he hadn’t,’ Almond is quoted as saying in Jones’s book.) But time alters your sense of what risk really is. Soft Cell were pouting at the lads and their fads and their bigoted old dads. It ...

Fuentes the Memorious

John Sutherland, 19 June 1986

The Old Gringo 
translated by Margaret Sayers Peden and Carlos Fuentes, by Carlos Fuentes.
Deutsch, 199 pp., £8.95, May 1986, 0 233 97862 3
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Where the air is clear 
by Carlos Fuentes, translated by Sam Hileman.
Deutsch, 376 pp., £4.95, June 1986, 0 233 97937 9
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Farewell to the Sea 
by Reinaldo Arenas, translated by Andrew Hurley.
Viking, 412 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 670 52960 5
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Digging up the mountains 
by Neil Bissoondath.
Deutsch, 247 pp., £8.95, May 1986, 0 233 97851 8
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... The prestidigitator with the big beard must be Castro, but the missing leg is mysterious. Neil Bissoondath’s Digging up the mountains is a first book and a collection of short stories. The separate pieces are linked by an embittered sense of expatriation. Bissoondath himself was born in colonial Trinidad in 1955 and emigrated to Canada in ...

Double Tongued

Blair Worden: Worshipping Marvell, 18 November 2010

Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon 
by Nigel Smith.
Yale, 400 pp., £25, September 2010, 978 0 300 11221 4
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... To the modern world Andrew Marvell is a poet. Earlier times knew him differently. From his death in 1678 until the late Victorian era he was mainly admired not for his poetry but for his politics. The 18th and 19th centuries commemorated him as the MP and prose-writer who had challenged tyranny and corruption and religious persecution in the reign of Charles II ...

How to put the politics back into Labour

Ross McKibbin: Origins of the Present Mess, 7 August 2003

... Government. The soft Left – those, broadly speaking, who cut their political teeth around Neil Kinnock – felt they had much more baggage to ditch. Unlike the Gaitskellites, they came to believe, quite reasonably, that their mix of policies was unacceptable to the electorate. The trouble was they did not know when to stop. It is the first step that ...


Alan Bennett: What I Didn’t Do in 2007, 3 January 2008

... be more of this. 23 May. Ros Chatto, my agent, calls to say I have been offered a role in the BBC Andrew Davies adaptation of Fanny Hill. She reads through this raunchy script finding no mention of the part for which I’m slated until she gets to the very final scene, where Fanny meets an old and respectable gentleman (me) whom she fucks to extinction, then ...

Mandelson’s Pleasure Dome

Iain Sinclair, 2 October 1997

... Handson management. Optimism. Good humour. That stuff. A cross between a hobbled moon walk and Neil Kinnock’s famous tumble on Brighton beach. Here’s the pitch, according to Mr Gibbons. Employment. Plenty of jobs for locals in a depressed area. The Jubilee Line extension. Life returned to the river. The defiant and cavalier spirit of free ...

Watching Me Watching Them Watching You

Andrew O’Hagan: Surveillance, 9 October 2003

... My Lai or Jimi Hendrix playing his guitar at Woodstock, or of Khrushchev’s visit to Hollywood or Neil Armstrong’s bounce on the Moon: it is Abraham Zapruder’s home-movie of President Kennedy’s assassination, a concatenation of live seconds which changed the public imagination, allowing through its innocent portals a loud proclamation about the end of ...

Redheads in Normandy

R.W. Johnson: The 1997 election, 22 January 1998

The British General Election of 1997 
by David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh.
Macmillan, 343 pp., £17.50, November 1997, 0 333 64776 9
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Labour's Landslide 
by Andrew Geddes and Jonathan Tonge.
Manchester, 211 pp., £40, December 1997, 0 7190 5159 2
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Britain Votes 1997 
edited by Pippa Norris and Neil Gavin.
Oxford, 253 pp., £12.99, January 1998, 9780199223220
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Collapse of Stout Party: The Decline and Fall of the Tories 
by Julian Crtitchley and Morrison Halcrow.
Gollancz, 288 pp., £20, November 1997, 0 575 06277 0
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Les Election Legislatives, 25 Mai-1er Juin 1997: Le president desavoue 
Le Monde, 146 pp., frs 45, June 1998Show More
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... No one this time last year would have predicted a victory for the Left in France, yet it is in a sense far easier to explain Jospin’s triumph than Blair’s. President Chirac, elected in 1995 on a promise that he would reduce unemployment, had actually done the opposite; and, faced with the need of his deeply unpopular prime minister, Alain Juppé, to squeeze the economy yet further to meet the Maastricht criteria, called a snap election simply because he feared things would get tougher by the time Parliament’s mandate ran out in 1998 ...

Christian v. Cannibal

Michael Rogin: Norman Mailer and American history, 1 April 1999

The American Century 
by Harold Evans.
Cape, 710 pp., £40, November 1998, 0 224 05217 9
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The Time of Our Time 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 1286 pp., £25, September 1998, 0 316 64571 0
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... in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where the civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were murdered in 1964. The American Century details J. Edgar Hoover’s personal and the FBI’s institutional linking of white supremacist and anti-Communist hysterias, to which America’s national police devoted far more resources than to ...

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