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English Changing

Frank Kermode, 7 February 1980

The State of the Language 
edited by Leonard Michaels and Christopher Ricks.
California, 609 pp., £14.95, January 1980, 0 520 03763 4
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... the Common Market. It is no coincidence that the best political styles belong to Enoch Powell, Anthony Wedgwood-Benn and Michael Foot, all men ‘committed to working on and defending the idea of the United Kingdom’. As it happens, Mr Powell himself contributes a piece on ‘The Language of Politics’, in which he concludes that although speeches are ...

Light Entertainment

Andrew O’Hagan: Our Paedophile Culture, 8 November 2012

... theme, boys, children, whatever, and in 1946 Methuen published a book written by Gamlin and Anthony Gilbert called Don’t Be Afreud! A Short Guide to Youth Control (The Book of the Weak). The book is just about as funny as it wants to be, with author photographs (‘aged 7 and 8 approx’) and a caption: ‘The authors on their way to the ...

I Don’t Know Whats

Colin Burrow: Torquato Tasso, 22 February 2001

Jerusalem Delivered 
by Torquato Tasso, translated by Anthony Esolen.
Johns Hopkins, 490 pp., £50.50, November 2000, 0 8018 6322 8
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... went by without either another edition of Hoole or a new verse translation. There were versions by parsons, librarians and retired sea captains; there were versions in blank verse, in couplets, in Spenserian stanzas. And then they dried up. Now the word is that Tasso is dull, that he is Ariosto in corsets, a slave to the Inquisition, a servile Neoclassicist, a ...


John Sutherland: The pushiness of young men in a hurry, 5 May 2005

by Tom Maschler.
Picador, 294 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 330 48420 6
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British Book Publishing as a Business since the 1960s 
by Eric de Bellaigue.
British Library, 238 pp., £19.95, January 2004, 0 7123 4836 0
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Penguin Special: The Life and Times of Allen Lane 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Viking, 484 pp., £25, May 2005, 0 670 91485 1
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... Constable, George Smith, John Blackwood, George Routledge, Frederick Macmillan, David Garnett, Ian Parsons, Allen Lane. It was one of the most highly regarded of today’s younger publishers, Peter Straus (now an agent), who commissioned the book. None of these coat-brushers of genius is a household name: most publishers remain invisible. And many of ...

Sing, Prance, Ruffle, Bellow, Bristle and Ooze

Armand Marie Leroi: Social Selection, 17 September 1998

The Handicap Principle 
by Amotz Zahavi and Avishag Zahavi.
Oxford, 286 pp., £18.99, October 1997, 0 19 510035 2
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The Social Animal 
by W.G. Runciman.
HarperCollins, 230 pp., £14.99, February 1998, 0 00 255862 9
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... equations – they are advancing sociological knowledge.’ Here Runciman picks on Talcott Parsons, echoing C. Wright Mills’s memorable skewering of the Harvard sociologist’s mock profundities. But he might just as well have picked on a fresher target, Jürgen Habermas, say. Still, this surely hints that Runciman intends The Social Animal to do ...

My Millbank

Seumas Milne, 18 April 1996

The Blair Revolution: Can New Labour Deliver? 
by Peter Mandelson and Roger Liddle.
Faber, 274 pp., £7.99, February 1996, 0 571 17818 9
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... one Labour MP says gleefully. ‘It is a work of utter risibility. Mandelson wanted to be the new Anthony Crosland and has instead become a figure of ridicule.’ This is to underestimate not so much the literary merit, but the political seriousness of the New Labour ‘project’ delineated in the book. Despite the last-minute filleting of the text by the ...

The Man Who Never Glared

John Pemble: Disraeli, 5 December 2013

Disraeli: or, The Two Lives 
by Douglas Hurd and Edward Young.
Orion, 320 pp., £20, July 2013, 978 0 297 86097 6
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The Great Rivalry: Gladstone and Disraeli 
by Dick Leonard.
I.B. Tauris, 226 pp., £22.50, June 2013, 978 1 84885 925 8
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Disraeli: The Romance of Politics 
by Robert O’Kell.
Toronto, 595 pp., £66.99, February 2013, 978 1 4426 4459 5
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... out of sympathy with horsey aristocrats, rustic squires, dissolute half-pay officers, high and dry parsons and Romantic intellectuals. He wants to promote men like his father and grandfather – sober, hard-working, hard-headed industrialists with the Bible in one hand and The Wealth of Nations in the other. Byron doesn’t fit, so Peel leaves him out of his ...

Joining up

Angus Calder, 3 April 1986

Soldier, Soldier 
by Tony Parker.
Heinemann, 244 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 434 57770 7
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Echoes of the Great War: The Diary of the Reverend Andrew Clark 1914-1919 
edited by James Munson.
Oxford, 304 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 19 212984 8
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The Unknown Army: Mutinies in the British Army in World War One 
by Gloden Dallas and Douglas Gill.
Verso, 178 pp., £18.50, July 1985, 0 86091 106 3
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Soldiers: A History of Men in Battle 
by John Keegan and Richard Holmes.
Hamish Hamilton, 288 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 241 11583 3
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... Great Leighs. Clark was an obsessive scholar in the great tradition of mildly eccentric Anglican parsons. The son of a Scottish farm labourer who found his way via Dollar Academy to a double first at Balliol, he edited Anthony à Wood and Aubrey’s Brief Lives and then turned to the history of Essex, sending volume after ...

What’s not to like?

Stefan Collini: Ernest Gellner, 2 June 2011

Ernest Gellner: An Intellectual Biography 
by John Hall.
Verso, 400 pp., £29.99, July 2010, 978 1 84467 602 6
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... not have seemed so telling had he chosen to compare his teacher to Marx or Durkheim or Pareto or Parsons. A second-order characteristic that Gellner shared with Weber was the way his work and career fell across several conventionally defined disciplines. An obituary tribute to Gellner pointed to this affinity by quoting Weber’s fine remark: ‘I am not a ...

Four Moptop Yobbos

Ian Penman, 17 June 2021

One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time 
by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, 642 pp., £9.99, March, 978 0 00 834003 2
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The Beatles and Sixties Britain 
by Marcus Collins.
Cambridge, 382 pp., £90, March 2020, 978 1 108 47724 6
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The Beatles in Context 
edited by Kenneth Womack.
Cambridge, 372 pp., £74.99, January 2020, 978 1 108 41911 6
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... summoned Dionysus and Pan, with their none hipper retinue: Kenneth Anger, Christopher Gibbs, Gram Parsons, Jean-Luc Godard. The Beatles grew sheepdog hair and Bakunin beards, and adopted the statutory exotic guru, but they never really had anything like the Stones’ sullen, dandified grandeur. The Stones were exquisites; the Beatles were Everyman. It’s the ...

Destination Unknown

William Davies: Sociology Gone Wrong, 9 June 2022

The Return of Inequality: Social Change and the Weight of the Past 
by Mike Savage.
Harvard, 422 pp., £28.95, May 2021, 978 0 674 98807 1
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Colonialism and Modern Social Theory 
by Gurminder K. Bhambra and John Holmwood.
Polity, 257 pp., £17.99, July 2021, 978 1 5095 4130 0
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A Brief History of Equality 
by Thomas Piketty.
Harvard, 272 pp., £22.95, April, 978 0 674 27355 9
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... wasn’t established until after 1945, and then only thanks to the American sociologist Talcott Parsons, who led the effort to establish sociology as a credible scientific discipline. It was during the postwar period that the original vows of modernity were most energetically renewed, in the form of expanded welfare states, the progressive planning of ...

Which play was performed at the Globe Theatre on 7 February 1601?

Blair Worden: A Play for Plotters, 10 July 2003

... that demonstrated his and the nation’s theatrical excellence. In 1600 John Bodenham’s and Anthony Munday’s miscellany Belvedere reproduced or adapted 47 passages of the play, a markedly higher figure than the total of its borrowings from the rest of Shakespeare’s plays. In the same year John of Gaunt’s dying speech was anthologised in ...

Wham Bang, Teatime

Ian Penman: Bowie, 5 January 2017

The Age of Bowie: How David Bowie Made a World of Difference 
by Paul Morley.
Simon & Schuster, 484 pp., £20, July 2016, 978 1 4711 4808 8
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On Bowie 
by Rob Sheffield.
Headline, 197 pp., £14.99, June 2016, 978 1 4722 4104 7
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On Bowie 
by Simon Critchley.
Serpent’s Tail, 207 pp., £6.99, April 2016, 978 1 78125 745 6
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Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy 
by Simon Reynolds.
Faber, 704 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 571 30171 3
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... today you can choose from a huge selection of books on any given cult figure (Nick Drake, Gram Parsons, Syd Barrett etc). In the days when such figures were active you had to be satisfied with an occasional music-press annual, or the lyrics printed in your girlfriend’s Jackie, or, if you were really lucky, a title like The Sociology of Riff (no photos or ...

The Tower

Andrew O’Hagan, 7 June 2018

... Victoria King, who was 71, and her daughter Alexandra Atala, on the 20th floor, never made it out. Anthony Disson, 65, a former bin man and Fulham fan, left it very 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 ...

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