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Better than literature

Peter Campbell, 23 April 1992

Native Tongue 
by Carl Hiaasen.
Macmillan, 325 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 9780333568293
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... We are all guilty of existence and our sheer numbers make us enemies of the good green earth. Ben Elton dabbled in these waters in Stark, and, despite the jokes, there is no reason to believe that he or Hiaasen think humans are capable of much enlightened self-interest. So, while there are plenty of human deaths and maimings in Hiaasen’s ...

Fictbites

Peter Campbell, 18 May 1989

Any Old Iron 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 339 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 09 173842 3
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The Ragged End 
by John Spurling.
Weidenfeld, 313 pp., £11.95, April 1989, 0 297 79505 8
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Higher Ground 
by Caryl Phillips.
Viking, 224 pp., £11.95, April 1989, 0 670 82620 0
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The Flint Bed 
by Christopher Burns.
Secker, 185 pp., £10.95, April 1989, 0 436 09788 5
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Stark 
by Ben Elton.
Joseph, 453 pp., £13.95, March 1989, 0 7181 3302 1
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... right. The plot sometimes creaks, though no more loudly than John Spurling’s The Ragged End or Ben Elton’s eco-farce Stark. These books try for the global range and include by reference and implication huge volumes of contemporary history. Stories which bring in two world wars or the coming eco-crisis or the sunset of Empire must break unities of ...

And then there was ‘Playtime’

Jonathan Coe: Vive Tati!, 9 December 1999

Jacques Tati 
by David Bellos.
Harvill, 382 pp., £25, October 1999, 1 86046 651 6
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... our stupidity to the comic formula, the more we have to laugh!’ And as Rowan Atkinson and Ben Elton gear up to present a special version of Blackadder as the centrepiece (apparently) of the treats on offer in the Millennium Dome, we must face up to the fact that no one seems to be more important to a nation than its most famous and beloved ...

Sunshine

David Goldie: Morecambe and Wise, 15 April 1999

Morecambe and Wise 
by Graham McCann.
Fourth Estate, 416 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 1 85702 735 3
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... of the relationship that they enjoyed with a popular audience – the element that a fan like Ben Elton has perhaps injected into his work with Richard Curtis, and which makes a series like Blackadder, with its own celebrated double act, so appealing. For McCann this professional warmth is based on a mastery of technique honed through constant ...

How Wicked – Horrid

David Blackbourn: Two Duff Kings, 15 July 1999

Young Wilhelm: The Kaiser’s Early Life, 1859-88 
by John Röhl, translated by Jeremy Gaines.
Cambridge, 979 pp., £45, October 1999, 0 521 49752 3
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... established a warm friendship with a Jewish classmate, Siegfried Sommer (the great-grandfather of Ben Elton), and initially responded well to his new surroundings. Soon, however, Wilhelm found the tough academic regime irksome. Teachers noted his tendency to digress from the subject at hand, and Hinzpeter – who continued to give him private instruction ...

A Very Active Captain

Patrick Collinson: Henricentrism, 22 June 2006

The King’s Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church 
by G.W. Bernard.
Yale, 736 pp., £29.95, November 2005, 0 300 10908 3
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Writing under Tyranny: English Literature and the Henrician Reformation 
by Greg Walker.
Oxford, 556 pp., £65, October 2005, 0 19 928333 8
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... beyond the age of 14. On my way to lecture on him in Cambridge once, I left my bike for repair at Ben Hayward’s cycle shop, happening to mention that Henry was on the menu that morning. ‘I know – great big fat bloke.’ Not conspicuously obese but with shoulders two feet too wide, an anatomical impossibility, he looms above me in Hans Eworth’s version ...

Ladurie’s Talents

G.R. Elton, 1 October 1981

The Mind and Method of the Historian 
by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, translated by Sian Reynolds and Ben Reynolds.
Harvester, 310 pp., £20, July 1981, 0 85527 928 1
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... This is the second collection of essays by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie to appear in English. The first was called The Territory of the Historian and up to a point justified its title by describing a landscape of historical investigation – rural France peopled by a peasantry engaged in earning a living and undergoing birth, disease and death, the whole benignly directed by techniques of quantification ...

Half-Timbering, Homosexuality and Whingeing

Ian Sansom: Julian Barnes, 1 October 1998

England, England 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 272 pp., £15.99, September 1998, 0 224 05275 6
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... best-kept guinea pig’ and criticised ‘her infatuation with crappy ideas’. ‘When Elton tells us that it seemed to him that she lived her life like a candle in the wind, what churl will point out that it seemed to him she lived her life more like a bloody great chandelier surrounded by flunkies and screens?’ he asked. What churl ...

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