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‘Double y’im dees’

Christopher Tayler: Ben Fountain, 2 August 2012

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk 
by Ben Fountain.
Canongate, 307 pp., £16.99, July 2012, 978 0 85786 438 3
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... The main thing that Googling will tell you about Ben Fountain is that he’s – depending on your point of view – a slow learner, a model of staying power and resilience, a maniacal perfectionist, or a living vindication of underachieving literary househusbands. That’s because the journalistic handle on him, established by Malcolm Gladwell in a New Yorker piece, is that he wrote fiction full-time for 18 years before publishing his first book ...


Will Self: On the Common, 25 February 2010

... scrag-end of grass, pinioned by Charles Barry’s impressively ugly Woman of Samaria, a statue-cum-fountain that features a pious looking Late Victorian nudie menacing a crippled crone with a ewer. I’ve never actually seen so much as a piddle of water emerge from Barry’s fountain, which, as statuary commissions go, must ...

Godmother of the Salmon

John Bayley, 9 July 1992

‘Rain-Charm for the Duchy’ and other Laureate Poems 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 64 pp., £12.99, June 1992, 0 571 16605 9
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... their cunning ways: they were not Poets Laureate. Who was? Well, the first is usually said to be Ben Jonson, followed by D’Avenant and Dryden, who was given the title officially. Then came Shadwell, Tate, Rowe, Eusden (who celebrated the Duke of Newcastle from whom he received the office and ‘sleeps among the dull of ancient days’ in Pope’s ...


Diarmaid MacCulloch: Anti-Semitism, 10 June 2010

Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England 
by Anthony Julius.
Oxford, 811 pp., £25, February 2010, 978 0 19 929705 4
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... Israel Spreads its contagion in your English blood; Teeming corruption rises like a flood Whose fountain swelters in the womb of hell. Your Jew-kept politicians buy and sell In markets redolent of Jewish mud, And while the ‘Learned Elders’ chew the cud Of liquidation’s fruits, they weave their spell. That is Lord Alfred Douglas on Judaism, further ...

The Art of Self-Defeat

Noël Annan, 19 July 1984

Faces of Philip: A Memoir of Philip Toynbee 
by Jessica Mitford.
Heinemann, 175 pp., £9.95, July 1984, 0 434 46802 9
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... struck by the quite exceptional devotion of those who did. They found him lovable; and when he and Ben Nicolson founded a luncheon club they flocked to it. He was affectionate and generous, marvellously funny but convinced that the world in which he lived was insufferable and that he must do what he could to save it. One or two of his close friends may have ...


Layla Al-Zubaidi: In Syria, 24 May 2012

... Say Yes to Syria.’ ‘How could anyone be stupid enough to think he’d just leave like Ben-Ali or Mubarak?’ the driver asked, waving his hand dismissively. ‘The Assads’ arses are stuck to their chairs with superglue.’ When protesters began playing around with the family name, they were striking at the symbolic pillars of ‘Assad’s ...


Donald Davie, 2 February 1984

A World of Difference 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.95, June 1983, 0 7011 2693 0
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... cat watching me. Two topazes with ears. ... I tilt up and pan along my trail of mountains from Ben More Coigach all the way to Quinag. An old ewe brings me down to the earth she stamps her forefoot on. I look at her implacable whisky and soda eyes. She knows all a sheep needs to know: she’s a black-stockinged bluestocking. And a spinnaker line has ...

Into the Southern Playground

Julian Bell: The Suspect Adrian Stokes, 21 August 2003

'The Quattro Cento’ and ‘Stones of Rimini’ 
by Adrian Stokes.
Ashgate, 668 pp., £16.99, August 2002, 0 7546 3320 9
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Art and Its Discontents 
by Richard Read.
Ashgate, 260 pp., £35, December 2002, 0 7546 0796 8
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... lustres and frangibilities of rocks. Stones have differing senses of saturation: ‘The granite fountain seems impervious, the water glassy: the limestone or marble fountain, on the other hand, seems to become organic beneath the water, to be sluiced, refreshed . . . The water is the finery of a caressing mother.’ You ...

Saint Shakespeare

Barbara Everett, 19 August 2010

... contemporaries, it was perhaps because freer methods allowed him to encompass a wider sphere. Ben Jonson mocked Shakespeare’s ascribing a sea-coast to Bohemia, but such locations recurred throughout his world: it was a place where the random felt at home and the uncontrollable was ordered into art. Hence the startling but true forms of Hamlet, Antony ...

Il Duce and the Red Alfa

Bee Wilson: Clara and Benito, 16 March 2017

Claretta: Mussolini’s Last Lover 
by R.J.B. Bosworth.
Yale, 312 pp., £18.99, February 2017, 978 0 300 21427 7
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... locket Mussolini had given her. Inscribed in it were the words: ‘Clara, I am you and you are me. Ben 24 April 1932-24 April 1941.’ What Claretta and Mussolini had in common, apart from sex, was a deep certainty that Mussolini was the greatest leader the world had seen since the death of Napoleon. When things went wrong, it was always someone else’s ...


Jay Griffiths: The Mayday protest in London (2000), 22 June 2000

... at the top and children hop round it. Someone sand-sculpts a huge-breasted Gaia opposite Big Ben and another makes a six-foot-long penis with pubic hair of straw. The statues are decorated. Lord Derby has a spliff in his hand. Jan Smuts is wearing a cycling mask. Churchill has his famous grass mohican and ‘murderer’ painted on the plinth by the ...

My Stars

Graham Hough, 21 March 1985

The Magical Arts 
by Richard Cavendish.
Arkana, 375 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 1 85063 004 6
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Astrology and the Third Reich: A Historical Study of Astrological Beliefs in Western Europe since 1700 and in Hitler’s Germany 1933-45 
by Ellic Howe.
Aquarian, 253 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 85030 397 4
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The Astrology of Fate 
by Liz Greene.
Allen and Unwin, 370 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 04 133012 9
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Dreams, Illusion and Other Realities 
by Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty.
Chicago, 361 pp., £21.25, June 1984, 0 226 61854 4
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Fruits of the Moon Tree: The Medicine Wheel and Transpersonal Psychology 
by Alan Bleakley.
Gateway Books, 311 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 946551 08 1
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... to appear. Life is to be one long dive into the hidden depths, and anything we find there will be ben trovato. The ocean in which we are to plunge is the Jungian collective unconscious. This concept has been the cause of more misunderstandings, in adherents and opponents alike, than anything else in Jung’s thought. The commonest misdirection is to forget ...


Jonathan Rée: Automata, 9 May 2002

Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen 
by Barbara Maria Stafford and Frances Terpak.
Getty, 416 pp., £30, February 2002, 0 89236 590 0
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The Secret Life of Puppets 
by Victoria Nelson.
Harvard, 350 pp., £20.50, February 2002, 0 674 00630 5
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Living Dolls: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life 
by Gaby Wood.
Faber, 278 pp., £12.99, March 2002, 0 571 17879 0
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... Her discussion of automata opens with a 17th-century engraving that lays bare the workings of a fountain where Galatea pirouetted on a sea-shell while a frustrated Polyphemus played on his pipes. She also describes some of the musical automata built by Jacques de Vaucanson in the 1730s. Audiences were impressed by their musicianship at the time, but since ...

Chop and Burn

Adam Mars-Jones: Annie Proulx, 28 July 2016

by Annie Proulx.
Fourth Estate, 717 pp., £18.99, June 2016, 978 0 00 723200 0
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... as a fact and as a necessary symbol is played out in the apparently endless hunt for Old Ben, a bear with a mangled foot and a ‘long legend’ of destructiveness that haunts the imagination of young Ike McCaslin: It ran in his knowledge before he ever saw it. It loomed and towered in his dreams before he even saw the unaxed woods where it left its ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... Castroite. FitzGerald handed AMLASH a specially-designed assassination weapon in the shape of a fountain pen, and discussed the modalities of termination. Emerging onto the wintry boulevards, he found that his own President had been murdered. A bit of a facer.Conspiracy is, more than any other human activity, subject to the law of unintended consequences ...

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