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What sort of Scotland?

Neal Ascherson, 20 August 2014

... In culture? In the past? In its music? The musicologist and advocate of the Scots language Billy Kay feels passionately about Robert Fergusson, the wild-child poet who died in the Edinburgh bedlam at 24. In Stromness, Montrose, Lochgelly, Stirling, he recited Fergusson’s verses. And then Karine Polwart sang the song that the dying Fergusson ...

The Great Scots Education Hoax

Rosalind Mitchison, 18 October 1984

The Companion to Gaelic Scotland 
edited by Derick Thomson.
Blackwell, 363 pp., £25, December 1983, 0 631 12502 7
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Experience and Enlightenment: Socialisation for Cultural Changes in 18th-Century Scotland 
by Charles Camic.
Edinburgh, 301 pp., £20, January 1984, 0 85224 483 5
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Knee Deep in Claret: A Celebration of Wine and Scotland 
by Billy Kay and Cailean Maclean.
Mainstream, 232 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 906391 45 8
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Education and Opportunity in Victorian Scotland: Schools and Universities 
by R.D. Anderson.
Oxford, 384 pp., £25, July 1983, 0 19 822696 9
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Scotland: The Real Divide 
edited by Gordon Brown and Robin Cook.
Mainstream, 251 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 906391 18 0
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Wealth and Virtue: The Shaping of Political Economy in the Scottish Enlightenment 
edited by Istvan Hont and Michael Ignatieff.
Cambridge, 371 pp., £35, November 1983, 0 521 23397 6
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... historical dimension. Sometimes this merely means the offering of non-facts as if they were facts. Kay Carmichael criticises the rate of increase of child benefit since 1948 without recognising that it did not exist at that date, and attributes attitudes to the Scottish Poor Law which were those of the Charity Organisation Society. More serious is the use of ...

‘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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... was published his editor talked him into jettisoning a novel he’d worked on for six years. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, his first published novel, is the third he’s written. Fountain seems resigned to being seen as the slowest pen in the South so long as it’s understood that he isn’t a listless procrastinator. Interviewers tend to walk away ...

Marksmanship

John Sutherland, 14 November 1996

From Potter’s Field 
by Patricia Cornwell.
Warner, 405 pp., £5.99, June 1996, 0 7515 1630 9
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Cause of Death 
by Patricia Cornwell.
Little, Brown, 342 pp., £9.99, October 1996, 0 316 87885 5
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... appeared, Patricia (‘Patsy’) Cornwell had come a long way. Scribner acquired the first Kay Scarpetta novel, Postmortem (written in the mid-Eighties, turned down by seven publishers, revised in the late Eighties, published in 1990), for $6000. From Potter’s Field, the sixth Scarpetta novel and Cornwell’s last for Scribner, was published in ...

Fundamentally Goyish

James Wood: Zadie Smith, 3 October 2002

The Autograph Man 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 420 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 0 241 13998 8
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... sick with silly epigraphs: from Marilyn Monroe, Kafka, Lenny Bruce (who occupies an entire page), Billy Wilder, Madonna (or the ‘popular singer Madonna Ciccone’, as Smith has it, a tic that runs throughout the book), Walter Benjamin (or ‘the popular wise guy Walter Benjamin’). Each chapter has a cute digest at its head, announcing the delights on ...

Who had the most fun?

David Bromwich: The Marx Brothers, 10 May 2001

Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx 
by Stefan Kanfer.
Penguin, 480 pp., £7.99, April 2001, 0 14 029426 0
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The Essential Groucho 
by Groucho Marx, edited by Stefan Kanfer.
Penguin, 254 pp., £6.99, September 2000, 0 14 029425 2
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... practice on the road, and she was Groucho’s unhappiest real-life casualty until his wives Ruth, Kay and Eden. His first marriage, to Ruth Johnson, took a long time to unravel. She had fallen in love with his quickness. Closer up, Groucho resembled his on-stage character in ways she found disturbing. He could say ‘I want to be alone,’ in a vaguely Slavic ...

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