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James Francken: The Booker Prize shortlist, 2 November 2000

... Were Orphans (reviewed in the LRB, 5 October and 13 April) are quoted at 2-1 and 5-2 with William Hill. And it’s difficult to fancy the four other shortlisted novelists. Trezza Azzopardi’s The Hiding Place – the 7-1 outsider and the only first novel on the list – is narrated by Dolores Gauci, a young girl whose Maltese father gambled away his Cardiff ...

Rachel and Heather

Stephen Wall, 1 October 1987

A Friend from England 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 205 pp., £9.95, August 1987, 0 224 02443 4
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The New Confessions 
by William Boyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 462 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 241 12383 6
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The Colour of Blood 
by Brian Moore.
Cape, 182 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 224 02513 9
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... it’s no surprise that Rachel, the narrator of A Friend from England, is part-owner of a Notting Hill bookshop and a reader of Stendhal; her first novel A Start in Life (1981) took its title from Balzac and had a heroine whose life was ‘ruined by literature’. Nor is Rachel unusual in feeling a strong attraction towards people for whom comfort is more ...

Fog has no memory

Jonathan Meades: Postwar Colour(lessness), 19 July 2018

The Tiger in the Smoke: Art and Culture in Postwar Britain 
by Lynda Nead.
Yale, 416 pp., £35, October 2017, 978 0 300 21460 4
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... despised David Lean. Another energetic hater, Wyndham Lewis, wrote of London in his novel Rotting Hill (1951): ‘a monstrous derelict of a city, built upon a bog and cursed with world famous fogs: every home in it has a crack from the blast of a bomb and dies at last of chronic dry rot.’ This was a commonplace opinion. Anti-urbanism had been an English ...

No Casket, No Flowers

Thomas Lynch: MacSwiggan’s Ashes, 20 April 2006

Committed to the Cleansing Flame: The Development of Cremation in 19th-Century England 
by Brian Parsons.
Spire, 328 pp., £34.95, November 2005, 1 904965 04 0
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... Street then left at Hope and into Charlotte Square, the site of the Edinburgh Book Festival. Brian Parsons’s Committed to the Cleansing Flame chronicles a ritual shift coincident with the Industrial Revolution. Just as the plough and pasture gave way to the furnace and factory, the grave has given way to the cremator. And the ‘sacred remains’, as ...


Tom Paulin: Summer in Donegal, 16 September 1999

... in the estuary below, but the fact it’s not circular, the way it’s set into the lee of the hill, makes me think it must be an old stone cabin, how old I don’t know, but it would have been inhabited by Gaelic speakers who cut hay on the two hidden meadows further up the hill, or grew potatoes or oats on them. It’s ...

Never Mainline

Jenny Diski: Keith Richards, 16 December 2010

by Keith Richards, with James Fox.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £20, October 2010, 978 0 297 85439 5
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... rather desirable white frock and all those hypocritical butterflies for the newly dead unlamented Brian), Richards’s reiterative narrative of Stones songs, gigs and internal warfare in Life was all news to me, and not all of it riveting. I see that this makes me an unlikely reviewer of Keith Richards’s autobiography. Perhaps I should have recused ...

Application for Funding

John Bossy, 23 April 1992

Francis Bacon, the State, and the Reform of Natural Philosophy 
by Julian Martin.
Cambridge, 236 pp., £35, December 1991, 0 521 38249 1
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... on ‘voluntaryism’ in the Church. So far as I can see, this is what historians like Christopher Hill and Patrick Collinson feel he ought to have said, rather than what he actually did say: indeed, like Hooker, he expressly exonerated the Puritans from preaching voluntaryism. And even if he had said it, Martin’s conclusion would still be ...

Good History

Christopher Hill, 5 March 1981

After the Reformation: Essays in Honour of J.H. Hexter 
edited by Barbara Malament.
Manchester, 363 pp., £17.95, December 1980, 0 7190 0805 0
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Puritans and Adventurers 
by T.H. Breen.
Oxford, 270 pp., £10, October 1980, 0 19 502728 0
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On History 
by Fernand Braudel, translated by Sarah Matthews.
Weidenfeld, 226 pp., £10.95, January 1981, 0 297 77880 3
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Sociology and History 
by Peter Burke.
Allen and Unwin, 116 pp., £6.95, August 1980, 0 19 502728 0
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... credit’. It is magnificent: but it needs a lot of thinking about after the dazzlement is over. Brian Levack and Linda Levy Peck write about the reign of James I, a subject to which Professor Hexter returned recently with a devastating attack on the so-called ‘revisionists’: those who believe either that the English Civil War was an accident with no ...

In Bloody Orkney

Robert Crawford: George Mackay Brown, 22 February 2007

George Mackay Brown: The Life 
by Maggie Fergusson.
Murray, 363 pp., £25, April 2006, 0 7195 5659 7
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The Collected Poems of George Mackay Brown 
edited by Brian Murray.
Murray, 547 pp., £18.99, October 2006, 0 7195 6884 6
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... the awkwardly constructed and uninvitingly written ‘literary biography’ of Brown by Rowena and Brian Murray, published in 2004, this new account is clear and stylish. Fergusson’s most arresting new material concerns his dealings with women, about which she is remarkably non-judgmental. At times, however, she seems reluctant to sift the ...


Gabriele Annan: Gish Jen’s Jokes, 6 January 2000

Who's Irish 
by Gish Jen.
Granta, 209 pp., £9.99, July 1999, 1 86207 276 0
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... Scarshill. Jen herself, we learn from the book’s jacket, was brought up in Scarsdale. Both hill and dale have very good schools, lots of delis, and lots of Jewish residents. But then the Chinese are ‘the New Jews, after all, a model minority and a Great American Success. They know they belong in the promised land.’ Mona jokes about changing the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Miami Vice’, 17 August 2006

Miami Vice 
directed by Michael Mann.
August 2006
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... want to create a world, a location which is a kind of character. This is as true of TV shows like Hill Street Blues, LA Law and NYPD Blue as it is of Miami Vice, of which Mann was the executive producer and stylistic mind, and which ran from 1984 to 1989. Of course the places in question are not quite Chicago, Los Angeles, New York or Miami, they are invented ...

Delivering the Leadership

Nick Cohen: Get Mandy, 4 March 1999

Mandy: The Authorised Biography of Peter Mandelson 
by Paul Routledge.
Simon and Schuster, 302 pp., £17.99, January 1999, 9780684851754
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... like many papers before it, was investigating how Mandelson could afford to purchase a Notting Hill home, have it done up by a minimalist designer with a maximum rate-card, while buying a £70,000 house in Hartlepool, dressing in Savile Row suits and patronising the best restaurants. (The questions have still not been answered, incidentally. We now know ...

How not to do it

John Sutherland, 22 July 1993

The British Library: For Scholarship, Research and Innovation: Strategic Objectives for the Year 2000 
British Library, 39 pp., £5, June 1993, 0 7123 0321 9Show More
The Library of the British Museum: Retrospective Essays on the Department of Printed Books 
edited by P.R. Harris.
British Library, 305 pp., £35, June 1993, 0 7123 0242 5
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... In the background, other screens glow dimly. The second plate portrays ‘Library Chief Executive Brian Lang in the entrance hall of the new building at St Pancras’. The lavishly-cravatted LCE is tilted at 45 degrees in the kind of ‘man in a force-ten gale’ snap which Brownie Box instruction leaflets used to feature in their ‘how not to do ...

English Butter

David Trotter, 9 October 1986

Englishness: Politics and Culture 1880-1920 
edited by Robert Colls and Philip Dodd.
Croom Helm, 378 pp., £25, June 1986, 0 7099 0849 0
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The Character Factory: Baden-Powell and the Origins of the Boy Scout Movement 
by Michael Rosenthal.
Collins, 335 pp., £15, August 1986, 0 00 217604 1
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Oxford and Empire: The Last Lost Cause? 
by Richard Symonds.
Macmillan, 366 pp., £29.50, July 1986, 0 333 40206 5
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... Biography, and so on. Clearly these are important ‘places’ on the ‘map’. But, apart from Brian Doyle’s account of the early years of the English Association and Philip Dodd’s brief discussion of plans for a National Theatre, we learn nothing about them: about the reasons for their establishment, about the way they worked. The preference for ...

Mysteries of Kings Cross

Iain Sinclair, 5 October 1995

Vale Royal 
by Aidan Dun.
Goldmark, 130 pp., £22.50, July 1995
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... Dylan Thomas, Nicholas Moore, to Lee Harwood’s Cable Street, Bill Griffiths’s Whitechapel and Brian Catling’s The Stumbling Block. London infected its interpreters, soliciting contributions to an open-ended project. The names of the poets were the stanzas of a continuous book. Aidan Dun’s Vale Royal, an epic based on the mysteries of Kings Cross, fits ...

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