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14 November 1996
Lola Montez: A Life 
by Bruce Seymour.
Yale, 468 pp., £20, May 1996, 0 300 06347 4
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... used vast winnings on Jeopardy! (the US quiz show) to finance four years’ research, excitedly promises and, for all we know, delivers God’s truth about La Montez. Past biographers, according to BruceSeymour, were hoodwinked by one of the great self-inventors in an age of invention – and it would be foolish to have expected anything less of this amazing woman, the Madonna of her day, a star in ...

Brief Shining Moments

Christopher Hitchens: Donkey Business in the White House

19 February 1998
Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65 
by Taylor Branch.
Simon and Schuster, 746 pp., $30, February 1998, 0 684 80819 6
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‘One Hell of a Gamble’: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958-64 
by Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali.
Murray, 416 pp., September 1997, 0 7195 5518 3
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The Dark Side of Camelot 
by Seymour​ Hersh.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £8.99, February 1998, 9780006530770
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Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson , Bobby Kennedy and the Feud that Defined a Decade 
by Jeff Shesol.
Norton, 591 pp., £23.50, January 1998, 9780393040784
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The Year the Dream Died 
by Jules Witcover.
Warner, 512 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 446 51849 2
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Without Honor: The Impeachment of President Nixon and the Crimes of Camelot 
by Jerry Zeifman.
Thunder's Mouth, 262 pp., $24.95, November 1996, 9781560251286
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The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis 
edited by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow.
Howard, 740 pp., £23.50, September 1997, 0 674 17926 9
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Lyndon B. Johnson’s Vietnam Papers: A Documentary Collection 
edited by David Barrett.
Texas A & M, 906 pp., $94, June 1997, 0 89096 741 5
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Taking Charge: The Johnson Whitehouse Tapes 1963-64 
edited by Michael Beschloss.
Simon and Schuster, 624 pp., £20, April 1998, 0 684 80407 7
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Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes 
edited by Stanley Kutler.
Free Press, 675 pp., $30, November 1997, 0 684 84127 4
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The Other Missiles of October: Eisenhower, Kennedy and the Jupiters, 1957-63 
by Philip Nash.
North Carolina, 231 pp., £34.70, October 1997, 0 8078 4647 3
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... intellectualoids. As he did so brilliantly with Libra a decade ago, Don DeLillo has caught the tone of unwholesome adoration in his aptly-titled Underworld, and put it into the caustic mouth of Lenny Bruce, found here delivering a monologue during the Cuban missile crisis: ‘Kennedy makes an appearance in public and you hear people say, I saw his hair! Or, I saw his teeth! The spectacle’s so ...

The Wrong Stuff

Christopher Hitchens

1 April 1983
The Purple Decades 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 396 pp., £8.95, March 1983, 0 224 02944 4
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... The Me Decade and the Third Great Awakening’ The reception of Gropius and his confrères was like a certain stock scene from the jungle movies of that period. Bruce Cabot and Myrna Loy make a crash landing in the jungle and crawl out of the wreckage in their Abercrombie and Fitch white safari blouses and tan gabardine jodhpurs and stagger into a clearing. They ...

Look me in the eye

James Hall: Self-portraiture

25 January 2001
The Artist's Body 
edited by Tracey Warr and Amelia Jones.
Phaidon, 304 pp., £39.95, July 2000, 0 7148 3502 1
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Five Hundred Self-Portraits 
edited by Julian Bell.
Phaidon, 528 pp., £19.95, November 2000, 0 7148 3959 0
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Renaissance Self-Portraiture 
by Joanna Woods-Marsden.
Yale, 285 pp., £45, October 1998, 0 300 07596 0
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... and John Coplans; the sculptors Jeff Koons, Antony Gormley and Marc Quinn; the painters Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon and Jenny Saville; the performance and video artists Joseph Beuys, Rebecca Horn, Bruce Nauman, Arnulf Rainer and Matthew Barney. Their work commonly involves the display of the artists themselves in extremis: Orlan’s increasingly drastic bouts of plastic surgery; the stages of Hannah ...

How to Defect

Isabel Hilton: North Korea

10 June 2010
Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea 
by Barbara Demick.
Granta, 314 pp., £14.99, February 2010, 978 1 84708 014 1
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... the predictions of its enemies. Perhaps the first thing we should know about North Korea is that much of what we think we know is wrong, and the rest, at best, is incomplete. North Korea, as Bruce Cumings observes in North Korea: Another Country (2004), cannot be understood apart from a terrible fratricidal war that has never ended, the guerrilla struggle against Japanese imperialism in the ...

Working the Dark Side

David Bromwich: On the Uses of Torture

8 January 2015
... sleep deprivation and chained to a concrete floor, died of hypothermia. The secret programme was placed under the guidance of two former instructors in resistance to torture, James E. Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. Like the agents they supervised, Mitchell and Jessen are protected by pseudonyms, but earlier reporting in their case has made it possible to penetrate the disguise. Their strategy was to ...

Wrong Again

Bruce​ Cumings: Korean War Games

4 December 2003
... for a series of massive attacks against the North, using nuclear weapons. The journalist who has most consistently challenged the Intelligence estimates coming out of the Bush Administration has been Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. In the issue of 27 October he described how senior officials demand access to raw Intelligence before it has been vetted for accuracy and reliability by the CIA and other ...
20 May 2015
... home base in Coronado, California, Rear Admiral Samuel Perez, commander of the Carl Vinson carrier strike group, told reporters that the crew had been ordered not to talk about the burial. Captain Bruce Lindsey, skipper of the Carl Vinson, told reporters he was unable to discuss it. Cameron Short, one of the crew of the Carl Vinson, told the Commercial-News of Danville, Illinois, that the crew had ...

Big Bucks, Big Bangs

Chalmers Johnson: US intelligence and the bomb

20 July 2006
Spying on the Bomb: American Nuclear Intelligence from Nazi Germany to Iran and North Korea 
by Jeffrey Richelson.
Norton, 702 pp., £22.99, April 2006, 0 393 05383 0
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... In addition to the CIA estimates, Richelson relies primarily on standard works – John W. Lewis and Xue Litai’s China Builds the Bomb (1988), George Perkovich’s India’s Nuclear Bomb (1999), Seymour Hersh’s The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy (1991) – which he supplements with memoirs and establishmentarian or right-wing journalism. One won’t find ...

In the Egosphere

Adam Mars-Jones: The Plot against Roth

23 January 2014
Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books 
by Claudia Roth Pierpont.
Cape, 353 pp., £25, January 2014, 978 0 224 09903 5
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...  and wondering, ‘This is gross-out comedy? This is transgression? Wasn’t I doing something a whole lot more full-on in Nixon’s first term?’ Yes, he was. It’s also easy to imagine Lenny Bruce watching from the realm of the dead and thinking rather sourly that comedy is all about timing. How is it that one foul-mouthed raging sex-obsessed Jew uses bad words on stage, gets refused entry to ...

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