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Down with DWEMs

John Sutherland, 15 August 1991

ProfScam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education 
by Charles Sykes.
St Martin’s, 304 pp., $9.95, December 1989, 0 312 03916 6
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Tenured Redicals: How politics has corrupted our Higher Education 
by Roger Kimball.
HarperCollins, 222 pp., $9.95, April 1991, 0 06 092049 1
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... a survey of the university scene drawn mainly from newspaper clippings and his own fantasies, Sykes offers what he terms ‘the last option available to break the tyranny of the academic culture – and the professors – over the nation’s universities, intellectual life, and, ultimately, its future’. As it happens, America’s salvation turns out to ...

Uncrownable King and Queen

Christopher Sykes, 7 February 1980

The Windsor Story 
by J. Bryan and Charles Murphy.
Granada, 602 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 246 11323 5
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... The Windsor Story, as ‘the greatest love story of the 20th century’ is here conveniently known, is essentially familiar. Whether it is seen as the tale of the fatuous young charmer and the intriguing, ambitious witch, or, as they themselves chose to present it, as the pathetic picture of two orphans of the storm, victimised by the hound Baldwin, the main facts on which it is based are widely known and the subject of little dispute ...


Charles Glass: The Levant, 8 March 2012

Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean 
by Philip Mansel.
John Murray, 480 pp., £10.99, September 2011, 978 0 7195 6708 7
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by Samir Kassir, translated by M.B. Debevoise.
California, 656 pp., £19.95, December 2011, 978 0 520 27126 5
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... to the Quai d’Orsay, Georges-Picot bequeathed another document to the Levant. He and Sir Mark Sykes, representing Great Britain, gave their names to an accord that would parcel out the Ottomans’ Arab dominions into European protectorates, or mandates, as the League of Nations euphemism had it, which eventually became states – or, as the Egyptian ...

Never the twain

Mark Amory, 4 March 1982

Evelyn Waugh, Writer 
by Robert Murray Davis.
Pilgrim Books, 342 pp., $20.95, May 1981, 0 937664 00 6
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... so many tiny shrubs that, in our opinion, the outline of the forest is lost. Our Christopher Sykes set the tone in 1975 when he described the (American) Evelyn Waugh Newsletter as ‘overloaded with pedantic debate about trifles’. I have not seen the Newsletter’s review of his official biography, but one American claimed to have counted 217 ...


Charles Glass: In Mosul, 16 December 2004

... its third most populous city, was originally awarded to France as part of Syria under the infamous Sykes-Picot Agreement. François Georges-Picot, the French delegate at the secret negotiations that divided the Ottoman Empire into British, French and Russian satrapies, laid out France’s dubious claim to Mosul and the area around it. Foreign Office notes of ...

Iraq Must Go!

Charles Glass: The Making and Unmaking of Iraq, 3 October 2002

... Declaration and what would become Lebanon and mini-Syria to France (the French zone under the Sykes-Picot agreement included Mosul, until Britain discovered its oil and placed it inside British Iraq) – it was too late. After the Armistice, the Mesopotamian tribes waited to see what the Peace Conference in Paris would offer. Miss Bell’s grasp of local ...

Got to keep moving

Jeremy Harding, 24 May 1990

Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and Post-War Pop 
by Charles Shaar Murray.
Faber, 247 pp., £7.99, November 1989, 0 571 14936 7
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by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe.
Macmillan, 400 pp., £13.95, February 1990, 0 333 53195 7
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... before it hit the ground is a familiar one in the mythology of the pop idol. It is the gist of Charles Shaar Murray’s book about Jimi Hendrix, who enjoyed a great career as a virtuoso guitar player between 1966 and 1970, when he died in a London hospital after an overdose of sleeping pills. In a sparkling homage, far more readable than most books about ...

Unmuscular Legs

E.S. Turner, 22 August 1996

The Dictionary of National Biography 1986-1990 
edited by C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 607 pp., £50, June 1996, 0 19 865212 7
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... leave things as they were until the blockage was relieved.’ The layman will surely go along with Charles Rycroft on the psychiatrist R.D. Laing, when he says: ‘It is difficult to take seriously the idea that we are all traumatised by separation from “our intra-uterine twin, lover, rival, double”, the placenta.’ The judiciary is a profession whose ...

Dummy and Biffy

Noël Annan, 17 October 1985

Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community 
by Christopher Andrew.
Heinemann, 616 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 02110 5
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The Secret Generation 
by John Gardner.
Heinemann, 453 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 434 28250 2
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Two Thyrds 
by Bertie Denham.
Ross Anderson Publications, 292 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 86360 006 9
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The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany 1933-1939 
by Wesley Wark.
Tauris, 304 pp., £19.50, October 1985, 1 85043 014 4
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... have names like Dummy Oliver, Blinker Hall, Biffy Dunderdale, Lousy Payne, Buster Milmo, Pay Sykes, Tar Robertson, Barmy Russel and Quex Sinclair (not to be confused with his successor but one, Sinbad Sinclair)? It’s no good reassuring the reader that in the transition from Victorian days, when men called even their closest friends by their ...

The World of School

John Bayley, 28 September 1989

The Brideshead Generation: Evelyn Waugh and his Friends 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Weidenfeld, 523 pp., £17.95, September 1989, 0 297 79320 9
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Osbert: A Portrait of Osbert Lancaster 
by Richard Boston.
Collins, 256 pp., £17.50, August 1989, 0 00 216324 1
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Ackerley: A Life of J.R. Ackerley 
by Peter Parker.
Constable, 465 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 09 469000 6
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... attaches to being a secret fantasy-snob and no one minds being bullied in a book. But Christopher Sykes, who saw much of Waugh in the Army, and who remained a warm friend, had to remark in his biography that ‘to the naturally weak he was as merciless as he had been in his bullying schooldays ... it always utterly disgusted me.’ Nonetheless when the ...


Charles Glass: What Osama Said, 9 March 2006

The Secret History of al-Qaida 
by Abdel Bari Atwan.
Saqi, 256 pp., £16.99, February 2006, 0 86356 760 6
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Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror 
by Michael Scheuer.
Potomac, 307 pp., £11.95, July 2005, 1 57488 862 5
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Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden 
edited by Bruce Lawrence, translated by James Howarth.
Verso, 292 pp., £10.99, November 2005, 1 84467 045 7
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Osama: The Making of a Terrorist 
by Jonathan Randal.
Tauris, 346 pp., £9.99, October 2005, 1 84511 117 6
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... have yet to heal from the Crusader wars of the last century against the Islamic world, or from the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 between France and Britain, which brought about the dissection of the Islamic world into fragments.’ Bin Laden is not fabricating Israeli oppression in the West Bank and Gaza or American interference in Islam’s ...


E.S. Turner: Kiss me, Eric, 17 April 2003

Dean Farrar and ‘Eric’: A Study of ‘Eric, or Little by Little’, together with the Complete Text of the Book 
by Ian Anstruther.
Haggerston, 237 pp., £19.95, January 2003, 1 869812 19 0
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... Gotha bomber and contributed to its destruction. It is unlikely that more recent Erics – Ambler, Sykes, Shipton, Heffer – oozed shame when signing their names. John Betjeman, in Summoned by Bells, agonises over Farrar’s ‘mawkish’ and ‘oh-so-melodious’ book through which runs a schoolboy sense of impending ‘Doom! Shivering Doom!’ The doom ...


Barbara Everett, 10 November 1988

A Sinking Island: The Modern English Writers 
by Hugh Kenner.
Barrie and Jenkins, 290 pp., £16.95, September 1988, 0 7126 2197 0
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... positions of power in publishing-houses; our true literary talents – David Jones, Basil Bunting, Charles Tomlinson and Geoffrey Hill – not forming a group, as they should, and in any case not read; and the food on British railways simply terrible (page 238: ‘Have you travelled on a British Railway? Gagged on its unthinkable food?’). Part of the impact ...

Top Grumpy’s Top Hate

Robert Irwin: Richard Aldington’s Gripes, 18 February 1999

Richard Aldington and Lawrence of Arabia: A Cautionary Tale 
by Fred Crawford.
Southern Illinois, 265 pp., £31.95, July 1998, 0 8093 2166 1
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Lawrence the Uncrowned King of Arabia 
by Michael Asher.
Viking, 419 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 670 87029 3
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... was to cheat the French of their rightful empire in Syria, which had been promised to them by the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916. This, he believed, was why The Seven Pillars of Wisdom had placed such stress on the Arabs’ achievement in liberating Damascus from the Turks. (In fact, Australian troops were first to enter the city.) Despite undertakings given ...

An Assassin’s Land

Charles Glass: Lebanon without the Syrians, 4 August 2005

... Kamal Salibi was 17, he watched the French army’s reluctant retreat from Lebanon. Under the Sykes-Picot Agreement with Britain in 1916, France had assumed a mandate, later ratified by the League of Nations, to govern Syria and Mount Lebanon. Its mission civilisatrice to the Christians of Lebanon led it to expand the borders of the Christian ...

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