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Great Creatures

Christopher Small, 17 August 1989

Sacred Elephant 
by Heathcote Williams.
Cape, 175 pp., £9.95, July 1989, 0 224 02642 9
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... blueprint for every detail of an elephant, and also the power (given suitable nutrients and so forth) to produce an elephant. Moreover the parts of this blueprint will be dispersed and reassembled again to serve for the offspring of this elephant; they will survive it and pass on indefinitely (if all goes well) to generate a further series of elephants to ...

Genderbait for the Nerds

Christopher Tayler: William Gibson, 22 May 2003

Pattern Recognition 
by William Gibson.
Viking, 356 pp., £16.99, April 2003, 0 670 87559 7
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... strand. Bigend is given a number of overwritten speeches about history, memory, advertising and so forth. ‘Far more creativity, today, goes into the marketing of products than into the products themselves,’ he sagely observes. Old-fashioned ideas about artistic autonomy have fallen by the wayside of the Information Superhighway: ‘It’s as though the ...

The Vicar of Chippenham

Christopher Haigh: Religion and the life-cycle, 15 October 1998

Birth, Marriage and Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Oxford, 641 pp., £25, May 1998, 0 19 820168 0
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... little more relaxed: in 1622 he allowed ‘all those lawful customs that are used for the setting forth of the outward solemnity thereof, as meeting of friends, accompanying the bridegroom and bride both to and from the church, putting on best apparel, feasting, with other tokens of joy, for which we have express warrant out of God’s word’ – but not ...

Ruined by men

Anthony Thwaite, 1 September 1988

The Truth about Lorin Jones 
by Alison Lurie.
Joseph, 294 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 7181 3095 2
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Latecomers 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 248 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 224 02554 6
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Where the rivers meet 
by John Wain.
Hutchinson, 563 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 9780091736170
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About the Body 
by Christopher Burns.
Secker, 193 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 436 09784 2
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Stories 
by Elizabeth Jolley.
Viking, 312 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 670 82113 6
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... it was only in my own lifetime,’ ‘Trousers didn’t have metal zips in those days,’ and so forth. But the narrating Peter is not just, or even mainly, a laudator temporis acti se puero. He is also, much of the time, a man who recalls ‘the old familiar straining at the crotch’. The quotation about trousers at the end of the last paragraph is one of ...

A Martian School of two or more

James Fenton, 6 December 1979

A Martian sends a postcard home 
by Craig Raine.
Oxford, 46 pp., £2.95
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Arcadia 
by Christopher Reid.
Oxford, 50 pp., £2.75
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Love-Life 
by Hugo Williams.
Whizzard Press/Deutsch, 40 pp., £2.95
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A Faust Book 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 70 pp., £3.25, September 1979, 0 19 211895 1
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Time 
by Yehuda Amichai.
Oxford, 88 pp., £3.50
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... he is unable to distinguish between the motion of the car and that of the world outside – and so forth. But the Martian is always emotionally alert to his experience of the human condition: he watches the emotional effect of books upon the body, without having any conception of the contents of books. He observes: In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps, that ...

Homeroidal

Bernard Knox, 11 May 1995

The Husbands: An Account of Books III and IV of Homer’s ‘Iliad’ 
by Christopher Logue.
Faber, 55 pp., £6.99, October 1994, 0 571 17198 2
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... I first came across Christopher Logue’s ‘account’ of the Iliad in 1975 at Oxford where I went to hear a vigorous reading by two young men of Patrocleia, his version of Book XVI. It was an opportunity to experience the poem in its original medium, by the ear rather than the eye. Homer himself had probably chanted his verses plucking the strings of a lyre, like the bard Demodocus in the Odyssey and for many centuries after his death people did not read Homer: they listened to skilled rhapsodes, whose dramatic delivery mesmerised audiences and earned the performers ample rewards, as we know from Plato’s Ion ...

Big Books

Penelope Fitzgerald, 15 September 1988

William Morris: An Approach to the Poetry 
by J.M.S. Tompkins.
Cecil Woolf, 368 pp., £20, May 1988, 0 900821 84 1
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... the table and nobody else about, climbed on to the rocking-horse and slowly surging back and forth while the poor beast creaked, he told us a tale full of fascinating horrors, about a man who was condemned to dream bad dreams. One of them took the shape of a cow’s tail waving from a heap of dried fish. He went away as abruptly as he had come. Long ...

Posthumous Gentleman

Michael Dobson: Kit Marlowe’s Schooldays, 19 August 2004

The World of Christopher Marlowe 
by David Riggs.
Faber, 411 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 571 22159 9
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Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground 
by Roy Kendall.
Fairleigh Dickinson, 453 pp., $75, January 2004, 0 8386 3974 7
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Tamburlaine Must Die 
by Louise Welsh.
Canongate, 149 pp., £9.99, July 2004, 1 84195 532 9
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History Play: The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe 
by Rodney Bolt.
HarperCollins, 388 pp., £17.99, July 2004, 0 00 712123 7
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... lords, how fare you? NAVARRE: My lord, they say That all the Protestants are massacred! This is Christopher Marlowe’s The Massacre at Paris, a play free of amateur pageants but featuring 19 onstage killings, most of them stabbings (one of an admiral whom we have already seen being shot, and another, a regicide, using an envenomed dagger). There is also ...

Further Left

R.W. Johnson, 16 August 1990

Prepared for the worst: Selected Essays and Minority Reports 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Hogarth, 357 pp., £9.99, July 1990, 0 7012 0903 8
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Blood, Class and Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Chatto, 398 pp., £18, July 1990, 0 7011 3361 9
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... Not long after, the discussion group was disbanded. The gatecrasher’s name, we learnt, was Christopher Hitchens, and he apparently did this sort of thing rather often, being famous for a sort of pyrotechnic brashness. Looking back, one realises that these were entirely apposite qualities for the successful journalist, which is very much what Hitchens ...

On the Rant

E.P. Thompson, 9 July 1987

Fear, Myth and History: The Ranters and the Historians 
by J.C. Davis.
Cambridge, 208 pp., £22.50, September 1986, 0 521 26243 7
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... in 1946-56, the realisation of which may be seen in A.L. Morton’s The World of the Ranters and Christopher Hill’s The World Turned Upside Down. At the same time, these and other historians wished to find precursors for the anti-hegemonic ‘hippy’ culture of the late 1960s, and Norman Cohn (whose membership of the CP Historians Group has gone ...

The One-Eyed World of Germaine Greer

Brigid Brophy, 22 November 1979

The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work 
by Germaine Greer.
Secker, 373 pp., £12.50, November 1979, 1 86064 677 8
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... fairly sure to hear of in the course of his schooling, you would be wise to put your money on Sir Christopher Wren. I think the equivalent holds good in Turkey. At least, I am writing this review in a school exercise-book I bought in Istanbul: the front cover bears a portrait of Mimar Sinan, and its reverse side gives a brief biography and enumerates the ...

Triumph of the Termites

Tom Nairn: Gordon Brown, 8 April 2010

The End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New Labour 
by Andrew Rawnsley.
Viking, 802 pp., £25, March 2010, 978 0 670 91851 5
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What Went Wrong, Gordon Brown?: How the Dream Job Turned Sour 
edited by Colin Hughes.
Guardian, 294 pp., £8.99, January 2010, 978 0 85265 219 0
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Broonland: The Last Days of Gordon Brown 
by Christopher Harvie.
Verso, 206 pp., £8.99, February 2010, 978 1 84467 439 8
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... dithering photo of the prime minister fronts What Went Wrong, Gordon Brown? The cover of Christopher Harvie’s book features a cartoon from the Independent: an apocalyptic lightning flash strikes and anoints David Cameron, while Brown and Alistair Darling flee London as Parliament quakes against the background of a setting sun. Andrew Rawnsley’s ...

This is the new communism

Mark Philip Bradley: Modern Vietnam, 15 December 2016

The Penguin History of Modern Vietnam 
by Christopher Goscha.
Allen Lane, 634 pp., £30, June 2016, 978 1 84614 310 6
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... AK-47s. The film documents what happens on the shooting range. The camera moves back and forth on a track behind the targets, showing the tourists being set up with weapons by Vietnamese ‘guards’ dressed in military fatigues. It captures their reactions – intense concentration, laughter and high-fives recorded by friends wielding cameras and ...

The Open Society and its Friends

Christopher Huhne, 25 October 1990

Reflections on the Revolution in Europe 
by Ralf Dahrendorf.
Chatto CounterBlast Special, 154 pp., £5.99, August 1990, 0 7011 3725 8
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... to risk one’s life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination and idealism will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands.’ One of the themes of Sir Ralf Dahrendorf’s ...

By the Width of a Street

Christopher Prendergast: Literary geography, 29 October 1998

An Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900 
by Franco Moretti.
Verso, 206 pp., £16, August 1998, 1 85984 883 4
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... a version of the family romance (the re-connecting of parents with long-lost children and so forth). What they offer is a sentimental ‘humanising’ of the city that expels disorder and heals the wounds inflicted in the urban jungle. In this contrastive reading of the two novelists, Moretti is up-front about his own preferences: ‘What can I do, I ...

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