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Like books along a bookshelf

Mark Ridley, 9 May 1991

The Wisdom of the Genes 
by Christopher Wills.
Oxford, 351 pp., £6.99, January 1991, 0 19 286113 1
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... is to be gained by talk, particularly if it is stuffed with slogans about reductionism and holism. Christopher Wills is completely secure with genetic theory, and makes no attempt to belittle the beanbag model. The Wisdom of the Genes, a generally admirable book, suggests how modern genetics is leading evolutionary biologists away from the beanbag ...

Counting signatures

Christopher Hill, 22 January 1981

Literacy and the Social Order: Reading and Writing in Tudor and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Cambridge, 246 pp., £12.50, October 1980, 0 521 22514 0
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... may mean only that the same minority was reading far more books. Ownership of books, recorded in wills, may be no more satisfactory as an indicator. Widespread ownership of Bibles does not prove that they were read, and anyway the casual way in which books are listed in inventories makes them an unreliable source. Nor can we quantify ‘the educational ...

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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... candidly and less attractively as the ‘do-gooder’. In a thoughtful and spirited article, Garry Wills once analysed the selfish commonplaces which underly the anti-do-gooder school. He was in a strong position to do so, having been a star at William F. Buckley’s National Review even while it was heaping praise on Tom Wolfe (as it still does). Wrote ...

He don’t mean any harm

John Bayley, 28 June 1990

A.A. Milne: His Life 
by Ann Thwaite.
Faber, 554 pp., £17.50, June 1990, 0 571 13888 8
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... The Way of All Flesh, which came out in 1903, not much more than a decade before the begetting of Christopher Robin, in fact and in fiction. Milne may well have thought that he was destroying for ever that awful old father and son relationship, blowing away the tyranny and obfuscation, showing that age doesn’t matter, that nanny will give them sixpence each ...

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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... that obsession. Again, we knew some of this already. In his book The Kennedy Imprisonment, Garry Wills showed elegantly that the Cuba crisis Mark II – the missile confrontation in October 1962 – was intimately connected to the Cuba crisis Mark I – the Bay of Pigs and the incessant American-sponsored covert aggressions. Kennedy knew, in other ...

A Little Bit of Showing Off

Adam Phillips: Isherwood’s 1960s, 6 January 2011

The Sixties: Diaries 1960-69 
by Christopher Isherwood, edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 756 pp., £30, November 2010, 978 0 7011 6940 4
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... sustained his rather dutiful-sounding devotion to his swami – in a shrewd preface to the diaries Christopher Hitchens speaks of Isherwood’s ‘amazing willingness to put up with the swami’ – which seems to have replicated something of his irritated devotion to his family, while the relationship with Bachardy became his true ‘means of ...

Exact Walking

Christopher Hill, 19 June 1980

Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 
by R.T. Kendall.
Oxford, 252 pp., £12.50, February 1980, 0 19 826716 9
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... Beza’s and Perkins’s theology ‘puts the knowledge of faith within the reach of anyone who wills to be godly’. One may have temporary faith, but the elect are those who persevere in holiness. Perkins goes so far as to say that ‘the will to believe is faith’; ‘and the desire to repent, repentance itself ... God accepting the will for the ...

Glorious and Most Glorious City of the Oxyrhinchites

Christopher Kelly: Roman Egypt, 21 February 2008

City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish: Greek Lives in Roman Egypt 
by Peter Parsons.
Phoenix, 312 pp., £9.99, December 2007, 978 0 7538 2233 3
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... minority. Outsiders were exposed by their inability to do more than sign their names on documents (wills, contracts, leases) that were central to their livelihood. At the foot of otherwise competently drafted documents, their ‘tottery’ or ‘spindly’ signatures (the differences in handwriting are noted by Parsons) are the indelible marks of their ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... revolution’?Contemporary historians like Theodore Draper, Arthur Schlesinger and Garry Wills, or political journalists like Seymour Hersh, Lou Cannon and Robert Woodward, deal with this difficulty in various ways, but seldom succeed for long in firing the general consciousness. This is because they are either apologists for power ...

What’s next?

James Wood: Afterlives, 14 April 2011

After Lives: A Guide to Heaven, Hell and Purgatory 
by John Casey.
Oxford, 468 pp., £22.50, January 2010, 978 0 19 509295 0
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... punishment any more (except for Islamic fundamentalists and those Christian evangelicals who think Christopher Hitchens will go to hell), but the concept of an afterlife is still hard to throw over. The other day, my parents told me of an ageing friend who had recently abandoned his lifelong atheism and become a Christian. He told my parents, both churchgoing ...

Life Pushed Aside

Clair Wills: The Last Asylums, 18 November 2021

... And the cracks must have been visible back then too. In the first episode, the MP and broadcaster Christopher Mayhew checks himself in to Warlingham Park Hospital (over the hill from Netherne) in order to show the audience that far from being a place of ‘hopeless misery, raving, violence, weird uncanny behaviour’, the ward, with its warm ...

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 ...

Through Trychay’s Eyes

Patrick Collinson: Reformation and rebellion, 25 April 2002

The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village 
by Eamon Duffy.
Yale, 232 pp., £16.95, August 2001, 0 300 09185 0
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... found that even in London, it was a minority sect, at least until the early years of Elizabeth. Christopher Haigh, who describes himself as an ex-Methodist Anglican agnostic, decided that this revisionist band needed a leader, and headed into battle with a stream of publications that came to full fruition in English Reformations: Religion, Politics and ...

Textual theory at the bar of reason

Christopher Norris, 18 July 1985

Dialectic of Nihilism: Post-Structuralism and Law 
by Gillian Rose.
Blackwell, 232 pp., £22.50, August 1984, 0 631 13191 4
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... mystifies this process by dissolving the antinomies and recognising only a contest of wills between rival claimants to power. ‘Critique has turned into discourse as the court of theoretical reason has turned into the court of practical reason.’ Such is the consequence of Foucault’s equating all forms of knowledge with the exercise of a power ...

John McEnroe plus Anyone

Edward Said: Tennis, 1 July 1999

The Right Set: The Faber Book of Tennis 
edited by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 327 pp., £12.99, June 1999, 0 571 19540 7
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... completely professional during the past three decades, tennis deserves a place of honour in what Christopher Lasch called the culture of narcissism. A sport of skilful, well-mannered ladies and gentlemen has metamorphosed into a brutal confrontation between unpleasant, physically overdeveloped and remorselessly single-minded hitters, which is controlled by ...

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