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The Illiberal Hour

Mark Bonham-Carter, 7 March 1985

Black and White Britain: The Third Survey 
by Colin Brown.
PSI/Heinemann, 331 pp., £22.50, September 1984, 0 435 83124 0
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... a result which none of us would have foreseen. The third survey, Block and White Britain by Colin Brown, was published recently, the bulk of the fieldwork having been done in 1981/82. The author sees his main task as providing a factual base for discussion and understanding, and he is concerned to explain the methods which he followed in composing ...

Brown v. Salmond

Colin Kidd: The Scottish Elections, 26 April 2007

... Edinburgh University Student Publications and edited by the university’s student rector, Gordon Brown. Brown did not succumb to nationalism, of course, but he attempted to reformulate the Labour agenda to take account of Scotland’s national peculiarities. The Red Paper had an immediate impact on party politics. In 1976 ...

Some of them can read

Sean Wilsey: Rats!, 17 March 2005

Rats: A Year with New York’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants 
by Robert Sullivan.
Granta, 242 pp., £12.99, January 2005, 1 86207 761 4
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... Waterfront’, the mother of all New York rat pieces, by the great reporter Joseph Mitchell: The brown rat is hostile to other kinds; it usually attacks them on sight. It kills them by biting their throats or by clawing them to pieces, and, if hungry, it eats them … All rats are vandals, but the brown is the most ...

Getting on

Patricia Craig, 17 September 1987

The Golden Bird: Two Orkney Stories 
by George Mackay Brown.
Murray, 226 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 7195 4385 1
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The Upper Hand 
by Stuart Hood.
Carcanet, 186 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 85635 719 7
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Dreams of Dead Women’s Handbags 
by Shena Mackay.
Heinemann, 160 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 434 44044 2
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... the Gaedhaltacht areas of Donegal, out of apprehension about its Anglicising effect. George Mackay Brown’s Orkney is an unfamiliar, off-shore locality in which everything seems a little richer through being both concentrated and chancy. How long can its distinctive character survive? It was endangered as long ago as the last quarter of the 19th century, the ...

The Irresistible Itch

Colin Kidd: Vandals in Bow Ties, 3 December 2009

Personal Responsibility: Why It Matters 
by Alexander Brown.
Continuum, 214 pp., £12.99, September 2009, 978 1 84706 399 1
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... possesses the greatest allure for social conservatives. However, as the philosopher Alexander Brown shows in Personal Responsibility, the subject is more slippery than politicians imagine. How should society determine whether someone’s circumstances mean that they are deserving of its support rather than its condemnation? The philosophical ...

Short Cuts

David Runciman: Kaepernick Was Right, 10 March 2022

... The​ Netflix series Colin in Black and White, about the early life of the NFL quarterback and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick, begins by comparing American football to slavery. We are shown a group of Black football players having their bodies prodded and measured by white coaches, as they decide who fits the bill and who gets tossed on the scrapheap ...

Diary

Andrew O’Hagan: How the Homing Pigeons Lost Their Way, 12 December 1996

... worse, their fathers, and most elderly people use it up in the act of becoming their children. Colin Osman is a retired gentleman who lives in Cockfosters. His plumage is white and grey; his eyes are fast-moving; and his body is wonderfully puffed-up and proud. Mr Osman has devoted much of his life to the sport of pigeon-racing, just as his father did, and ...

It’s not Jung’s, it’s mine

Colin Burrow: Language-Magic, 21 January 2021

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Last Interview and Other Conversations 
edited by David Streitfeld.
Melville House, 180 pp., £12.99, February 2019, 978 1 61219 779 1
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The Carrier Bag Theory Of Fiction 
by Ursula K. Le Guin.
Ignota, 42 pp., £4.99, November 2019, 978 1 9996759 9 8
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... readers. Are you so unconsciously racist that you didn’t notice this woman or this wizard was brown-skinned? Didn’t you realise that the person you thought was an alien is actually from Earth?For Le Guin these questions almost always led back to one core idea about people. They get stuff wrong even when they want to get it right, and the more they think ...

Cumin-coated

Colin Burrow: Two Novels about Lost Bellinis, 14 August 2008

The Bellini Card 
by Jason Goodwin.
Faber, 306 pp., £12.99, July 2008, 978 0 571 23992 4
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The Bellini Madonna 
by Elizabeth Lowry.
Quercus, 343 pp., July 2008, 978 1 84724 364 5
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... the lady herself was no longer young, but well past the age of childbearing, and that her narrow brown face had the finely quilted texture that you see on the faces of ageing women in hot countries. Her robe was leaden black and the dress beneath was neither blue nor red, but a souring white. Yet it was not this that had troubled me. No, my discomfort ...

Leave them weeping

Colin Grant: Frederick Douglass, 1 August 2019

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom 
by David Blight.
Simon and Schuster, 892 pp., £30, November 2018, 978 1 4165 9031 6
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... original sin.The Constitution had classified a black man as three-fifths of a person. Like John Brown, with whom he corresponded, Douglass believed that this could only be atoned for, and abolition achieved, by the use of force. But he drew back when Brown encouraged him to join the doomed and bloody anti-slavery raid at ...

Green Pastel Redness

Colin Kidd: The Supreme Court Coup, 24 March 2022

Dissent: The Radicalisation of the Republican Party and Its Capture of the Supreme Court 
by Jackie Calmes.
Twelve, 478 pp., £25, July 2021, 978 1 5387 0079 2
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Justice on the Brink: The Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Rise of Amy Coney Barrett, and Twelve Months that Transformed the Supreme Court 
by Linda Greenhouse.
Random House, 300 pp., £22.50, November 2021, 978 0 593 44793 2
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... conservatives on the court.In the meantime, Biden has nominated Breyer’s replacement, Ketanji Brown Jackson, who would be the first Black woman justice on the court. During Breyer’s last session the court is set to rule on a Mississippi law banning almost all abortions after fifteen weeks of pregnancy. With six conservatives on the nine-person ...

Around Here

Alice Spawls: Drifting into the picture, 4 February 2016

... The museum is mottled still, and there are moments when everything seems to emerge in purple and brown, and the thin branches of the trees make a haze against the blank sky. The sensation – of the painting imposing itself on reality – must be like Wordsworth’s experience of two consciousnesses, or like the turn, as John Sturrock describes it in The ...

Growing up

Dinah Birch, 20 April 1989

Passing on 
by Penelope Lively.
Deutsch, 210 pp., £10.95, April 1989, 0 233 98388 0
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The man who wasn’t there 
by Pat Barker.
Virago, 158 pp., £10.95, March 1989, 0 86068 891 7
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The Sugar Mother 
by Elizabeth Jolley.
Viking, 210 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 670 82435 6
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Give them all my love 
by Gillian Tindall.
Hutchinson, 244 pp., £11.95, April 1989, 0 09 173919 5
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Storm in the Citadel 
by Kate Saunders.
Cape, 293 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 224 02606 2
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... her than the supposedly defiant Phil, who is chiefly interesting as a speculation on what William Brown might have been like if he’d ever been allowed to reach adolescence (‘Basically, I jus’ eat fish and chips’). Passing on speaks persuasively about the echoing spaces of remembrance, and the sad contractions of a life in which we all find ourselves ...

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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... covers. A sad, thoughtfully 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 ...

Always the Same Dream

Ferdinand Mount: Princess Margaret, 4 January 2018

Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret 
by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, 423 pp., £16.99, September 2017, 978 0 00 820361 0
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... is 15 years since she died, and memories of her are not as sharp as they were. Which makes Craig Brown’s enterprise not only a marvellous freak of literature but a matchless summoner of our yesterdays. It is a collage, montage or bricolage of glittery bits culled from two hundred biographies, authorised and unauthorised, written by cashiered gossip ...

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