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Thomas Jones: Michael Jackson’s frailties

31 March 2005
... Catching news about the Michael Jackson trial, I can’t help being reminded of a caustic song by Dan Bern, a singer less famous than Jackson by several orders of magnitude, called ‘Too Late to Die Young’. ‘The day that Elvis died was like a mercy killing,’ it begins, before turning its ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Crap Towns

23 October 2003
... has been unjustly criticised by modern society, and that it deserves to have its good conscience returned to it and defended as an essential component of a happy life.’ Still, Sam Jordison and Dan Kieran, the compilers of Crap Towns, have been pretty busy: ‘We have scoured the nation collecting nominations for Crap Towns until we could plot a Crap Map . . . The 50 towns we’ve selected for ...

Full Tilt

Thomas Jones: Peter Carey

8 February 2001
True History of the Kelly Gang 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 352 pp., £16.99, January 2001, 0 571 20987 4
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... of the Kelly Gang makes the most of both techniques.) At the end of Parcel Eight (‘24 Years’) Constable Fitzpatrick, formerly Kelly’s friend, tricks him into persuading his 16-year-old brother Dan to turn himself in – he’s wanted on a false charge of ‘Breaking & Entering & Stealing plus Intent to Rape’ – with the promise that he’ll be found not guilty. He is in fact given three ...

Back to Runnymede

Ferdinand Mount: Magna Carta

22 April 2015
Magna Carta 
by David Carpenter.
Penguin, 594 pp., £10.99, January 2015, 978 0 241 95337 2
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Magna Carta Uncovered 
by Anthony Arlidge and Igor Judge.
Hart, 222 pp., £25, October 2014, 978 1 84946 556 4
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Magna Carta 
by J.C. Holt.
Cambridge, 488 pp., £21.99, May 2015, 978 1 107 47157 3
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Magna Carta: The Foundation of Freedom 1215-2015 
by Nicholas Vincent.
Third Millennium, 192 pp., £44.95, January 2015, 978 1 908990 28 0
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Magna Carta: The Making and Legacy of the Great Charter 
by Dan Jones.
Head of Zeus, 192 pp., £14.99, December 2014, 978 1 78185 885 1
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... to get hold of a genuine copy. Both books also trace the clear line of descent that leads to the entrenchment of habeas corpus and the principle of no taxation without representation. So does DanJones’s shorter treatment, in some ways the liveliest and most clear-eyed of the three. But none of them quite tackles the long-running constitutional cleavage, which is also part of the Charter’s ...

Angela and Son

Dan​ Jacobson

2 August 1984
Inside Outsider: The Life and Times of Colin MacInnes 
by Tony Gould.
Chatto, 261 pp., £12.50, September 1983, 0 7011 2678 7
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... In Colin MacInnes’s case, one might say that some of the most interesting parts of his life took place before he was born. He was the great-grandchild of the Pre-Raphaelite painter, Edward Burne-Jones, and was thus connected with both the Kipling and the Baldwin families; he was the grandson of an Oxford Professor of Poetry (of no great distinction, it must be admitted); and the son of Angela ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: How to concoct a conspiracy theory

20 October 2005
... so shadowy that not even the players themselves know of its activities or existence. So far as I know, this theory has no subscribers – yet. Though I’m sure it would acquire a few thousand if Dan Brown were to write a novel based on it. Conspiracies lend themselves well to works of fiction: plots make for good plots. The best conspiracy-theory novels – Gravity’s Rainbow, for example – ...
6 March 1986
Bernard Shaw’s Collected Letters. Vol. III: 1911-1925 
edited by Dan​ Laurence.
Bodley Head, 989 pp., £25, May 1985, 0 370 30203 6
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... of a system of opinions, which is a more imprisoning thing than a philosophy. The term ‘system’ has, for Shaw, an extra application. In his Collected Letters 1911-1925, very finely edited by Dan Laurence, Shaw is quite explicit, and most illuminating, about a curious principle which is exhibited in his plays and also has much bearing on his life. ‘All the characters in all my plays,’ he ...

Diary

Frank Kermode: Being a critic

27 May 1999
... to congratulate the sage or gaffer on his 60th birthday.* Some of them got their first chance in that pub. A few of the celebrants are, or have been, English dons – John Fuller, Simon Gray, Dan Jacobson; but even they arrived by what might be called the bohemian route. There are of course other ways in; anybody can see how much space the dons occupy in the respectable papers and magazines ...

Light Entertainment

Andrew O’Hagan: Our Paedophile Culture

8 November 2012
... a BBC dressing-room. ‘Did Duncroft, a well-equipped approved school for “intelligent emotionally disturbed girls” in leafy Surrey, really require the patronage of “Uncle” Jimmy Savile?’ Dan Davies asks in his unpublished book about Savile: Many of the 25 or so girls in its care at any one time came from comfortable backgrounds and included the daughters of ambassadors and BBC producers ...
6 November 1986
... MacLean by reputation before I felt his authority. His renovation of a poetic tradition, his cross-fertilisation of love and politics, of metaphysical technique and traditional Gaelic modes, of dan direach and personal destiny – I knew about all this at second-hand; it was part of that store of useful literary information that accumulates at the back of the literary mind like respected ...

Fictbites

Peter Campbell

18 May 1989
Any Old Iron 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 339 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 09 173842 3
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The Ragged End 
by John Spurling.
Weidenfeld, 313 pp., £11.95, April 1989, 0 297 79505 8
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Higher Ground 
by Caryl Phillips.
Viking, 224 pp., £11.95, April 1989, 0 670 82620 0
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The Flint Bed 
by Christopher Burns.
Secker, 185 pp., £10.95, April 1989, 0 436 09788 5
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Stark 
by Ben Elton.
Joseph, 453 pp., £13.95, March 1989, 0 7181 3302 1
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... Burgess begins with a little metallurgy and quite a lot of history and mythology. A sword, Excalibur perhaps, links up the parts of the novel and is symbolic in its action. A Welshman, David Jones, runs away to sea, survives the sinking of the Titanic, becomes a cook in New York, marries Ludmilla, the daughter of his Russian employer, returns to Wales and the First World War. He is in Ireland ...

Never Not Slightly Comical

Thomas Jones: Amit Chaudhuri

1 July 2015
Odysseus Abroad 
by Amit Chaudhuri.
Oneworld, 243 pp., £12.99, February 2015, 978 1 78074 621 0
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... are in character: Ananda’s a fan of P.G. Wodehouse as well as Keats. When he eventually makes it out of the house Ananda goes to see his tutor, Nestor Davidson, an affectionate portrait of the late Dan Jacobson, who taught Chaudhuri at UCL. ‘It became evident very early that Mr Davidson and Ananda found the same kinds of thing funny.’ They talk about Ananda’s poems. ‘I enjoyed them ...

Forget the Dylai Lama

Thomas Jones: Bob Dylan

6 November 2003
Dylan's Visions of Sin 
by Christopher Ricks.
Viking, 517 pp., £25, October 2003, 9780670801336
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... Al Kida Blues’ (‘Cuba’s our enemy, unless we need a prison camp’). Al Kida is the name of a man who lives ‘somewhere in Cleveland’: ‘He’s freaking out.’ The singer’s name is Dan Bern. His parents moved to Mount Vernon, Iowa, where Bern was born, round about the time that Robert Zimmerman started calling himself Bob Dylan and left Hibbing, Minnesota, to head circuitously east ...

Short Cuts

Donald MacKenzie: Wall Street’s Fear Gauge

25 January 2018
... out market practitioners’ expectations about the volatility of share prices: you could infer their expectations from the prices of options. In the mid-1980s, the economists Menachem Brenner and Dan Galai began to lobby the US options exchanges to create a ‘volatility index’, based on options prices, that would measure stock-market volatility in a way loosely analogous to – albeit ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: The candidates for the US presidency (2000)

6 January 2000
... obscure the reality, which is that several prominent political candidates either did not run, or were driven out of the race, or have been occluded, by the sheer influence of cash. Elizabeth Dole and Dan Quayle have already withdrawn for this reason, unable to match George W. Bush’s initial and crushing (and for a while, sole) announcement that he had $36 million already acquired from private ...

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