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Heavenly Cities

Daniel Aaron, 10 October 1991

The Conscience of the Eye: The Design and Social Life of Cities 
by Richard Sennett.
Faber, 266 pp., £17.50, June 1991, 0 571 16192 8
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... For the last thirty years Richard Sennett – urban sociologist, historian, novelist – has been meditating on the culture and ecology of industrial cities: on how they evolved, on how their physical organisation and social structure related to the psychological and moral experiences of their inhabitants. More pointedly than his previous books, The Conscience of the Eye, he says, aims to show the interactions between the ‘architectural, urban planning, public sculpture, and the visual scenes of the city’ and its ‘cultural life ...

Crop Masters

Daniel Aaron, 19 January 1989

Tobacco Culture: The Mentality of the Great Tidewater Planters on the Eve of the Revolution 
by T.H. Breen.
Princeton, 216 pp., $9.95, February 1988, 0 691 04729 4
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... Some thirty years ago, as he ploughed through hundreds of pamphlets on the Anglo-American conflict published in the colonies before 1776, Bernard Bailyn was struck by the excitement with which their authors spoke about what were for him ‘the common-places of liberal thought of their time’. How to explain their apparently inexhaustible appetite for the ideas and rhetoric of late 17th and 18th-century British political oppositionists? The mélange of dissident opinion now subsumed under the rubric of ‘radical Country ideology’ stigmatised the Walpole Government as a corrupt power-grabbing conspiracy against popular liberties ...

Clytie’s Legs

Daniel Aaron, 2 May 1985

The Optimist’s Daughter 
by Eudora Welty, introduced by Helen McNeil.
Virago, 180 pp., £3.50, October 1984, 0 86068 375 3
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One Writer’s Beginnings 
by Eudora Welty.
Harvard, 136 pp., £8.80, April 1984, 0 674 63925 1
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The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty 
Penguin, 622 pp., £4.95, November 1983, 0 14 006381 1Show More
Conversations with Eudora Welty 
edited by Peggy Whitman Prenshaw.
Mississippi, 356 pp., £9.50, October 1984, 0 87805 206 2
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... she knows that dreamers risk a loss of self once their orbitings bypass the human community. Uncle Daniel in The Ponder Heart, insulated from the actual by his fantasies, drifts off to cuckoo-land. Circe, the unchanging daughter of the gods, is fated to repeat her gyrations, because she is unable to grieve or to feel sympathy. Pain in Eudora Welty’s stories ...

Portrait of a Failure

Daniel Aaron, 25 January 1990

Henry Adams 
by Ernest Samuels.
Harvard, 504 pp., £19.95, November 1989, 9780674387355
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The Letters of Henry Adams: Vols I-VI 
edited by J.C Levenson, Ernest Samuels, Charles Vandersee and Viola Hopkins-Winner.
Harvard, 2016 pp., £100.75, July 1990, 0 674 52685 6
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... Henry Adams is a rare bird in American letters: rich, autonomous, and socially unassailable; descendant of Presidents, secure within the genteel Establishment, yet holding himself aloof from it; historian of his country, toward which he felt a proprietary concern; and, by his own reckoning, ‘a failure in politics and literature, in society and in solitude, in hatred and in love ...


Frank Kermode: American Books, 1 April 1983

... reader. After many vicissitudes the Library of America was launched, under the direction of Daniel Aaron, Richard Poirier and Jason Epstein, who had worked with Wilson on the original abortive project. These people and their associates raised $600,000 from the Ford Foundation and then $1.2 million from the National Endowment for the ...

Seventeen Million Words

Richard Poirier, 7 November 1985

The Inman Diary: A Public and Private Confession 
edited by Daniel Aaron.
Harvard, 1661 pp., £35.95, March 1986, 0 674 45445 6
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... by the experience, and not the other way round. It is thus an especially appropriate ending to Daniel Aaron’s edition of the Inman Diaries and evidence of the deftness, imagination and tough economy which mark everything he has managed to do with this amazing sprawl of a document. During those 44 years in Garrison Hall the diary was Arthur Inman’s ...

First Puppet, Now Scapegoat

Inigo Thomas: Ass-Chewing in Washington, 30 November 2006

State of Denial: Bush at War 
by Bob Woodward.
Simon and Schuster, 560 pp., £18.99, October 2006, 0 7432 9566 8
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... found themselves so articulate while also failing to convey any sense of what actually happened. Daniel Aaron, in his 1973 book, The Unwritten War: American Writers and the Civil War, said: ‘our untidy and unkempt war confounds interpreters.’ The Iraq war, untidy and unkempt to say the least, has produced an even more stunning mass ...

It’s just a book

Philip Horne, 17 December 1992

by Paul Auster.
Faber, 245 pp., £14.99, October 1992, 0 571 16786 1
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... put into play. The story is narrated by a Paul Auster figure, a dedicated novelist called Peter Aaron whose c.v. includes a French apprenticeship, a novel called Luna, even (like his creator) a spell teaching at Princeton. He writes about Sachs, who has confided to him the secret of his final, fatal phase, from an admiring, quizzical standpoint not unlike ...


Naomi Fry: Nicole Krauss, 28 April 2011

Great House 
by Nicole Krauss.
Viking, 289 pp., £16.99, February 2011, 978 0 670 91932 1
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... with the story of Nadia, a writer who has used the desk for a quarter of a century, ever since Daniel Varsky, a young Chilean poet with whom she had a brief affair in the early 1970s, left it in her care before being murdered by Pinochet’s secret police. After several failed romantic relationships in the years that followed, the emotionally impoverished ...


Christopher Tayler: Multofiction, 8 January 2004

Set This House in Order 
by Matt Ruff.
Flamingo, 496 pp., £12, October 2003, 0 00 716423 8
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... head. This house, and the wooded landscape surrounding it, was built by Andrew’s ‘father’, Aaron, who was the first of the many souls to work out what was going on. With the help of a kindly therapist, Aaron tamed the chaotic inner landscape, imposing order and building a life in the outside world. Then, exhausted by ...

Great Man

David Blackbourn: Humboldt, 16 June 2011

Nature’s Interpreter: The Life and Times of Alexander von Humboldt 
by Donald McCrory.
Lutterworth, 242 pp., £23, November 2010, 978 0 7188 9231 9
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... editions, monographs and conferences – but readers are most likely to have encountered him in Daniel Kehlmann’s novel Measuring the World (2007). His portrait of two famous scientists, Humboldt and the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, is a stylish comedy that gently mocks Humboldt’s belief in an ordered and interconnected universe. Donald ...

An American Genius

Patrick Parrinder, 21 November 1991

The Runaway Soul 
by Harold Brodkey.
Cape, 835 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 224 03001 9
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... Wiley also grows up. Since Harold and Wiley are both adopted, and since the given name of each was Aaron, it seems they are more or less interchangeable protagonists. Harold recalls the emotional turmoil of his early adolescence when both of his adoptive parents were terminally ill, the estranged father in hospital, and the mother at home feeding off her ...

Whig Dreams

Margaret Anne Doody, 27 February 1992

A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain 
by Daniel Defoe, edited by P.N. Furbank and W.R. Owens.
Yale, 423 pp., £19.95, July 1991, 0 300 04980 3
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James Thomson: A Life 
by James Sambrook.
Oxford, 332 pp., £40, October 1991, 0 19 811788 4
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... This new issue of Daniel Defoe’s Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain is very pretty. It is a glossy book, lavishly illustrated with 18th-century maps, portraits, landscapes, prospects of towns and representations of buildings, markets, ships. This is obviously meant to function as a coffee-table book, or as a book to put in the back of a car (along with the National Trust’s guides ...

The Great National Circus

Eric Foner: Punch-Ups in the Senate, 22 November 2018

The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War 
by Joanne Freeman.
Farrar, Straus, 450 pp., £20.99, September 2018, 978 0 374 15477 6
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... was inhabited by giants, notably the ‘great triumvirate’ of John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, as well as eloquent spokesmen on both sides of the slavery question, such as Stephen Douglas and William Seward. John Quincy Adams didn’t consider it beneath him to serve in the House after his term as president. Such men offer a sharp contrast ...

The Israel Lobby

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt: The Israel Lobby, 23 March 2006

... for Near East Policy (WINEP); Dennis Ross, who joined WINEP after leaving government in 2001; and Aaron Miller, who has lived in Israel and often visits the country. These men were among Clinton’s closest advisers at the Camp David summit in July 2000. Although all three supported the Oslo peace process and favoured the creation of a Palestinian state, they ...

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