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Daniel Soar: The Photographic Novel, 20 April 2006

Patrick’s Alphabet 
by Michael Symmons Roberts.
Cape, 230 pp., £10.99, March 2006, 0 224 07596 9
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... to shore against her et cetera, even if neither of them knows what the words mean. The reader will pick them up, though Symmons Roberts takes care not to make too much rest on them in case the joke is missed. In a better world, all these patchwork pieces would be enough to make a book. But Symmons Roberts wants an audience, so there’s also a thriller-like ...

Ahead of the Game

Daniel Finn: The Official IRA, 7 October 2010

The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party 
by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar.
Penguin, 658 pp., £9.99, April 2010, 978 0 14 102845 3
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... was about to turn 40 and had spent much of his adult life in Irish and British jails. He was to pick up the pieces after the failure of the Border Campaign, the most ambitious republican challenge to British rule in Northern Ireland since the 1920s. The idea had been to send guerrilla units into Northern Ireland from the Republic to attack military ...

Convenience Killing

John Sutherland, 7 April 1994

What’s Wrong with America 
by Scott Bradfield.
Picador, 196 pp., £14.99, January 1994, 0 330 32249 4
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The History of Luminous Motion 
by Scott Bradfield.
Picador, 196 pp., £5.99, January 1994, 0 330 33412 3
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Greetings from Earth 
by Scott Bradfield.
Picador, 296 pp., £5.99, January 1994, 0 330 32252 4
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... many murders are unsolved in California – where she moves in with an amiable health freak called Daniel. But Daniel is mean to Dolores, and one day when he comes in from his run she gives him his tall, cold protein shake with a little extra ingredient: ‘it contained non-pasteurised whole milk, two fertile eggs, eight ...


Jonathan Rée: Automata, 9 May 2002

Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen 
by Barbara Maria Stafford and Frances Terpak.
Getty, 416 pp., £30, February 2002, 0 89236 590 0
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The Secret Life of Puppets 
by Victoria Nelson.
Harvard, 350 pp., £20.50, February 2002, 0 674 00630 5
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Living Dolls: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life 
by Gaby Wood.
Faber, 278 pp., £12.99, March 2002, 0 571 17879 0
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... passions by nodding his head, rolling his eyes and shaking his right arm, the clever Turk could pick up the pieces on a chessboard and move them with his left hand; and when he played, he performed with such preternatural skill that he saw off even the most illustrious challengers. Catherine the Great was once caught trying to cheat against him, while ...

No Bottom to Them

Freya Johnston: Pockets, like Novels, 5 December 2019

The Pocket: A Hidden History of Women’s Lives, 1660-1900 
by Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux.
Yale, 264 pp., £35, May 2019, 978 0 300 23907 2
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... gang, ‘that while they are listening to your Jargon, you may with the greater Ease and Safety, pick their Pockets.’ In The Beggar’s Opera (1728), Peachum, a thief-catcher, surveys with Lockit the jail-keeper their cache of stolen goods, including ‘seven and twenty Women’s Pockets compleat; with the several things therein contain’d; all ...

Willesden Fast-Forward

Daniel Soar: Zadie Smith, 21 September 2000

White Teeth 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 462 pp., £12.99, January 2000, 9780241139974
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... doesn’t exist in neat packets, one for every day, but as a continuum out of which it’s hard to pick one event; there are markers, however, and a wedding day is one. Observation of a kind follows, though it’s a little routine: ‘Clara remembered a young black man stood atop an apple crate, sweating in a black suit, who began pleading to his brothers and ...

Not Analogous

Daniel Soar: Heather McGowan, 6 September 2001

by Heather McGowan.
Faber, 314 pp., £10.99, August 2001, 0 571 20651 4
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... is shot, but we only hear this third-hand as Catrine rabbits away to Teddy when he comes to pick her up: ‘Father did you hear about the president the American one shot in the back outside a restaurant.’ Which President? Why? This, which impinges only slightly on Catrine (her classmates think it’s a good thing because of the President’s ...

Into the Alley

Daniel Soar: Dashiell Hammett, 3 January 2002

Nightmare Town: Stories 
by Dashiell Hammett, edited by Kirby McCauley and Martin Greenberg et al.
Picador, 396 pp., £16.99, March 2001, 0 330 48109 6
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Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett 1921-60 
edited by Richard Layman and Julie Rivett.
Counterpoint, 650 pp., £28.99, June 2001, 1 58243 081 0
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... Attorney builds up the best theory he can on what information you’ve got and meanwhile you pick up additional details here and there and people who recognise his pictures in the papers – as well as people who’d think he was innocent if you hadn’t arrested him – come in and tell you things about him and presently you’ve got him sitting on the ...

Hey, Mister, you want dirty book?

Edward Said: The CIA, 30 September 1999

Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War 
by Frances Stonor Saunders.
Granta, 509 pp., £20, July 1999, 1 86207 029 6
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... Five piastres only.’ In those days five piastres would buy at least three falafels. I stopped to pick up one of the little paperback volumes and, leafing through it, said contemptuously: ‘Five piastres for this?’ ‘No,’ came the quick reply, ‘take them all for five piastres.’ I ended up with a copy for half a piastre, and realised when speaking ...


Peter Clarke: Labour’s Return, 28 June 1990

... Party headquarters in Walworth Road to discover the name of a game which was already familiar to Daniel O’Connell and William Ewart Gladstone, even if the apparatchiks’ own discovery of the name of the rose had to await the advent of the cordless telephone. They now speak of having provided suitable ‘packaging’ for a new and improved ...

Where Romulus Stood

Michael Kulikowski: Roman Town-Planning, 16 November 2017

The Shape of the Roman Order: The Republic and Its Spaces 
by Daniel J. Gargola.
North Carolina, 320 pp., £47.95, March 2017, 978 1 4696 3182 0
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The Atlas of Ancient Rome: Biography and Portraits of the City 
edited by Andrea Carandini, translated by Andrew Campbell Halavais.
Princeton, 1280 pp., £148.95, February 2017, 978 0 691 16347 5
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... vaguer, and accuse the evolutionists of a teleological approach that the evidence can’t confirm. Daniel Gargola fits into this latter category: the mountain of details he accumulates, in a series of allusive, loosely thematic chapters, makes a pretty compelling case that Roman concepts of space and its control were primarily shaped by religion ...

Big Books

Adam Mars-Jones, 8 November 2018

... only trip people up. It’s well on the way to being door-sized itself. Yes, I could and did pick it up, yes in theory I could have taken it home with me, but its status as portable was a technicality: it weighs in at 13 lbs. It was more like a family Bible or a chained treasure in a medieval library than a book as commonly understood. (Its permanent ...

Secret Purposes

P.N. Furbank, 19 September 1985

Defoe and the Idea of Fiction: 1713-1719 
by Geoffrey Sill.
Associated University Presses, 190 pp., £16.95, April 1984, 0 87413 227 4
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The Elusive Daniel Defoe 
by Laura Curtis.
Vision, 216 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 85478 435 7
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Dofoe’s Fiction 
by Ian Bell.
Croom Helm, 201 pp., £17.95, March 1985, 0 7099 3294 4
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Realism, Myth and History in Defoe’s Fiction 
by Maximillian Novak.
Nebraska, 181 pp., £21.55, July 1983, 0 8032 3307 8
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... Crusoe. A more plausible ethical interpretation is proposed by Laura Curtis in The Elusive Daniel Defoe. It is that we are to relate the island life constructed by Robinson Crusoe to the ideal world implied in the prose and attitudes of the plain-speaking Mr Review, in Defoe’s journal The Review. In the former, as in the latter, all the emphasis is ...

Reasons for Not Going Back

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Displaced by WWII, 11 April 2013

In War’s Wake: Europe’s Displaced Persons in the Postwar Order 
by Gerard Daniel Cohen.
Oxford, 237 pp., £22.50, December 2012, 978 0 19 539968 4
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... of Communism’, rather than the ‘victims of Nazism’ they had been at the start. As Gerard Daniel Cohen persuasively argues, Allied recognition of the DPs’ objections to returning, and the prevailing sense of a profound difference between the ‘democratic’ Allies and the Soviet bloc, were important factors in the development of the Cold War. The ...

We’re not talking to you, we’re talking to Saturn

Nick Richardson: Lingua Cosmica, 18 June 2020

Extraterrestrial Languages 
by Daniel Oberhaus.
MIT, 252 pp., £20, October 2019, 978 0 262 04306 9
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... the sounds, which are unlabelled.In Extraterrestial Languages, his history of speaking to aliens, Daniel Oberhaus sharply distinguishes simple attempts to communicate with extraterrestrials (Ceti, or ‘active Seti’) from attempts to compose messages that an alien might understand. The records and plaques on the probes are Ceti, like the plans to nuke the ...

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