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Better on TV

Jon Day: The Tennis Craze, 8 October 2020

A People’s History of Tennis 
by David Berry.
Pluto, 247 pp., £14.99, May, 978 0 7453 3965 8
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... has it, was brought to him mid-set). ‘At the peak of its popularity in the 16th century,’ David Berry writes in his history of tennis, ‘Paris alone had 250 courts, including one at the Louvre and another at Versailles, the latter of which was occupied in the revolution of 1789 by the Third Estate as a symbolic protest at the elitist nature of ...


Sean French: Fortress Wapping, 6 March 1986

... Shortly after the Sunday Times’s enforced move into the London Docklands, David Blundy and Jon Swain were strolling towards the new production plant’s heavily-guarded entrance. These two foreign correspondents are used to witnessing military activity (you may remember Swain as a character in Roland Joffe’s movie, The Killing Fields), but they were astonished to see an armoured car with a full complement of Royal Marines apparently patrolling inside the heavily-fortified perimeter fence ...


Jonathan Lethem: My Marvel Years, 15 April 2004

... of all kinds, one which led me into some very strange cultural places. Any time I heard that, say, David Bowie was only really imitating Anthony Newley, I immediately lost interest in David Bowie and went looking for the source, sometimes with the pitiable results that this example suggests. So I was always moving backwards ...

On Darwin’s Trouble with the Finches

Andrew Berry: The genius of Charles Darwin, 7 March 2002

Evolution’s Workshop: God and Science on the Galapagos Islands 
by Edward Larson.
Penguin, 320 pp., £8.99, February 2002, 0 14 100503 3
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... riddle of the finches was only solved more than a century after Darwin’s visit to the Galapagos. David Lack, then a schoolteacher, studied the birds in 1938-39, and in 1947 published his influential Darwin’s Finches, in which he laid out the details of the finches’ adaptive radiation, and emphasised the importance of competition between similar species ...

Against Policy

Thomas Jones: ‘The Manual of Detection’, 28 May 2009

The Manual of Detection 
by Jedediah Berry.
Heinemann, 278 pp., £14.99, March 2009, 978 0 434 01945 8
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... to be exposed as just another false trail. One of the many pleasing things about Jedediah Berry’s first novel is that the plot hinges on a famous detective’s most celebrated cases having been solved incorrectly. The hero of The Manual of Detection is Charles Unwin, a clerk at a detective agency, known only as ‘the Agency’, which ...

Vous êtes belle

Penelope Fitzgerald, 8 January 1987

Alain-Fournier: A Brief Life 1886-1914 
by David Arkell.
Carcanet, 178 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 85635 484 8
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Henri Alain-Fournier: Towards the Lost Domain: Letters from London 1905 
translated by W.J. Strachan.
Carcanet, 222 pp., £16.95, November 1986, 0 85635 674 3
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The Lost Domain 
by Henri Alain-Fournier, translated by Frank Davison.
Oxford, 299 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 19 212262 2
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... whether it was the country itself that he missed – Epineuil-le-Fleuriel, in the heart of the old Berry province – or the time that he spent there. He shared his country schoolhouse childhood with his young sister Isabelle and their most intense memory was the arrival, at the end of the year, of the livres de prix. They hid themselves, and read every ...

Kiss me, Hardy

Humphrey Carpenter, 15 November 1984

Peeping Tom 
by Howard Jacobson.
Chatto, 266 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2908 5
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Watson’s Apology 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 222 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 7156 1935 7
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The Foreigner 
by David Plante.
Chatto, 237 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 7011 2904 2
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... he arrives, and he learns to his horror that his mother died in the workhouse. The narrator in David Plante’s The Foreigner is a peeping Tom – twice in the book he experiences orgasm while watching or listening to other people making love – and he tells his story in a detached, remote style which at moments has echoes of Bainbridge’s ...


Colm Tóibín: Sex Lives of the Castrati, 8 October 2015

The Castrato: Reflections on Natures and Kinds 
by Martha Feldman.
California, 454 pp., £40, March 2015, 978 0 520 27949 0
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Portrait of a Castrato: Politics, Patronage and Music in the Life of Atto Melani 
by Roger Freitas.
Cambridge, 452 pp., £22.99, May 2014, 978 1 107 69610 5
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... for example, or Maureen Forrester – and then follow this by listening to a countertenor, David Daniels, for example, or Andreas Scholl, or Iestyn Davies (or go on YouTube and listen to a recording of the last castrato, Alessandro Moreschi, who died in 1922, singing the Bach-Gounod ‘Ave Maria’, with what Feldman called a vibrato that is ‘often ...

Other People’s Capital

John Lanchester: Conrad and Barbara Black, 14 December 2006

Conrad and Lady Black: Dancing on the Edge 
by Tom Bower.
Harper, 436 pp., £20, November 2006, 0 00 723234 9
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... to expand his portfolio of North American newspapers, acting in concert with his close associate David Radler, whose sincerely expressed view was that the ideal newspaper consisted of ‘a three-man newsroom – one journalist and two advertising salesmen’. Sackings, cuts, and fines for wasting paper and pencils might not sound like a recipe for brilliant ...


David Trotter: Bearness, 7 November 2019

... Nick Baker describes a near miss on a footpath in Alaska. Baker was sampling a ‘salmon-pink berry’ he had just picked when his guide yanked him off the path into some bushes. A minute or so later, a bear ambled past. ‘I could see, hear, smell, feel, almost taste bear – every primeval link, every neuron I possessed, woke up in an instant.’ The ...


Christopher Hadley: The Lake Taupo Stamp, 18 September 1997

... is probably why it was undiscovered for so long,’ says the New Zealand stamp collector Allan Berry. Even so, a stamp which may be considered very valuable by virtue of a flaw or because it is rare can lose that value if the experts get its provenance wrong. The Royal Philatelic Society’s Expert Committee would have examined about eight hundred ...

Properly Disposed

Emily Witt: ‘Moby-Duck’, 30 August 2012

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea 
by Donovan Hohn.
Union, 402 pp., £8.99, September 2012, 978 1 908526 02 1
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... and as long as our environmental consciousness is tied to the idea of breathtaking scenery or David Attenborough’s ramblings about charismatic fauna, we will be satisfied with the preservation of beautiful symbols. Activists chain themselves to trees while Coca-Cola appeases guilty consciences by printing some arrows in a Möbius loop on the label of a ...


Tom Paulin: Summer in Donegal, 16 September 1999

... to the hazel wood, Because a fire was in my head, And cut and peeled a hazel wand, And hooked a berry to a thread; And when white moths were on the wing, And moth-like stars were flickering out, I dropped the berry in a stream And caught a little silver trout. If the trout is a poem, the wand is knowledge of the land and ...

In and Out of the Panthéon

Thomas Laqueur: Funerals, politics and memory in France, 20 September 2001

Funerals, Politics and Memory in Modern France 1789-1996 
by Avner Ben-Amos.
Oxford, 425 pp., £55, October 2000, 0 19 820328 4
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Monumental Intolerance: Jean Baffier, a Nationalist Sculptor in Fin-de-Siècle France 
by Neil McWilliam.
Pennsylvania State, 326 pp., £58.95, November 2000, 0 271 01965 4
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... prototypical dead youth who had sacrificed his life for the Nation. (His funeral was organised by David.) Then, after the fall of Robespierre, there was what Ben-Amos calls Rousseau’s more ‘integrative’ funeral, whose pastoral imagery soothed the crowds as the body made its way from its quiet grave on an island in a country lake to the national shrine ...

William Rodgers reads the papers

William Rodgers, 19 February 1987

The Market for Glory: Fleet Street Ownership in the 20th Century 
by Simon Jenkins.
Faber, 247 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 571 14627 9
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The End of the Street 
by Linda Melvern.
Methuen, 276 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 413 14640 5
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... Lord Beaverbrook was making the Daily Express ‘a paper of prejudice, not thought’. And the Berry brothers, up from Methyr Tydfil, were moving from Boxing magazine to the Financial Times and Daily Telegraph and to peerages as Lords Camrose and Kemsley. Fleet Street was vulgar, tough, unprincipled and competitive, a world away from the austere values of ...

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