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Venice-on-Thames

Amanda Vickery: Vauxhall Gardens, 7 February 2013

Vauxhall Gardens: A History 
by Alan Borg and David Coke.
Yale, 473 pp., £55, June 2011, 978 0 300 17382 6
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... flourished for two centuries, finally closing in 1859. Vauxhall’s special status, Alan Borg and David Coke argue in this hefty antiquarian tome, lies in its originality as a commercial venture, the changes it triggered in the social and cultural life of London, the extreme heterogeneity of the mingling crowds, the mass audience the gardens gave to ...

At the Grand Palais

Andrew O’Hagan: The Lagerfeld Fandango, 18 July 2019

... of it. By the end he seemed to imagine that ideas alone might sustain the body. He lived on Diet Coke. When I first sat with him, in an hôtel particulier off the boulevard St-Germain that he retained for lunches, Frédéric Gouby, his maître d’hôtel, brought him a carafe of Diet Coke on a silver salver. The food was ...

Frazzle

Michael Wood: Chinese Whispers, 8 August 2013

Multiples 
edited by Adam Thirlwell.
Portobello, 380 pp., £20, August 2013, 978 1 84627 537 1
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... This becomes: ‘Je m’habille affreusement mal mais bois tout le temps, j’ai arrêté la coke mais j’aime les filles’ (‘I dress horribly badly but drink all the time, I’ve given up coke but I love girls’). At the end of the English paragraph the surprise is that Marina Petrova turns out to be bald. In ...

End of the Century

John Sutherland, 13 October 1988

Worlds Apart 
by David Holbrook.
Hale, 205 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 9780709033639
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Story of My Life 
by Jay McInerney.
Bloomsbury, 188 pp., £11.95, August 1988, 0 7475 0180 7
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Forgotten Life 
by Brian Aldiss.
Gollancz, 284 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 575 04369 5
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Incline Our hearts 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £11.95, August 1988, 0 241 12256 2
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... It would be interesting to place Jay McInerney and David Holbrook as neighbours at E.M. Forster’s imaginary table. Both novelists are fascinated by decadence – that much they have in common. But their diagnoses and anatomies of the decadent condition are quite different; worlds apart, to use Holbrook’s dominant image ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The gangster movie, 13 December 2007

American Gangster 
directed by Ridley Scott.
November 2007
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... he has closeted away, refused to inspect. At a party in his apartment one guest is sniffing coke, another is drunk, and another packs a gun and shoots a rival. The world he lives off and yet keeps at bay has invaded his home. Lucas goes berserk, and smashes the offender’s head inside the grand piano. In fact, almost none of the men in his ...

Other People

Dinah Birch, 6 July 1989

The Middleman, and Other Stories 
by Bharati Mukherjee.
Virago, 197 pp., £11.95, June 1989, 1 85381 058 4
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The Burning Boys 
by John Fuller.
Chatto, 128 pp., £10.95, June 1989, 9780701134648
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Termination Rock 
by Gillian Freeman.
Pandora, 182 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 0 04 440352 6
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Blackground 
by Joan Aiken.
Gollancz, 254 pp., £11.95, June 1989, 0 575 04502 7
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... settled into its give and take, you find it’s impossible to live anywhere else. It’s the coke-and-caffeine jungle of being seventeen and readier to kill than be killed and to know that Job One is to secure your objective and after that it’s unsupervised play till the next order comes down.’ The raw misery of his unsupervised play continues far ...

Back to Runnymede

Ferdinand Mount: Magna Carta, 23 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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... think any better of the Petition of Right, the reprise of Magna Carta designed by Sir Edward Coke to recall Charles I to his constitutional duty: according to Coke’s grandson Roger, he called it ‘the Petition of Shite’. I can find scant mention of this menacing language and conduct in those biographies of ...

Emotional Sushi

Ian Sansom: Tony, Nick and Simon, 9 August 2001

One for My Baby 
by Tony Parsons.
HarperCollins, 330 pp., £15.99, July 2001, 0 00 226182 0
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How to Be Good 
by Nick Hornby.
Viking, 256 pp., £16.99, May 2001, 0 670 88823 0
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Little Green Man 
by Simon Armitage.
Viking, 246 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 0 670 89442 7
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... Good now extends this fine line of wit even further: Here is a list of the people that Andrew and David have hitherto regarded as talentless, overrated, or simply wankers: Oasis, the Stones, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Robbie Williams, Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis, Evelyn Waugh, Auberon Waugh, Salman Rushdie, Jeffrey Archer, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, William ...

Believe it or not

Rebecca Mead: America’s National Story Project, 7 February 2002

True Tales of American Life 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 416 pp., £16.99, November 2001, 0 571 21050 3
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... a young man invites himself in, exchanges some small talk, then asks Humiston if he can do some coke. When Humiston agrees, the visitor shoots up with a mixture of cocaine and heroin, and slides into a narcotic stupor at the end of the bed. The out of his depth out-of-towner is hardly an original theme, but it’s a rich one, and Humiston’s tale – the ...

How Dare He?

Jenny Turner: Geoff Dyer, 11 June 2009

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi 
by Geoff Dyer.
Canongate, 295 pp., £12.99, April 2009, 978 1 84767 270 4
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... and messiness cleaned up. Compare, for example, Dyer’s anti-travel writing with that of the late David Foster Wallace, another sort-of post-mod sort-of slacker, with many similar interests and of much the same generation. Dyer could not, as Wallace did in ‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again’ (1996), study the horror of embodiment while ...

Clairvoyant, Rich and Lucky

Chloë Daniel: Berlin 1904-2014, 30 November 2017

Hannah’s Dress: Berlin 1904-2014 
by Pascale Hugues, translated by C. Jon Delogu and Nick Somers.
Polity, 250 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 1 5095 0981 2
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... headquarters’ in another flat at number 7. The apartment was briefly a refuge for a detoxing David Bowie, who wanted to hide from the attentions of his coke dealer while his own Berlin flat was being renovated. In her fitful correspondence with Froese, who was one of her teenage idols, Hugues mentions the kaleidoscope ...

Rethinking the countryside

David Allen, 22 January 1987

The History of the Countryside 
by Oliver Rackham.
Dent, 445 pp., £16.95, April 1986, 0 460 04449 4
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Gilbert White: A Biography of the Author of the ‘Natural History of Selborne’ 
by Richard Mabey.
Century, 239 pp., £14.95, May 1986, 0 7126 1232 7
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The Journals of Gilbert White 1751-1773: Vol. 1 
edited by Francesca Greenoak.
Century, 531 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 7126 1294 7
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An Account of the Foxglove and its Medical Uses 1785-1985 
by J.K. Aronson.
Oxford, 399 pp., £25, February 1986, 0 19 261501 7
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The Oxford Dictionary of Natural History 
edited by Michael Allaby.
Oxford, 688 pp., £20, January 1986, 0 19 217720 6
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... on a steady supply of underwood and it was very much in their interest to conserve this. Coal and coke took over from charcoal, not because wood had grown hard to come by, but because of their lower labour costs. The mesmeric effect of the written word has similarly led historians to exaggerate greatly the importance of oak-woods as pannage for pigs. Acorn ...

But You Married Him

Rosemary Hill: Princess Margaret and Lady Anne, 4 June 2020

Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown 
by Anne Glenconner.
Hodder, 336 pp., £20, October 2019, 978 1 5293 5906 0
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... remembers certain things, especially about her children, and her ‘heart sinks’.Born Lady Anne Coke, she was the first child and eldest daughter of the future fifth earl of Leicester, later an equerry to George VI, and his wife, Elizabeth Yorke, daughter of the eighth earl of Hardwicke. The first chapter of Lady in Waiting, covering her ‘idyllic’ early ...

A life, surely?

Jenny Diski: To Portobello on Angel Dust, 18 February 1999

The Ossie Clark Diaries 
edited by Henrietta Rous.
Bloomsbury, 402 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 7475 3901 4
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... his bare feet submerged in the pile of a white rug in Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, the portrait by David Hockney that aspired to Gainsborough as a take on the aristocracy of London, c.1971, but owed more to Harpers & Queen. The fashion bubble of Sixties London was not quite the fourth dynasty or the historical watershed of the Crimean War. What was of interest ...

Bunny Hell

Christopher Tayler: David Gates, 26 August 2015

A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me 
by David Gates.
Serpent’s Tail, 314 pp., £12.99, August 2015, 978 1 78125 491 2
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Jernigan 
by David Gates.
Serpent’s Tail, 339 pp., £8.99, August 2015, 978 1 78125 490 5
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... and with more wit than sense.’ The actor offers no comment, but by now he doesn’t need to. David Gates, the creator of these connoisseurs of disappointment and self-sabotage, published his first novel, Jernigan, in 1991. Joseph Heller called it a ‘sizzler’ and Michiko Kakutani announced in the New York Times that Gates had ‘established himself as ...

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