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Two poems after Yannis Ritsos

David Harsent, 27 September 2012

... serving girls to put my make-up on for me, which they did, then brought me a mirror. My face was green, my lips black. ‘Thank you,’ I said, ‘thank you, it makes all the difference.’ One of them got into my costume from the old days then jumped up on the table and started to dance in my style. She wasn’t pretty. She had fat legs. From where I sat I ...

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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... beauty’. In Man and Boy Cyd and Harry attended an awards ceremony where Cyd wore ‘a green cheongsam in Chinese silk – high-necked, tight as a second skin, the greatest dress I have ever seen in my life’. In One for My Baby Jackie and Alfie attend a dinner party, where Jackie wears ‘some western designer’s idea of a ...

Notes on the Election

David Runciman: Power v. Power, 9 April 2015

... like you tear us apart.’ Then there was the meta-kerfuffle that attended the attempt by the Green leader, Natalie Bennett, to launch her party’s manifesto. She came unstuck during an interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC, during which she started spluttering and coughing to cover up her inability to answer a question about how she would fund a commitment ...

Profits Now, Costs Later

David Woodruff: Mariana Mazzucato, 22 November 2018

The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy 
by Mariana Mazzucato.
Allen Lane, 384 pp., £20, April 2018, 978 0 241 18881 1
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... the truth about serious and repeated sexual harassment, racist abuse and bullying’, Philip Green gave a self-congratulatory interview to the Guardian. Swaggering through his high-street stores, journalist in tow, he showed off his knowledge of the stock, his attention to product display, his grace while accepting customers’ compliments, and his ...

Down and Out in London

David Cannadine, 16 July 1981

Rothschild Buildings: Life in an East End Tenement Block 1887-1920 
by Jerry White.
Routledge, 301 pp., £11.50, September 1980, 0 7100 0603 9
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East End Underworld: Chapters in the Life of Arthur Harding 
by Raphael Samuel.
Routledge, 355 pp., £11.50, April 1981, 0 7100 0725 6
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... in that area to the north and east of Liverpool Street Station, extending in an arc from Bethnal Green via Spitalfields to Whitechapel, famous in its day for such do-badding criminals as Jack the Ripper, and for such do-gooding enterprises as Toynbee Hall. More precisely, White’s volume recovers the fabric of Jewish life among those immigrants who lived in ...

The Prodigal Century

David Blackbourn: Something New under the Sun: An Environmental History of the 20th Century by John McNeill, 7 June 2001

Something New under the Sun: An Environmental History of the 20th Century 
by John McNeill.
Penguin, 448 pp., £8.99, August 2001, 0 14 029509 7
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... President even without Florida – Nader’s vote comfortably exceeded Bush’s margin of victory. Green Party supporters told pollsters that, in the absence of Nader, they would have voted overwhelmingly for Gore (or not at all). It was thus voting decisions by the most environmentally conscious part of the electorate that put one former oilman in the White ...

I want to be a star

Peter Green: Bedazzling Alcibiades, 24 January 2019

Nemesis: Alcibiades and the Fall of Athens 
by David Stuttard.
Harvard, 380 pp., £21.95, April 2018, 978 0 674 66044 1
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... various modern scholars and writers, makes an impressive list. The best place to start – as David Stuttard does in his new biography – is family background. For all its democratic politics, Athenian society was intensely class-conscious. Although Alcibiades was a product of that complex network of upper-crust intermarried families which produced most ...

Outfoxing Hangman

Thomas Jones: David Mitchell, 11 May 2006

Black Swan Green 
by David Mitchell.
Sceptre, 371 pp., £16.99, May 2006, 0 340 82279 1
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... David Mitchell’s first book, Ghostwritten (1999), which describes itself as ‘a novel in nine parts’, is a collection of loosely interconnected stories. The protagonist of one will have a walk-on role in the next; a minor character from someone else’s story will later reappear as the narrator of their own. The first narrator is a member of a Japanese doomsday cult, the perpetrator of a poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway, now on the run in Okinawa ...

Three Poems from ‘Marriage’

David Harsent, 26 November 1998

... this random throw of the bones, this coming together; it’s there in the music, there in the grey-green weather. Coming together too soon if not too late. He earns his bacon and beans with a coat or two of paint on the barn, or by cutting and stacking live oak for the stove. Remember the freckle of sweat along the faint line of down on her lip when she sits ...


David Harsent, 6 October 1994

... dazzle, so I couldn’t tell if the hare became a man or that bugaboo lurched up from the deeper green to head me off, a dead one for sure, with his eyes like peeled eggs and his mossy smile. He took me at the elbow and barged the tide, towing me out half a mile or more, then down to darker water – just enough light to show a four-masted ship canted ...

Fire: a song for Mistress Askew

David Harsent, 19 December 2013

... in sunlight, that flare is the flare in her eye, that rising note in my ear the singing deep in green branches, that low rumble her blood at a rolling boil; and what she screams from the centre, now, as her hair goes up in a rush, as her fingers char, as the spit on her tongue bubbles and froths, as she browns from heel to head, as she cracks and splits, as ...

The Queen Bee Canticles

David Harsent, 6 January 2011

... There you have it. Oh, and on one of the corbels a bee in flight, flanked by a jack-in-the-green and a manticore. They swarmed in heavy weather, low-slung and singing. Light touched the apostles window as they found their way down the transept and past the rood screen, then rose to the crucifix taking hold on the Man of Sorrows, his tallow flesh, until ...

All the News Is Bad

Francis Gooding: Our Alien Planet, 1 August 2019

The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future 
by David Wallace-Wells.
Allen Lane, 320 pp., £20, February 2019, 978 0 241 35521 3
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... How long​ do we have left, and how bad will it get? David Wallace-Wells opens his book with a short, sharp reality check: ‘It’s worse, much worse, than you think.’ All the news is bad. Marshalling research from across the sprawling field of climate studies, Wallace-Wells paints a picture of disastrous change on an almost incomprehensible scale ...

Perfectly Mobile, Perfectly Still

David Craig: Land Artists, 14 December 2000

by Andy Goldsworthy.
Thames and Hudson, 203 pp., £35, August 2000, 0 500 51026 1
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... down it. Was it a relic of old woodcraft or a necessary drain? It was Wooden Waterway (1978) by David Nash. What delighted me was the slender pour of the translucent water, and the way the thing looked almost like an accident of nature, a fallen sapling become a duct. A little further on, perched on a pair of ‘goalposts’ straddling a dip in the track ...


David Craig: In the Barra Isles, 30 October 1997

... there at last. A new island, an uninhabited island, can fold you in, surrounding you with its green arms, crooning to you: ‘This is where to live’ – especially if you are well supplied with tent and sleeping-bag, stove and fuel, food for ten days – and so it was as we half-jumped onto the rocks from the rubber inflatable which the launch had towed ...

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