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Facts Schmacts

John Sutherland, 16 February 1989

The Facts: A Novelist’s Autobiography 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 328 pp., £12.95, February 1989, 0 224 02593 7
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... her.’ After this excess the author was evidently surfeited. ‘Did literature do this to me?’ David Kapesh asks when he wakes to find himself in a gigantic breast. It did and it has done awesome things to Roth. Hungover, he yearns for the equivalent of decaffeinated coffee, literature purged of everything literary. Stylistic nakedness is one ...

One Big Murder Mystery

Adam Shatz: The Algerian army’s leading novelist, 7 October 2004

The Swallows of Kabul 
by Yasmina Khadra, translated by John Cullen.
Heinemann, 195 pp., £10.99, May 2004, 9780434011414
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Wolf Dreams 
by Yasmina Khadra, translated by Linda Black.
Toby, 272 pp., $19.95, May 2003, 1 902881 75 3
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Morituri 
by Yasmina Khadra, translated by David Herman.
Toby, 137 pp., £7.95, May 2004, 1 59264 035 4
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... It’s a good time to be a Muslim writing about ‘the trouble with Islam’, to borrow the title of a recent jeremiad by Irshad Manji, a Pakistani-Canadian lesbian feminist. Readers in the West, especially Americans, are eager to know ‘what went wrong with Islam’, as Bernard Lewis delicately puts it, particularly if it can be traced to cultural pathology and envy of ‘our freedom ...

Yuh wanna play bad?

Christopher Tayler: Henry Roth, 23 March 2006

Redemption: The Life of Henry Roth 
by Steven Kellman.
Norton, 372 pp., $16.99, September 2005, 0 393 05779 8
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Call It Sleep 
by Henry Roth.
Picador US, 462 pp., $15, July 2005, 0 312 42412 4
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... child growing up in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side a few years before the First World War. David Schearl, the protagonist, lives in terror of his father, an implacably resentful man called Albert, who boils with rage every evening while recounting real or imagined workplace slights: ‘They look at me crookedly, with mockery in their eyes! How much can ...

As read by Ronald Reagan

David Rieff, 3 September 1987

Red Storm Rising 
by Tom Clancy.
Collins Harvill, 652 pp., £10.95, January 1987, 9780002230780
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... enormous best-seller in the United States. Elaborated in the hypertrophied, omniscient manner of Herman Wouk’s vastly popular ‘novelisations’ (the Hollywood term is, alone, appropriate) of the Second World War, The Winds of War, this is the story of the captain and crew of the eponymous nuclear attack submarine, pride of the Soviet fleet, as it ...

Attending Poppy

Christopher Tayler: David Grand, 9 December 1999

Louse 
by David Grand.
Quartet, 255 pp., £10, April 1999, 9780704381155
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... no talking, coughing, clearing of the throat, or any movement whatsoever of the lips. As David Thomson remarks in his Biographical Dictionary of Film, this was a life ‘so primed for legend, it leaves one feeling that the doleful, suspicious Hughes had some hygienic plan for missing life altogether and going straight into myth’. Hughes was, after ...

America and Israel

Ian Gilmour, 18 February 1982

The Struggle for Peace in the Middle East 
by Mahmoud Riad.
Quartet, 365 pp., £11.95, October 1981, 0 7043 2297 8
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Palestinian Self-Determination 
by Hassan Bin Talal.
Quartet, 138 pp., £6.95, July 1981, 0 7043 2312 5
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This Year in Jerusalem 
by Kenneth Cragg.
Darton, Longman and Todd, 192 pp., £5.95, February 1982, 0 232 51524 7
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... Israel offered Egypt a separate peace. Nasser could have had in 1968-9 what Sadat achieved at Camp David. Indeed, he might have got Gaza as well. But Nasser was opposed to Egypt’s deserting its allies and concluding a separate peace. ‘The West Bank,’ he declared, ‘is more important to me than Sinai.’ The substitution of Nixon for Johnson made no ...

A Plumless Pudding

John Sutherland: The Great John Murray Archive Disaster, 18 March 2004

... has already pledged £6.5m towards the purchase. A campaign to be headed, it’s hoped, by Sir David Attenborough and Scottish worthies is planned to drum up the missing millions. The publicity push, and a barrage of press handouts, are already inspiring such blandly favourable pieces as that of the Guardian arts correspondent and John Murray himself on ...

Gesture as Language

David Trotter, 30 January 1992

A Cultural History of Gestures: From Antiquity to the Present 
edited by Jan Bremmer and Herman Roodenburg.
Polity, 220 pp., £35, December 1991, 0 7456 0786 1
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The New Oxford Book of 17th-Century Verse 
by Alastair Fowler.
Oxford, 830 pp., £25, November 1991, 0 19 214164 3
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... resource. What is true of folded arms is also true of a more commonplace gesture, the handshake. Herman Roodenburg suggests that the handshake only took over from more ceremonial forms of greeting around 1800: in Britain first, then in Holland, France and Russia. In his Memoirs, written in the 1790s, Casanova describes a ‘shake-hand amical’ bestowed on ...

How to be Green

Mary Douglas, 13 September 1990

A Green Manifesto for the 1990s 
by Penny Kemp and Derek Wall.
Penguin, 212 pp., £4.99, July 1990, 0 14 013272 4
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Social Philosophy and Ecological Scarcity 
by Keekok Lee.
Routledge, 425 pp., £40, September 1989, 0 415 03220 2
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Mother Country 
by Marilynne Robinson.
Faber, 261 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 0 571 15453 0
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Blueprint for a Green Economy 
by David Pearce, Anil Markandya and Edward Barbier.
Earthscan, 192 pp., £6.95, September 1989, 1 85383 066 6
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TheFate of the Forest: Developers, Destroyers and Defenders of the Amazon 
by Susanna Hecht and Alexander Cockburn.
Verso, 366 pp., £16.95, November 1989, 0 86091 261 2
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Thinking Green: An Anthology of Essential Ecological Writing 
edited by Michael Allaby.
Barrie and Jenkins, 250 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 7126 3489 4
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... its satisfactions, become patient and make room for the future? Blueprint for a Green Economy, by David Pearce, Anil Markandya and Edward Barbier, is a report drawn up by the London Environment Centre for the UK Department of the Environment. It is a state-of-the-art review of ‘Sustainable Development, Resource Accounting and Project ...

Anticipatory Plagiarism

Paul Grimstad: Oulipo, 6 December 2012

Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature 
by Daniel Levin Becker.
Harvard, 338 pp., £19.95, May 2012, 978 0 674 06577 2
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... of the poet with the madness of the mathematician’. Perec in particular constantly invokes Herman Melville: W’s narrator identifies not with ‘Ahab’s boiling fury’ but with the sober and scrupulous Ishmael; the puzzle-making central figure in La Vie mode d’emploi is named ‘Bartlebooth’, splicing together Valery Larbaud’s A.O. Barnabooth ...

At the Venice Biennale

Alice Spawls: All the World’s Futures, 17 June 2015

... organised by the installation artist Isaac Julien, is preceded by a video interview with David Harvey for those who missed ‘Reading Marx’s Capital with David Harvey’ on his website. It’s a world away from the sunshine of the gardens and spritzs on the terrace (the product of another empire that claimed the ...

Post-its, push pins, pencils

Jenny Diski: In the Stationery Cupboard, 30 July 2014

Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace 
by Nikil Saval.
Doubleday, 288 pp., £20, June 2014, 978 0 385 53657 8
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... refuser (1853). Perhaps the two portrayals are not coincidental. In 1851, the Melville family read David Copperfield aloud as their evening entertainment. The pre-20th-century office worker saw himself as a cut above the unsalaried labouring masses, and was as ambivalent about his superiors, who were his only means of rising, as the rest of the working world ...

Other People’s Rooms

Peter Campbell, 7 April 1994

Inside Culture 
by David Halle.
Chicago, 261 pp., £23.95, January 1993, 0 226 31367 0
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Buildings of the United States: The Buildings of Michigan 
by Kathryn Bishop Eckert.
Oxford, 603 pp., £27.50, June 1993, 0 19 506149 7
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Buildings of the United States: The Buildings of Iowa 
by David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim.
Oxford, 565 pp., £27.50, June 1993, 0 19 506148 9
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... David Halle’s researches earned him a licence amateur voyeurs would kill for. He got to nose about, more or less at will, in other people’s rooms. His study of the landscapes, portraits, snapshots, saints, masks and so forth which a representative group of Americans, in and near New York, have on their walls and shelves, of how they display them and what they say about them, required that he get to know more than a hundred and sixty different houses ...

Under the Staircase

Robert Neild, 1 April 1983

War Plan UK: The Truth about Civil Defence in Britain 
by Duncan Campbell.
Burnett, 488 pp., £12.95, November 1982, 0 09 150670 0
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With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush and Nuclear War 
by Robert Scheer.
Secker, 279 pp., £8.95, February 1983, 0 436 44355 4
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... to survive better than the Soviet Union. This argument was made more than twenty years ago by Herman Kahn in his book On Thermo-Nuclear War. Since then, it has surfaced from time to time, linked to wild assertions about the extent to which the Soviet Union has organised civil defence. Its latest and wildest airing came, as one might expect, from the ...

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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... spot’. The islands’ blasted aspect, however, made them unpopular with visitors. Herman Melville, who visited in 1841, had the usual reaction: ‘Take five-and-twenty heaps of cinders dumped here and there in an outsize city lot, imagine some of them magnified into mountains, and the vacant lot the sea; and you will have a fit idea of the ...

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