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Messages from the Mafia

Federico Varese: Berlusconi’s underworld connections, 6 January 2005

Berlusconi’s Shadow: Crime, Justice and the Pursuit of Power 
by David Lane.
Allen Lane, 336 pp., £18.99, August 2004, 0 7139 9787 7
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Silvio Berlusconi: Television, Power and Patrimony 
by Paul Ginsborg.
Verso, 189 pp., £16, June 2004, 1 84467 000 7
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... cultures – because it both ‘assimilates and homogenises’. Two foreign observers of Italy, David Lane, the Economist correspondent in Rome, and Paul Ginsborg, who teaches at Florence University, are now also arguing that fascism has returned to the country. Lane begins his book on the beaches of Lazio in ...

What’s going on, Eric?

David Renton: Rock Against Racism, 22 November 2018

Walls Come Tumbling Down: The Music and Politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge 
by Daniel Rachel.
Picador, 589 pp., £12.99, May 2017, 978 1 4472 7268 7
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... to be gaining a presence not just in politics but in pop culture too. That same month, May 1976, David Bowie was photographed at Victoria Station on his return to Britain after two years in North America. Standing in an open-topped Mercedes, he appeared to give his fans some kind of open-handed, straight-armed – possibly fascist – salute. Soon afterwards ...

Re-reading the Bible

Stephanie West, 12 March 1992

The Unauthorised Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible 
by Robin Lane Fox.
Viking, 478 pp., £20, October 1991, 0 670 82412 7
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... title may suggest a Qumranic fantastication, or something like Robert Graves’s King Jesus, but Lane Fox’s purpose, though ambitious, is sober enough. He offers an ancient historian’s view of the Bible. This is ‘a book about evidence and historical truth, not about faith. It is unauthorised because it addresses questions which the Bible itself ...


David Runciman: The Problem with English Football, 23 October 2008

... used to support a football team that no longer exists, called Wimbledon FC. They played at Plough Lane, a small, ramshackle ground in an ugly bit of South London (some way off from the Wimbledon where the tennis happens), and they played a rough, rumbustious style of football that didn’t endear them to outsiders but warmed the hearts of their ...

Mad Monk

Jenny Diski: Not going to the movies, 6 February 2003

The New Biographical Dictionary of Film 
by David Thomson.
Little, Brown, 963 pp., £25, November 2002, 0 316 85905 2
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Nobody’s Perfect: Writings from the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Anthony Lane.
Picador, 752 pp., £15.99, November 2002, 0 330 49182 2
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Paris Hollywood: Writings on Film 
by Peter Wollen.
Verso, 314 pp., £13, December 2002, 1 85984 391 3
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... pleasure that remains to me: I indulge in reading about movies with undiminished enthusiasm. David Thomson has written about his disappointment with contemporary cinema, about how the franchise movie and the blockbuster are killing Hollywood and his hopes, and because I am one of the legion of Thomson’s devoted fans, it cheers me up to hear it. If he ...

Come hungry, leave edgy

Sukhdev Sandhu: Brick Lane, 9 October 2003

Brick Lane 
by Monica Ali.
Doubleday, 413 pp., £12.99, June 2003, 9780385604840
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... Brick Lane used to be the home of the dead. For centuries it was part of a Roman burial ground, an unclean extremity lying beyond the walls of the City of London. In 1603, a quarter of a century after bricks began to be manufactured here, John Stow described its buildings as ‘filthy cottages’. Since then, the area, whether one calls it Spitalfields, Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets, Banglatown, has been a byword for poverty and violence ...


Ian Hamilton: New New Grub Street, 3 February 1983

... the better. For most modern Reardons, these rending scenes will instantly evoke images of Chancery Lane – or, more precisely, that small alley off the Lane where generations of book reviewers and literary men have known the confused pleasure of securing the price of their next drink(s) in exchange for a mint copy of Giles ...

The Makers

David Harsent, 19 September 1996

... through the door, the last swallow still caught in my throat, and walking the precipice of a four-lane freeway, hearing Whitman’s line again in the beat of an engine half a mile back, hearing Sandy say, ‘There comes a moment when you lay your brush to the canvas and everything’s ease, everything’s gift, so that even the time it takes to load your ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Da 5 Bloods’, 2 July 2020

... are four black American veterans returning to Vietnam for what looks like a trip down memory lane. It is some time after 2016. We know this because one of the men voted for Trump. He expresses the appropriate bitterness about immigrants, and wears a MAGA baseball cap. The cap ends up on the head of an ill-fated French money launderer, so perhaps it ...

Owning Mayfair

David Cannadine, 2 April 1981

Survey of London. Vol. 40: The Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2. The Buildings 
edited by F.H.W. Sheppard.
Athlone, 428 pp., £55, August 1980, 0 485 48240 1
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... rebirth, and the account of the 19th-century grandeur, and 20th-century transformation, of Park Lane. The delicious effect of all this is to make the reader an eavesdropper on architects at work and aristocrats at play. We meet Robert Adam giving 26 Grosvenor Square its magnificent 18th-century interiors; J.T. Wimperis concocting his splendid fin-de-siècle ...


John Sutherland: The pushiness of young men in a hurry, 5 May 2005

by Tom Maschler.
Picador, 294 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 330 48420 6
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British Book Publishing as a Business since the 1960s 
by Eric de Bellaigue.
British Library, 238 pp., £19.95, January 2004, 0 7123 4836 0
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Penguin Special: The Life and Times of Allen Lane 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Viking, 484 pp., £25, May 2005, 0 670 91485 1
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... him with Archibald Constable, George Smith, John Blackwood, George Routledge, Frederick Macmillan, David Garnett, Ian Parsons, Allen Lane. It was one of the most highly regarded of today’s younger publishers, Peter Straus (now an agent), who commissioned the book. None of these coat-brushers of genius is a household ...


Nicholas Spice, 17 May 1984

Present Times 
by David Storey.
Cape, 270 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 224 02188 5
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The Uses of Fiction: Essays on the Modern Novel in Honour of Arnold Kettle 
edited by Douglas Jefferson and Graham Martin.
Open University, 296 pp., £15, December 1982, 9780335101818
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The Hawthorn Goddess 
by Glyn Hughes.
Chatto, 232 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 7011 2818 6
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... one living-roomed (dining-annexed), one-kitchened “executive” dwelling’ at 24 Walton Lane on the outskirts of Morristown. Through the window he sees Elise his eldest daughter washing her hair in the kitchen sink. He opens the front door. A figure darts out: ‘black-skinned, woolly-hatted, zip-jacketed, jeaned, it ran past him to the ...

Stand the baby on its head

John Bayley, 22 July 1993

The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales 
edited by Alison Luire.
Oxford, 455 pp., £17.95, May 1993, 0 19 214218 6
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The Second Virago Book of Fairy Tales 
edited by Angela Carter.
Virago, 230 pp., £7.99, July 1993, 1 85381 616 7
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... they could use symbolism as easily as allegory, but it only worked if it got out of hand. In Lucy Lane Clifford’s ‘The New Mother’ (1882) it gets out of hand in an odd and sinister way. Although the art and the power of the tale are never compromised one feels that the author is quite scared herself by the djinn which has come out of the bottle. The ...

Trust the Coroner

John Bossy: Why Christopher Marlowe was probably not a spy, 14 December 2006

Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy 
by Park Honan.
Oxford, 421 pp., £25, October 2005, 0 19 818695 9
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... Park Honan has done one of the two already, and now has done the other. Coming shortly after David Riggs’s solid, even too-solid The World of Christopher Marlowe, his Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy feels a little lightweight. He is probably right to say that he has a better story about Marlowe’s origins in Canterbury and his doings at Corpus in ...

Rodinsky’s Place

Patrick Wright, 29 October 1987

White Chappell: Scarlet Tracings 
by Iain Sinclair.
Goldmark, 210 pp., £12.50, October 1987, 1 870507 00 2
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... centre’ concerned with the local history of immigration. Above the tiny synagogue is the room of David Rodinsky, a Polish Jew of increasingly mysterious reputation. Latterly described as a translator and philosopher, he is said to have lived here in some sort of caretaking capacity. One day in the Sixties Rodinsky stepped out into Princelet Street and ...

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