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Convenience Killing

John Sutherland, 7 April 1994

What’s Wrong with America 
by Scott Bradfield.
Picador, 196 pp., £14.99, January 1994, 0 330 32249 4
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The History of Luminous Motion 
by Scott Bradfield.
Picador, 196 pp., £5.99, January 1994, 0 330 33412 3
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Greetings from Earth 
by Scott Bradfield.
Picador, 296 pp., £5.99, January 1994, 0 330 32252 4
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... its duty and an LAPD man calls to see if there is a problem. Over chocolate cake and coffee the nice Officer Rodrigues complains of racism in the force, and takes a shine to nice Mrs O’Hallahan. When a particularly nosy neighbour asks too many questions Mrs Stansfield joins Marvin in the garden. It does not simplify ...

The Pouncer

Julian Barnes, 3 March 1983

The Mystery of Georges Simenon 
by Fenton Bresler.
Heinemann, 259 pp., £8.95, February 1983, 0 434 98033 1
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... I’ve been having these bad dreams about David Plante recently. Sometimes, I am slumped on the lavatory, glued there by gin and self-pity; sometimes, I am watching The Sound of Music on television and bawling shameful tears; sometimes, I am driving bad-temperedly through the Tuscan countryside, railing foolishly at the world’s treatment of me ...
... a university professor, about to return home. ‘What do you think of Poland?’ she asks. ‘Very nice,’ I reply politely; then, as her face creases with incredulity, I add: ‘Nice people.’ ‘Nice people,’ she agrees wryly. ‘But things are terrible here. We have ...

Strange Fruit

Francis Spufford, 5 February 1987

The Garden of Eden 
by Ernest Hemingway.
Hamish Hamilton, 247 pp., £9.95, February 1987, 0 241 11998 7
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... writer? Not me, at any rate. The Garden of Eden is studded with provincial delicacies Elizabeth David would be proud of (‘jamon serrano, a smoky, hard-cured ham from pigs that fed on acorns’) and dramatic narratives of eating and drinking that might please M.F.K. Fisher. The book is a sort of domestic novel, a portrait of amour fou and its aftermath in ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Eastern Promises’, 15 November 2007

Eastern Promises 
directed by David Cronenberg.
October 2007
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... safely (if painfully and disastrously) in the mind. No director realises this more clearly than David Cronenberg. He is best known no doubt for The Fly (1986), Dead Ringers (1988) and his much vilified Crash (1996), but some of us have a soft spot, if that’s the term, for his early work The Brood (1979), a classic instance of the acting-out theory. A ...

Social Policy

Ralf Dahrendorf, 3 July 1980

Understanding Social Policy 
by Michael Hill.
Blackwell, 280 pp., £12, April 1980, 0 631 18170 9
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Poverty and Inequality in Common Market Countries 
edited by Vic George and Roger Lawson.
Routledge, 253 pp., £9.50, April 1980, 0 7100 0424 9
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Planning for Welfare: Social Policy and the Expenditure Process 
edited by Timothy Booth.
Blackwell, 208 pp., £12, November 1980, 0 631 19560 2
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The City and Social Theory 
by Michael Peter Smith.
Blackwell, 315 pp., £12, April 1980, 9780631121510
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The Good City: A Study of Urban Development and Policy in Britain 
by David Donnison.
Heinemann, 221 pp., £4.95, April 1980, 0 435 85217 5
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The Economics of Prosperity: Social Priorities in the Eighties 
by David Blake and Paul Ormerod.
Grant Mclntyre, 230 pp., £3.95, April 1980, 0 86216 013 8
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... new educational class which dominates the journals and the universities. Defence policy provides a nice dividing line between those who believe that our survival depends on a new generation of Polaris rockets and those who are slightly embarrassed when asked where they propose to get the money from which they want to spend on doing good. But social policy? It ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: The 1970s, 18 November 2010

... to a version of style that negates itself and calls itself Austerity. (The opening chapter of David Kynaston’s Austerity Britain, 1945-51 is called ‘Waiting for Something to Happen’.) It can take a while for a decade to have a style. The 1950s, for example, weren’t really the 1950s until the 1960s so clearly turned out to be the 1960s.* We know ...

Let’s get the hell out of here

Patrick Parrinder, 29 September 1988

The Satanic Verses 
by Salman Rushdie.
Viking, 547 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 670 82537 9
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The Lost Father 
by Marina Warner.
Chatto, 277 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 7011 3220 5
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Nice Work 
by David Lodge.
Secker, 277 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 436 25667 3
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... has reconstructed is only a ‘family romance’, an operetta played out on her own toy stage. And David Lodge’s heroine complains that she is ‘getting dragged into a classic realist text, full of causality and morality. How can I get out of it?’ Trust the contemporary novelist for that, we might think – though, for Lodge’s characters, it’s a close ...

Jungle Book

John Pym, 21 November 1985

Money into Light 
by John Boorman.
Faber, 241 pp., £4.95, September 1985, 0 571 13731 8
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... The sun shines bright on the homely Victorine film studios in Nice. Meet Pamela is poised to go. Director Ferrand, however, is case-hardened; he knows that, on even such a straightforward programme-filler as this, compromise will be inevitable. Sure enough, the cat is disobedient. Increasingly dependent on the bottle, the actress playing the hero’s mother forgets her lines but stands on her dignity: ‘With Federico it was just – One, two three!’ The lab ruins a crowd scene ...

Notes on the Election

David Runciman: Power v. Power, 9 April 2015

... survive an honest admission of not being able to play the game. The consensus was that it would be nice to think she could. But that would mean everyone else agreeing to suspend the rules of the game. Which meant she couldn’t. By the time the story reached Newsnight that evening, Evan Davis was questioning the former chair of the Green Party, Jenny ...

Landlord of the Moon

David Craig: Scottish islands, 21 February 2002

Sea Room: An Island Life 
by Adam Nicolson.
HarperCollins, 391 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 00 257164 1
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... tried it as a pillow. A woman in the toll-booth outside the Dartford Tunnel said: ‘That looks nice.’ A man at a garage thought it was a fossilised meat pie, and an expert in early Christian sculpture at the Royal Commission for the Ancient and Historical Monuments in Scotland stroked its surface and said, ‘“Yes, yes,” as if it were a ...

Has Anyone Lost Yet?

David Edgar: the US election debates, 9 October 2008

... a highly successful strategy. Before the debate proper began, Palin told Biden that it was nice to meet him and could she call him Joe. Her hometown folksy style (from frequent ‘darn it’s to the occasional ‘it ain’t so’) was supplemented by pointed reminders that Alaska is an energy-producing state. She contrasted ‘East Coast ...

A Young Woman Who Was Meant to Kill Herself

Jeremy Harding: Charlotte Salomon, 8 March 2018

Life? Or Theatre? 
by Charlotte Salomon.
Duckworth, 840 pp., £125, September 2017, 978 1 715 65247 0
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Charlotte 
by David Foenkinos, translated by Sam Taylor.
Canongate, 224 pp., £8.99, January 2018, 978 1 78211 796 4
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Charlotte Salomon and the Theatre of Memory 
by Griselda Pollock.
Yale, 542 pp., £45, March 2018, 978 0 300 10072 3
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Charlotte Salomon: ‘Life? Or Theatre?’ A Selection of 450 Gouaches 
by Judith Belinfante and Evelyn Benesch.
Taschen, 599 pp., £30, November 2017, 978 3 8365 7077 0
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... by the rise of Nazism: Charlotte and her grandfather, Ludwig Grunwald, were living together in Nice at the time. If they were at Gurs they were released soon afterwards, making their way back to the Côte d’Azur under a cloud. Grunwald was elderly, frail and monstrous; wherever these weeks were spent, outside of ...

Up the avenue

Peter Clarke, 11 June 1992

Election Rides 
by Edward Pearce.
Faber, 198 pp., £5.99, April 1992, 0 571 16657 1
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... a fitting climax to the lyrical expedition across the Pennines from Richmond to Clitheroe. It’s nice to see that the author pulled in quite a lot of ‘countryside of the sort lucky not to have been stripped out and exported to Japan’. How different from his final slog from Birmingham to catch the count at Huntingdon, which evinces the comment that ‘a ...

The Earnestness of Being Important

P.N. Furbank, 19 August 1982

John Buchan: A Memoir 
by William Buchan.
Buchan and Enright, 272 pp., £9.95, May 1982, 0 907675 03 4
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The Best Short Stories of John Buchan. Vol. II 
edited by David Daniell.
Joseph, 240 pp., £8.50, June 1982, 9780718121211
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... The nice thing about John Buchan is that he was on the side of books. He thought, it is true, that he ought to have been a Guardian, shaping the Empire, or dominating Cabinets, or, at worst, ‘a power behind the throne’. However, after his spell in Milner’s ‘Kindergarten’, the nation didn’t seem to want him in the Guardian line, so he did the next best thing and became an entertainer ...

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