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Don’t blame him

Peter Brown: Constantine, 23 April 2015

Constantine the Emperor 
by David Potter.
Oxford, 368 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 0 19 975586 8
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... of the church, the rise of intolerance, the spirit of the Crusades – blame it on Constantine. David Potter punctures this inflated image. This doesn’t mean he cuts Constantine down to size: far from it. Potter has done something far more difficult. He has examined, with gusto and an unrivalled mastery of ...

Goose Girl

Josephine Quinn: Empress Theodora, 4 May 2017

Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint 
by David Potter.
Oxford, 277 pp., £17.99, January 2016, 978 0 19 974076 5
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... Theodora and attendants, from a sixth-century mosaic in the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna David Potter’s contribution to the series is a life of the sixth-century Byzantine empress Theodora, the wife of Justinian, who ruled the eastern Roman provinces from Constantinople for almost forty years. Justinian had been a soldier from Illyrian peasant ...

Made for TV

Jenny Diski, 14 December 1995

Fight & Kick & Bite: The Life and Work of Dennis Potter 
by W. Stephen Gilbert.
Hodder, 382 pp., £18.99, November 1995, 0 340 64047 2
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Dennis PotterA Life on Screen 
by John Cook.
Manchester, 368 pp., £45, October 1995, 0 7190 4601 7
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... The death of Dennis Potter may have been authored by God, but it was adapted for television by Potter himself. It began after a brief report in the Guardian suggested that Potter’s terminal cancer related to his lifelong addiction to nicotine ...

The Potter, the Priest and the Stick in the Mud

David A. Bell: Spain v. Napoleon, 6 November 2008

Napoleon’s Cursed War: Popular Resistance in the Spanish Peninsular War 
by Ronald Fraser.
Verso, 587 pp., £29.99, April 2008, 978 1 84467 082 6
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... almost all of Spain. Yet guerrilla bands under chieftains with colourful nicknames like ‘The Potter’, ‘The Priest’ and ‘The Stick in the Mud’ (El Empecinado) made large stretches of the countryside ungovernable, forcing the French to travel in armed convoys and to employ increasingly brutal methods of counterinsurgency. At one point, a French ...

At the British Library

Katherine Rundell: Harry Potter, 14 December 2017

... fiction, one of the questions I’ve been most often asked is ‘Are they any good, the Potter books?’ – a question which, like the Latin prefix num, anticipates the answer ‘no’. A phoenix from a 13th-century bestiary A lot of their power comes from appealing to the fairy-tale desire of every child to believe that they are secretly ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bookshops, 14 December 2000

... at a discount of 50 per cent. Coming under fire at a meeting of the Independent Publishers Guild, David Kneale, the managing director of Waterstone’s, reminded delegates that ‘we have shareholders and have to make a profit.’ He changed tack later, insisting that his first responsibility was to his staff (that wouldn’t include Robert Topping, of ...

Short Cuts

Paul Laity: Little England, 24 May 2001

... of the universally adored J.K. Rowling OBE. Is this not taking the antique Englishness of Harry Potter just a little too far? But then I remember that the ‘feasts’ served up at Hogwarts boarding school are of ‘roast beef, roast chicken . . . lamb chops . . . Yorkshire puddings . . . peppermint humbugs’ and the like. All of which is, as the ...

Tall Storeys

Patrick Parrinder, 10 December 1987

Life: A User’s Manual 
by Georges Perec, translated by David Bellos.
Collins Harvill, 581 pp., £15, October 1987, 0 00 271463 9
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The New York Trilogy: City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 314 pp., £10.95, November 1987, 0 571 14925 1
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... Like Hoyle and Stephen Potter, Georges Perec was a devotee of indoor games. La Vie Mode d’Emploi (1978), a title combining lifemanship, gamesmanship and one-upmanship, was the monumental creation of an author whose other productions included a treatise on Go (the Japanese board-game) and a weekly crossword for the magazine Le Point ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Flashman, 9 May 2002

... It’s hard to imagine anyone settling down to write the further adventures of that Harry Potter of the 1830s, Tom Brown; even harder to imagine anyone settling down to read them. (Thomas Hughes did in fact write a sequel, Tom Brown at Oxford, but it’s never done as well as Tom Brown’s Schooldays: Amazon.co.uk hasn’t even heard of it ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, 30 November 2017

Murder on the Orient Express 
directed by Kenneth Brannagh.
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... audio-visual life, but the relatively recent personifications by Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov and David Suchet dominate most memories. None of these figures much resembles the ‘short, stout, elderly man, his hair cut en brosse’ that Agatha Christie describes. Well, they often manage the stout bit, but for the rest they are tallish, more like ...

Fiction and the Poverty of Theory

John Sutherland, 20 November 1986

News from Nowhere 
by David Caute.
Hamish Hamilton, 403 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 241 11920 0
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O-Zone 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 469 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 241 11948 0
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Ticket to Ride 
by Dennis Potter.
Faber, 202 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 9780571145232
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... A drunken American historian once lurched over to David Caute at a party and told him: ‘Having read your last novel, or part of it, I’d advise you to give up writing fiction – if you weren’t such a lousy historian.’ Caute, a connoisseur of masochism, tells the story against himself (in Contemporary Novelists, 1976 ...

Diary

Tobias Jones: Campaigning at the Ministry of Sound, 6 March 1997

... has been keen to register all students to vote ... twice (‘a civil rights issue’, says Ruth Potter, the National Secretary for Labour Students). Portsmouth South has a (Tory) majority of only 242; Loughborough, Cambridge, Oxford West, Exeter and others will have close calls. Major called the last election on 9 April – as luck and calculation had it, a ...

Wrath of the Centurions

Max Hastings: My Lai, 25 January 2018

My Lai: Vietnam, 1968 and the Descent into Darkness 
by Howard Jones.
Oxford, 504 pp., £22.99, June 2017, 978 0 19 539360 6
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... the efforts of kindly Tommies in winning hearts and minds. Recent studies – for instance, David French’s excellent The British Way in Counter-Insurgency 1945-67 – show that in Malaya, Cyprus, Aden and Kenya British soldiers in fact displayed frequent brutality, often condoned by their officers. In all of Britain’s counterinsurgency ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Wonder Woman’, 13 July 2017

Wonder Woman 
directed by Patty Jenkins.
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... who seems to have been both for and against the armistice, expertly and unctuously represented by David Thewlis in his Harry Potter schoolmaster mode, and who appears to Diana as the god himself, levitating, changing forms and throwing thunderbolts. Finally, and this is probably the film’s low point, he abandons all ...

In Letchworth

Gillian Darley: Pevsner's Hertfordshire, 2 January 2020

... on the site of the former Leavesden aerodrome at Abbots Langley – they’re now home to Harry Potter World. How can knobbly Knebworth House, which looks as though it’s built of papier-mâché, compete? In 1843 Edward Bulwer-Lytton had the Tudor manor house remodelled – in Pevsner’s words – as a ‘romantic paraphrase of the Gothic ...

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