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Forever Unwilling

Bernard Wasserstein, 13 April 2000

A People Apart: The Jews in Europe 1789-1939 
by David Vital.
Oxford, 944 pp., £30, June 1999, 0 19 821980 6
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... their surroundings, and tried to come to terms with modernity? ‘This is a political history,’ David Vital’s first sentence states baldly. What interests him most is the legal relationship between Jews and the states they lived in, their evolving civic status, the nature and growth of hostility to them (though not its causes), and the emergence of ...

Magic Circles

V.G. Kiernan, 4 May 1989

Jewish History: Essays in Honour of Chimen Abramsky 
edited by Ada Rapoport-Albert and Steven Zipperstein.
Peter Halban, 700 pp., £30, January 1989, 1 870015 19 3
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A History of Islamic Societies 
by Ira Lapidus.
Cambridge, 1002 pp., £35, July 1988, 0 521 22552 3
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... ends by asking, ‘that it is possible and necessary to change society?’ In the concluding essay David Vital argues that although Israel has arrogated to itself the central position within world Jewry, and laid claim to an ‘overall leadership’, its wants and interests are in reality ‘sharply different’ from those of Jewish life ...

The man whose portrait they painted

Patrick Procktor, 12 July 1990

A Life with Food 
by Peter Langan and Brian Sewell.
Bloomsbury, 128 pp., £16.99, May 1990, 9780747502203
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... From David Hockney’s Lord of Misrule to its repetition on the back of the jacket, this book is a bull shot, like the cocktail at the bar in Langan’s Brasserie. It consists of Langan’s self-portrait, written in the sleepless marches, to which the art critic Brian Sewell has contributed a memoir of friendship which will come as a pleasant surprise to readers more accustomed to his inspired Sowerberry in the columns of the Evening Standard ...

Brown and Friends

David Runciman, 3 January 2008

... Party in Scotland. Balls’s wife, Yvette Cooper, sits with him in cabinet. Miliband’s brother, David, is foreign secretary. Brothers and sisters, husbands and wives: the Brown government is a family affair, and it marks a shift to ever more intimate political relationships at the centre of power, even compared to the days when Tony Blair was ruling the ...

Triumph of the Termites

Tom Nairn: Gordon Brown, 8 April 2010

The End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New Labour 
by Andrew Rawnsley.
Viking, 802 pp., £25, March 2010, 978 0 670 91851 5
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What Went Wrong, Gordon Brown?: How the Dream Job Turned Sour 
edited by Colin Hughes.
Guardian, 294 pp., £8.99, January 2010, 978 0 85265 219 0
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Broonland: The Last Days of Gordon Brown 
by Christopher Harvie.
Verso, 206 pp., £8.99, February 2010, 978 1 84467 439 8
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... book features a cartoon from the Independent: an apocalyptic lightning flash strikes and anoints David Cameron, while Brown and Alistair Darling flee London as Parliament quakes against the background of a setting sun. Andrew Rawnsley’s The End of the Party is less dramatic: we see Brown, Mandelson and Blair in a morning-after sprawl; Brown’s big toe ...

Book Reviews

David Trotter, 24 January 1980

... into routines less appropriate to argument than to bomb disposal: circle your object, spot the vital wires from a safe distance, then leap in to sever them and render the thing harmless. The brassy ‘all clear’ which rings out in the final paragraphs of such reviews is truly chilling, because what this irrelevant dexterity has supposedly disabled is not ...

The Nephew

David Thomson, 19 March 1981

Charmed Lives 
by Michael Korda.
Penguin, 498 pp., £2.50, January 1981, 0 14 005402 2
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... eyes. But Michael is neither a film buff nor a historian of the movies. He is, instead, that vital figure in the picture business, a nephew, half-English, half-American, and in his dreams entirely Hungarian. He grew up enthralled by his uncle Alex: he can only provide a fond and rather vague sketch of his father, Vincent, and a perfunctory one of his ...

Bit by bit

David Lindley, 7 November 1991

The Triumph of the Embryo 
by Lewis Wolpert.
Oxford, 211 pp., £14.95, September 1991, 0 19 854243 7
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... In the old days, when organic matter was supposed to be infused with some vital spirit that distinguished it from the cold clay of the material world, and the variety of human types and the possession of free will were in-controvertibly attributed to the powers and generosity of God, it was not so hard to understand how an embryo grew into a whole human being ...

Problems for the SDP

David Butler, 1 October 1981

... the Dimbleby Lecture, Liberals argued that all Roy Jenkins had to do was to join their party. But David Steel rightly perceived a vast extra reservoir of strength for the centre that could be tapped by a new party, with none of the historic baggage of the Liberals, appealing both to Labour’s disillusioned Right and to many people with no background in ...

Stalking Out

David Edgar: After John Osborne, 20 July 2006

John Osborne: A Patriot for Us 
by John Heilpern.
Chatto, 528 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 7011 6780 7
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... influence on the generations that followed. Following Osborne’s death in 1994, however, David Hare, among others, leaped to the playwright’s defence, in his memorial eulogy and a longer lecture first delivered in 2002 and repeated on the stage of the Royal Court on the 50th anniversary of Look Back in Anger’s opening. Now John Heilpern has taken ...

Because We Could

David Simpson: Soldiers and Torture, 18 November 2010

None of Us Were Like This Before: American Soldiers and Torture 
by Joshua Phillips.
Verso, 237 pp., £16.99, September 2010, 978 1 84467 599 9
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... Last July David Cameron announced a judicial inquiry into Britain’s alleged participation in acts of torture and rendition in the years since 9/11, though he also said that it wouldn’t begin until the current round of civil lawsuits had been resolved. The emphasis, he implied, would be on Britain’s role in condoning or assisting foreign agencies rather than on our own independent behaviour ...

Making peace

Dan Gillon, 3 April 1980

The Question of Palestine 
by Edward Said.
Routledge, 265 pp., £7.50, February 1980, 0 7100 0498 2
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... is that first step to be achieved? Among Palestinians there is unanimous condemnation of the Camp David accords and the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty that stems from them. They are seen as an attempt by Egypt, Israel and the United States, acting in concert, to trim down the question of Palestine and perhaps even to make it disappear altogether. In the ...

Secretly Sublime

Iain Sinclair: The Great Ian Penman, 19 March 1998

Vital Signs 
by Ian Penman.
Serpent’s Tail, 374 pp., £10.99, February 1998, 1 85242 523 7
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... hubris. He could have come to believe, along with Julie Burchill, who kicks in an Introduction to Vital Signs, Penman’s eclectic retrievals from time lost, that he had become a ‘signature’. A logo. A mark. A neon sign that culture buffs will chase without worrying too much what he is writing about. One of those elephantine Hunter ...

Abishag’s Revenge

Steven Shapin: Who wants to live for ever?, 26 March 2009

Mortal Coil: A Short History of Living Longer 
by David Boyd Haycock.
Yale, 308 pp., £18.99, June 2008, 978 0 300 11778 3
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... Now King David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat. Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat ...

Deal of the Century

David Thomson: As Ovitz Tells It, 7 March 2019

Who Is Michael Ovitz? 
by Michael Ovitz.
W.H. Allen, 372 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 0 7535 5336 7
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... of ‘Whatever happened to … ?’ So who was he? Michael Ovitz was born in Chicago in 1946 to David, the son of Jewish Romanian immigrants. David was a liquor salesman for Seagram’s but he worked weekends too, selling patio furniture to support his family after they moved to Encino in the San Fernando Valley. ‘The ...

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