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Leave them weeping

Colin Grant: Frederick Douglass

1 August 2019
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom 
by David Blight.
Simon and Schuster, 892 pp., £30, November 2018, 978 1 4165 9031 6
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... Its popularity – five thousand copies were sold within four months – reflected his extraordinary talent for making viscerally real what was for many readers the abstraction of slavery. As DavidBlight puts it in his excellent new biography, he ‘learned how to leave them weeping’. But the Narrative’s publication also threatened Douglass’s safety. He was still a slave who could ...

Untouchable?

David​ Runciman: The Tory State?

7 September 2016
... now starting to appear and they are coming from inside the government. Boris Johnson is unhappy with the aggrandising behaviour of Liam Fox at the newly created Department for International Trade. David Davis at the newly created Department for Exiting the European Union is unhappy with both of them. This kind of turf warfare will only get worse as the time for invoking Article 50 draws near. It ...

Squealing

Ian Buruma

13 May 1993
Gower: The Autobiography 
by David​ Gower and Martin Johnson.
Collins Willow, 256 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 00 218413 3
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... David Gower was this year’s most popular victim, the English underdog, the handsome knight sacrificed by knaves. But good news is at hand: the hero has announced a brilliant season full of runs. In the ...

Be flippant

David​ Edgar: Noël Coward’s Return

9 December 1999
1956 and All That 
by Dan Reballato.
Routledge, 265 pp., £40, February 1999, 0 415 18938 1
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Collected Plays: Six 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 415 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73410 2
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Collected Plays: Seven 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 381 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73410 2
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Collected Revue Sketches and Parodies 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 282 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73390 4
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Noël Coward: A Life in Quotes 
edited by Barry Day.
Metro, 116 pp., £9.99, November 1999, 9781900512848
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Noël Coward: The Complete Lyrics 
Methuen, 352 pp., £30, December 1998, 0 413 73230 4Show More
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... as the restaurant owner in an extract from Wesker’s The Kitchen. Less emblematic but equally germane is the story, told in Philip Hoare’s 1995 biography, of Coward’s visit to the Court to see David Storey’s grittily realistic Rugby League play The Changing Room. His attention having been drawn to the male genitalia on display in the bath scene, Coward remarked: ‘13 acorns are not worth the ...

Short Cuts

Patrick Wright: The Moral of Brenley Corner

6 December 2018
... in the late 1960s, had refused to yield to Kentish requests that the M2 be extended all the way to Dover, but the bypasses were on the way by 28 June 1973, when the conservative MP for Canterbury, David Crouch, told the House of Commons that he was merely asking that the A2 be raised to ‘the standard obtaining in Europe’. Crouch quoted a report showing that freight through Dover had increased by ...

Erasures

Colm Tóibín: The Great Irish Famine

30 July 1998
... 48, Ireland was exporting to England food to the value of £15 million, and had on her own soil at each harvest, good and ample provision for double her own population, notwithstanding the potato blight.’ This claim persisted, as did the call that we should neither forgive nor forget. In fact, food imports for the years 1846 to 1850 exceeded exports by a ratio of two to one.Such claims and calls ...

Auchnasaugh

Patrick Parrinder

7 November 1991
King Cameron 
by David​ Craig.
Carcanet, 212 pp., £12.95, May 1991, 0 85635 917 3
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The Hungry Generations 
by David​ Gilmour.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 194 pp., £13.95, August 1991, 1 85619 069 2
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O Caledonia 
by Elspeth Barker.
Hamish Hamilton, 152 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 0 241 13146 4
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... David Craig has an unfashionable concern with truth-telling in fiction. In his earlier role as a literary critic, he wrote a book called The Real Foundations in which he showed how some of the most ...

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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... British theatre which undoubtedly occurred in the late 1950s, and questioned the centrality of Osborne’s 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 ...
8 May 1997
Promising The Earth 
by Robert Lamb.
Routledge, 204 pp., £35, September 1996, 0 415 14443 4
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... but took root in Britain almost immediately, in an episode of very conspicuous consumption. The moment was late in 1970, at the Travellers’ Club in London, during a supper for 14 people. David Brower, the saint of eco-sanity from the Sierra Club in California, had just given a sermon, a hell-fire variant of the one geologists have used for a century or more: rocks are long, life is short ...

White Lies

James Campbell: Nella Larsen

5 October 2006
In Search of Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Colour Line 
by George Hutchinson.
Harvard, 611 pp., £25.95, June 2006, 0 674 02180 0
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... or of her fictional creation Clare Kendry, though there are suggestions that she would have liked to. In 1987, in the catalogue published to accompany an exhibition about the Harlem Renaissance, David Levering Lewis referred to Larsen as ‘the mysterious and lovely Virgin Islander’. Eight years later, in When Harlem Was in Vogue, Lewis relayed the (unsourced) information that Larsen was looked ...

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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... and the cathedral close – were under new and powerful threat from agents of destruction as diverse as the county council and the property-developer, the internal combustion engine and suburban blight. Publications such as Country Life and the VCH were suffused with a dreamy, wistful, elegiac nostalgia for a vanishing rural England: they were expressions of rustic lament rather than the manifestos ...

Strangers

John Lanchester

11 July 1991
Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon 
edited by Stephen Egger.
Praeger, 250 pp., £33.50, October 1990, 0 275 92986 8
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Serial Killers 
by Joel Norris.
Arrow, 333 pp., £4.99, July 1990, 0 09 971750 6
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Life after Life 
by Tony Parker.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.50, May 1991, 0 330 31528 5
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American Psycho 
by Bret Easton Ellis.
Picador, 399 pp., £6.99, April 1991, 0 330 31992 2
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Dirty Weekend 
by Helen Zahavi.
Macmillan, 185 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 333 54723 3
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Silence of the Lambs 
by Thomas Harris.
Mandarin, 366 pp., £4.99, April 1991, 0 7493 0942 3
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... has had the top box-office receipts on both sides of the Atlantic, have recently provided the material for works by artists as different from each other as P.D. James, DV8 Physical Dance Theatre and David Lynch. Stephen Egger, an American academic and former policeman who wrote the first doctoral dissertation on the phenomenon, gives a definition/description of serial murder in Serial Murder: An ...
22 January 1987
A Century of the Scottish People: 1830-1950 
by T.C. Smout.
Collins, 318 pp., £15, May 1986, 9780002175241
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Living in Atholl: A Social History of the Estates 1685-1785 
by Leah Leneman.
Edinburgh, 244 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 85224 507 6
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... pretty effectively the view that the Atholl estates were successfully managed in a spirit of ‘enlightened paternalism’. Perhaps the jocundly pastoral, fresh-faced musicians and dancers in David Allan’s famous painting of a ‘Highland Wedding at Blair Atholl’, which is reproduced as her dust-jacket, are less idealised than one has supposed. Whatever good there was in 18th-century ways ...

Into the Underworld

Iain Sinclair: The Hackney Underworld

22 January 2015
... promised for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. And nobody but the owners can get at them. What could be more empowering than to sit looking at an immaculate rectangle of water, a three-dimensional David Hockney which will never be disturbed by a thrashing alien presence? Neighbours lacking this obscene quantum of liquidity might well complain about the noise, the dust, the inconvenience and the ...
17 June 1982
Inner-City Poverty in Paris and London 
by Peter Willmott and Charles Madge.
Routledge, 146 pp., £8.50, August 1981, 0 7100 0819 8
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The Inner City in Context 
edited by Peter Hall.
Heinemann, 175 pp., £12.50, October 1981, 0 435 35718 2
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New Perspectives in Urban Change and Conflict 
edited by Michael Harloe.
Heinemann, 265 pp., £15, December 1981, 9780435824044
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The Politics of Poverty 
by David​ Donnison.
Martin Robertson, 239 pp., £9.95, December 1981, 0 85520 481 8
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The Politics of Poverty 
by Susanne MacGregor.
Longman, 193 pp., £2.95, November 1981, 0 582 29524 6
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... Party’s Reports on The Inner City in Context, Michael Harloe, in New Perspectives in Urban Change and Conflict, edits papers given at the third Centre for Environmental Studies Conference in 1979, David Donnison reflects on his time as Chairman of the Supplementary Benefits Commission in The Politics of Poverty, and Susanne MacGregor provides the best of the bunch with her brilliantly incisive ...

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