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Amanda Vickery: Vauxhall Gardens

7 February 2013
Vauxhall Gardens: A History 
by Alan Borg and David Coke.
Yale, 473 pp., £55, June 2011, 978 0 300 17382 6
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... the Thames in 1661, might well have been the first commercial pleasure garden in Europe. The business flourished for two centuries, finally closing in 1859. Vauxhall’s special status, Alan Borg and DavidCoke argue in this hefty antiquarian tome, lies in its originality as a commercial venture, the changes it triggered in the social and cultural life of London, the extreme heterogeneity of the ...

At the Grand Palais

Andrew O’Hagan: The Lagerfeld Fandango

18 July 2019
... Warhol he found it hard to imagine a world without his own intelligence still gaming at the centre of it. By the end he seemed to imagine that ideas alone might sustain the body. He lived on Diet Coke. When I first sat with him, in an hôtel particulier off the boulevard St-Germain that he retained for lunches, Frédéric Gouby, his maître d’hôtel, brought him a carafe of Diet Coke on a silver ...


Michael Wood: Chinese Whispers

8 August 2013
edited by Adam Thirlwell.
Portobello, 380 pp., £20, August 2013, 978 1 84627 537 1
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... the English says: ‘I dress smartly and I don’t drink. I don’t play Xbox but I love the ladies.’ This becomes: ‘Je m’habille affreusement mal mais bois tout le temps, j’ai arrêté la coke mais j’aime les filles’ (‘I dress horribly badly but drink all the time, I’ve given up coke but I love girls’). At the end of the English paragraph the surprise is that Marina Petrova turns ...

Emotional Sushi

Ian Sansom: Tony, Nick and Simon

9 August 2001
One for My Baby 
by Tony Parsons.
HarperCollins, 330 pp., £15.99, July 2001, 0 00 226182 0
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How to Be Good 
by Nick Hornby.
Viking, 256 pp., £16.99, May 2001, 0 670 88823 0
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Little Green Man 
by Simon Armitage.
Viking, 246 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 0 670 89442 7
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... jacket (five points). He had spent more than twenty pounds on a haircut (five points).’ How to Be Good now extends this fine line of wit even further: Here is a list of the people that Andrew and David have hitherto regarded as talentless, overrated, or simply wankers: Oasis, the Stones, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Robbie Williams, Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis, Evelyn Waugh, Auberon Waugh, Salman ...

Back to Runnymede

Ferdinand Mount: Magna Carta

22 April 2015
Magna Carta 
by David​ Carpenter.
Penguin, 594 pp., £10.99, January 2015, 978 0 241 95337 2
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Magna Carta Uncovered 
by Anthony Arlidge and Igor Judge.
Hart, 222 pp., £25, October 2014, 978 1 84946 556 4
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Magna Carta 
by J.C. Holt.
Cambridge, 488 pp., £21.99, May 2015, 978 1 107 47157 3
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Magna Carta: The Foundation of Freedom 1215-2015 
by Nicholas Vincent.
Third Millennium, 192 pp., £44.95, January 2015, 978 1 908990 28 0
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Magna Carta: The Making and Legacy of the Great Charter 
by Dan Jones.
Head of Zeus, 192 pp., £14.99, December 2014, 978 1 78185 885 1
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... made them judges; whether they had any authority to sit there but what he gave them?’ Nor did Cromwell think any better of the Petition of Right, the reprise of Magna Carta designed by Sir Edward Coke to recall Charles I to his constitutional duty: according to Coke’s grandson Roger, he called it ‘the Petition of Shite’. I can find scant mention of this menacing language and conduct in those ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The gangster movie

13 December 2007
American Gangster 
directed by Ridley Scott.
November 2007
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... girl. There is one scene where he cracks up, beautifully placed to show how much of his mind and feelings he has closeted away, refused to inspect. At a party in his apartment one guest is sniffing coke, another is drunk, and another packs a gun and shoots a rival. The world he lives off and yet keeps at bay has invaded his home. Lucas goes berserk, and smashes the offender’s head inside the grand ...

How Dare He?

Jenny Turner: Geoff Dyer

11 June 2009
Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi 
by Geoff Dyer.
Canongate, 295 pp., £12.99, April 2009, 978 1 84767 270 4
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... mess, transgression – so what exactly was it about women’s assholes? – only with the risk and messiness cleaned up. Compare, for example, Dyer’s anti-travel writing with that of the late David Foster Wallace, another sort-of post-mod sort-of slacker, with many similar interests and of much the same generation. Dyer could not, as Wallace did in ‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do ...

A life, surely?

Jenny Diski: To Portobello on Angel Dust

18 February 1999
The Ossie Clark Diaries 
edited by Henrietta Rous.
Bloomsbury, 402 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 7475 3901 4
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... young icon slouched on a chair with a moody, come-hither expression, a pure white cat on his lap and his bare feet submerged in the pile of a white rug in Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, the portrait by David Hockney that aspired to Gainsborough as a take on the aristocracy of London, c.1971, but owed more to Harpers & Queen. The fashion bubble of Sixties London was not quite the fourth dynasty or the ...

Other People

Dinah Birch

6 July 1989
The Middleman, and Other Stories 
by Bharati Mukherjee.
Virago, 197 pp., £11.95, June 1989, 1 85381 058 4
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The Burning Boys 
by John Fuller.
Chatto, 128 pp., £10.95, June 1989, 9780701134648
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Termination Rock 
by Gillian Freeman.
Pandora, 182 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 0 04 440352 6
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by Joan Aiken.
Gollancz, 254 pp., £11.95, June 1989, 0 575 04502 7
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... for its illicit goods and dumps its surplus parts, where it prefers to fight its wars, and once you’ve settled into its give and take, you find it’s impossible to live anywhere else. It’s the coke-and-caffeine jungle of being seventeen and readier to kill than be killed and to know that Job One is to secure your objective and after that it’s unsupervised play till the next order comes down ...

End of the Century

John Sutherland

13 October 1988
Worlds Apart 
by David​ Holbrook.
Hale, 205 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 9780709033639
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Story of My Life 
by Jay McInerney.
Bloomsbury, 188 pp., £11.95, August 1988, 0 7475 0180 7
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Forgotten Life 
by Brian Aldiss.
Gollancz, 284 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 575 04369 5
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Incline Our hearts 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £11.95, August 1988, 0 241 12256 2
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... It would be interesting to place Jay McInerney and David Holbrook as neighbours at E.M. Forster’s imaginary table. Both novelists are fascinated by decadence – that much they have in common. But their diagnoses and anatomies of the decadent condition ...
22 January 1987
The History of the Countryside 
by Oliver Rackham.
Dent, 445 pp., £16.95, April 1986, 0 460 04449 4
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Gilbert White: A Biography of the Author of the ‘Natural History of Selborne’ 
by Richard Mabey.
Century, 239 pp., £14.95, May 1986, 0 7126 1232 7
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The Journals of Gilbert White 1751-1773: Vol. 1 
edited by Francesca Greenoak.
Century, 531 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 7126 1294 7
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An Account of the Foxglove and its Medical Uses 1785-1985 
by J.K. Aronson.
Oxford, 399 pp., £25, February 1986, 0 19 261501 7
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The Oxford Dictionary of Natural History 
edited by Michael Allaby.
Oxford, 688 pp., £20, January 1986, 0 19 217720 6
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... in woodland ‘removal’ irreversible devastation, were in reality quite blameless: they depended on a steady supply of underwood and it was very much in their interest to conserve this. Coal and coke took over from charcoal, not because wood had grown hard to come by, but because of their lower labour costs. The mesmeric effect of the written word has similarly led historians to exaggerate ...


Linda Colley: Anita Hill v. Clarence Thomas

19 December 1991
... President faces the prospect of a conservative challenge for the Republican nomination – possibly from Pat Buchanan, certainly, though less threateningly, from the Louisiana ex-Ku-Klux-Klansman, David Duke. Neither is likely to succeed, but as a moderate who has committed the deadly sin of raising taxes, Bush knows that he has to make some attempt to conciliate the more conservative wing of his ...


Michael Rogin

5 September 1996
Imagineering Atlanta 
by Charles Rutheiser.
Verso, 324 pp., £44.95, July 1996, 1 85984 800 1
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... Gone with the Wind, the most popular movie and, after the Bible, the best-selling book of all time, is a monument to white supremacy. The book and film offer different variations on the theme: the David O. Selznick production replaced Mitchell’s celebration of the Ku-Klux-Klan with a visually unforgettable paean to ‘the cavalier society’ of antebellum Atlanta, with its ‘knights and ladies ...


August Kleinzahler: Too Bad about Mrs Ferri

20 September 2001
... families, like mine, a couple of Greek families, an Irish family, an Armenian family, but everyone else was Southern Italian. You might as well have been in Palermo, except the buildings were newer. David Chase, The Sopranos’ creator, grew up in Essex County. Fort Lee is Bergen County, but never you mind. I played as a child with Tony Soprano and his pals, if you can imagine them as eight-year-olds ...

Das Nuffa Dat and BigGloria3

Elaine Showalter: Up and Down the Academic Ladder

1 November 2001
Academic Instincts 
by Marjorie Garber.
Princeton, 187 pp., £11.95, February 2001, 9780691049700
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Postmodern Pooh 
by Frederick Crews.
North Point, 175 pp., $22, October 2001, 0 86547 626 8
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... are too high.’ Perhaps inevitably, Garber’s example of such an envied and resented star is Stanley Fish. Fish’s salaries and lecture fees have been part of the lore of academic culture since David Lodge’s Changing Places (1975), where he appeared thinly disguised as Morris Zapp, who, ‘enviably offered his first job by Euphoria State, had stuck out for twice the going salary, and got it ...

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