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Knucklehead Truman

Douglas Johnson, 2 June 1983

The Eisenhower Diaries 
edited by Robert Ferrell.
Norton, 445 pp., £15.25, April 1983, 0 393 01432 0
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The Life and Times of Joe McCarthy: A Biography 
by Thomas Reeves.
Blond and Briggs, 819 pp., £11.95, June 1983, 0 85634 131 2
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The past has another pattern 
by George Ball.
Norton, 544 pp., £14.95, September 1982, 0 393 01481 9
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Torn Lace Curtain 
by Frank Saunders and James Southwood.
Sidgwick, 361 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 283 98946 7
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The Years of Lyndon JohnsonThe Path to Power 
by Robert Caro.
Collins, 882 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 00 217062 0
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The Politician: The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson 
by Ronnie Dugger.
Norton, 514 pp., £13.25, September 1982, 9780393015980
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Years of Upheaval 
by Henry Kissinger.
Weidenfeld/Joseph, 1312 pp., £15.95, March 1982, 0 7181 2115 5
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Richard Nixon: The Shaping of his Character 
by Fawn Brodie.
Norton, 574 pp., £14.95, October 1982, 0 393 01467 3
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Haig: The General’s Progress 
by Roger Morris.
Robson, 458 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 9780860511885
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Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President 
by Jimmy Carter.
Collins, 622 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 00 216648 8
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Crisis: The Last Year of the Carter Presidency 
by Hamilton Jordan.
Joseph, 431 pp., £12.95, November 1982, 0 7181 2248 8
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Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser 1977-81 
by Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Weidenfeld, 587 pp., £15, April 1983, 0 297 78220 7
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... than a statesman, who owned his position to the ambition and wealth of a determined father. Lyndon Johnson was a corrupt politician who neither cared about nor understood the implications of his own rhetoric. Nixon was notorious for his deviousness and dishonesty, remarkable for his complex and psychotic personality. Ford was an accident, an afterthought ...

What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Russian Hacking

Jackson Lears: #Russiagate, 4 January 2018

... rival factions in the intelligence community: the ‘tree of smoke’ that, for the novelist Denis Johnson, symbolised CIA operations in Vietnam. I inhaled that smoke myself in 1969-70, when I was a cryptographer with a Top Secret clearance on a US navy ship that carried missiles armed with nuclear warheads – the existence of which the navy ...

Leases of Lifelessness

Denis Donoghue, 7 October 1993

Beckett’s Dying Words 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 218 pp., £17.50, July 1993, 0 19 812358 2
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... I doubt Ricks’s general notion here and wonder how it survived his transcription of Samuel Johnson’s reply to Miss Seward: ‘The lady confounds annihilation, which is nothing, with the apprehension of it, which is dreadful. It is in the apprehension of it that the horror of annihilation consists.’ Or Swift’s ‘Thoughts on Various ...

Who’s best?

Douglas Johnson, 27 September 1990

The Rise and Fall of Anti-Americanism: A Century of French Perception 
edited by Denis Lacorne, Jacques Rupnik and Marie-France Toinet, translated by Gerald Turner.
Macmillan, 258 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 333 49025 8
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... During the academic year 1982-83 Alain Besançon, a French specialist on Soviet affairs, became a visiting professor at the Hoover Institute in Stanford. He arranged with his Parisian colleague, Jean Plumyene, that they would write regularly to each other and that their correspondence would be published. The interest of this exchange of letters between French academics, the one in California and the other in Paris, lies in Besançon’s reactions to America ...

The Devilish God

David Wheatley: T.S. Eliot, 1 November 2001

Words Alone: The Poet T.S. Eliot 
by Denis Donoghue.
Yale, 326 pp., £17.95, January 2001, 0 300 08329 7
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Adam’s Curse: Reflections on Religion and Literature 
by Denis Donoghue.
Notre Dame, 178 pp., £21.50, May 2001, 0 268 02009 4
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... With the catcalls from the terraces grown so strident, how much longer can Chairman Tom cling on? Denis Donoghue was an admirer of Eliot’s before Paulin was born, and brings the fruit of many decades’ reading and rumination to Words Alone: The Poet T.S. Eliot. Donoghue begins by invoking his own 1990 memoir, Warrenpoint, which he had hoped to follow by ...

At the Skunk Works

R.W. Johnson, 23 February 1995

Fool’s Gold: The Story of North Sea Oil 
by Christopher Harvie.
Hamish Hamilton, 408 pp., £18.99, October 1994, 0 241 13352 1
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... from the sale of the old BNOC. Her back-handed account is all the more remarkable in view of Denis Healey’s observations on the depths of the first Thatcher recession of 1980-81: ‘It would have been impossible for Britain to have survived these disasters without North Sea oil ... During Mrs Thatcher’s first nine years it brought the Treasury £62 ...

In Pyjamas

R.W. Johnson: Bill Deedes’s Decency, 17 November 2005

Dear Bill: A Memoir 
by W.F. Deedes.
Macmillan, 451 pp., £14.99, July 2005, 9781405052665
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... the Thatcher years than one might have hoped. Shrewdly, he believes the letters were a boon to Denis Thatcher because they portrayed him as a pantomime buffoon, making it all but impossible for the press to see him as the steady and powerfully right-wing influence on his wife that he was. At 92 Deedes has become an almost iconic figure. His modesty, good ...
... into official statistics about immigration. Undoubtedly, though, for the man on the metro to Saint-Denis who finds (as one easily can) that his is the only white face left in his coach by the time the train gets to the terminus, the crucial fact is skin colour, not whether his fellow passengers are Harkis, Antillais or even tourists. (Out in Saint-...

Anger and Dismay

Denis Donoghue, 19 July 1984

Literary Education: A Revaluation 
by James Gribble.
Cambridge, 182 pp., £16.50, November 1983, 0 521 25315 2
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Reconstructing Literature 
edited by Laurence Lerner.
Blackwell, 218 pp., £15, August 1983, 0 631 13323 2
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Counter-Modernism in Current Critical Theory 
by Geoffrey Thurley.
Macmillan, 216 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 333 33436 1
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... like Frank Kermode and Tony Tanner, or Francophiles like Stephen Heath and Stephen Bann. Samuel Johnson had moral principles, but nothing like a theory of literature: he didn’t need one. The force of English common sense is that it leaves you free to deal with the things that matter. Till recently, Johnsonian sentiments have prevailed: supported, if ...

Through Plate-Glass

Ian Sansom: Jonathan Coe, 10 May 2001

The Rotters’ Club 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 405 pp., £14.99, April 2001, 0 670 89252 1
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... and dull in the experimental novel Coe turns into entertainment. He is writing a biography of B.S. Johnson – whom he admires – but he writes more like Pamela Hansford Johnson. He has established for himself a set of stylistic conventions – conversational smooth prose, non-sequential narrative, the use of interpolated ...

Bevan’s Boy

R.W. Johnson, 24 March 1994

Michael Foot 
by Mervyn Jones.
Gollancz, 570 pp., £20, March 1994, 0 575 05197 3
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... it. The real question about Foot’s leadership is whether he shouldn’t have ceded place to Denis Healey a few months before the 1983 election. The polls suggest this would have produced a dead heat with the Tories as Alliance voters defected back to Labour en masse. Here Jones is far too kind and tries to throw the blame on the Shadow Cabinet for not ...

Father! Father! Burning Bright

Alan Bennett, 9 December 1999

... of a passing ice-cream van playing the opening bars of the ‘Blue Danube’. ‘He is dying, Denis. Will you exist now? Will that satisfy you?’ She was crying. ‘I’ll make it right, Joyce,’ said Midgley. ‘I’ll be there when he goes. I’ll hold his hand.’ He held hers, still in its orange gauntlet. ‘If I let him down now he’d stay with ...

Do you like him?

Ian Jack: Ken Livingstone, 10 May 2012

You Can’t Say That: Memoirs 
by Ken Livingstone.
Faber, 710 pp., £9.99, April 2012, 978 0 571 28041 4
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... is much the more difficult to imagine as a child. Nobody, surely, can have that problem with Boris Johnson. The mind’s eye sees Boris as one of Belloc’s Cautionary Tales, a bouncy fellow demanding his tea and laying plans ‘to be/the next Prime Minister but three’. But the mind’s eye can be wrong – Johnson’s ...

Ten Poets

Denis Donoghue, 7 November 1985

Selected Poems 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 124 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 9780856355950
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Collected Poems: 1947-1980 
by Allen Ginsberg.
Viking, 837 pp., £16.95, April 1985, 0 670 80683 8
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Instant Chronicles: A Life 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 58 pp., £4.50, April 1985, 9780019211970
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Selected Poems 
by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 596 8
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Selected Poems 
by Jeffrey Wainwright.
Carcanet, 79 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 598 4
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Selected Poems 
by Gillian Clarke.
Carcanet, 112 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 594 1
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The Price of Stone 
by Richard Murphy.
Faber, 92 pp., £4, May 1985, 0 571 13568 4
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Selected Poems 
by Iain Crichton Smith.
Carcanet, 121 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 597 6
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Selected Poems 
by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 585 2
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From the Irish 
by James Simmons.
Blackstaff, 78 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 85640 331 8
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... Che Guevara – More sexy your neck than sad aging necks of                   Johnson                De Gaulle, Kosygin, or the bullet pierced neck of John Kennedy – these poems tell you how it was, I suppose. Beyond that, they show what is wrong with the American Romanticism they proclaim, and not what is right with ...

Is this successful management?

R.W. Johnson, 20 April 1989

One of Us: A Biography of Margaret Thatcher 
by Hugo Young.
Macmillan, 570 pp., £16.95, April 1989, 0 333 34439 1
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... traditional Tory worthies on the 19th green can hardly have been easy, and it’s not certain that Denis would have been altogether an asset. All we know for certain is that a new Tory agent was hired in 1962 with the mission of rebuilding the constituency party organisation almost from scratch and that in 1964 Mrs Thatcher managed to hold the anti-Tory swing ...

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