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Bad News

Iain Sinclair, 6 December 1990

Weather 
by John Farrand.
Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 239 pp., $40, June 1990, 1 55670 134 9
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Weather Watch 
by Dick File.
Fourth Estate, 299 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 1 872180 12 4
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Climate Change: The IPCC Scientific Assessment 
edited by J.T. Houghton, G.J. Jenkins and J.J. Ephraums.
Cambridge, 365 pp., £40, September 1990, 9780521403603
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Crop Circles: The Latest Evidence 
by Pat Delgado and Colin Andrews.
Bloomsbury, 80 pp., £5.99, October 1990, 0 7475 0843 7
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The Stumbling Block, Its Index 
by B. Catling.
Book Works, £22, October 1990, 9781870699051
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... their zen aridity, will have to be used to sell the cables buried beneath the unsuspecting ground. Dick File’s Weather Watch, with foreword by Ian McCaskill (who, according to Bill Giles, broadcasts in his bare feet), is a no-nonsense trot in teasingly accessible segments through the excitements of the British weather: carbon dioxide ‘sinks’, Chaos ...

Tam, Dick and Harold

Ian Aitken, 26 October 1989

Dick Crossman: A Portrait 
by Tam Dalyell.
Weidenfeld, 253 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 297 79670 4
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... like an election winner for some years. At least as important is the attitude of the rank-and-file activists who choose the Party’s Parliamentary candidates. If the age of deference is dead, it is a great deal deader in this segment of the population than in any other. That the Attlee and Wilson governments had such a heavy complement of Oxbridge ...

Paradise Lost

Stephen Bann, 17 March 1983

Deadeye Dick 
by Kurt Vonnegut.
Cape, 224 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 224 02945 2
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Bluebeard 
by Max Frisch, translated by Geoffrey Skelton.
Methuen, 142 pp., £5.95, February 1983, 0 413 51750 0
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The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction 
by Colin Greenland.
Routledge, 244 pp., £11.95, March 1983, 0 7100 9310 1
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More Tales of Pirx the Pilot 
by Stanislaw Lem, translated by Louis Iribarne, Magdalena Majcherczyk and Michael Kandel.
Secker, 220 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 9780436244117
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Yesterday’s Men 
by George Turner.
Faber, 234 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 571 11857 7
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Rebel in Time 
by Harry Harrison.
Granada, 272 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 246 11766 4
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Three Six Seven: Memoirs of a Very Important Man 
by Peter Vansittart.
Peter Owen, 236 pp., £8.95, February 1983, 0 7206 0602 0
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... In a recent interview, Kurt Vonnegut rated his latest novel, Deadeye Dick, at B-. The gesture is disarming, and no doubt his critics will conclude that he has got it just about right. But if we start from the tacit assumption that Deadeye Dick is not a masterpiece, whether or not it becomes a best-seller, we can concentrate our minds on what it is that makes Vonnegut’s style of storytelling so distinctively beguiling ...

Lacanian Jesuit

David Wootton: Michel de Certeau, 4 October 2001

The Possession at Loudun 
by Michel de Certeau, translated by Michael Smith.
Chicago, 251 pp., £27, August 2000, 0 226 10034 0
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The Certeau Reader 
edited by Graham Ward.
Blackwell, 320 pp., £60, November 1999, 0 631 21278 7
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Michel de Certeau: Cultural Theorist 
by Ian Buchanan.
Sage, 143 pp., £50, July 2000, 0 7619 5897 5
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... Leviathan and Behemoth; but also ones called Coal of Impurity, Concupiscence, Fornication, Dog’s Dick – this translation of Caudacanis is to be preferred to Dog’s Tail, which is the more usual, literal rendering.) Loudun became a tourist attraction, the theatre of possession the most exciting and puzzling of public spectacles. The demons testified that ...

Hitler at Heathrow

E.S. Shaffer, 7 August 1980

The Memoirs of Bridget Hitler 
edited by Michael Unger.
Duckworth, 192 pp., £4.95, March 1979, 0 7156 1356 1
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The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. 
by George Steiner.
Granta, 66 pp., £1.50
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Young Adolf 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 174 pp., £6.95, November 1978, 0 7156 1323 5
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... get plans for rocket sites and the names of German technicians: a story familiar from The Odessa File, where the private dick with the black and yellow-striped Mercedes is obliged to display his uncircumcised penis to the Odessa chief as bona fides. Here, too, is The Murderers Among Us, Simon Wiesenthal’s account of the ...

Letting it get out

Bernard Williams, 18 October 1984

Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation 
by Sissela Bok.
Oxford, 332 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 19 217733 8
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TheSecrets FileThe Case for Freedom of Information in Britain Today 
edited by Des Wilson, foreword by David Steel.
Heinemann, 166 pp., £4.95, September 1984, 9780435839390
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... to know, but it mostly neglected the point that as a source of knowledge about political events, Dick Crossman’s testimony – even his testimony to himself – needed, to put it mildly, a good deal of interpretation. His individual and sometimes malign preoccupations provided no surrogate for a Cabinet Hansard. It can rightly be said that more ...

Late Developer

Paul Foot, 22 February 1990

Against the Tide: Diaries 1973-1976 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 512 pp., £20, October 1989, 0 09 173775 3
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... from right to left adds enormously to the value of Tony Benn’s Diaries. His contemporaries Dick Grossman and Barbara Castle have also published diaries. Others have written autobiographies. All are full of evidence of the impotence of office. Even Denis Healey in his recent popular autobiography admits that the notorious ‘IMF cuts’ in 1976 were ...

Jerusalem

Penelope Fitzgerald, 3 December 1981

Me Again: Uncollected Writings of Stevie Smith 
edited by Jack Barbera and William McBrien.
Virago, 359 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 9780860682172
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... was driven to write because there was absolutely no company for her in Palmer’s Green. When Kay Dick interviewed her in 1970, Stevie complained about her photographs. ‘They make me look dead, and as if I’d been dead for a long time. I haven’t got a thing about age, but I do rather have a thing about looking dead and buried.’ She made no particular ...

De Mortuis

Christopher Driver, 28 June 1990

The Ruffian on the Stair: Reflection on Death 
edited by Rosemary Dinnage.
Viking, 291 pp., £14.99, April 1990, 0 670 82763 0
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Death, Ritual and Bereavement 
edited by Ralph Houlbrooke.
Routledge, 250 pp., £35, October 1990, 0 415 01165 5
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In the Face of Death 
by Peter Noll, translated by Hans Noll.
Viking, 254 pp., £15.99, April 1990, 0 670 80703 6
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... assignment – by timing his or her own demise, preferably over a bank holiday with a picture on file and a book of memoirs in the library, or a contemporary at hand with a few good stories to tell about the subject’s foibles. This can be overdone, of course. After the recent death of one hack – an admired hack, but all the same – about three thousand ...

Nothing but the Present

Lorna Scott Fox, 23 May 1996

The Law of Enclosures 
by Dale Peck.
Chatto, 287 pp., £15.99, February 1996, 0 7011 6160 4
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... enclosures and the unknowable within, is an obsession second only to skin). How can Beatrice now file away her early fantasy about the bald boy as a kind of glorious, lethal dick – ‘so that if, unlike her parents, she couldn’t live for love, she could at least die from it’? She can only reconcile herself to the ...

The Stamp of One Defect

David Edgar: Jeremy Thorpe, 29 July 2015

Jeremy Thorpe 
by Michael Bloch.
Little, Brown, 606 pp., £25, December 2014, 978 0 316 85685 0
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Closet Queens: Some 20th-Century British Politicians 
by Michael Bloch.
Little, Brown, 320 pp., £25, May 2015, 978 1 4087 0412 7
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... son of undistinguished Conservative MPs, Thorpe was educated at Eton and Oxford, where he defeated Dick Taverne (later a Labour MP) and William Rees-Mogg (later the editor of the Times) for the Union presidency. Like one of his successors as Liberal leader, Charles Kennedy, he became an MP at a young age and came to public notice through his entertaining ...

Public Enemy

R.W. Johnson, 26 November 1987

Secrecy and Power: The Life of J. Edgar Hoover 
by Richard Gid Powers.
Hutchinson, 624 pp., £16.95, August 1987, 0 02 925060 9
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... Dick, you will come to depend on Edgar. He is a pillar of strength in a city of weak men. You will rely on him time and time again to maintain security. He’s the only one you can put your complete trust in’: thus Lyndon Johnson to Richard Nixon, 1968. It is not often that a book casts fresh light on American history throughout this century, but this biography of Edgar Hoover does just that ...

Diary

John Lanchester: Among the Balls, 20 July 2006

... stuff about his being detached, laid-back, shruggy. As it is, they reach for the received-opinion file – which doesn’t have anything in it about the not at all rare phenomenon of the New Age German – and draw a blank. But the long-distance thing is a hoot. I think this trend should be encouraged. After the World Cup, when Steve McClaren takes over the ...
... has been involved ever since 1970, was nothing but a sham, a fraud and a hoax (or, to borrow Dick Crossman’s phrase about Cabinet Government, ‘a gaily painted hoarding behind which lie hidden the real secrets of power’). In the light of the resources and energy the Church over the past two decades has thrown into adapting itself to an elected ...

Scoutmaster General

Peter Clarke, 24 September 1992

Tony Benn 
by Jad Adams.
Macmillan, 576 pp., £20, July 1992, 0 333 52558 2
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The End of an Era: Diaries, 1980-1990 
by Tony Benn, edited by Ruth Winstone.
Hutchinson, 704 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 09 174857 7
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... was not everyone’s cup of tea. When Benn became Postmaster General, his cynical colleague Dick Crossman wrote that ‘even among us in the Cabinet he doesn’t inspire conviction, partly because, although I doubt whether he is a believer, he has at times a kind of mechanical nonconformist self-righteousness about him.’ Others called him the ...

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