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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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... sulking past our own windows. These stark, unpeopled landscapes of the American photographers, with their zen aridity, will have to be used to sell the cables buried beneath the unsuspecting ground. DickFile’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 ...
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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... of ambitious young graduates from Oxford and Cambridge losing interest in a party which hasn’t looked 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 ...

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 ...

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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... in strange voices and (on occasion) foreign tongues. (There were demons with Biblical names such as 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 ...
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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... Lotz, the Israeli spy with unassailably Aryan looks who infiltrated Egyptian government circles to 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 ...

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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... were published. In the dispute about their appearance, there was a good deal of talk about the right 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 ...
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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... of capitalist society, and to the impotence of socialists in high office to change it. This unique journey 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 ...
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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... when he unexpectedly survives his operation. His hair starts to grow back (hair, in this writing about 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 ...

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 clearer in N13 and she could come to terms with herself there. At the same time she insisted she 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 ...

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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... that a good death enlivens an otherwise dull day. Indeed, it is often a shrewd journalist’s last 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 – ...

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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... liberalism, and the architect of one of its great periods of electoral success. The grandson and 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 ...

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 ...

Diary

John Lanchester: Among the Balls

20 July 2006
... nobody knows what to say. If he were French or from a Latin country the papers would be full of 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 ...

Paper this thing over

Colin Kidd: The Watergate Tapes

5 November 2015
The Nixon Tapes: 1971-72 
by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 758 pp., $35, July 2014, 978 0 544 27415 0
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The Nixon Defence: What He Knew and When He Knew It 
by John W. Dean.
Penguin, 784 pp., £14.99, June 2015, 978 0 14 312738 3
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Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall 
by Elizabeth Drew.
Duckworth Overlook, 450 pp., £20, August 2014, 978 0 7156 4916 9
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Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair and the Origins of Watergate 
by Ken Hughes.
Virginia, 228 pp., $16.95, August 2015, 978 0 8139 3664 2
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The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan 
by Rick Perlstein.
Simon and Schuster, 860 pp., £25, August 2014, 978 1 4767 8241 6
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... inoperative’. Nixon – who still denied any knowledge of the break-in – was forced to sacrifice several key officials, including his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman, and the attorney-general, Dick Kleindienst, in an attempt to cordon off the Watergate affair from his presidency. Although one of the scapegoats, Dean, turned against Nixon, the strategy might have worked had it not been for the ...
4 February 1988
... disregarded by the press – was that the whole experiment in synodical government, in which the Church 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 ...

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