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Cuban Heels with Twisting Tongues

Salman Rushdie, 4 June 1981

Three Trapped Tigers 
by G. Cabrera Infante.
Picador, 487 pp., £2.95, August 1980, 0 330 26133 9
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... PM is reincarnated here as the great black whale of a singer, ‘La’ Estrella, a warbling Moby Dick or, to allow this review to become infected by Cabrera’s advanced pun-ophilia, Moby Pussy. And there is a third reason. When this novel, under the title Vista del Amanecer en le Tropica (Vision of Dawn in the Tropics), was awarded the Biblioteca Breve ...

Working the Dark Side

David Bromwich: On the Uses of Torture, 8 January 2015

... for America if people learn the truth? The US national security state is the lengthened shadow of Dick Cheney. He made himself a master of the levers of government when he was secretary of defence under George H.W. Bush. His sense of rightful authority will have been confirmed by his regular participation in the continuity-of-government exercises: a yearly ...

Imperial Graveyard

Samuel Moyn: Richard Holbrooke, 6 February 2020

Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century 
by George Packer.
Cape, 592 pp., £25, May 2019, 978 1 910702 92 5
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... human rights tsar, said a year after Holbrooke’s death. And indeed he hasn’t. In the wake of Donald Trump’s ascendancy, praise of Holbrooke reached fever pitch among members of the ‘resistance’. Yet this desperation to keep his reputation warm may indicate the American liberal elite’s waning capacity for mythmaking rather than the resuscitation ...

Hooyah!!

James Meek: The Rise of the Private Army, 2 August 2007

Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army 
by Jeremy Scahill.
Serpent’s Tail, 452 pp., £12.99, August 2007, 978 1 84668 630 6
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... to acts performed by them pursuant to the terms and conditions of a contract’. By the time Donald Rumsfeld was sacked as US defense secretary, there were around 100,000 private contractors working for the US government in Iraq, more than ten times the number in the 1991 Gulf War. Although fewer than a third are in the security business, various US ...

Schadenfreude with Bite

Richard Seymour: Trolling, 15 December 2016

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture 
by Whitney Phillips.
MIT, 256 pp., £10, September 2016, 978 0 262 52987 7
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Gendertrolling: How Misogyny Went Viral 
by Karla Mantilla.
Praeger, 280 pp., £32, August 2015, 978 1 4408 3317 5
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Bad Clowns 
by Benjamin Radford.
New Mexico, 188 pp., £12, February 2016, 978 0 8263 5666 6
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Trolls: An Unnatural History 
by John Lindow.
Reaktion, 60 pp., £9.99, August 2015, 978 1 78023 565 3
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... detachment. The Bush administration extended the invitation to dissociate. ‘Stuff happens,’ Donald Rumsfeld said with psychopathic cheer in response to chaotic scenes of destruction in occupied Iraq; ‘Now watch this drive,’ Bush said, returning to his golf swing after delivering a sober message about the need to resist terrorism. After a brief ...

They never married

Ian Hamilton, 10 May 1990

The Dictionary of National Biography: 1981-1985 
edited by Lord Blake and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 518 pp., £40, March 1990, 0 19 865210 0
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... his lot had he been listed merely as ‘art historian’ and not also as ‘a communist spy’. (Donald MacLean, we note, gets less space but is made to sound a little more respectable: his profession is described as ‘Soviet spy’.) As it turns out, Blunt’s biographer so admires the art historian that he wishes to deal kindly with the spy. Thus much of ...

A Life of Its Own

Jonathan Coe, 24 February 1994

The Kenneth Williams Diaries 
edited by Russell Davies.
HarperCollins, 827 pp., £20, June 1993, 0 00 255023 7
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... living. His few brushes with seriousness came when Orson Welles cast him in a production of Moby Dick, when he played the Dauphin in St Joan, and when he appeared in Shaffer’s The Public Eye; he sustained close friendships with Robert Bolt and the German scholar Erich Heller, and was never happier than when alone in his flat listening to Brahms and Fauré ...

We’ll keep humiliating you with American XXXXXX

Christian Lorentzen: ‘Guantánamo Diary’, 5 February 2015

Guantánamo Diary 
by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, edited by Larry Siems.
Canongate, 379 pp., £20, January 2015, 978 1 78211 284 6
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... the CIA’s crimes are only part of the story. Torture was also practised by the US military after Donald Rumsfeld signed a memorandum on 22 December 2002 authorising ‘counter resistance techniques’. Rumsfeld personally signed off on Slahi’s ‘special interrogation plan’ at Guantánamo. It began with solitary confinement in a zone called India ...

Diary

Jonathan Lethem: Theatre of Injury, 15 December 2016

... more or less a given. So did the proposition that we were living in a world imagined by Philip K. Dick; this was easily recognisable even if you’d barely read him. To those who knew his work well, the morning-after debate consisted of whether Trump was more like Buster Friendly, the fascist demagogue television personality from Do Androids Dream of Electric ...

Dummy and Biffy

Noël Annan, 17 October 1985

Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community 
by Christopher Andrew.
Heinemann, 616 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 02110 5
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The Secret Generation 
by John Gardner.
Heinemann, 453 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 434 28250 2
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Two Thyrds 
by Bertie Denham.
Ross Anderson Publications, 292 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 86360 006 9
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The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany 1933-1939 
by Wesley Wark.
Tauris, 304 pp., £19.50, October 1985, 1 85043 014 4
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... an Arab in Tripoli or thwart the machinations of Baron Stockmar in the Sudan (‘It’s the game, Dick: The Great Game. The only game in the world worth playing’). The rot set in with that lacklustre fellow Ashenden. His adventures, while accurate in detail, reflected Somerset Maugham’s own failure in organising a network. The spy-master has been degraded ...

First Puppet, Now Scapegoat

Inigo Thomas: Ass-Chewing in Washington, 30 November 2006

State of Denial: Bush at War 
by Bob Woodward.
Simon and Schuster, 560 pp., £18.99, October 2006, 0 7432 9566 8
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... wars, of which this is the third volume.* Woodward is not only granted audiences: he interviews Donald Rumsfeld, and others, at his home, in his own kitchen, over supper. If you’re Nigella-ish, you’ll be disappointed by his non-disclosure of what there was to eat.This hasn’t always been so. Woodward’s first Watergate article wasn’t about the ...

Advantage Pyongyang

Richard Lloyd Parry, 9 May 2013

The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future 
by Victor Cha.
Bodley Head, 527 pp., £14.99, August 2012, 978 1 84792 236 6
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... of the men who did most to fashion Bush’s thinking. Paul Wolfowitz is not mentioned; Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and John Bolton, the moustachioed Strangelove of the mid-Bush years, between them merit only seven references in the index. Three of these are to page 84, where Cha unexpectedly records at length ...

Tinkering

Mark Greif: Walt Disney, 7 June 2007

Walt Disney: The Biography 
by Neal Gabler.
Aurum, 766 pp., £25, May 2007, 978 1 84513 277 4
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The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney 
by Michael Barrier.
California, 393 pp., £18.95, April 2007, 978 0 520 24117 6
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Drawing the Line: The Untold Story of the Animation Unions from Bosko to Bart Simpson 
by Tom Sito.
Kentucky, 440 pp., £19.95, September 2006, 0 8131 2407 7
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... new biography, enter his trance, and suddenly transform himself uninhibitedly into Mickey or Donald or an owl or an old hunting dog . . . ‘He would imitate the expressions of the dog, and look from one side to the other, and raise first one brow and then the other’ . . . ‘You’d have the feeling of the whole thing,’ ...

House-Cleaning

David Bromwich: I met a Republican, 7 March 2019

... Donald Trump’s​ strategy for succeeding in the November mid-term elections consisted almost entirely of an effort to foment immigration panic. After it failed and he lost his Republican congressional majority he made a feint at appeasing the Democrats, with a deal to keep government running, then threatened to invoke emergency powers to build the wall his right-wing base demands, and at last offered a hint of moderate conciliation ...

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

Jackson Lears: #Russiagate, 4 January 2018

... have rarely presented a more disheartening spectacle. The repellent and dangerous antics of Donald Trump are troubling enough, but so is the Democratic Party leadership’s failure to take in the significance of the 2016 election campaign. Bernie Sanders’s challenge to Hillary Clinton, combined with Trump’s triumph, revealed the breadth of popular ...

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