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5 August 1993
Making Aristocracy Work: The Peerage and the Political System in Britain 1884-1914 
by Andrew Adonis.
Oxford, 311 pp., £35, May 1993, 0 19 820389 6
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The House of Lords at Work: A Study Based on the 1988-89 Session 
edited by Donald Shell and David Beamish.
Oxford, 420 pp., £45, March 1993, 0 19 827762 8
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... when she put the heat on them. But it is hard to argue that legislative Stakhanovism on this scale is evidence of, or even compatible with, the work of an effective revising chamber. Moreover, DonaldShell and his co-authors point out that most of these production-line amendments were not attempts by the Lords to improve government bills but efforts by ministers to tidy up their own badly drafted ...

Diary

David Craig: Barra Microcosm

24 May 2001
... of the sea’) in Kilpheder (from the Gaelic Cille-pheadair, or ‘church of Peter’). Ten square miles of machair stretch from the western dunes to the eastern rocky moors. This is a plain of shell-sand, where millions of cockles and whelks, razor-shells and buckies, ground into ivory fragments smaller than a baby’s fingernail, have mingled with a little humus from generations of flowers and ...
19 October 1995
Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600-1860 
by Richard Grove.
Cambridge, 540 pp., £45, April 1995, 0 521 40385 5
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... that are not so easy to detect. An example is the ocean plankton Emiliania at times visible as huge ‘blooms’ in the seas, which both stores carbon dioxide – a ‘greenhouse gas’ – in its shell, and emits dimethyl sulphide, which, suitably transformed, provides condensation sites for water vapour and causes clouds to form over the oceans. More critically, what the natural infrastructure ...

Diary

Kathleen Jamie: Gannets, Whaups, Skuas

7 August 2003
... but the white breast was dirty and the black-tipped wings bedraggled. No doubt it was an Ailsa Craig gannet, because it was washed up on the shore on Arran. I left the body among the dried wrack and shell-grit, and took the head home in my bag. It was the skull I wanted, a sculptural form, the sightless sockets and that great piercing bill. I could picture it mounted in a glass box, and hung on the ...

Favoured Irregulars

Andy Beckett: The Paras

24 January 2019
Our Boys: The Story of a Paratrooper 
by Helen Parr.
Allen Lane, 382 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 0 241 28894 8
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... Childish excitement: ‘In our mind when we fired [rocket launchers] … was always the film Rambo, he fires the [rocket] into the cave, and there’s a big explosion.’ Horror: ‘The artillery shell had landed right close to him … he had no hands, and his face was completely missing.’ The high after winning a battle: ‘You were … drunk on happiness.’ And the studied calm that follows ...

Smilingly Excluded

Richard Lloyd Parry: An Outsider in Tokyo

17 August 2006
The Japan Journals: 1947-2004 
by Donald​ Richie, edited by Leza Lowitz.
Stone Bridge, 494 pp., £13.99, October 2005, 1 880656 97 3
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... attention of a Chatwin or a Naipaul, let alone fostered a Kipling, a Somerset Maugham, a Hemingway or a Paul Bowles. No one has had a greater yearning or been better qualified to fill this gap than Donald Richie. ‘Almost everything I do, everything that is known about me, is connected to this country,’ he wrote. ‘To be a person so intent upon describing a place not his own – isn’t this odd ...

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 ...

What a Mother

Mary-Kay Wilmers: Marianne Moore and Her Mother

3 December 2015
Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore 
by Linda Leavell.
Farrar, Straus, 455 pp., $18, September 2014, 978 0 374 53494 3
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... role’, as Leavell puts it, ‘of indulgent Uncle to her adorable Bunny’.‘The Paper Nautilus’, Marianne’s most nearly autobiographical poem, published in 1940, describes the ‘thin glass shell’ secreted by the mother for herself and her eggs, a kind of hatchery. It would be a challenge to read it without thinking of Mary recalling Marianne to the shell and the pair crawling inside like ...

Home Stretch

John Sutherland: David Storey

17 September 1998
A Serious Man 
by David Storey.
Cape, 359 pp., £16.99, June 1998, 9780224051583
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Saville 
by David Storey.
Vintage, 555 pp., £6.99, June 1998, 0 09 927408 6
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... see Storey as a semi-literate, who should have stuck to his 14-pound hammer and jockstraps. The end of Saville is more uplifting than most, concluding as it does with the memorable Storeyism, ‘the shell had cracked.’ Colin Saville makes his break, turning like Paul Morel towards the light of the city on the hill. He’s done with school-mastering. ‘You haven’t any lodgings or anything,’ his ...

Venus in Blue Jeans

Charles Nicholl: The Mona Lisa

4 April 2002
Mona Lisa: The History of the World’s Most Famous Painting 
by Donald​ Sassoon.
HarperCollins, 350 pp., £16.99, September 2001, 0 00 710614 9
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... at her puzzling features for the umpteenth time we are inclined to ask ourselves: what is it about her? It is that question, in all its historical and cultural ramifications, which is addressed in Donald Sassoon’s elegant and comprehensive study of the Mona Lisa phenomenon. ‘She is older than the rocks among which she sits’, wrote the Victorian aesthete Walter Pater, poetically if not very ...

Buckle Up!

Tim Barker: Oil Prices

31 May 2017
Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices 
by Robert McNally.
Columbia, 300 pp., £27.95, January 2017, 978 0 231 17814 3
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... When​ Donald Trump nominated Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon, as secretary of state, Robert McNally found the choice unremarkable. ‘The closest thing we have to a secretary of state outside government is the ...
22 November 1990
... that his information was certainly of some interest and that yes, I’d love to see the proof. He turned out to be as good as his word. Back came pictures of the 1939 AEC Regent with LCT body (Weyman shell) used in Liverpool between 1939 and 1957, and, for the sake of comparison, pictures of the ST-type buses used in London at the same time. The two are unmistakably different (the tell-tale indicator ...

Diary

Neal Ascherson: In Gdansk

18 October 2017
... Stalingrad. At the start of the visit, you stand in a prewar Polish street, with its groceries and newspaper shops. At the end, you enter what might be the same street six years later: a vast, gutted shell with charred window-holes, and a Soviet tank abandoned on a heap of rubble. Victory? War museums in fortunate countries say: ‘It was terrible, there were tragic losses, but we won in the end.’ It ...

How Movies End

David Thomson: John Boorman’s Quiet Ending

9 February 2020
Conclusions 
by John Boorman.
Faber, 237 pp., £20, February, 978 0 571 35379 8
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... We’re not​ dealing with an ordinary man, or a conformist. There he is in the abandoned shell of Fort Point in San Francisco, this fierce and frightened man, looking like Lee Marvin. The fat parcel of money he has been demanding throughout the film is at his feet. All he has to do is pick it ...

One Summer in America

Eliot Weinberger

26 September 2019
... of state dutifully sign the D-Day Proclamation at the bottom, but the president scrawls his name across the top.*A well-known magazine columnist, E. Jean Carroll, graphically describes being raped by Donald Trump in the mid-1990s. The president denies knowing her, but after photos of the two of them in groups at social gatherings are produced, he says: ‘It never happened. She’s not my type. I’ll ...

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