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Rebel States

Tim Parks: Surrender by Gondola, 1 December 2005

The Siege of Venice 
by Jonathan Keates.
Chatto, 495 pp., £20, September 2005, 0 7011 6637 1
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... In the 13th century, Florence banned its noble families from holding public office and instituted a republic. The names of a few hundred select citizens were placed in leather bags and every two months a new government was drawn by lot. In more conservative Venice, a group of nobles simply elected one of their number doge for life ...

Play for Today

Adam Smyth: Rewriting ‘Pericles’, 24 October 2019

Spring 
by Ali Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 336 pp., £16.99, March 2019, 978 0 241 20704 8
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The Porpoise 
by Mark Haddon.
Chatto, 309 pp., £18.99, May 2019, 978 1 78474 282 9
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... prostitution and incest (the play opens as Pericles discovers the incestuous relationship between King Antiochus and his daughter, and has to flee the murderer dispatched to silence him). The versions of Pericles that were performed or printed tended to cut out, or minimise, these elements. Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare (1807) has an ...

The Dwarves and the Onion Domes

Ferdinand Mount: Those Pushy Habsburgs, 24 September 2020

The Habsburgs: The Rise and Fall of a World Power 
by Martyn Rady.
Allen Lane, 397 pp., £30, May, 978 0 241 33262 7
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... 20 July 1554 and married Mary Tudor five days later at Winchester Cathedral, where he was declared king ‘de jure uxoris’, though Parliament refused to let him be crowned, to his considerable annoyance. If Mary had borne him a son, there would have been a Habsburg dynasty in England. Unfortunately, her ghastly gynaecological difficulties, which may have ...

Kingdoms of Paper

Natalie Zemon Davis: Identity and Faking It, 18 October 2007

Who Are You? Identification, Deception and Surveillance in Early Modern Europe 
by Valentin Groebner, translated by Mark Kyburz and John Peck.
Zone, 349 pp., £18.95, April 2007, 978 1 890951 72 6
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... or a watermark when a commercial partnership ended; after 1349 the new popular government of Florence integrated nobles into the regime by having them change their coats of arms. Interestingly, the painted portrait, so extensively developed in the 15th and 16th centuries, did not become a part of the various identity papers and objects that governments ...

The Art of Denis Mack Smith

Jonathan Steinberg, 23 May 1985

Cavour 
by Denis Mack Smith.
Weidenfeld, 292 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 297 78512 5
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Cavour and Garibaldi 1860: A Study in Political Conflict 
by Denis Mack Smith.
Cambridge, 458 pp., £27.50, April 1985, 0 521 30356 7
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... great Continental states which appeared in 1896: ‘Victor Emmanuel is the model constitutional king; Cavour, the ideal of a cool, far-sighted statesman; Garibaldi, the perfect chieftain in irregular war, dashing but rash and hot-headed; Mazzini, the typical conspirator, ardent and fanatical – all of them full of generosity and devotion.’ Mack Smith’s ...

Wait a second what’s that?

August Kleinzahler: Elvis’s Discoverer, 8 February 2018

Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ’n’ Roll 
by Peter Guralnick.
Weidenfeld, 784 pp., £16.99, November 2015, 978 0 297 60949 0
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... with his older brother and a few friends a little after midnight and set out to drive from Florence, Alabama to Dallas, Texas to hear a celebrated First Baptist pastor deliver a sermon. At four or five a.m. the boys arrived in Memphis, where they found themselves in a black part of town called Beale Street. It was ‘pouring down rain’, Phillips ...

Uncle Kingsley

Patrick Parrinder, 22 March 1990

The folks that live on the hill 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 246 pp., £12.95, March 1990, 0 09 174137 8
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Kingsley Amis: An English Moralist 
by John McDermott.
Macmillan, 270 pp., £27.50, January 1989, 9780333449691
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In the Red Kitchen 
by Michèle Roberts.
Methuen, 148 pp., £11.99, March 1990, 9780413630209
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See Under: Love 
by David Grossman, translated by Betsy Rosenberg.
Cape, 458 pp., £13.95, January 1990, 0 224 02640 2
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... Traditionally, the patriarch as a literary character is not let off so lightly. Beside Job, King Lear and the Vicar of Wakefield, Harry Caldecote most certainly has nothing to complain of. The biggest threat to his peace of mind comes, one would guess, from the precocious minicab driver who warns him that the whole ‘drinking culture’ is destined to ...

Don’t lock up the wife

E.S. Turner: Georgina Weldon, 5 October 2000

A Monkey among Crocodiles: The Life, Loves and Lawsuits of Mrs Georgina Weldon 
by Brian Thompson.
HarperCollins, 304 pp., £19.99, June 2000, 0 00 257189 7
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... woman but a seriously overpowered woman. Vested with all the more exasperating attributes of Florence Nightingale and the Pankhursts, she lacked their organising skills. If she could not bend men to her will, she was ready to libel them or call for them to be horsewhipped. Though she looked on herself as a monkey among crocodiles, there were times when ...

Call it magnificence

Michael Hofmann: Antonio Muñoz Molina, 20 December 2018

Like a Fading Shadow 
by Antonio Muñoz Molina, translated by Camilo A. Ramirez.
Serpent’s Tail, 310 pp., £9.99, May 2018, 978 1 78125 894 1
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... poetry does. It doesn’t even sound like a book I’d like. It’s the story of Martin Luther King’s murderer, James Earl Ray, mostly on the run in 1968, and mostly for a couple of weeks in Lisbon, spliced with reflection on a crisis (he of course doesn’t use such a word) in Muñoz Molina’s early life twenty years later, when his second child was ...

Big Books

Penelope Fitzgerald, 15 September 1988

William Morris: An Approach to the Poetry 
by J.M.S. Tompkins.
Cecil Woolf, 368 pp., £20, May 1988, 0 900821 84 1
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... was Morris’s first book of poems, appearing in 1858, the year before Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. Ballads inspired by (or possibly the inspiration of) Rossetti’s water-colours stand side by side with hard-edged Froissartian themes ‘The Haystack in the Floods’, ‘The Judgment of God’. Here Joyce Tompkins believes that modern readers are adrift ...

Making History

Lawrence Rainey: Fascism and the March in Rome, 1 January 1998

Otto Milioni di Cartoline per il Duce 
by Enrico Sturani.
Centro Scientifico, 330 pp., lire 60,000, January 1995, 88 7640 276 4
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... at Cremona. In Pisa, a similar attempt to seize government offices was also forestalled. Only in Florence was there a success – of sorts. When Mussolini arrived on the scene, he found the local squads poised for a ferocious assault on the city prefecture. Nobody had informed them that General Diaz, supreme commander of the Italian Armed Forces and ...

Ghosts

Hugh Haughton, 5 December 1985

The Life and Work of Thomas Hardy 
by Thomas Hardy, edited by Michael Millgate.
Macmillan, 604 pp., £30, April 1985, 0 333 29441 6
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The Literary Notebooks of Thomas Hardy: Vols I and II 
edited by Lennart Björk.
Macmillan, 428 pp., £35, May 1985, 0 333 36777 4
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Emma Hardy’s Diaries 
edited by Richard Taylor.
Mid-Northumberland Arts Group/Carcanet, 216 pp., £14.95, January 1985, 0 904790 21 5
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The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Vol. V: 1914-1919 
edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 357 pp., £22.50, May 1985, 0 19 812622 0
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The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy, Vol. III 
edited by Samuel Hynes.
Oxford, 390 pp., £32.50, June 1985, 0 19 812784 7
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Annals of the Labouring Poor: Social Change and Agrarian England 1660-1900 
by K.D.M. Snell.
Cambridge, 464 pp., £30, May 1985, 0 521 24548 6
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Thomas Hardy 
edited by Samuel Hynes.
Oxford, 547 pp., £12.95, June 1984, 0 19 254177 3
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... Since he has stripped it of the thin marital disguise of his wife’s name and cleared it of Florence’s editorial emendations carried out after Hardy’s death, he feels able to present it as ‘an entirely Hardyan text – an autobiography in short’. But it’s not an autobiography, nor was meant to be. The book itself declares that Hardy had not ...

Slapping the Clammy Flab

John Lanchester: Hannibal by Thomas Harris, 29 July 1999

Hannibal 
by Thomas Harris.
Heinemann, 496 pp., £16.99, June 1999, 0 434 00940 7
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... of the cell are Lecter’s drawings; one over the sink shows the Duomo and the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, seen from the Belvedere. Lecter is lying on his bunk, perusing the Italian edition of Vogue. ‘Dr Lecter’s eyes are maroon and they reflect the light in tiny points of red.’ Those maroon eyes might seem like a deliberately anti-realistic detail ...

Maisie’s Sisters

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Sargent’s Daughters, 5 August 2010

Sargent’s Daughters: The Biography of a Painting 
by Erica Hirshler.
MFA, 262 pp., £23.95, October 2009, 978 0 87846 742 6
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... in a Massachusetts institution for the feeble-minded. In Sargent’s painting, the eldest girl, Florence, who was 14, leans against an oversized vase with her hands clasped in front of her and her enigmatic profile turned towards the darkness; the figure beside her is Jane, or Jeanie, born two years later. The girl in the red dress to the left is ...

Bloodbaths

John Sutherland, 21 April 1988

Misery 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 320 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 340 39070 0
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The Tommyknockers 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 563 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 340 39069 7
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Touch 
by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 245 pp., £10.95, February 1988, 9780670816545
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Sideswipe 
by Charles Willeford.
Gollancz, 293 pp., £10.95, March 1988, 0 575 04197 8
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Ratking 
by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 282 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 571 15147 7
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... Stephen King has occasionally raised a rueful protest against being typed as a horror writer – even with the consolation of being the best-selling horror writer in the history of the world. But, as he disarmingly reminds us, there is worse literary company than Lovecraft, Leiber, Bloch, Matheson and Jackson. ‘I could, for example, be an “important” writer like Joseph Heller and publish a novel every seven years or so, or a “brilliant” writer like John Gardner and write obscure books for bright academics who eat macrobiotic foods and drive old Saabs with faded but still legible GENE McCARTHY FOR PRESIDENT stickers on the rear bumpers ...

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