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Looking big

Asa Briggs, 12 March 1992

Isambard Kingdom Brunel: Engineering Knight-Errant 
by Adrian Vaughan.
Murray, 285 pp., £19.95, October 1991, 0 7195 4636 2
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... nor his fears, is perhaps less of a unique document than Vaughan maintains. Certainly the frank admission of ambition scarcely seems exceptional, although the language it is couched in is distinctive. In his urge to point to the inadequacies of Rolt’s biography, Vaughan sometimes seems to make too much of Brunel’s words, words which were initially ...

Whereof one cannot speak

George Steiner, 23 June 1988

Wittgenstein. A Life: Young Ludwig 1889-1921 
by Brian McGuinness.
Duckworth, 322 pp., £15.95, May 1988, 0 7156 0959 9
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... and on formal logic are an encouraging instance. The second possibility was that of an entirely frank biography, of a ‘life of Ludwig von Wittgenstein’ which would deal with the privacies, with the pain, with the cruelties which he himself sought, so fiercely, to guard. Elements of such a treatment, though strident and (inevitably, perhaps) rhetorical ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Irishman’, 5 December 2019

... at all? The question gets more and more intriguing as the new film unfolds. The old man is Frank Sheeran, a real-life gangster who died in 2003 at the age of 83. He worked for the mob in Philadelphia and was very close to Jimmy Hoffa, the more than charismatic leader of the Teamsters’ Union. Sheeran had been in prison for what he regarded as one of ...

Much of a Scramble

Francesca Wade: Ray Strachey, 23 January 2020

A Working Woman: The Remarkable Life of Ray Strachey 
by Jennifer Holmes.
Troubador, 392 pp., £20, February 2019, 978 1 78901 654 3
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... enjoyment’. From a wealthy family of Philadelphia Quakers, Mary shocked her parents by marrying Frank Costelloe, an Irish Catholic barrister with political ambitions. Their daughter Rachel (almost immediately known as Ray) was born on 4 June 1887, and her sister, Karin, two years later. They moved to London, and lived in Westminster – closer to Millbank ...

Feast of St Thomas

Frank Kermode, 29 September 1988

Eliot’s New Life 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Oxford, 356 pp., £15, September 1988, 0 19 811727 2
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The Letters of T.S. Eliot 
edited by Valerie Eliot.
Faber, 618 pp., £25, September 1988, 0 571 13621 4
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The Poetics of Impersonality 
by Maud Ellmann.
Harvester, 207 pp., £32.50, January 1988, 0 7108 0463 6
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T.S. Eliot and the Philosophy of Criticism 
by Richard Shusterman.
Duckworth, 236 pp., £19.95, February 1988, 0 7156 2187 4
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‘The Men of 1914’: T.S. Eliot and Early Modernism 
by Erik Svarny.
Open University, 268 pp., £30, September 1988, 0 335 09019 2
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Eliot, Joyce and Company 
by Stanley Sultan.
Oxford, 326 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 19 504880 6
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The Savage and the City in the Work of T.S. Eliot 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 251 pp., £25, December 1987, 9780198128694
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T.S. Eliot: The Poems 
by Martin Scofield.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 521 30147 5
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... than is usually realised, having a congenial theory of tradition and community; some think Russell, who was very close to Eliot in the early London years, cured him of Bradleyan idealism, so that Bradley’s continuing influence depended finally on Eliot’s admiration for his prose style. Not everybody agrees, and it can still be maintained, as by ...

At the Barbican

Peter Campbell: Alvar Aalto, 22 March 2007

... Asymmetrical buildings like this one – Aalto’s Säynätsalo town hall and, most famously, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater are others – tend to be known by photographs taken from the spot where they compose most dramatically. In the flesh they can (unlike Miesian cubes and Palladian façades) come as a surprise. The exhibition is rich in plans ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The gangster movie, 13 December 2007

American Gangster 
directed by Ridley Scott.
November 2007
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... them, but gripping and troubling all the way through. The film is based on the ‘true story’ of Frank Lucas, a black gangster who reigned in Harlem from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, when he went to jail for 15 years – a sentence reduced from 70 years because he named the policemen he had been paying off. We know what ‘true story’ means in such ...

Taking back America

Anatol Lieven: The right-wing backlash, 2 December 2004

What’s the Matter with America? The Resistible Rise of the American Right 
by Thomas Frank.
Secker, 306 pp., £12, September 2004, 0 436 20539 4
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... just loathe each other culturally: they also have radically clashing economic interests. Thomas Frank’s important and fascinating book on the Republican base in the Midwestern heartland anticipates and tries to answer the riddle posed by the election: why did so many poor white Americans vote for a Republican Party which has become more and more blatantly ...

Coe and Ovett & Co

Russell Davies, 1 October 1981

Running Free 
by Sebastian Coe and David Miller.
Sidgwick, 174 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 283 98684 0
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... to it by now, but as his book records, he has been embarrassed in the past: ‘To cap it all, [Frank] Bough had signed off the programme by saying: “what an attractive young man.” I got the most impossible stick for months afterwards. I couldn’t go anywhere without ribald remarks being made.’ There is no doubt a vicarious element in the attentions ...

Southern Belle

Russell Davies, 21 January 1982

by Albert Goldman.
Allen Lane, 598 pp., £9.95, December 1981, 0 7139 1474 2
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... of sickness and suffering and self-sacrifice, the proprietors of the Elvis pilgrimage add a frank and frantic sexuality. The ambiguity of ‘passion’, long suspected in icons like Bernini’s Santa Teresa, here finally bursts forth and goes to town (Memphis). The nuns of Elvis spend their devotional hours buffing up his groin. There is a good ...


Conrad Russell, 4 October 1984

The Experience of Defeat: Milton and Some Contemporaries 
by Christopher Hill.
Faber, 342 pp., £12.50, July 1984, 0 571 13237 5
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... that all power and domination should be given to the Lord?’ Sedgwick, like many others, was frank about the extent to which he regarded the rule of the Saints as made necessary by the reluctance of sinners to be governed as they should be: ‘we cannot in reason expect to have a free Parliament at this time, because the people are not fit to have a free ...

Lennon’s Confessions

Russell Davies, 5 February 1981

... Help from My Friends’. Lennon’s own appeal for aid, ‘Help’, was the least rhetorically frank of his confessional songs, and remained, for that reason, one of his favourites. ‘Because I meant it,’ he explained to Wenner, ‘it’s real. The lyric is as good now as it was then ... and it makes me feel secure to know that I was that ... aware of ...


Christopher Norris, 20 February 1986

by Jacques Derrida, translated by Richard Rand.
Columbia, 160 pp., $20, March 1984, 0 231 05446 7
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... proprietary) naming. Derrida’s point can be made clearly enough in terms borrowed from Mill, Russell and modern ‘analytic’ philosophy. (Indeed, a good deal of his recent thinking has been prompted by ideas from that tradition, a fact unremarked by Anglo-American opponents who assume that no Frenchman has ever paid attention to a self-respecting ...


Frank Kermode, 27 July 1989

The Pleasures of Peace: Art and Imagination in Post-War Britain 
by Bryan Appleyard.
Faber, 367 pp., £12.99, June 1989, 0 571 13722 9
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... of things about which Appleyard enjoys talking, such as Brutalism and Pop Art. He does not neglect Russell, Ayer, Popper etc; he neglects very little. Indeed the quantity of material he doesn’t neglect is impressively great: he comes near to being the ideal spectator of high-class contemporary trends. I feel that the introductory chapters are significantly ...

You are not helpful!

Simon Blackburn: Wittgenstein in Cambridge, 29 January 2009

Wittgenstein in Cambridge: Letters and Documents 1911-51 
edited by Brian McGuinness.
Blackwell, 498 pp., £75, March 2008, 978 1 4051 4701 9
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... have been previous volumes of this kind (Ludwig Wittgenstein: Cambridge Letters and Letters to Russell, Keynes and Moore), and there is some repetition, but it is a tribute to McGuinness’s extraordinary industry and enthusiasm that he discovers interesting new material. He writes in his introduction: Another major change and addition to the volume is ...

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