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Touch of Evil

Christopher Hitchens, 22 October 1992

Kissinger: A Biography 
by Walter Isaacson.
Faber, 893 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 571 16858 2
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... All over today’s Washington there are men – Robert McNamara, William Colby of the CIA, George Ball of the State Department – who have written memoirs and given interviews which try to atone for past crimes and blunders. Kissinger, no doubt, would regard even the smallest exercise in atonement as sickly. When criticised, as in this book or in ...

Boulevard Brogues

Rosemary Hill: Having your grouse and eating it, 13 May 1999

Girlitude: A Memoir of the Fifties and Sixties 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 224 pp., £15.99, April 1999, 0 224 05952 1
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... term’, and indicated only by his sending ‘a muff of gardenias’ to his niece’s coming-out ball. Her parents, Lord and Lady Glenconner, launched their daughter with Austerity-busting splendour. A marquee, a New Look dress from Dior, a pillar of dry ice and she was ‘out’. Out into what is the question that occupies the rest of the book. What is a ...

Iron Tearing Soil

James Francken: Golf, 4 October 2001

A Gentleman's Game 
by Tom Coyne.
Atlantic, 264 pp., £15, July 2001, 1 903809 05 3
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Riverbank Tweed and Roadmap Jenkins: Tales from the Caddie Yard 
by Bo Links.
Simon and Schuster, 302 pp., £15, May 2001, 0 684 87362 1
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Spikes 
by Michael Griffith.
Arcade, 258 pp., £17, February 2001, 1 55970 536 1
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... where Golden Wonder grew potatoes for their crisps – the pros will often have to clobber the ball close to three hundred yards to be in with a chance. There is no hope for the second-drawer golfer: most players try to buy distance, and golf shops sell longer clubs with graphite shafts and large titanium faces which come with a promise to add a few yards ...

Rubbing Up

Michael Church, 7 June 1984

Growing Up 
by Russell Baker.
Sidgwick, 278 pp., £9.95, February 1984, 0 283 99056 2
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Scouse Mouse, or I never got over it: An Autobiography 
by George Melly.
Weidenfeld, 208 pp., £8.95, March 1984, 0 297 78277 0
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The Haunted Mind 
by Hallam Tennyson.
Deutsch, 238 pp., £12.95, May 1984, 0 233 97618 3
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... both made into vehicles for their mothers’ repressed artistic ambitions: the early histories of George Melly and Russell Baker run strikingly in parallel. Their books reveal an even more striking coincidence of form. Melly chooses, in his closing paragraph, to play affectionately along with his mother’s happy delusion that she is fifty years back in the ...

Good Vibrations

George Ellis, 30 March 2000

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions and the Quest for Ultimate Theory 
by Brian Greene.
Vintage, 448 pp., £7.99, February 2000, 9780099289920
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... the notion of ‘quantum spin’ (a microscopic version of the spin that can be put on a tennis ball) that separates particles into two distinct families: matter particles, which spin at one speed, and force-carrying particles that either don’t spin or spin twice as much, but four times as much when the force is gravitational. He next shows how the theory ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Erratic Weather, 11 April 2013

... floating in all directions, like atoms in a sun-beam let into a dark room.’ The Farnham diarist George Sturt recorded the end of a winter’s day in Victorian Surrey with a tactile fascination, and a note of dismay: ‘towards dark, a colourless fog, snow almost gone, and ground soft –oozy underfoot, as though the earth’s skin slipped as you ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Sport Poetry, 23 January 1986

... Back, and that we can all happily plug in again on Saturdays: Frank Furillo might be cool in dead-ball situations but he’s no Glenn Hoddle, and we all know that at Hill Street no one ever heard of a slow-motion replay ...So it goes, or so it’s meant to go. But something jars. The jaunty build-up – our old buddy welcomed back, our prized weekend routines ...

Taunted with the Duke of Kent, she married the Aga Khan

Rosemary Hill: Coming Out, 19 October 2006

Last Curtsey: The End of the Debutantes 
by Fiona MacCarthy.
Faber, 305 pp., £20, October 2006, 0 571 22859 3
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... and fathers to curtsey to the queen. After this initiation ceremony, dating back to the reign of George III, they would be officially ‘out’, launched into the world, the London Season and the marriage market. It was, as Jessica Mitford wrote two years later, ‘the specific, upper-class version of the puberty rite’. Or rather it had been, for 1958 saw ...

Ramadhin and Valentine

J.R. Pole, 13 October 1988

A History of West Indies Cricket 
by Michael Manley.
Deutsch, 575 pp., £17.95, May 1988, 0 233 98259 0
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Sobers: Twenty Years at the Top 
by Garfield Sobers and Brian Scovell.
Macmillan, 204 pp., £11.95, June 1988, 0 333 37267 0
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... wicket. Sobers, who could bowl fast, reveals that he offered to try taking the long overdue new ball, but Goddard would not take this risk! Ramadhin himself was demoralised and took only five further wickets in the series. It is not generally realised in Britain that this undoubtedly very great partnership was achieved against a crippled attack, and was ...

Whose Bodies?

Elizabeth Lowry: ‘Tinkers’, 23 September 2010

Tinkers 
by Paul Harding.
Heinemann, 191 pp., £12.99, July 2010, 978 0 434 02084 3
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... George Crosby, the hero of Paul Harding’s Pulitzer Prize-winning first novel, Tinkers, has been laid out to die on a rented hospital bed in his living-room, surrounded by his wife, children and grandchildren. He is 80, a retired teacher and clock repairer, and is suffering from cancer and renal failure. In the last week of his life he begins to hallucinate about his childhood in rural Maine ...

Even Uglier

Terry Eagleton: Music Hall, 20 December 2012

My Old Man: A Personal History of Music Hall 
by John Major.
Harper, 363 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 0 00 745013 8
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... The title ‘Prime Minister of Mirth’ was awarded not to Major but to the music-hall comic George Robey, with his red nose and half-moon eyebrows. The two men have little in common beyond their right-wing views. It is true that many actors spring to life only when they step on stage. Yet one could be forgiven for thinking that even a couple of ...

A Terrible Bad Cold

John Sutherland, 27 September 1990

Dickens 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 1195 pp., £19.95, September 1990, 1 85619 000 5
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... in the Naval Pay Office. His mother, Elizabeth, is reported to have claimed that she went to a ball on the night before his birth; but no ball is mentioned in the area for that particular evening and it is likely that this is one of the many apocryphal stories which sprung up around the birth and development of the great ...

6/4 he won’t score 20

John Sturrock, 7 September 2000

Start of Play: Cricket and Culture in 18th-Century England 
by David Underdown.
Allen Lane, 258 pp., £20, September 2000, 0 7139 9330 8
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... third Duke of Dorset: ‘What is human life but a game of cricket? – beauty the bat and man the ball,’ he’s quoted as saying in David Underdown’s book. The Duke, a big sponsor of the game in its years of consolidation in the second half of the 18th century, reverted on non-match days to his role of seducer of upper-class women, and no doubt felt that ...

Toot Sweet

Ian Aitken, 27 May 1993

Tired and Emotional: The life of George Brown 
by Peter Paterson.
Chatto, 320 pp., £20, May 1993, 0 7011 3976 5
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... of power in Whitehall during the six years of the first Wilson Government acquired a fund of George Brown stories. The fact that many were so preposterous as to be incredible did not mean that they were untrue. Even when they redounded to Brown’s credit, which they occasionally did, it was quite possible that they were authentic. As with those wartime ...

Diary

John Bayley: On Retiring, 25 July 1991

... On the outside of Christopher Wren’s Observatory Tower in Greenwich a ball still drops down at exactly 1 p.m. every day to indicate just what time it is. Captains in the Pool of London, the largest port in the world, used to spy it with their telescopes before they sailed, and adjust their chronometers. Ships and port have vanished, but the daily rite of time and precision is still enacted ...

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