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Gangsters in Hats

Richard Mayne, 17 May 1984

Essays on Detective Fiction 
edited by Bernard Benstock.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £20, February 1984, 0 333 32195 2
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Dashiell Hammett: A Life at the Edge 
by William Nolan.
Arthur Barker, 276 pp., £9.95, September 1983, 0 213 16886 3
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The Life of Dashiell Hammett 
by Diane Johnson.
Chatto, 344 pp., £12.95, January 1984, 9780701127664
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Hellman in Hollywood 
by Bernard Dick.
Associated University Presses, 183 pp., £14.95, September 1983, 0 8386 3140 1
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... tout court. When millions enjoy something, the interest it arouses need not be aesthetic. George Orwell saw propaganda in boys’ weeklies and ‘the worm’s-eye view of life’ in seaside postcards. He was hardly concerned with Frank Richards as a novelist or (despite his essay’s title) the art of Donald McGill. A better reason for paying ...

What can happen when you make contact in a MOO

John Sutherland: Crime and passion in a virtual world, 29 July 1999

My Tiny Life: Crime and Punishment in a Virtual World 
by Donald Dibbell.
Fourth Estate, 336 pp., £16.99, January 1999, 1 84115 058 4
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... Thoughtcrime, as conceived by George Orwell, was one of the black flowers of Thirties totalitarianism. By criminalising thought the dictatorial state planned to erase individuality – even an individuality as insignificant as Winston Smith’s. In the Orwellian dystopia the state’s apparatus was primarily bureaucratic: new technology – in the form of the ubiquitous telescreen (TV that watched you) – was instrumental but not central ...

Did the self-made man fake it with Bohemian fossils?

Richard Fortey: Jacques Deprat, 25 November 1999

The Deprat Affair: Ambition, Revenge and Deceit in French Indochina 
by Roger Osborne.
Cape, 244 pp., £15.99, October 1999, 0 224 05295 0
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... right background you didn’t have to do much to survive and prosper. The kind of lassitude that George Orwell describes so well in Burmese Days was to be found equally among the French colonies to the East: a sweltering indolence encouraged social intrigue and discouraged intellectual effort. Deprat entered this milieu with unbounded energy and a ...

Reach-Me-Down Romantic

Terry Eagleton: For and Against Orwell, 19 June 2003

George Orwell 
by Gordon Bowker.
Little, Brown, 495 pp., £20, May 2003, 0 316 86115 4
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OrwellThe Life 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 448 pp., £20, June 2003, 0 7011 6919 2
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OrwellLife and Times 
by Scott Lucas.
Haus, 180 pp., £8.99, April 2003, 1 904341 33 0
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... altogether. Such, no doubt, is how Christopher Hitchens will be remembered. The resemblances to George Orwell, on whom Hitchens has written so admiringly,* are obvious enough, though so are some key differences. Orwell was a kind of literary proletarian who lived in dire straits for most of his life, and began to ...

Prep-School Girl

Sarah Wintle, 4 April 1985

... George Orwell was sent to St Cyprian’s in September 1911, when he was eight years old. His sisters, Marjorie and Averil stayed at home until they were 11. Orwell went on to Eton, his sisters, Bernard Crick writes, ‘to a girls’ boarding-school at Oxford, a decent enough place but by no means famous or front rank ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: The Wyatt Continuum, 20 November 2014

... a BBC producer (she worked on the first Woman’s Hour), later a freelance journalist; his father, George Ellidge, an industrial psychologist whose life and earnings were greatly reduced by MS and confinement in a wheelchair (‘It is very odd, isn’t it?’ Wyatt remarks to O’Dair). They were an open, interested, bohemian couple, Fabian socialists with ...

Boys will be soldiers

Brian Harrison, 20 October 1983

Sure and Stedfast: A History of the Boys’ Brigade, 1883-1984 
edited by John Springhall.
Collins, 304 pp., £10, June 1983, 0 00 434280 1
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... Not to expose your true feelings to an adult,’ wrote George Orwell, ‘seems to be instinctive from the age of seven or eight onwards.’ This is only one of several difficulties facing the historian of childhood: children are secretive, and parents seldom suspect the range of their fears and excitements. Describing his rather tortured teenage life, Bertrand Russell’s autobiography stresses that while outwardly well-behaved, he ‘found living at home only endurable at the cost of complete silence about everything that interested me ...

Hey, Mister, you want dirty book?

Edward Said: The CIA, 30 September 1999

Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War 
by Frances Stonor Saunders.
Granta, 509 pp., £20, July 1999, 1 86207 029 6
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... assassinations and mass killings. Yet it still gives me an eerie feeling to read about people like George Orwell, Stephen Spender and Raymond Aron, to say nothing of less admirable characters of the Melvin Lasky stripe, taking part in surreptitiously subsidised anti-Communist ventures – magazines, symphony orchestras, art exhibitions – or in the ...

After the Cold War

Eric Hobsbawm: Tony Judt, 26 April 2012

... How to Change the World are dedicated to the memory of the same independent thinker, the late George Lichtheim. We got on well in personal terms – but then Tony was easy to like, and generous. He thought very well of my own work and said so in his last book. At the same time he launched one of the most implacable attacks on me in a passage which has ...

Mad John

Gabriele Annan, 28 June 1990

McEnroe: Taming the Talent 
by Richard Evans.
Bloomsbury, 216 pp., £14.99, June 1990, 0 7475 0618 3
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... all this mad, contagious Shakespearean business is over the top, along with the references to George Orwell because 1984 happened to turn out a key year for McEnroe; not to speak of an extraordinary passage at the end of the book where Evans complains that when McEnroe was recently defaulted in Australia he was given only thirty minutes to prepare ...

Snob Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Modern Snobbery, 3 November 2016

... of Taylor’s literary examples come from Thackeray, whose Book of Snobs appeared in 1848, and George Orwell – he has written biographies of both. Alan Bennett, who has the finest antennae for social nuance, is absent. So is Muriel Spark whose short story, ‘You Should Have Seen the Mess’, is a forensic analysis of the subject. It is narrated by ...

So Very Silent

John Pemble: Victorian Corpse Trade, 25 October 2012

Dying for Victorian Medicine: English Anatomy and Its Trade in the Dead Poor, c.1834-1929 
by Elizabeth Hurren.
Palgrave, 380 pp., £65, December 2011, 978 0 230 21966 3
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Dickens and the Workhouse: Oliver Twist and the London Poor 
by Ruth Richardson.
Oxford, 370 pp., £16.99, February 2012, 978 0 19 964588 6
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... 1929. The old-age pension, introduced twenty years earlier, was still only ten shillings a week. George Orwell hadn’t imagined that anyone could live on it, but when he went slumming he discovered that people did, thanks to a diet of bread, margarine and tea, dirt-cheap lodgings and clothes from charities. By now, the unemployed could draw insurance ...

Koestlerkampf

A.J. Ayer, 20 May 1982

Koestler 
by Iain Hamilton.
Secker, 397 pp., £12, April 1982, 0 436 19191 1
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... agent, but is then content to quote the mixed reactions of contemporary critics, including that of George Orwell, which was mainly unfavourable. I don’t know whether Mr Hamilton ever met Orwell, but if he did he should have known better than to foist an ‘unrelenting masochism’ upon him. Mr Hamilton does tell the ...

Modernity

George Steiner, 5 May 1988

Visions and Blueprints: Avant-Garde Culture and Radical Politics in Early 20th-century Europe 
edited by Edward Timms and Peter Collier.
Manchester, 328 pp., £29.50, February 1988, 0 7190 2260 6
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... from the list of significant British writers involved in the Spanish cockpit, the very name of George Orwell! Or how ambiguous are the criteria which impel Peter Collier to cite, with almost breathless admiration, Auden’s commendation of ‘the necessary murder’. Ritchie Robertson is concise and authoritative on the Zionist impulse in Herzl and ...

The Lesson of Swaffham Down

W.R. Mead, 5 March 1981

The Theft of the Countryside 
by Marion Shoard.
Temple Smith, 269 pp., £9, October 1980, 0 85117 200 8
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Britain’s Wasting Acres 
by Graham Moss.
Architectural Press, 230 pp., £13.50, February 1981, 0 85139 078 1
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... profligacy with which farmland is being squandered and the complacency with which (in the words of George Orwell) its ‘defilement is taken for granted’. Marion Shoard argues that the traditional English landscape is an inconvenient obstacle to the activities of the agricultural businessman (agri-businessman, her unlovely epithet, is intended to ...

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