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Soft Spur

A.W.B. Simpson, 3 February 1983

What next in the Law 
by Lord Denning.
Butterworth, 352 pp., £9.95, July 1982, 0 406 17602 7
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... Injury (1978), though I note with sadness, but without surprise, that no tears are shed for the Williams Committee Report on Obscenity and Film Censorship (1979), which was perhaps too liberal for Lord Denning’s taste. Much of the book, however, has little direct connection with the avowed aim of goading the mandarins into action, and I suspect that Lord ...

My Wife

Jonathan Coe, 21 December 1989

Soho Square II 
edited by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 287 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 0 7475 0506 3
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... Alvarez’s little piece, ‘Doctor in the House’, which turns out not to be a homage to Richard Gordon (sadly), but a two-and-a-half-page chat about the problems of getting his house redecorated. Mr Alvarez’s wife makes no fewer than seven appearances in this brief narrative, yet her name is not mentioned once: this in spite of the fact that the other ...

John McEnroe plus Anyone

Edward Said: Tennis, 1 July 1999

The Right Set: The Faber Book of Tennis 
edited by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 327 pp., £12.99, June 1999, 0 571 19540 7
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... your twenties, facing Sampras or Philippoussis or Ivanisevic, or even Navratilova, Hingis or Venus Williams: can’t be done, no way at all even of being on the same court, much less hitting their balls back. Two decades ago, wooden rackets were replaced by high-tech instruments engineered to the utmost in hitting efficiency, and daily restrung, for ever more ...

Jungle Joys

Alfred Appel Jr: Wa-Wa-Wa with the Duke, 5 September 2002

... Jungle Band’s most extraordinary sounds were produced by the trumpeters Bubber Miley and Cootie Williams (who took Miley’s place in 1929) and the trombonist Joe Nanton, whose nickname ‘Tricky Sam’ projected the essence of ‘jungle’ techniques. Following the example of King Oliver, they developed a wider variety of often speech-like growling and ...

The Five Techniques

Sadakat Kadri: Who killed Baha Mousa?, 9 May 2013

A Very British Killing: The Death of Baha Mousa 
by A.T. Williams.
Cape, 298 pp., £16.99, October 2012, 978 0 224 09688 1
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... doesn’t touch, and the conventional way of testing serious allegations is to hold a trial. A.T. Williams’s A Very British Killing is concerned with one such prosecution. The story at its centre began on a Sunday morning in September 2003, as British troops conducted a swoop on a Basra hotel. Six months on from the US-led invasion, with coalition forces ...

A Storm in His Luggage

C.K. Stead, 26 January 1995

Ezra Pound and James Laughlin: Selected Letters 
edited by David Gordon.
Norton, 313 pp., £23, June 1994, 0 393 03540 9
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‘Agenda’: An Anthology. The First Four Decades 
edited by William Cookson.
Carcanet, 418 pp., £25, May 1994, 1 85754 069 7
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... when its first anthology was published, the names of contributors included Pound, William Carlos Williams, E.E. Cummings, Wallace Stevens and Marianne Moore. For 35 years Pound advised, instructed, cajoled, abused, while Laughlin for the most part acted on the good advice, ignored the bad, and behaved with a degree of patrician independence proper to a man ...

The Common Touch

Paul Foot, 10 November 1994

Hanson: A Biography 
by Alex Brummer and Roger Cowe.
Fourth Estate, 336 pp., £20, September 1994, 1 85702 189 4
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... these matters his new partner, who has stayed with him for the whole of his business life, Gordon White, boasted to a Sunday Mirror gossip columnist: ‘Why should I marry? I don’t need anyone to look after me. I’ve got a good housekeeper to darn my socks, sew on my buttons and cook my meals.’ White managed to dispense even with his housekeeper ...

The Angry Men

Jean McNicol: Harriet Harman, 14 December 2017

A Woman’s Work 
by Harriet Harman.
Allen Lane, 405 pp., £20, February 2017, 978 0 241 27494 1
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The Women Who Shaped Politics 
by Sophy Ridge.
Coronet, 295 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 1 4736 3876 1
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... that the scheme would be discredited. One woman who had votes ‘dumped’ on her was Mildred Gordon, who, Harman says, ‘had not particularly made her mark’ in Parliament. She was ‘nearly elected’ (this isn’t true: she got 45 votes; the last person to be elected, John Prescott, got 85; Harman got 68) and was ‘amazed and happy … that at last ...

‘I intend to support white rule’

Ian Hamilton: Allen Tate, 24 May 2001

Allen Tate: Orphan of the South 
by Thomas Underwood.
Princeton, 447 pp., £21.95, December 2000, 0 691 06950 6
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... his wife headed off for Paris (Tate had married the fierce and ultra-Southern novelist, Caroline Gordon, a few years before: he would later marry her again, after a divorce, and then divorce her yet again). In Paris, he fell in with all the usual Steins and Hemingways – who met, the lot of them, with his fierce disapproval. ‘More and more,’ he said, he ...

The Sound of Thunder

Tom Nairn: The Miners’ Strike, 8 October 2009

Marching to the Fault Line: The 1984 Miners’ Strike and the Death of Industrial Britain 
by Francis Beckett and David Hencke.
Constable, 303 pp., £18.99, February 2009, 978 1 84901 025 2
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Shafted: The Media, the Miners’ Strike and the Aftermath 
edited by Granville Williams.
Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, 176 pp., £9.99, March 2009, 978 1 898240 05 1
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... in the trenches of 1984, powerful though those experiences and memories are.’ The best Granville Williams can do to soften the wounds of retrospect is an afterword on ‘Coal and Climate Change’, in which he maintains that the closure programme that led to the great strike was mistaken. It may have damaged the NUM, disabled the foundations of the ...

Let’s to billiards

Stephen Walsh: Constant Lambert, 22 January 2015

Constant Lambert: Beyond the Rio Grande 
by Stephen Lloyd.
Boydell, 584 pp., £45, March 2014, 978 1 84383 898 2
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... greatest symphonist since Beethoven, had no interest in folksong (though he studied with Vaughan Williams and liked and respected him), adored jazz for its virtuosity and instrumental sound but had little patience with most of the so-called symphonic jazz of the 1920s. The key to this apparent ragbag of a pantheon is that Lambert had come to music from ...

What was it that drove him?

David Runciman: Gordon Brown, 4 January 2018

My Life, Our Times 
by Gordon Brown.
Bodley Head, 512 pp., £25, November 2017, 978 1 84792 497 1
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... Like many​ recent political memoirists, Gordon Brown begins his story in medias res. Given his rollercoaster time in Downing Street, punctuated by the gut-wrenching drama of the financial crisis, there should have been plenty of arresting moments to choose from. Some, though, are already taken. Alistair Darling, for instance, starts Back from the Brink, his 2011 account of what it was like being Brown’s chancellor, on Tuesday, 7 October 2008, when Sir Tom McKillop, the chairman of RBS, called him to announce that his bank was about to go bust and to ask what the government planned to do about it ...

Do It and Die

Richard Horton, 20 April 1995

by Abraham Verghese.
Phoenix, 347 pp., £18.99, May 1994, 1 897580 26 6
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... enraged if a single word is uttered to acknowledge the act. The mad scramble to pull socks onto Gordon, who was otherwise dressed to the nines – in his funeral casket. And the sewer rat that crept out of the commode to chew off the testicles of some day-dreaming old man. Any lingering Falwellian prejudice evaporates in the living rooms of the families who ...

God’s Iceberg

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 4 December 1986

The ‘ Titanic’: The Full Story of a Tragedy 
by Michael Davie.
Bodley Head, 244 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 9780370307640
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The IT Girls: Elinor Glyn and Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon 
by Meredith Etherington-Smith and Jeremy Pilcher.
Hamish Hamilton, 258 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11950 2
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... have been spilled’), he told them that he ‘was going up on deck to see the fun’. Lucy Duff Gordon, a fashionable dress designer, whose life, together with that of her sister Elinor Glyn, is told in the second of these books, was on her way to New York with her husband, a Scotch baronet, and her secretary. She heard people running along the deck outside ...

Devolution Doom

Christopher Harvie: Scotland’s crisis, and some solutions, 5 September 2002

... reply. Drafting a sketch for a BBC radio programme on devolution, I was rung by Professor Phil Williams, a colleague at Aberystwyth who is also Plaid Cymru’s spokesman on energy. ‘I’m on it with Jack McConnell,’ I said. ‘Who’s McConnell?’ ‘Scottish First Minister.’ ‘Well, I never . . .’ This was a benign version of the Jowett ...

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