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MP Surprise

Stefanie Poletyllo

7 March 1985
... One day when I was walking down the street You’ll never guesswho I did meet. Margaret Thatcher, who got out of a car And went into a Public Bar. Up to the counter she walked briskly And ordered up a pint of Whisky. In came MP Michael Foot – He had been cleaning a chimney and was covered in soot ...

At the National Gallery

Peter Campbell: French Landscape Painting

27 August 2009
... La Ferté’ (c.1825) When, as painting drew more on other paintings than on memory, imagined landscapes in this tradition began to lose their connection with real sunsets and seasons, painters who preferred looking to imagining had a chance to move to the front of the pack. The sources were to hand: 17th-century Dutchmen had shown that common sights could be as gratifying to the eye as dreams ...


Hilary Mantel: Hilary Mantel meets her stepfather

23 October 2003
... but I can’t help it. I imagine the Methodists draped in animal skins, beating drums, and I imagine them chalking on the walls. People look around in alarm, checking over their shoulders to see who in our backyard I’m offending. ‘Mrs Clayton’s chapel,’ someone says plaintively. Ho, ho, is she? I run to read her door number. It’s No. 60; I’m glad of it. Till now, 58 was the highest ...

The Goodwin and Giggs Show

Stephen Sedley: Super-Injunctions

16 June 2011
... even if it was libellous. When a member of either House, protected by the privilege which prevents his being prosecuted for it, consciously breaks a High Court injunction by naming an individual who has been anonymised by court order, it suggests two possibilities. One is that he does not understand the constitution; the other is that he does and has set out to transgress it. In spite of ...

Short Cuts

Lucy Prebble: Harvey Weinstein

2 November 2017
... both inside and outside something. (‘All these people think this but we – you and I – we know that it’s this.’) Often competitive, they are frequently keen on working with young women, who can be pleasing company whom they don’t feel the need to destroy. At least not intentionally. After hearing my thoughts on the reading, Weinstein declared me bright and said he needed help with a ...

Fue el estado

Tony Wood: Elmer Mendoza

1 June 2016
Silver Bullets 
by Elmer Mendoza, translated by Mark Fried.
MacLehose Press, 240 pp., £14.99, April 2015, 978 1 85705 258 9
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... de perro (A Dog’s Name) in 2012, and Besar al detective (Kissing the Detective) in 2015. They all feature Edgar ‘Lefty’ Mendieta, a sardonic, lovelorn policeman fond of drink and classic rock, who is haunted by a childhood trauma. He doesn’t seem to be motivated by any high-minded notions of justice: he arrives at the first crime scene in Silver Bullets thinking, ‘I hope it’s one of ...

How many jellybeans?

David Runciman: Non-spurious generalisations and why the crowd will win

5 August 2004
Profiles, Probabilities and Stereotypes 
by Frederick Schauer.
Harvard, 359 pp., £19.95, February 2004, 0 674 01186 4
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The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many are Smarter than the Few 
by James Surowiecki.
Little, Brown, 295 pp., £16.99, June 2004, 0 316 86173 1
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... ourselves, and so are broadly sympathetic to the individual point of view. We like to think of people exercising their personal judgment, and not just blindly following the rules. For example, who wouldn’t prefer, when appearing before a judge, to learn that the judge was willing to hear each case on its merits, and exercise some discretion if necessary? General rules, we think, are likely ...

Guess​ what? It’s raining

Deborah Friedell: Murder in Florida

5 July 2012
Injustice: Life and Death in the Courtrooms of America 
by Clive Stafford Smith.
Harvill Secker, 376 pp., £18.99, July 2012, 978 1 84655 625 8
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... bodies. One was tied to a chair, riddled with bullets; the other was kneeling, shot through the head. They were Derrick Moo Young, aged 53, and his son Duane Moo Young, 23, businessmen from Jamaica who had looked after properties in Fort Lauderdale owned by the man who would be accused of killing them, Krishna Maharaj, a Trinidadian national and British citizen. A few months before the murder ...

Two Poems

Kwame Dawes

25 May 1995
... become one with the mist. But I know the wicked man and his path,    know his causal machinations that seem so gloriously brilliant in their diabolic wit    here in the light of day. But who would guess the planning he does deep in the night    tossing on the fetid damp of his sepulchral sheets? For a thirsting man caught here, stranded    late at night between two dry hills, my ...

Has been

C.K. Stead

21 January 2016
... thus           in four words             conjugating present and past         that one may say ‘has been’       drunk and (I guess, not having seen it) sober             a half century at words for animals, people, plants the planet.         ‘Have you a story?’ Every poet who has read with Reading has ...

Preacher on a Tank

David Runciman: Blair Drills Down

7 October 2010
A Journey 
by Tony Blair.
Hutchinson, 718 pp., £25, September 2010, 978 0 09 192555 0
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... think for himself, and decide for himself, whatever the issue. He takes this to be one of the key attributes of leadership, and it is why he believes he was cut out for it while other people (you can guesswho) were not. But he also puts it down to his training as a barrister at the hands of Derry Irvine, someone he describes as having ‘a brain the size of a melon’. From Irvine Blair learned the ...

Heart of Darkness

Christopher Hitchens

28 June 1990
Not Many Dead: Journal of a Year in Fleet Street 
by Nicholas Garland.
Hutchinson, 299 pp., £16.95, April 1990, 0 09 174449 0
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A Slight Case of Libel: Meacher v. Trelford and Others 
by Alan Watkins.
Duckworth, 241 pp., £14.95, June 1990, 0 7156 2334 6
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... and 1988 does not make them any less so. I paid scarcely any attention to a letter that the Spectator subsequently published. It was a frothing note from some Canadian business mogul named Black, who evidently hero-worshipped Ronald Reagan. In his closing sentences this entrepreneur speaks of buying up some English newspapers in order to put me, and others like me, out of a job. I had a brief ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: The Oscars

26 February 2009
... £8.99), which might justly claim to explain how Hollywood came to be what Hollywood has become. Harris takes the five movies nominated for Best Picture in 1968: Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, GuessWho’s Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night and Doctor Dolittle. Each of them was for one reason or another tough to make: the material and its treatment were so new, or the audience wasn’t ...

Confusion is power

David Runciman: Our Very Own Oligarchs

7 June 2012
The New Few, or a Very British Oligarchy: Power and Inequality in Britain Now 
by Ferdinand Mount.
Simon and Schuster, 305 pp., £18.99, April 2012, 978 1 84737 800 2
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... America; just look at Europe; just look at us. In Russia the basics are easy to understand: people use money to get power and power to get money. The country is ruled by a narrow, self-serving elite who go through the motions of holding elections and transferring power. No one is fooled. When Putin moves from the office of president to prime minister and then back again, it is not exactly smoke and ...

Nutty Professors

Hal Foster: ‘Lingua Franca’

8 May 2003
Quick Studies: The Best of ‘Lingua Franca’ 
edited by Alexander Star.
Farrar, Straus, 514 pp., $18, September 2002, 0 374 52863 2
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... not only old warhorses like Jesse Helms and Pat Buchanan, but new stalwarts such as William Bennett, head of the National Endowment for the Humanities and then Secretary of Education under Reagan, who worked to abolish both agencies, and Lynne Cheney, wife of Dick and head of the NEH under George I, who wanted to absolve American history from any critique whatsoever. (When I’ve seen these two on ...

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