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Sean French: Fortress Wapping

6 March 1986
... the bait and on Friday, 24 January, after a ballot, they went on strike. Murdoch immediately dismissed them. The journalists of the Sunday Times were summoned to a meeting on Monday morning at the Mount Pleasant Hotel, around the corner from our offices in the Gray’s Inn Road. We wait for the management’s offer but it turns out that there is no offer. In return for a salary increase of £2000 a ...

70 Centimetres and Rising

John Whitfield: Plate tectonics

3 February 2005
The Earth: An Intimate History 
by Richard Fortey.
Harper Perennial, 501 pp., £9.99, March 2005, 0 00 655137 8
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... poles: so either the poles had wandered, or the continents had. By the early 1960s, the old geological worldview was crumbling under the pressure of accumulative data. In a paper published in 1962, Harry Hess, a geologist at Princeton and former naval captain, proposed that the mid-Atlantic ridge was in the middle of the Atlantic because the continents were moving away from it at an equal rate: the ...

Balls in Aquaria

Thomas Crow: Joseph Rykwert

23 October 2008
The Judicious Eye: Architecture against the Other Arts 
by Joseph Rykwert.
Reaktion, 496 pp., £29.95, June 2008, 978 1 86189 358 1
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... is, it should be said, a great deal that is useful and diverting to be learned along the way. Certain characters weave in and out of the story, from the great (Wagner) to the now quite obscure (Count Harry Kessler). Rykwert’s favoured protagonists tend to avoid being pinned down to any one vocation; he doesn’t even require that they count architecture or visual art among their pursuits. Wagner ...

Call me Ismail

Thomas Jones: Wu Ming

18 July 2013
by Wu Ming, translated by Shaun Whiteside.
Verso, 263 pp., £16.99, May 2013, 978 1 78168 076 6
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... the right to call yourself whatever you want, whenever you want. The Luther Blissetts’ pranks included inventing a number of imaginary artists: according to fake stories fed to the newspapers, ‘Harry Kipper’ went missing in January 1995 while tracing the word ‘art’ across Europe on his mountain bike; ‘Darko Maver’, a Serbian sculptor and conceptual artist who made models of bloody ...

Always the Same Dream

Ferdinand Mount: Princess Margaret

4 January 2018
Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret 
by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, 423 pp., £16.99, September 2017, 978 0 00 820361 0
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... yourself a little more?’ ‘Well, I wouldn’t be, would I?’ The princess replied. It was a backhanded mercy that she did not live to hear the bells ringing to celebrate the engagement of Prince Harry to a divorced American actor of mixed race. Wallis Simpson, too, must be turning in her unquiet grave ...

The Doctrine of Unripe Time

Ferdinand Mount: The Fifties

16 November 2006
Having It So Good: Britain in the Fifties 
by Peter Hennessy.
Allen Lane, 740 pp., £30, October 2006, 0 7139 9571 8
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... or even accepting the reality, of Britain’s diminished position after the Second. Macmillan was in intermittent pain from the shrapnel the Germans had left in his thigh forty years earlier; Harry Crookshank, Churchill’s first minister of health, had had his balls shot off on the Western Front. No man alive has lunched more politicians and permanent secretaries or scoured more Cabinet ...

Double-Barrelled Dolts

Ferdinand Mount: Mosley’s Lost Deposit

6 July 2006
Blackshirt: Sir Oswald Mosley and British Fascism 
by Stephen Dorril.
Viking, 717 pp., £30, April 2006, 0 670 86999 6
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Hurrah for the Blackshirts! Fascists and Fascism between the Wars 
by Martin Pugh.
Pimlico, 387 pp., £8.99, March 2006, 1 84413 087 8
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... but campaigned on the dismal slogan ‘Fascism Next Time’. In subsequent by-elections they usually scored only a few hundred votes. The Fascist candidate at Hythe in 1939, Kim Philby’s father Harry St John Philby, received only 578 votes. After the war, the Union Movement suffered much the same fate, campaigning largely against immigration. In his last contest, at Shoreditch in the 1966 general ...

Self-Made Man

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Edith Wharton’s Domestic Arrangements

5 April 2007
Edith Wharton 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 853 pp., £25, February 2007, 978 0 7011 6665 6
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... and ‘a little shanty in Park Avenue’ that she and Teddy called the smallest house in New York. These were followed by her most famous residence in the US – the 35-room mansion known as The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts – and eventually by apartments in Paris, an 18th-century villa near Fontainebleau, and the Provençal house that she named Ste-Claire-le-Château, built on the site of a ...
7 November 1991
Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... memory holes, can summon the sinister and the infinite. Doing it, moreover, at a level of realism which vanquishes Condon and DeLillo while leaving spare capacity for the imagination. And here is Harry Hubbard, his outwardly insipid narrator. Hubbard is a white-collar type of CIA man, a ‘ghost’ writer of planted texts, who is vicariously thrilled by the knowledge that he is working with ...

Best Beloved

Kevin Brownlow

18 April 1985
Chaplin: His Life and Art 
by David Robinson.
Collins, 792 pp., £15, March 1985, 9780002163873
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... which is like saying you prefer Thackeray to Dickens. So what? Without Chaplin’s skill in proving that film comedy was a commercial goldmine, there would have been no Keaton, or Harold Lloyd, or Harry Langdon. He laid the path along which they swept to success. I wish Robinson had found the space to explain a little about the sad fate of so many of the films. His accounts are based upon seeing the ...
4 April 2019
... dismantling and destruction, but a deliberate strategy of stress testing. It is a strategy Trump personifies, but it goes well beyond him. In October 2018 the giant Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman unexpectedly pulled out of the Eastern Mediterranean, where its planes had been bombarding IS’s positions in Syria. It sailed into the Atlantic and then suddenly and without warning ...

Gossip in Gilt

James Wood: John Updike’s Licks of Love

19 April 2001
Licks of Love: Short Stories and a Sequel, ‘Rabbit Remembered’ 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 368 pp., £16.99, March 2001, 9780241141298
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...  should be as fine as it can possibly be. But a professionalised ordinariness has characterised Updike’s work in the last decade, and the stack of diligent second-rate books is beginning to mount: Brazil (1994), which was full of soft writing; In the Beauty of the Lilies (1996), a complacent historical saga; Toward the End of Time (1997), a deeply misogynistic moan; Bech at Bay (1998), a ...

An Even Deeper Bunker

Tom Vanderbilt: Secrets and spies

7 March 2002
Body of Secrets: How America’s NSA and Britain’s GCHQ Eavesdrop on the World 
by James Bamford.
Century, 721 pp., £20, May 2001, 0 7126 7598 1
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Total Surveillance: Investigating the Big Brother World of E-Spies, Eavesdroppers and CCTV 
by John Parker.
Piatkus, 330 pp., £10.99, September 2001, 0 7499 2226 5
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... it seems, for behind the mirrors are layers of copper and more glass to make sure signals stay put. The bringing to light of Cold War landmarks like the Presidential emergency relocation centre at Mount Weather, Virginia (first acknowledged to exist in 1974, ironically after a TWA plane crashed very close to it), or the NSA itself in Bamford’s first book, simply reinforced the suspicion that ...
22 March 1990
Wright of Derby 
by Judy Egerton.
Tate Gallery, 294 pp., £25, February 1990, 1 85437 038 3
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... Hall. He had Wright paint him and five of his friends in the livery of the Markeaton Hunt – his father and five of his friends had sat to Devis 13 years before. Wright poses them casually. Harry Peckham stands with hand on hip; he was to die after breaking his neck while hunting. Nicholas Heath sits with his arm over the back of his chair; he changed his name to Nicholas Nicholas when he ...

Tides of Treacle

James Wood: Nicole Krauss’s schmaltz

23 June 2005
The History of Love 
by Nicole Krauss.
Viking, 252 pp., £12.99, May 2005, 0 670 91554 8
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... me: left kidney. Personal failures: kishkes.’ But why spoil a potentially fantastic riff with mere editorial continence? Instead of closing her paragraph here, Krauss spills on, and the sentences mount towards their pinnacle of schmaltz: The pain of forgetting: spine. The pain of remembering: spine. All the times I have suddenly realised that my parents are dead, even now, it still surprises me ...

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