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When a Corpse Is a Message

Álvaro Enrigue: Mexico’s Cartels

7 May 2014
Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers 
by Anabel Hernández, translated by Iain Bruce.
Verso, 362 pp., £16.99, September 2013, 978 1 78168 073 5
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ZeroZeroZero 
by Roberto Saviano.
Feltrinelli, 444 pp., £23, March 2013, 978 88 07 03053 6
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Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey through a Country’s Descent into Darkness 
by Alfredo Corchado.
Penguin, 248 pp., £17, May 2013, 978 1 59420 439 5
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... On​ 11 December 2006, Felipe Calderón, the president of Mexico, appeared on television dressed as a military commander and announced that he was ‘declaring war’ on organised crime. It was an unforgettable and grotesque gesture, which won him an invaluable spike in popularity. The news was unexpected: it was the first time his National Action Party (PAN) had used the militaristic liturgy of Mexico’s ...

Still Defending the Scots

Katie Stevenson: Robert the Bruce

10 September 2014
Robert the BruceKing of the Scots 
by Michael Penman.
Yale, 443 pp., £25, June 2014, 978 0 300 14872 5
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... The​ political commentator Iain Martin, who claims that he fled Scotland before the 2007 Scottish elections rather than live under an SNP-led government, wrote a few months ago in a blog for the Telegraph of a Treasury aide who’d ...

William Wallace, Unionist

Colin Kidd: The Idea of Devolution

23 March 2006
State of the Union: Unionism and the Alternatives in the United Kingdom since 1707 
by Iain​ McLean and Alistair McMillan.
Oxford, 283 pp., £45, September 2005, 0 19 925820 1
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... with the Liberal Democrats is a small price to pay for that. Seven years on from the first elections to the Scottish Parliament, it seems that devolution has soothed the nationalist itch. Yet, as Iain McLean and Alistair McMillan recognise in their study of the unionist political tradition, this still leaves unresolved the issue of what now underpins the British connection. For unionism, they ...

Speaking in Tongues

Robert Crawford

8 February 1996
The Poetry of Scotland: Gaelic, Scots and English 1380-1980 
edited and introduced by Roderick Watson.
Edinburgh, 752 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 7486 0607 6
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... Will he allow Sorley MacLean’s voice to accompany MacDiarmid’s? To the best of my knowledge, nobody has been asked to do a new Oxford anthology, though the youngest poet in their extant volume, Iain Crichton Smith, is now a sprightly 68. Watson’s model is not the Oxford or the Penguin, but Hugh MacDiarmid’s Golden Treasury of Scottish Poetry, first published in 1940 and reissued by Canongate ...

We’ve done awfully well

Karl Miller: The Late 1950s

18 July 2013
Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, June 2013, 978 0 7475 8893 1
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... men: And Harold said: ‘Well now, Rab, I think we’ve done very well, don’t you?’ And Rab said: ‘Oh yes, I think we’ve done awfully well, particularly the things I’ve been doing.’ And Iain Macleod then said: ‘Yes, well, I’ve done awfully well and we’ve all done very well indeed.’ Not all of his honourable friends were distressed when Gaitskell died. ‘It was as if a great ...

How good was he?

Iain​ Fenlon: Antonio Salieri

6 July 2000
Antonio Salieri and Viennese Opera 
by John Rice.
Chicago, 648 pp., £66.50, April 1999, 0 226 71125 0
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... a court where Italian musicians had long dominated. Cabals, in any case, were a permanent feature of the operatic scene, and only to be expected. In a deft piece of detective-work Rice (together with Bruce Alan Brown, a fellow musicologist) has uncovered two numbers of Da Ponte’s La scuola degli amanti among Salieri’s autographs in the National Library in Vienna. This is important because it ...

Diary

Iain​ Sinclair: The Peruvian Corporation of London

10 October 2019
... had their own tin-roofed churches and stalls of trinkets. This was a highly competitive market economy, without the traditional raids and kidnappings. I remembered Herzog’s creed, as reported by Bruce Chatwin: ‘Walking is a virtue, tourism is deadly sin.’ This stern Bavarian dogma, repeated over many mesmeric interviews, lectures and presentations, became a little threadbare, itself a form of ...
11 April 2013
Collected Poems 
by Edward Dorn.
Carcanet, 995 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 1 84777 126 1
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... fired the super-hip comedy of Gunslinger. The grand mythopoeic structures of Pound and Olson, magnificent but unresolved, beacons of high modernism, were succeeded by Dorn’s synapse-frying Lenny Bruce performance, long sections of which he read, at various English venues, to hypnotic effect. With his belief that all poetry was derived from either the Iliad or the Odyssey, siege or quest, Dorn ...

Travellers

John Kerrigan

13 October 1988
Archaic Figure 
by Amy Clampitt.
Faber, 113 pp., £4.95, February 1988, 0 571 15043 8
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Tourists 
by Grevel Lindop.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £6.95, July 1987, 0 85635 697 2
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Sleeping rough 
by Charles Boyle.
Carcanet, 64 pp., £5.95, November 1987, 0 85635 731 6
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This Other Life 
by Peter Robinson.
Carcanet, 96 pp., £5.95, April 1988, 0 85635 737 5
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In the Hot-House 
by Alan Jenkins.
Chatto, 60 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 7011 3312 0
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Monterey Cypress 
by Lachlan Mackinnon.
Chatto, 62 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 7011 3264 7
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My Darling Camel 
by Selima Hill.
Chatto, 64 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 7011 3286 8
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The Air Mines of Mistila 
by Philip Gross and Sylvia Kantaris.
Bloodaxe, 80 pp., £4.95, June 1988, 1 85224 055 5
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X/Self 
by Edward Kamau Brathwaite.
Oxford, 131 pp., £6.95, April 1988, 0 19 281987 9
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The Arkansas Testament 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 117 pp., £3.95, March 1988, 9780571149094
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... will find our tourist networks as baffling as the Songlines which stretch across aboriginal Australia. At which point, they should turn to the poets. For just as the Songlines are, to use Bruce Chatwin’s image, ‘a spaghetti of Iliads and Odysseys, writhing this way and that, in which every “episode” [is] readable’, so the quick and shallow tracks of tourism retrace our oldest ...

Love that Bird

Francis Spufford: Supersonic

6 June 2002
... route from London to New York, income from ticket sales never came close to covering operating costs. Then in February 1981 Sir John King was made chairman of BA, and suddenly – in the words of Bruce MacTavish, one of the civil servants who appeared with Lamont before the Select Committee – ‘it was “love that bird!” time.’ It was not that King was a visionary. He was not the sort of ...
30 October 1997
Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection 
by Norman Rosenthal.
Thames and Hudson, 222 pp., £29.95, September 1997, 0 500 23752 2
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... different art world? Shone is much more specific than Rosenthal in picking out the artists (non-British) who were important to the Freeze generation. The names he mentions, especially Josef Beuys and Bruce Nauman, but also Robert Gober, Ashley Bickerton and Jeff Koons, certainly make sense when we look at much of the work on show in Sensation – although, naturally enough, everything that the Young ...

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