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19 June 1986
A North Sea Journey 
by A. Alvarez.
Hodder, 191 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 340 37347 4
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... believed in the future – Dan Dare was on the cover – but when, a decade or so later, its brilliant tradition of pictorial explanation was revived by newspapers such as the Sunday Times, neither technology nor the future looked quite so good. ‘How things work’ had become ‘why things went wrong.’ Arrows usually pointed to defective ...
3 September 1987
Before the oil ran out: Britain 1977-86 
by Ian Jack.
Secker, 271 pp., £9.95, June 1987, 0 436 22020 2
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In a Distant Isle: The Orkney Background of Edwin Muir 
by George Marshall.
Scottish Academic Press, 184 pp., £12.50, May 1987, 0 7073 0469 5
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... The item which seems set to stay longest with me from Ian Jack’s alert and precisely-written record of British life in the Seventies and Eighties comes from the opening memoir of his father, which supplies a deeper soil, or subsoil, to the son’s coverage of more recent matters for the Sunday Times and (since Wapping) the Observer: Few of his workplaces survive ...
18 February 1988
Tales from Two Cities: Travel of Another Sort 
by Dervla Murphy.
Murray, 310 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 0 7195 4435 1
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... on many pages, most notably in her prolonged confrontation with some West Midlands Rastafarians. But no less courageous is her remarkably open treatment of a theme, race in modern Britain, which for too long now has been narrowly viewed – by the white population at least – through the wrong end of two faulty telescopes: the one cracked by guilt and ...
26 October 1989
From Moorepark to Wine Alley: The Rise and Fall of a Glasgow Housing Scheme 
by Sean Damer.
Edinburgh, 209 pp., £25, August 1989, 0 85224 622 6
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... houses. England, even its New Towns, has never seen the like; but then England, even in Victorian Salford or Limehouse, never quite attained the degree of squalor which Scotland’s new council houses were supposed to remedy. They can be wearisome places, these council estates. Long looping crescents of grey pebble-dashed houses, a few shops selling ...
8 March 2007
... for Ian Jack Lying in bed in the dark without heating. December 3rd and feeling warm, almost too warm, I hear the window give that rattle-burp it only ever does when the wind is fierce outside. Black raindrops flame on the glass. Light from across the back gardens, one lone yellow oblong, someone up early on a winter morning ...

Downhill from Here

Ian Jack: The 1970s

27 August 2009
When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies 
by Andy Beckett.
Faber, 576 pp., £20, May 2009, 978 0 571 22136 3
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... almost since the day the decade ended. They are the bogeyman years, regularly invoked by politicians of all parties as the nadir of postwar Britain. David Cameron (though it could just as easily have been Gordon Brown) read out the charge sheet at a Demos meeting in 2006: ‘economic decline . . . inflation, stagnation and rising unemployment ...

Scoop after Scoop

Ian Jack: Chapman Pincher’s Scoops

4 June 2014
Dangerous to Know: A Life 
by Chapman Pincher.
Biteback, 386 pp., £20, February 2014, 978 1 84954 651 5
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... mischievous proprietor than Lord Beaverbrook, no more technically gifted editor than Arthur Christiansen, and few more celebrated reporters than the paper’s defence and science correspondent, Chapman Pincher. Out of the Express’s triumvirate of black-glass offices in London, Manchester and Glasgow came a torrent of newsprint that set the popular tone for ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Hatchet Jobs

11 September 2003
... that. ‘Amis survives hatchet job on day of the long knives for other star writers,’ the Guardian succinctly announced, while the Times went for: ‘Amis defies critics with Booker nomination.’ (Their logic was a little flawed: being longlisted for the Booker doesn’t automatically annul negative criticism.) Even the LRB is concocting a few column ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Nephews and Daughters

23 January 2003
... There’s a pretty steady effluence these days of works of sub-Darwinian evolutionary psychology, books that propound a startling, and often startlingly simple new theory to explain, and perhaps to explain away, every and any aspect of human nature. A recent example is The Eternal Child: An Explosive New Theory of Human Origins and Behaviour by Clive Bromhall (Ebury, £17 ...

Do you like him?

Ian Jack: Ken Livingstone

10 May 2012
You Can’t Say That: Memoirs 
by Ken Livingstone.
Faber, 710 pp., £9.99, April 2012, 978 0 571 28041 4
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... in which Livingstone was reared is now dust and ashes. Almost alone among prominent English politicians, at least those still contesting elections, he carries inside him memories of a place that was very different. There was the radio, for a start, familiarising us with the catchphrases that made Britain happy in the 1950s. Perhaps we liked them for their ...

Cocoa, sir?

Ian Jack: The Royal Navy

2 January 2003
Sober Men and True: Sailor Lives in the Royal Navy 1900-45 
by Christopher McKee.
Harvard, 285 pp., £19.95, May 2002, 0 674 00736 0
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Rule Britannia: The Victorian and Edwardian Navy 
by Peter Padfield.
Pimlico, 246 pp., £12.50, August 2002, 0 7126 6834 9
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... they were kept in a separate harbour, Port Edgar, across the Forth). Ten thousand or so civilians worked at the dockyard to repair and supply the fleet, and went to and from their work in fleets of buses and special trains. Many had come north from the Royal Navy’s heartland in Southern England: Chatham, Portsmouth, Devonport. A whole town had been ...
18 October 1984
The Mystery Religion of W.B. Yeats 
by Graham Hough.
Harvester, 129 pp., £15.95, May 1984, 0 7108 0603 5
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Yeats, Eliot, Pound and the Politics of Poetry 
by Cairns Craig.
Croom Helm, 323 pp., £14.95, January 1982, 9780856649974
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Yeats. Poems 1919-1935: A Selection of Critical Essays 
edited by Elizabeth Cullingford.
Macmillan, 238 pp., £14, July 1984, 0 333 27422 9
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The Poet and his Audience 
by Ian Jack.
Cambridge, 198 pp., £20, July 1984, 0 521 26034 5
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A New Commentary on the Poems of W.B. Yeats 
by A. Norman Jeffares.
Macmillan, 543 pp., £35, May 1984, 0 333 35214 9
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Poems of W.B. Yeats 
by A. Norman Jeffares.
Macmillan, 428 pp., £17, August 1984, 0 333 36213 6
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... in February 1983. The audience was general and the lectures were pitched accordingly. Yet all Yeatsian specialists will profit from this book and the ‘radical simplification’ of Yeats’s occult philosophy which it so lucidly achieves. Professor Hough takes Yeats’s beliefs seriously, but is neither a dévot nor sceptic. He demonstrates the ‘ancient ...


Sean French: Fortress Wapping

6 March 1986
... platter, the dispute may prove hard to resolve. Wednesday is greatly enlivened by the presence of Ian Jack, who is one of the best journalists left on the paper. Ian voted to go to Wapping, went straight there, but subsequently, driven by journalistic curiosity, spent more of the week in Gray’s Inn Road than most of ...


Blake Morrison: On the Independent on Sunday 

27 May 1993
... Publishing plc, which intended to merge the title with the Independent on Sunday, but by the Guardian, which will keep it going. Even some of us at the Independent on Sunday, the ‘losers’, were able to share the widespread relief. We could see the commercial sense in the Newspaper Publishing bid; we told ourselves that a strong left-liberal ...
15 September 1988
In for a Penny: The Unauthorised Biography of Jeffrey Archer 
by Jonathan Mantle.
Hamish Hamilton, 264 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 241 12478 6
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... Then the first disaster: Archer sinks £272,000 – all of it borrowed money – in dud Canadian shares and is threatened with bankruptcy. He quits Parliament and vows, to some incredulity, that he will fashion a best-selling novel from his experience. This and later books sell amazingly well. Pluckily, he writes his way out of debt. He becomes ‘the ...

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