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Troll-Descended Bruisers

Tom Shippey: ‘Njal’s Saga’

1 July 2015
‘Why Is Your Axe Bloody?’: A Reading of ‘Njal’s Saga’ 
by William Ian Miller.
Oxford, 334 pp., £55, July 2014, 978 0 19 870484 3
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... and reputation, and it’s the closely observed micro-politics of this world that make the great ‘family sagas’ like Njal’s Saga and The Laxdalers’ Saga works of unrivalled subtlety. William IanMiller, who teaches law at the University of Michigan, wrote his study of the two sides of the saga, Bloodtaking and Peacemaking, 25 years ago. Since then he has written several books on awkward ...


William Ian Miller: Jon Elster

10 August 2000
Alchemies of the Mind: Rationality and the Emotions 
by Jon Elster.
Cambridge, 450 pp., £14.95, March 1999, 0 521 64487 9
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... Suppose that 16 years ago you had written not one but two superlative books. Would you suffer from anxiety of influence with regard to early versions of yourself, as if, to twist Harold Bloom, your early self now played an insurmountably glorious Milton to your later romantic phases? Did Shakespeare say to himself: ‘No way I can beat Hamlet, so why write again?’ Jon Elster wrote two gems in the ...
8 May 1997
The Anatomy of Disgust 
by William Ian Miller.
Harvard, 313 pp., £16.50, April 1997, 0 674 03154 7
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... of production, or the ubiquitous appeal of the smell of frying onions, and there will always be someone ready to show that these truths are not universal. It’s just possible, however, that William Miller has cracked the problem with his simple but glorious statement: ‘One simply did not drink pus, even back then.’ If we want to find a common response on which all people at all times and all ...

Don’t tread on me

Galen Strawson

6 October 1994
Humiliation and Other Essays on Honour, Social Discomfort and Violence 
by William Ian Miller.
Cornell, 270 pp., £20.95, December 1993, 0 8014 2881 5
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... It is not obviously false. To say that these emotions are central is not to say that they are the most often felt; their centrality may lie in the strength of our desire to avoid them. William Miller’s suggestion has a creeping plausibility – in the playground, among teenagers, among mid-life colleagues, in the retirement home. It has a serious claim to express a human universal, valid for ...
25 June 1987
... the ones We still most love to hate. Also imported from Abroad We have three Pom belles-lettrists Who, to judge from their expressions, Might not be turning up To all our sessions: The LRB’s Karl Miller, gargoyle-like, Seems half-asleep. (The other half Is threatening to weep.) And from the TLS, Jerry Treglown Forever savouring some private joke, And Ian Hamilton, All-purpose lit. hist. hack ...

Disastered Me

Ian​ Hamilton

9 September 1993
Rebecca’s Vest: A Memoir 
by Karl Miller.
Hamish Hamilton, 186 pp., £14.99, September 1993, 0 241 13456 0
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... I hope in candour, meaning to show her what I was – I gave her my terrible diary to read in a terrible tea-room, while I entered the college, at five p.m. sharp for my little chat. This is Karl Miller, aged 18. His ‘little chat’ would be with F.R. Leavis, who subsequently admitted him to Downing College as a student. ‘Lotte’ was his older woman, an exotic foreign dancer of whom we will not ...


Steven Shapin

30 June 2011
A Modern History of the Stomach: Gastric Illness, Medicine and British Society, 1800-1950 
by Ian Miller.
Pickering and Chatto, 195 pp., £60, May 2011, 978 1 84893 181 7
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... but all the world was interested in indigestion. Dyspepsia was recognised as one of the great afflictions of the 19th century and medical stories about its causes were both unstable and resonant. IanMiller’s book begins at a point of rapid change in the scientific understanding of how the stomach functioned in health and disease and breaks off – unfortunately – short of the more recent ...

Composite Person

Alex Clark: Pat Barker

24 May 2001
Border Crossing 
by Pat Barker.
Viking, 216 pp., £16.99, April 2001, 0 670 87841 3
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... they seem about to find him out, to drop his guard and display a discomfiting degree of vulnerability. That faltering charisma, expertly rendered, also serves to repel and attract the reader. Danny Miller, the character at the heart of Border Crossing, is a direct descendant of Billy Prior, down to the inappropriately boyish name. Danny can no longer lay claim to that name, however. As a boy, he was ...

A Very Modern Man

Edmund Gordon: William Boyd

8 March 2012
Waiting for Sunrise 
by William Boyd.
Bloomsbury, 368 pp., £18.99, February 2012, 978 1 4088 1774 2
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... about Oxford and London with the likes of Cyril Connolly and Henry Green, reports on the Spanish Civil War from Barcelona (where he gets drunk with Hemingway), is recruited to Naval Intelligence by Ian Fleming and dispatched to Portugal to spy on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, becomes a prisoner of war in Switzerland, takes a job running an art gallery in New York (which brings him into contact ...

Inside the Barrel

Brent Hayes Edwards: The French Slave Trade

10 September 2009
Memoires des esclavages: la fondation d’un centre national pour la memoire des esclavages et de leurs abolitions 
by Edouard Glissant.
Gallimard, 192 pp., €14.90, May 2007, 978 2 07 078554 4
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The French Atlantic Triangle: Literature and Culture of the Slave Trade 
by Christopher Miller.
Duke, 571 pp., £20.99, March 2008, 978 0 8223 4151 2
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... Taubira or the debates it has brought about in Britain or the United States; it’s hard, too, to imagine Toni Morrison or Caryl Phillips being asked to take charge of such matters. As Christopher Miller points out in The French Atlantic Triangle, in France ‘literature was one of the most important battlegrounds for the debate on slavery.’ But in spite of the wealth of scholarship on the Atlantic ...
9 October 1986
High, Wide and Handsome. Ian​ Botham: The Story of a Very Special Year 
by Frank Keating.
Collins, 218 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 00 218226 2
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... If that failed, he could turn on his slow Chinaman, which he bowled better than anyone else in the world. After Sobers, who? Some Australians who grew up when I did argue with some force for Keith Miller. As Frank Keating’s book proves, however, Miller can quickly be rejected for second place. It goes, unquestionably, to Ian Botham. Indeed in one crucial respect, Botham beats even the great Sobers ...


Frank Kermode: Being a critic

27 May 1999
... held court, and be as submissively impressive as possible. Almost three hundred years later, though sadly not for very long, you could make your way to the Pillars of Hercules in Greek Street, where Ian Hamilton, editor of the New Review, was usually to be found. The suppliants, mostly young men not then long out of the universities, have very properly combined to congratulate the sage or gaffer on ...


Adam Mars-Jones

21 September 1995
by Gordon Burn.
Secker, 231 pp., £14.99, August 1995, 0 436 20059 7
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... of the universe. The narrator is a journalist in his fifties, writing exploitative human-interest pieces, preferably with a direct link to violent crime, for a tabloid newspaper. His name is Norman Miller, but its similarity to Norman Mailer’s no longer gives him the pleasure it did when his pretensions, if not his values, were higher (an encounter with Mailer at the time of the Foreman-Ali fight in ...

This Charming Man

Frank Kermode

24 February 1994
The Collected and Recollected Marc 
Fourth Estate, 51 pp., £25, November 1993, 1 85702 164 9Show More
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... as artist and as editor, and above all his charm. He edited, at various times, Vogue and Tatler, and the Sunday Times Colour Supplement, as well as supplying pocket cartoons for several dailies. Karl Miller, who knew him well both at Cambridge and in London, describes Boxer in his autobiography as ‘both Figaro and the Count’, which may suggest not a blend of patrician wilfulness and backstairs ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Basingstoke’s Paisleyite

21 April 2005
... of only a handful of mainland MPs who have consistently opposed the sell-out to terrorism in Northern Ireland’). He resigned from the Conservative Party in October 2002 so that he could stand for Ian Paisley’s DUP in Lagan Valley in the 2003 Northern Ireland Assembly elections. He didn’t win. In December last year, still Basingstoke’s MP, he joined the DUP anyway, which caused some ...

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