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Lauren Oyler: Internet Speak, 7 May 2020

... Every day​ I write to friends, acquaintances, colleagues and strangers using most or all the following media: Gmail, Google Hangouts, Twitter, Instagram, iMessage and WhatsApp. A message sent through Facebook still occasionally pops up; I could also communicate via Spotify, the music streaming service; Venmo, a money-sending app; Yelp, where I looked for restaurant recommendations pre lockdown; and two astrology apps that I keep on my phone but rarely consult ...

Short Cuts

Nick Richardson: Aubergines are no longer merely aubergines, 21 April 2016

... !document.querySelector("img.emoji")))twemoji.parse(document.body)}var t=document.createElement("style");t.type="text/css";var m="img.emoji{height:1em;width:1em;margin:0 .05em 0 .1em;vertical-align:-0.1em;}";if(t.styleSheet){t.styleSheet.cssText=m}else{t.appendChild(document.createTextNode(m))}document.getElementsByTagName("head")[0].appendChild(t);var a=document ...

Netherstocking

E.S. Turner, 1 December 1983

Just William, More William, William Again, William the Fourth 
by Richmal Crompton and Thomas Henry.
Macmillan, 215 pp., £5.95, October 1983, 0 333 35848 1
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... The William stories – of which the first four are now reissued – came out over a span of fifty years. When they started, in 1919, women were still sniffing sal volatile and when they ended boys had begun sniffing glue. William, of course, could fantasise without the aid of glue. He was not the sort to pull up saplings wantonly; he merely overturned caravans accidentally ...

On the way to Maidenhead

Peter Campbell: Deep holes and narrow tracks at Paddington, 3 June 2004

... At King’s Cross, a Channel Tunnel terminal, a new Underground concourse and a new station for Thameslink are being built. At the bottom of an open shaft about twenty feet deep, walled partly in concrete, partly in brick and partly in raw clay, two mechanical diggers on caterpillar tracks are at play. They are too small to have cabs. Operators in yellow coats and hard hats direct them by way of long cables ending in consoles on which they push joysticks, as children do to send toy racing cars whizzing about ...

Lord Randolph’s Coming-Out

Paul Addison, 3 December 1981

Lord Randolph Churchill: A Political Life 
by R.F. Foster.
Oxford, 431 pp., £16, November 1981, 0 19 822679 9
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... Lord Randolph Churchill has many claims to fame and some to notoriety. His marriage to Jennie Jerome pioneered a series of matches between British aristocrats and American heiresses: the beginning of a special relationship of significance in the next century, if not in his own. He entered politics and rose to power between 1880 and 1885 as a master of opposition tactics both inside and outside the House of Commons ...
Stories in an Almost Classical Mode 
by Harold Brodkey.
Knopf, 596 pp., $24.95, September 1988, 0 394 50699 5
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... Harold Brodkey, whose debut collection of stories, First Love and Other Sorrows, was greeted with well-deserved acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic when it appeared in1958, has produced a hefty new collection: Stories in an Almost Classical Mode. During the intervening thirty years his reputation, bolstered by occasional stories in the New Yorker and other glossy American magazines, has grown formidable ...

Behind the Veil

Richard Altick, 6 March 1986

The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England 1850-1914 
by Janet Oppenheim.
Cambridge, 503 pp., £25, March 1985, 0 521 26505 3
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... The need was pressing, and the answer promptly came, trailing clouds of ectoplasm. Tennyson’s In Memoriam, an instant best-seller in 1850, won him the laureateship largely because its long sequence of troubled, plaintive lyrics, written over a span of 17 years, told a story and described a situation that struck home to countless readers: the sudden death of a beloved friend and the questions it raised about the immortality of the soul and the possibility of spiritual communion now and physical reunion in the hereafter ...

The British Dimension

Rosalind Mitchison, 16 October 1980

The Life of David Hume 
by Ernest Campbell Mossner.
Oxford, 736 pp., £20, March 1980, 0 19 824381 2
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‘The People Above’: Politics and Adminsitration in Mid-18th-Century Scotland 
by Alexander Murdoch.
John Donald, 199 pp., £12, March 1980, 0 85976 053 7
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The Laird of Abbotsford 
by A.N. Wilson.
Oxford, 197 pp., £8.95, June 1980, 0 19 211756 4
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The Strange Death of Scottish History 
by Marinell Ash.
Ramsay Head Press, 166 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 902859 57 9
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... The first three books are studies within the narrow élite of landed society in a small, rapidly modernising country – Scotland. They concern men who took for granted the perpetuation of their society, of security for property and a due hierarchy of rank. For the most part, they are also of people who did not want this hierarchy to be totally fixed ...

Fire and Water

Rosalind Mitchison, 17 October 1985

Water Power in Scotland: 1550-1870 
by John Shaw.
John Donald, 606 pp., £25, April 1984, 0 85976 072 3
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The History of the British Coal Industry. Vol. II: 1700-1830, The Industrial Revolution 
by Michael Flinn and David Stoker.
Oxford, 491 pp., £35, March 1984, 0 19 828283 4
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Industry and Ethos: Scotland 1832-1914 
by Sydney Checkland and Olive Checkland.
Arnold, 218 pp., £5.95, March 1984, 0 7131 6317 8
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The Jacobite Clans of the Great Glen: 1650-1784 
by Bruce Lenman.
Methuen, 246 pp., £14.95, November 1984, 0 413 48690 7
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The Prince and the Pretender: A Study in the Writing of History 
by A.J. Youngson.
Croom Helm, 270 pp., £16.95, April 1985, 0 7099 2908 0
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Canna: The Story of a Hebridean Island 
by J.L. Campbell.
Oxford, 323 pp., £25, December 1984, 0 19 920137 4
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... The first three of these books combine to remind us of the role of economic development in our history, and force home the fact that there can be no true separation of economic history from other histories. The dates bounding the Checklands’ volume in the New History of Scotland might seem to be ones of political significance primarily, but 1832 and 1914 mark very nearly the span of the domination of heavy industry in Scotland, the special concentration of population and skill on the Clyde, and the social developments that came from the labour requirements of coal, iron and, eventually, shipbuilding ...

Sorcerer’s Apprentice

E.S. Turner, 19 December 1991

Alistair MacLean 
by Jack Webster.
Chapmans, 326 pp., £18, November 1991, 1 85592 519 2
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Alistair MacLean’s Time of the Assassins 
by Alastair MacNeill.
HarperCollins, 288 pp., £14.99, December 1991, 0 00 223816 0
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... There are rich pickings still to be had in the jungle of literature, where dead authors half-buried in brambles continue to yield abundant fruit. Hardly had the sequel to Gone with the Wind been published than the news came that Galsworthy’s Forsyte family was being given an extended life-span which would take the characters into the television age, for which they were clearly designed Already any number of hands, licensed and otherwise, have helped to further the adventures of James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Jeeves, Billy Bunter and Charles Pooter; not forgetting, from an earlier age, Flashman and Rochester’s mad wife ...

How to Shoe a Flea

James Meek: Nikolai Leskov, 25 April 2013

‘The Enchanted Wanderer’ and Other Stories 
by Nikolai Leskov, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
Vintage, 608 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 09 957735 5
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The Enchanted Wanderer 
by Nikolai Leskov, translated by Ian Dreiblatt.
Melville House, 256 pp., £8.99, August 2012, 978 1 61219 103 4
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... Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk’ has a murder scene as intimate, detailed and unflinchingly choreographed as its counterparts in Crime and Punishment and The Kreutzer Sonata. Katerina Lvovna has killed her father-in-law with rat poison because he promised to expose her affair with a peasant, and now that her husband has returned, she and her lover murder him too ...

Through the Mill

Jane Humphries: The Industrial Revolution, 20 March 2014

Liberty’s Dawn: A People’s History of the Industrial Revolution 
by Emma Griffin.
Yale, 303 pp., £12.99, March 2014, 978 0 300 20525 1
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... In​ 1836, Benjamin Shaw looked back on a life of toil in the textile factories of the North-East. He was a skilled worker, but had lived in poverty for years, buried his wife and four of his children, had a leg amputated (diseased as a result of unhealthy working conditions), and been left to care for his illegitimate orphaned granddaughter. His is one of the many autobiographies Emma Griffin uses in Liberty’s Dawn to illustrate what she calls ‘a people’s history of the industrial revolution ...

The Strandperle Notebook

James Sheard, 27 May 2010

... But a voice that scorns chorales is yelling ‘Wanker!’ Tony Harrison, ‘V’ 1. There’s oil and backwash from these boats departing Hamburg’s morning wharves. There’s stalking cranes. Men pull and tote. One street back the sleepy whores lean out from clubs. They clutch their towels. They call for milk and fresh-bagged rolls, their wigs in sun like lacquered cowls as Hamburg’s one-note church bells toll ...

Street Wise

Pat Rogers, 3 October 1985

Hawksmoor 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 218 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 241 11664 3
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Paradise Postponed 
by John Mortimer.
Viking, 374 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 670 80094 5
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High Ground 
by John McGahern.
Faber, 156 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 571 13681 8
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... It takes no time to see that Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor is a book wrought with extreme cunning. A slower discovery arrives, that this virtuosity on the surface goes with imaginative density and profundity of inquiry. Inquiry into many related topics: the vagrancy of youth, the corruption of obsession, the permanence of evil. Allusive throughout, the text (though it contains a character named Eliot) does not utter the passage from The Waste Land which seems to underlie its themes, the one on the ‘unreal city’ at dawn: I had not thought death had undone so many ...

Barraclough’s Overview

C.B. Macpherson, 19 June 1980

Turning-Points in World History 
by Geoffrey Barraclough.
Thames and Hudson, 96 pp., £4.50, November 1979, 0 500 25067 7
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... Historians are subject to a peculiar occupational hazard. Not only must they, like other scholars and scientists, leave no stone unturned until they have reached a satisfying conclusion to whatever problems they have set themselves: they must also – or so the convention of their craft seems to require – take the reader through most of their sifting of the evidence ...

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