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A Mystery to Itself

Rivka Galchen: What is a brain?, 22 April 2021

The Idea of the Brain 
by Matthew Cobb.
Profile, 470 pp., £12.99, March, 978 1 78125 590 2
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The Future of Brain Repair: A Realist’s Guide to Stem Cell Therapy 
by Jack Price.
MIT, 270 pp., £25, April 2020, 978 0 262 04375 5
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Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain 
by David Eagleman.
Canongate, 316 pp., £20, August 2020, 978 1 83885 096 8
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... Parkinson’s and prevent ageing. In The Future of Brain Repair, the developmental neurobiologist Jack Price tells a modified conversion story, from confident sceptic to measured optimist, even as he offers his work as a counterpoint to overhopeful news stories. He notes that very few therapies for brain disorders have appeared in the past ...

The Kennedy Boys

R.W. Johnson, 28 January 1993

JFK: Life and Death of an American President. Vol. I: Reckless Youth 
by Nigel Hamilton.
Century, 898 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 7126 2571 2
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... Later, the girl told my wife she had missed her period, then learned she was expecting. I told Jack. ‘Oh shit!’ was all he said. He didn’t care a damn about the girl – it was just the inconvenience that bothered him. In that sense he was a pretty selfish guy. This story sums up in a few lines all the major themes of Nigel Hamilton’s book – the ...

Jack in the Belfry

Terry Eagleton, 8 September 2016

The Trials of the King of Hampshire: Madness, Secrecy and Betrayal in Georgian England 
by Elizabeth Foyster.
Oneworld, 368 pp., £20, September 2016, 978 1 78074 960 0
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... of his pew and dash up to the belfry, where he would strip to the waist and demand to be called Jack. His campanological skills were not of the finest. He did not understand the idea of ringing in a peal, so someone had to stand beside him in order to catch the rope and hand it to him when it was his turn. There were times when he took the fun a little too ...

Diary

Ian Jack: Class 1H, 15 July 2021

... of thousands of children defined as “failures” at eleven years of age. They paid a high price for the illusion of meritocracy.’ And, she might have added, Britain’s still industrial economy paid that high ...

Poor George

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 7 March 1991

The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power 
by Daniel Yergin.
Simon and Schuster, 877 pp., £20, January 1991, 0 671 50248 4
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... On 3 April 1986, at his filling-station in north Dallas, Billy Jack Mason was protesting about the fall in the price of oil. Cars came from as far as Waco, and by breakfast, the queue was six miles long. He was offering unleaded at zero cents a gallon. Reporters sought Billy’s opinion on the future ...

The Price

Dan Jacobson: The concluding part of Dan Jacobson’s interview with Ian Hamilton, 21 February 2002

... This is the second part of a two-part interview. Part 2: ‘The Price’. I want to ask you about Robert Lowell: as an influence on your work, that is, and only then as what he later became – a ‘Life’, the subject of your first full-length biography. You did and do admire him greatly as a poet, yet in his poetic practice didn’t he trample all over the distinctions, the reticences and borderlines, you set so much store by in your own verse? Yes ...

‘Très vrai!’

Leah Price, 18 October 2001

Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books 
by H.J. Jackson.
Yale, 324 pp., £19.95, April 2001, 0 300 08816 7
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... Reader bears the inscription: ‘Steal not this book for fear of life for the owner has a big jack-knife.’ Jackson’s sharpest insight is that annotations buttonhole not only the author of the printed book, but future readers of the marked-up copy, who can respond by preserving (Southey traced over Coleridge’s pencil jottings in ink) or destroying (a ...

Little Grey Cells

J. Robert Lennon: More Marple than Poirot, 5 March 2020

Big Sky 
by Kate Atkinson.
Black Swan, 356 pp., £8.99, January, 978 0 552 77666 0
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... in the hotel industry, with the help of what they believe is an employment agency called Anderson Price Associates. ‘They weren’t stupid,’ we’re assured, ‘they knew about trafficking, about people who tricked girls into thinking they were going to good jobs, proper jobs, who then ended up drugged, trapped in some filthy hole of a room having sex ...

Diary

Christopher Hadley: The Lake Taupo Stamp, 18 September 1997

... Service. For more than twenty-five years, the fate of the Lake Taupo was unclear. Then, in 1930, Jack Dennet, a farmer and amateur philatelist in Lincolnshire, discovered it in one of his old albums. Times were hard for English agriculture and Dennet was in trouble, having bought stock the previous year which was now depreciating at an alarming rate. Much ...

Treating the tiger

Ian Jack, 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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... point to three professional anti-racists, who scorn her. ‘We don’t want racial harmony at your price,’ says Mahomet. ‘We’re naming the price nowadays ... you’re trying to coerce blacks into lying down under racism forever.’ A friend at the table apologises for her: ‘She’s always been wet, and I think ...

Literary Guy

Ian Jack, 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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... best forgotten. Oil wells were sunk in the North Sea because technology made them feasible and the price of oil made them profitable. Men work there because the money is good and Methil and Greenock no longer provide jobs. Sometimes the work is dangerous, but the men eat well and sleep comfortably. No women or alcohol are allowed, but the men spend every ...

Why did we not know?

Ian Jack: Who is hoarding the land?, 23 May 2019

The New Enclosure: The Appropriation of Public Land in Neoliberal Britain 
by Brett Christophers.
Verso, 394 pp., £20, November 2018, 978 1 78663 158 9
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... that is, for all kinds of housing – land now accounts for 70 per cent of a house’s sale price. In the 1930s it was 2 per cent.) When Thatcher entered Downing Street in May 1979, more land was owned by the state than ever before: 20 per cent of Britain’s total area. Today the figure is 10.5 per cent. The disposals include council ...

Respectability

Mary Hawthorne, 23 June 1994

The Seduction of Morality 
by Tom Murphy.
Little, Brown, 224 pp., £15.99, June 1994, 0 316 91059 7
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A Goat’s Song 
by Dermot Healy.
Harvill, 408 pp., £14.99, April 1994, 0 00 271049 8
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... the family’s affections by making them eternally grateful to her?’) and of asking a nominal price: ‘£10,000? She had no right to it ... it could be seen as an act of selling herself out of the family. And that was the very last thing she wanted.’ Her siblings are meanwhile busy pilfering the hotel’s contents and tattling on one another by ...

No Haute Cuisine in Africa

Ernest Gellner, 2 September 1982

Cooking, Cuisine and Class: A Study in Comparative Sociology 
by Jack Goody.
Cambridge, 253 pp., £19.50, June 1982, 0 521 24455 2
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... but they are by now, all of them, in academic retirement. Of the cohort which follows them, Jack Goody is one of the leading figures. In Eastern Europe, there is a joke about the current generation of Communist leaders which says that its coming was predicted in the Bible: ‘Then came a generation which knew not Joseph.’ ...

Lily and Lolly

Sarah Rigby, 18 July 1996

The Yeats Sisters: A Biography of Susan and Elizabeth Yeats 
by Joan Hardwick.
Pandora, 263 pp., £8.99, January 1996, 0 04 440924 9
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... see to things for their invalid mother – and all this while quite young girls ... They paid the price of having a father who did not earn enough. The letter had little effect on his son, who half-heartedly offered to change the offending word to ‘troubled’ when the piece, entitled ‘Four Years’, was published in book form, but it is an accurate ...

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