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11 February 1993
Jacopo della Quercia 
by James Beck.
Columbia, 598 pp., $109.50, February 1992, 0 231 07200 7
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Michelangelo and the Creation of the Sistine Chapel 
by Robin Richmond.
Barrie and Jenkins, 160 pp., £18.99, April 1992, 0 7126 5290 6
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Rembrandt. The Master and his Workshop: Paintings 
by Christopher Brown, Jan Kelch and Pieter van Thiel.
Yale, 396 pp., £35, September 1991, 0 300 05149 2
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Michelangelo’s Drawings: The Science of Attribution 
by Alexander Perrig.
Yale, 299 pp., £35, June 1991, 0 300 03948 4
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Michelangelo and his Drawings 
by Michael Hirst.
Yale, 128 pp., £14.95, August 1990, 0 300 04391 0
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The Poetry of Michelangelo: An Annotated Translation 
by James​ Saslow.
Yale, 559 pp., £22.50, April 1991, 0 300 04960 9
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... have been placed directly above this frieze of putti. Nevertheless, the contrast between the alert pagan children and the sleeping Christian wife must always have been striking, although not in JamesBeck’s view. Ilaria, Beck concedes, ‘may look “Gothic” ’ – as if we were about to claim that she actually was Gothic. Indeed, her narrow, high-collared dress, belted below the breast ...

Simple Facts and Plain Truths

David A. Bell: Common Sense

20 October 2011
Common Sense: A Political History 
by Sophia Rosenfeld.
Harvard, 337 pp., £22.95, 0 674 05781 3
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... cudgel against one another. In Aberdeen in the mid-18th century, a group of high-minded ministers devised what Rosenfeld calls ‘an actual philosophy of common sense’. Thomas Reid and his follower James Beattie were devout Protestants, inspired by English dissenters as well as by their often rigid Presbyterian colleagues. They were horrified by the progress of philosophical scepticism, exemplified ...

Making doorbells ring

David Trotter: Pushing Buttons

22 November 2018
Power Button: A History of Pleasure, Panic and the Politics of Pushing 
by Rachel Plotnick.
MIT, 424 pp., £30, October 2018, 978 0 262 03823 2
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... stunts with depth of feeling was to become Chaplin’s signature as a director. Crucial to that depth of feeling was the sympathy its audience could be guaranteed to feel for a fellow worker at the beck and call of desk-bound button-pushers. It’s not hard to imagine them urging Charlie on up the stairs, while understanding only too well why he might want to dawdle. Chaplin doesn’t feature in ...
19 August 1982
The Struggle for the Falkland Islands 
by Julius Goebel, introduced by J.C.J. Metford.
Yale, 482 pp., £10, June 1982, 0 300 02943 8
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The Falklands Islands Dispute: International Dimensions 
edited by Joan Pearce.
Chatham House, 47 pp., £2.75, April 1982, 0 905031 25 3
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The Falkland Islands: The Facts 
HMSO, 12 pp., £50, May 1982, 0 11 701029 4Show More
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... space. If one had to go into it at all, it was best to be brisk and muscular about it. On page 6 of Chatham House’s ‘Special’ The Falkland Islands Dispute – International Dimensions Professor James Fawcett agrees on line 3 that ‘the determination of territorial title, when it is disputed, is a complex issue of fact and law,’ and asserts on line 31 that ‘the territorial title to the ...

Diary

Clive James

18 March 1982
... strike days must be staggered. Sir Peter Parker still smiles but looks haggard. Sir Peter Parker picked a pickled peck Of pepper when he took on British Rail. With every kind of triumph at his beck And call, perhaps he felt the need to fail. His chance of saving something from the wreck Equals his chance to find the Holy Grail. You never know, though. He and Sidney Weighell Might possibly cook ...

Vous êtes belle

Penelope Fitzgerald

8 January 1987
Alain-Fournier: A Brief Life 1886-1914 
by David Arkell.
Carcanet, 178 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 85635 484 8
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Henri Alain-Fournier: Towards the Lost Domain: Letters from London 1905 
translated by W.J. Strachan.
Carcanet, 222 pp., £16.95, November 1986, 0 85635 674 3
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The Lost Domain 
by Henri Alain-Fournier, translated by Frank Davison.
Oxford, 299 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 19 212262 2
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... concerts; a world as terrible and mysterious in its own way as the world of my other book’. The oddness and the great beauty of the ‘other book’ come partly from the dissonance of its elements. James Barrie noted in 1922 that ‘long after writing P. Pan its true meaning came back to me – desperate attempt to grow up but can’t.’ Le Grand Meaulnes is about adolescents who want to want not to ...

Diary

David Bromwich: The Snowden Case

4 July 2013
... Eventually Cheney would appoint Hayden director of the CIA. Americans caught our first glimpse of the possible scope of NSA operations in December 2005 when the New York Times ran a story by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau on massive warrantless surveillance: ‘Bush Lets US Spy on Callers without Courts’. The government was demanding and getting from the telecoms all the records it wanted of ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 1998

21 January 1999
... deep snowdrifts still on the tops where we stop to look at the Roman road snaking over Cam Fell and down to Bainbridge. Then through Oughtershaw and along Langstrothdale by what is called Oughtershaw Beck but is in fact the Wharfe, both the Wharfe and the Ribble rising in these hills, one flowing south, the other west. The stone circle is small and hard to find and the search is made harder because ...

Short is sharp

John Sutherland

3 February 1983
Firebird 2 
edited by T.J. Binding.
Penguin, 284 pp., £2.95, January 1983, 0 14 006337 4
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Bech is Back 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 195 pp., £6.95, January 1983, 0 233 97512 8
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The Pangs of Love 
by Jane Gardam.
Hamish Hamilton, 156 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 241 10942 6
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The Man Who Sold Prayers 
by Margaret Creal.
Dent, 198 pp., £7.95, January 1983, 9780460045926
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Happy as a Dead Cat 
by Jill Miller.
Women’s Press, 120 pp., £2.50, January 1983, 9780704338982
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... fascination with cold-water fish to senile isolation. As a whole, the anthology is something of a bran-tub, with more fillers than prizes. The best things are from the youngest contributors, such as James Campbell and Alan Hollinghurst, and the less youthful A.E. Ellis. Each here performs the same narrative trick, telling some resonant or portentous tale through more or less awkward or impercipient or ...

‘You May!’

Slavoj Žižek: The post-modern superego

18 March 1999
... now freely choose their own rules – an instance of the ‘reflexivisation’ of everyday customs in today’s ‘risk society’. According to the risk society theory of Anthony Giddens, Ulrich Beck and others, we no longer live our lives in compliance with Nature or Tradition; there is no symbolic order or code of accepted fictions (what Lacan calls the ‘Big Other’) to guide us in our ...

Millom

Alan Hollinghurst

18 February 1982
Sea to the West 
by Norman Nicholson.
Faber, 64 pp., £3, June 1981, 0 571 11729 5
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Out for the Elements 
by Andrew Waterman.
Carcanet, 151 pp., £3.95, October 1981, 0 85635 377 9
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Between Here and Now 
by R.S. Thomas.
Macmillan, 110 pp., £5.95, November 1981, 0 333 32186 3
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Poetry Introduction Five 
Faber, 121 pp., £5.25, January 1982, 0 571 11793 7Show More
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... Pike, Still there. It is school-magazine stuff, with its once-modishly free form and its mixture of original, slightly self-conscious metaphor and mild archaism of diction. Yet the second poem, ‘Beck’, far more imaginative and dense, leads us a stage further into the terrain with which the book identifies and also sets up the boldest dialectic with ‘Scafell Pike’: every mountain and hill is ...

Missingness

John Bayley

24 March 1994
Christina Rossetti: A Biography 
by Frances Thomas.
Virago, 448 pp., £9.99, February 1994, 1 85381 681 7
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... what a pathetic blighting of the beauty and reality of childhood.’ At about the same age Christina Rossetti met her first love. She was not yet 18 when Gabriel’s friend and fellow art student James Collinson took an interest in her. A quiet, meek little chap from a philistine Midlands family, he was to join the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood for a while, hover between Anglicanism and Catholicism ...

Diary

James​ Lasdun: Police procedurals

8 September 2011
... Radio Shack tuned in to the walkie-talkies and mistook the exercise for a real attack. I’ve come to think of him as ‘The Laughing Policeman’, after the book in the Sjöwall/Wahlöö Martin Beck series, which I’ve lately been blazing through. Every week he brings in cops from different departments and agencies to show off their gear. I didn’t know what I was looking for exactly, so I ...

Our Man

Perry Anderson: The Inglorious Career of Kofi Annan

10 May 2007
The Best Intentions: Kofi Annan and the UN in the Era of American World Power 
by James​ Traub.
Bloomsbury, 442 pp., £20, November 2006, 0 7475 8087 1
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Kofi Annan: A Man of Peace in a World of War 
by Stanley Meisler.
Wiley, 384 pp., £19.99, January 2007, 978 0 471 78744 0
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... where legitimation alone is at stake, the quotient of euphemism and mystification on all sides will be very high. So, predictably enough, it has been with the United Nations. Readers approaching James Traub’s and Stanley Meisler’s books thus have reason to expect the worst. In some ways the expectation is amply fulfilled, but in others the two books – each by a journalist – cast more light ...

Dirty Little Secret

Fredric Jameson: The Programme Era

22 November 2012
The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing 
by Mark McGurl.
Harvard, 466 pp., £14.95, November 2012, 978 0 674 06209 2
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... be taught: epic, drama, the various forms of the lyric etc. The novel is in that sense always ‘lawless’, as Gide liked to say, and we may have to raise some questions when someone like Henry James comes along and offers to codify its new ‘laws’ in doctrines like ‘point of view’. Even though he is virtually absent from this book, for reasons I will come to, Faulkner offered his own ...

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