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Real Things

Barbara Wootton, 5 April 1984

McNee’s Law: The Memoirs of Sir David McNee 
by David McNee.
Collins, 256 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 00 217007 8
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Police and People in London. Vol. I: A Survey of Londoners 
by David Smith.
Policy Studies Institute, 386 pp., £7.40, November 1983, 0 85374 223 5
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Police and People in London. Vol. II: A Group of Young Black People 
by Stephen Small.
Policy Studies Institute, 192 pp., £4.60, November 1983, 0 85374 224 3
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Police and People in London. Vol. III: A Survey of Police Officers 
by David Smith.
Policy Studies Institute, 216 pp., £6.20, November 1983, 0 85374 225 1
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Police and People in London. Vol. IV: The Police in Action 
by David Smith and Jeremy Gray.
Policy Studies Institute, 368 pp., £7.40, November 1983, 9780853742265
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... Fifty-eight years ago the man we now know as Sir David McNee was born in dire poverty in a Glasgow tenement. His father was a railwayman, and a staunch tradeunionist who rose ‘through a variety of jobs’ to be driver of many famous trains, including the ‘Royal Scot’. His mother was the daughter of a railwayman. In this book Sir David reports how he has often had occasion to refer with pride to these facts in later life, in face of suggestions that, as Metropolitan Commissioner of Police, he had no real insight into the problems of working-class life with which that office so often brought him into contact: ‘the lessons learned in Glasgow streets and tenements ...

Privatising the atmosphere

Jeremy Waldron, 4 November 1993

Beyond the New Right: Markets, Government and the Common Environment 
by John Gray.
Routledge, 195 pp., £19.99, June 1993, 0 415 09297 3
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... in many areas health indicators have collapsed to Third World levels or worse. The thesis of John Gray’s new book is that Green movements in the West have yet to come to terms with the implications of the socialist environmental disaster, and that when they do, they will turn naturally to ideas associated with the conservative defence of free ...

Tall Tales

Joanne O’Leary: ‘Jackself’, 1 June 2017

by Jacob Polley.
Picador, 67 pp., £9.99, November 2016, 978 1 4472 9044 5
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... His ally, discovered halfway through the book in a ‘goose shed’, turns out to be called ‘Jeremy Wren’. It’s because we don’t trust in Wren as a real boy that we come to believe most strongly in Jackself’s isolation. Wren’s name sounds familiar – like Christopher Robin, say, or Jenny Wren who reattaches the maid’s nose in ‘Sing a Song ...


Frank Kermode: Being a critic, 27 May 1999

... chance in that pub. A few of the celebrants are, or have been, English dons – John Fuller, Simon Gray, Dan Jacobson; but even they arrived by what might be called the bohemian route. There are of course other ways in; anybody can see how much space the dons occupy in the respectable papers and magazines. Many moved in by routes that did not necessarily pass ...

A Vast Masquerade

Deborah Cohen: Dr James Barry, 2 March 2017

Dr James Barry: A Woman ahead of Her Time 
by Michael du Preez and Jeremy Dronfield.
Oneworld, 479 pp., £16.99, August 2016, 978 1 78074 831 3
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... buccaneers to consider, including Hannah Snell, who enlisted in a regiment of marines as James Gray and survived the sieges of Pondicherry and Devicotta undetected before outing herself to the public in 1750. Still, Barry’s was as spectacular a tale of imposture as any novelist of sensation could have dreamed up. It was a case that fascinated the eminent ...


Tom Vanderbilt, 6 June 1996

by Douglas Coupland.
Flamingo, 371 pp., £9.99, November 1995, 0 00 225311 9
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... with few literary merits which endures as a period piece from a time when ‘bright young men in gray flannel suits rushed around New York in a frantic parade to nowhere’. Wilson’s book, written in 1954, chronicles the nascent television industry. The book’s hero, Tom Rath, has returned from the war and is in the process of ‘heroically ...

Second Chances

Donald Davie, 22 July 1993

Collected Poems 
by Patricia Beer.
Carcanet, 216 pp., £18.95, July 1990, 9780856357886
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Friend of Heraclitus 
by Patricia Beer.
Carcanet, 59 pp., £6.95, March 1993, 1 85754 026 3
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... in her strong Devonshire accent. What she particularly prized was, of all unlikely poems, Gray’s ‘Ode on the Pleasures arising from Vicissitude’. John Patten and his advisers, but also his antagonists, please note: for this is a 14-year-old speaking. When Gray described the turning of the seasons, ‘at the ...

What’s your dust worth?

Steven Shapin: Corpses, 14 April 2011

After We Die: The Life and Times of the Human Cadaver 
by Norman Cantor.
Georgetown, 372 pp., £18.75, December 2010, 978 1 58901 695 8
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... a range between several dollars and several million. It’s an answer that can be traced back to Jeremy Bentham’s spectacularly hard-headed directions for the use of his own corpse. In a modern secular idiom, the dead human body is just rapidly decaying meat, gristle, bone, fat and fluid. It has no consciousness of its circumstances, no feelings, and can ...


Alan Bennett: Bennett’s Dissection, 1 January 2009

... writing. Some examples: ‘She had a face like an upturned canoe,’ said by the actor Charles Gray at breakfast in Dundee (though of whom I can’t remember). A. I’ve been salmon fishing. B. It’s not the season. A. No. I thought I’d take the blighters by surprise. ‘Here we are. Fat Pig One and Fat Pig Two.’ Said by my mother when she and ...

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