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Dying for the Malvinas

Isabel Hilton, 3 March 1988

The Land that Lost its Heroes: Argentina, the Falklands and Alfonsin 
by Jimmy Burns.
Bloomsbury, 287 pp., £5.95, November 1987, 0 7475 0111 4
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Falklands: The Secret Plot 
by Oscar Raul Cardoso, Ricardo Kirschbaum and Eduardo van der Kooy, translated by Bernard Ethell.
Preston, 327 pp., £12, November 1987, 1 870615 05 0
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... was a nation that had failed to find itself, its national myths usurped by the military and, as Jimmy Burns points out, swept up into Juan Peron’s vision of ‘a country which is formed by generals, liberated by generals, led by generals and today claimed by generals’. The militarisation of Argentine society reached its apogee in the Seventies. A ...

The Bergoglio Smile

Colm Tóibín: The Francis Papacy, 21 January 2021

... accused of being ultra-conservative.’ A Jesuit who lived under Bergoglio’s rule is quoted by Jimmy Burns in Francis: Pope of Good Promise (2015): ‘He exercised his authority with an iron fist as if he was the sole interpreter of St Ignatius Loyola.’When Jesuit priests visited poor areas, Bergoglio encouraged them to talk about religion rather ...

Even When It’s a Big Fat Lie

Alex Abramovich: ‘Country Music’, 8 October 2020

Country Music 
directed by Ken Burns.
PBS, eight episodes
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... the Civil War,’ she said. ‘But I do know that many historians, including Shelby Foote, in Ken Burns’s famous Civil War documentary, agree that a failure to compromise was a cause of the Civil War.’Sanders was right: Kelly’s comments could have come straight out of Burns’s documentary, which gave a sympathetic ...

At the Beverly Wilshire

Ric Burns, 8 January 1987

Hollywood Husbands 
by Jackie Collins.
Heinemann, 508 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 434 14090 2
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Letters from Hollywood 
by Michael Moorcock.
Harrap, 232 pp., £10.95, August 1986, 0 245 54379 1
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Rain or Shine: A Family Memoir 
by Cyra McFadden.
Secker, 178 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 436 27580 5
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... to limn his lightly disingenuous account with mock-Nathanael West lines goes awry (‘The fact is, Jimmy, I am no longer completely sure who I am’). Working for director ‘Ike Welper’ – a man with ‘the imagination of a tub of coleslaw’, ‘the creative gift of a cockroach’, ‘the emotional age of a nine-year-old schoolboy’ and ‘the power to ...

Bully off

Susannah Clapp, 5 November 1992

by Shena Mackay.
Heinemann, 341 pp., £14.99, July 1992, 0 434 44048 5
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... the castle) and a Princes Street (with no prince); even in the 1960s, the statue of Robert Burns in the middle of the main street was surrounded by Highland dancers every Friday night. The Scottishness of Mackay’s Dunedin is more a matter of moral style than of civic life, and her New Zealand a place of lush temptations and hazards – of bubbling ...


Thomas Keymer: The Girondin Wordsworth, 18 June 2020

Radical Wordsworth: The Poet who Changed the World 
by Jonathan Bate.
William Collins, 608 pp., £25, April, 978 0 00 816742 4
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William Wordsworth: A Life 
by Stephen Gill.
Oxford, new edition, 688 pp., £25, April, 978 0 19 881711 6
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... had been running Westmorland like a giant pocket borough since the heyday of Sir James (‘Wicked Jimmy’) Lowther, 1st earl of Lonsdale: a man Thomas De Quincey called ‘a true Feudal Chieftain’, notorious for his ‘gloomy temper and habits of oppression’. Wicked Jimmy went to a better (or worse) place in 1802, at ...

Bringing Down Chunks of the Ceiling

Andy Beckett: Manchester, England: The Story of the Pop Cult City by Dave Haslam, 17 February 2000

Manchester, England: The Story of the Pop Cult City 
by Dave Haslam.
Fourth Estate, 319 pp., £12.99, September 1999, 1 84115 145 9
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... The Manchester of the 1950s and 1960s flashes by too fast. There are a pair of droll stories about Jimmy Savile, the city’s first big DJ. When his lunchtime sessions at the Plaza, a club in the city centre, began to empty the neighbouring schools and colleges on weekdays, he prepared a stock answer for complaining headteachers. ‘You’ve had it too easy ...

The Unmaking of the President

Benjamin Barber, 7 October 1982

The Kennedy Imprisonment: A Meditation on Power 
by Garry Wills.
Atlantic/Little, Brown, 310 pp., $14.95, February 1982, 0 316 94385 1
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... no nuclear showdown at the OK Corral: but there also would have been no Test Ban Treaty, no war on Jimmy Hoffa, no Civil Rights Act, no Alliance for Progress, no Manpower Development and Training Act, no rising hope in the young that this was a country which also belonged to them. Americans have always asked of their Presidents more than their liberties could ...

Nights in the Gardens of Spain

Alan Bennett, 1 October 1998

... found wrong with Mrs McCorquodale when she’d been arrested, old fractures, new cigarette burns and one of her teeth loose. Another lawyer then jumps up and says, Were other people involved? And she said, ‘No,’ and he said he wouldn’t pursue that at this stage. The upshot is she was sent for trial. I said to Henry: ‘Does that mean they’ll ...

Who’s sorry now?

Andrew O’Hagan: Michael Finkel gets lucky, 2 June 2005

True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa 
by Michael Finkel.
Chatto, 312 pp., £15.99, May 2005, 0 7011 7688 1
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Burning Down My Master’s House 
by Jayson Blair.
New Millennium, 288 pp., $24.95, March 2004, 9781932407266
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The Journalist and the Murderer 
by Janet Malcolm.
Granta, 163 pp., £8.99, January 2004, 1 86207 637 5
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... do), it’s just that any contagion of piety eventually provokes one to laughter. A stray candle burns the cloth on a holy altar and, the next minute, everyone is wailing in a medieval way about faith and trust. Blair’s book is a masterpiece of such overstatement: you get the impression he will go to any lengths to avoid simply saying: ‘I was stupid. I ...

This is America, man

Michael Wood: ‘Treme’ and ‘The Wire’, 27 May 2010

The Wire 
created by David Simon.
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created by Eric Overmyer and David Simon.
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... producer. He is a reporter who became a full-time writer of books: Homicide (1991) and, with Ed Burns, The Corner (1997), both of which were turned into successful TV series. Both concern drugs and death in Baltimore; Simon has said that ‘what drugs have not destroyed, the war on them has.’ The Wire is different, though: more ambitious, more ...

Yuh wanna play bad?

Christopher Tayler: Henry Roth, 23 March 2006

Redemption: The Life of Henry Roth 
by Steven Kellman.
Norton, 372 pp., $16.99, September 2005, 0 393 05779 8
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Call It Sleep 
by Henry Roth.
Picador US, 462 pp., $15, July 2005, 0 312 42412 4
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... the back of the book records such key events as (May 1935) ‘HR beaten up visiting dockworkers; burns MSS’ and (October 1946) ‘Burns MSS; murders puppy’. He was born in 1906 in Tysmenitz: now in Ukraine, it was a Polish town until 1772 when it was absorbed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Roth’s father, Chaim, had ...

I sizzle to see you

John Lahr: Cole Porter’s secret songs, 21 November 2019

The Letters of Cole Porter 
edited by Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh.
Yale, 672 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 0 300 21927 2
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... find out which gender of “no-good” it was.’ Porter, who wrote so well for low comedians like Jimmy Durante and Bert Lahr, has an ear for the sludge of American speech, and enjoys retailing it to friends. At a party for Douglas Fairbanks Jr, he recounts Samuel Goldwyn’s overheard malapropism: ‘Since the last time I saw you, we’ve passed a lot of ...

His Bonnet Akimbo

Patrick Wright: Hamish Henderson, 3 November 2011

Hamish Henderson: A Biography. Vol. I: The Making of the Poet (1919-53) 
by Timothy Neat.
Polygon, 416 pp., £14.99, May 2009, 978 1 84697 132 7
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Hamish Henderson: A Biography. Vol. II: Poetry Becomes People (1954-2002) 
by Timothy Neat.
Polygon, 395 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 1 84697 063 4
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... been delighted that one of his admirers, Sheena Wellington, stole the show with her rendition of Burns’s ‘A Man’s a Man for A’ That’. Neat is a Cornish-born art historian, beekeeper and film-maker who moved to Scotland in the late 1960s. Between 1999 and 2002 he published five highly regarded oral histories of traditional Highland life and ...

What are we telling the nation?

David Edgar: Thoughts about the BBC, 7 July 2005

Uncertain Vision: Birt, Dyke and the Reinvention of the BBC 
by Georgina Born.
Vintage, 352 pp., £10.99, August 2005, 0 09 942893 8
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Building Public Value: Renewing the BBC for a Digital World 
BBC, 135 pp.Show More
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... Michael Grade programmed Paula Milne’s The Politician’s Wife, Bleasdale’s GBH and Jimmy McGovern’s Hearts and Minds (as well as importing Hill St Blues, ER, Friends and Frasier), but the decision to concentrate on the 16-35 age group led the channel to spurn programmes about quilts in favour of The Girlie Show, a change of direction which ...

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