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Powerful Moments

David Craig, 26 October 1989

Touching the void 
by Joe Simpson.
Cape, 172 pp., £10.95, July 1988, 0 224 02545 7
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by M. John Harrison.
Gollancz, 221 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 9780575036321
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... the heart of the experience and don’t resort unduly to its more freakish terrors? The wonder of Joe Simpson’s escape back into life is both that he survived near death on the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes and that he has the power of recall to do justice in vivid and original phrasing to an episode which will remain as a true myth of survival ...

Anti-Social Climbing

Justine Burley: Mountaineering, 1 January 1998

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Everest Disaster 
by Jon Krakauer.
Macmillan, 293 pp., £16.99, August 1997, 0 333 69527 5
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Dark Shadows Falling 
by Joe Simpson.
Cape, 207 pp., £16.99, August 1997, 0 224 04368 4
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... get away with it. Climbers, as a species, are simply not distinguished by an excess of prudence. Joe Simpson, the author of Dark Shadows Falling, uses the story told by Krakauer to discuss the state of climbing in a more general way. Such sustained commentary is long overdue. Simpson’s wealth of experience in the ...

As seen on TV

Keith Kyle, 26 September 1991

From the House of War 
by John Simpson.
Hutchinson, 390 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 0 09 175034 2
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In the Eye of the Storm 
by Roger Cohen and Claudio Gatti.
Bloomsbury, 342 pp., £16.99, August 1991, 0 7475 1050 4
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... For many people the BBC Foreign Affairs Editor John Simpson, who stayed behind in Baghdad when Armageddon was scheduled to begin, was the civilian hero of the Gulf War. The only thing that may have puzzled them was his title. How could a man edit reports coming from all quarters of the globe if he deliberately isolated himself under conditions of siege? On this matter From the House of War provides little help, except for a passing reference to the author’s ‘rather empty title’, which apparently carries important psychological impact when dealing with Iraqi (and other) civil servants, perhaps pandering, in the case of the Iraqis, to their notion that the whole world ought to be edited from Baghdad ...

Far from the Least Worst Alternative

R.W. Johnson: The shortcomings of Neville Chamberlain, 17 August 2006

Neville Chamberlain: A Biography 
by Robert Self.
Ashgate, 573 pp., £35, May 2006, 0 7546 5615 2
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... sympathy for the young Neville, the second son of a true monstre sacré, the larger-than-life Joe, the great lord mayor of Birmingham, whose giant ego led him to split both the Liberals and the Unionists, leaving in his charismatic wake a generation of lesser lights committed to tariff reform as a way of binding the empire into the world’s dominant ...

First Movie in the White House

J. Hoberman: ‘Birth of a Nation’, 12 February 2009

D.W. Griffith’s ‘The Birth of a Nation’: A History of ‘The Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time’ 
by Melvyn Stokes.
Oxford, 414 pp., £13.99, January 2008, 978 0 19 533679 5
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... Jazz Singer, Elvis, The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Spike Lee’s subsequent biopic, the O.J. Simpson mediathon, and Barack Obama’s ‘A More Perfect Union’ speech, as well as his entire presidential campaign. Taken together, these comprise a multimedia discourse on the mythology of black-white relations in the US. Indeed, as Stokes shows, The Birth ...


Jane Campbell, 20 April 1995

The Death of Old Man Rice: A Story of Criminal Justice in America 
by Martin Friedland.
New York, 423 pp., $29.95, October 1994, 0 8147 2627 5
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... been widely commented on’. Television may have made it almost impossible to find a jury for O.J. Simpson, but before TV there was the cigar store. One potential juror owned a cigar store and said that he had discussed the case with his customers. He had heard many different opinions of it but admitted that the more he sided with the opinion of a ...

Light Entertainment

Andrew O’Hagan: Our Paedophile Culture, 8 November 2012

... the strongest emotions. In his book Strange Places, Questionable People, published in 1998, John Simpson, the BBC’s world affairs editor, writes about his early days there. In 1967, he was given the task of preparing the obituary of a famous children’s presenter. He calls him ‘Uncle Dick’. In 1998, and still today, ...

Iwo Jima v. Abu Ghraib

David Simpson: The iconic image, 29 November 2007

No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture and Liberal Democracy 
by Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites.
Chicago, 419 pp., £19, June 2007, 978 0 226 31606 2
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... Stripes on top of Mount Suribachi, a moment immortalised in another famous photograph, taken by Joe Rosenthal, perhaps the most reproduced photograph in American history. Late in his life, though, it is not Rosenthal’s 1945 photo but Adams’s 1968 image of Vietnam that the veteran recalls; he says simply: ‘That was it – the war was lost. We just hung ...

More about Marilyn

Michael Church, 20 February 1986

Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe 
by Anthony Summers.
Gollancz, 414 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 575 03641 9
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Norma Jeane: The Life and Death of Marilyn Monroe 
by Fred Lawrence Guiles.
Granada, 377 pp., £12.95, June 1985, 0 246 12307 9
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Poor Little Rich Girl: The Life and Legend of Barbara Hutton 
by C. David Heymann.
Hutchinson, 390 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 09 146010 7
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Deams that money can buy: The Tragic Life of Libby Holman 
by Jon Bradshaw.
Cape, 431 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 224 02846 4
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All Those Tomorrows 
by Mai Zetterling.
Cape, 230 pp., £9.95, November 1985, 0 224 01841 8
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Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady 
by Florence King.
Joseph, 278 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 7181 2611 4
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... have done it anyway. Miller survived the long suicide of Marilyn Monroe, but his muse fell silent. Joe DiMaggio, his baseball-star predecessor, loved her faithfully despite the years of public insult from her, and today still grinds his teeth in silence, no interviews, no comment. Silence of a different sort descended on Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department ...

Believe it or not

Rebecca Mead: America’s National Story Project, 7 February 2002

True Tales of American Life 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 416 pp., £16.99, November 2001, 0 571 21050 3
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... voices rarely heard, delivered without thought of a punchline. There’s one by a prisoner, called Joe Miceli, which begins, ‘For the last fifteen years I’ve been confined to a nine-by-seven cage of solid steel bars, squeezed between walls I can touch with my fingertips if I stretch my arms,’ and goes on to describe being taken out of jail to attend his ...


R.W. Johnson, 4 June 1987

Traitors: The Labyrinths of Treason 
by Chapman Pincher.
Sidgwick, 346 pp., £13.95, May 1987, 0 283 99379 0
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The Secrets of the Service: British Intelligence and Communist Subversion 1939-51 
by Anthony Glees.
Cape, 447 pp., £18, May 1987, 0 224 02252 0
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Freedom of Information – Freedom of the Individual? 
by Clive Ponting, John Ranelagh, Michael Zander and Simon Lee, edited by Julia Neuberger.
Macmillan, 110 pp., £4.95, May 1987, 0 333 44771 9
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... gospel virtually every allegation ever made by the extreme Right in either Britain or the US. Thus Joe McCarthy’s allegation that Alger Hiss was a Communist spy is treated as simple fact, as is his claim that FDR’s most trusted adviser. Harry Dexter White, the founder of the IMF and the World Bank, was also working for the Kremlin. The intellectual level ...

Culture Wars

W.J.T. Mitchell, 23 April 1992

... bodies, and transmitted images of Iraqi civilians killed by one of our smart bombs. Senator Simpson of Wyoming promptly labelled Arnett an Iraqi ‘sympathiser’. The criticism even extended to Ted Turner, who was labelled ‘Baghdad Ted’, an appropriate consort for ‘Hanoi Jane’. Military and political leaders were instantly dispatched to the ...

A Day’s Work

Joanna Biggs: Reports from the Workplace, 9 April 2015

... talks; normally he’d smoke through his lunch hour. He’s wearing long jean shorts and a Homer Simpson T-shirt; his eyes are ringed with yellow-blue shadows. ‘To be honest, this place takes so much out of me,’ he says. ‘It’s hard to pull away when I get home. I certainly swear at home more because I’m allowed to, but other than that ...

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