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26 October 1989
Touching the void 
by Joe Simpson.
Cape, 172 pp., £10.95, July 1988, 0 224 02545 7
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Climbers 
by M. John Harrison.
Gollancz, 221 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 9780575036321
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... about experience in conditions of extreme steepness and altitude: how to do it in ways that evoke the heart of the experience and don’t resort unduly to its more freakish terrors? The wonder of JoeSimpson’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 ...

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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... most celebrated figures have always been those who stick their necks out the farthest and manage to get away with it. Climbers, as a species, are simply not distinguished by an excess of prudence. JoeSimpson, 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 ...

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 ...

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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... has set himself the doleful task of trying to resurrect his reputation. He has no difficulty in exciting 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 ...

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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... Andy, The Bill Cosby Show, Ken Burns’s PBS series The Civil War, all versions of Show Boat, the 1927 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 ...

Bananas

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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... to the notoriety and publicity which has been given’ to the case ‘and to the fact that it has 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 ...

Light Entertainment

Andrew O’Hagan: Our Paedophile Culture

8 November 2012
... men named to me as I talked to people about the BBC in those days, Uncle Mac is the one who stirs 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 ...

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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... then twists and turns between Quentin’s acknowledged guilt and his defiant belief that she would 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 ...

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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... to, however, and this makes the prevalence of dross all the more frustrating. There are stories from 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 ...

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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... Fathers (2006). An old man is remembering his participation as a young marine in raising the Stars and 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 ...

Subversions

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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... Secret Too Long, Their trade is treachery and other melodramas. Needless to say, Pincher accepts as 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 ...

Culture Wars

W.J.T. Mitchell

23 April 1992
... acceptance of Operation Desert Storm occurred when CNN’s Peter Arnett broke the rule against showing 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 ...

A Day’s Work

Joanna Biggs: Reports from the Workplace

8 April 2015
... ear is a rollie with a neat twist at the tip, and he takes it down to turn it over in his hands as he 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 ...

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