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What did Cook want?

Jon Lawrence: Both ‘on message’ and off, 19 February 2004

The Point of Departure 
by Robin Cook.
Simon and Schuster, 368 pp., £20, October 2003, 0 7432 5255 1
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... Robin Cook’s memoir concentrates on the first two years of the second Blair government, from his ‘demotion’ to leader of the House immediately after the 2001 general election to his resignation over the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. He may have wanted to get the book out quickly while Iraq, WMDs and Hutton still dominate the headlines, but, more important, writing exclusively about the Blair second term allows him to construct a narrative of political disillusion shorn of awkward questions about the compromises that had been necessary for him to stay loyal to the New Labour ‘project’ before 2001 ...

Made for TV

Jenny Diski, 14 December 1995

Fight & Kick & Bite: The Life and Work of Dennis Potter 
by W. Stephen Gilbert.
Hodder, 382 pp., £18.99, November 1995, 0 340 64047 2
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Dennis Potter: A Life on Screen 
by John Cook.
Manchester, 368 pp., £45, October 1995, 0 7190 4601 7
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... for the author to provide something more than a lesson in how to suck eggs. Stephen Gilbert and John Cook (along with just about everyone else) would agree that Potter reached his reflexive nadir with Blackeyes, in which the story of the eponymous model based on the central character, Jessica, is related as a novel authored by Jessica’s uncle, but ...

The Future of John Barth

Michael Irwin, 5 June 1980

Letters 
by John Barth.
Secker, 772 pp., £7.95, May 1980, 0 436 03674 6
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The Left-Handed Woman 
by Peter Handke, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Eyre Methuen, 94 pp., £4.95, April 1980, 0 413 45890 3
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Passion Play 
by Jerzy Kosinski.
Joseph, 271 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 7181 1913 4
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... Offering a critical account of John Barth’s new book within the confines of a periodical review is like trying to haul a whale on board a fishing smack. For the sake of brevity, even my formal description of the work must be brutally oversimplified. It is an epistolary novel, divided into seven sections, one for every ‘letter’ of the title ...

In Myrtle Bowers

Blair Worden: Cavaliers, 30 June 2011

Reprobates: The Cavaliers of the English Civil War 
by John Stubbs.
Viking, 549 pp., £25, February 2011, 978 0 670 91753 2
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... title is presumably a market pitch. The subtitle, perhaps another pitch, lays bare a problem which John Stubbs never grips. We are two-thirds of the way through before we reach ‘the English civil war’ of the 1640s. The bulk of the book is set in the generation before it, from the years around the accession of Charles I to the outbreak of fighting in ...

Where am I?

Greg Dening, 31 October 1996

Far-Fetched Facts: The Literature of Travel and the Idea of the South Seas 
by Neil Rennie.
Oxford, 330 pp., £35, November 1995, 0 19 811975 5
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... of the South Seas was always theatrical: the sexual titivations of Tahiti, the triumphs of James Cook and then his death, the loss of Jean François de la Pérouse, the mutiny on the Bounty, the debates on the good and evil effects of missions. The ‘literature’ of this theatre is the preoccupation of Neil Rennie’s Far-Fetched Facts. It takes him down ...

John Sturrock

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 20 September 2017

... It​ was John who had the idea that I should say something about his professional life at his funeral. It was a very nice idea and I’m glad – not to say flattered – that he had it. But I found it a spookily hard thing to do. ‘Spooky’ because every time I thought I had a point to make I heard myself checking it with John – ‘Is that right?’ ‘Can I say that?’ ‘Does that make sense?’ – and then I began to understand what had happened to all of us ...

Alan Bennett remembers Peter Cook

Alan Bennett, 25 May 1995

... I think on Goodge Street, with Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller, the meeting arranged by John Bassett, whose idea it was that we should all work together writing the review that turned into Beyond the Fringe. Having already written while still an undergraduate a large slice of the two West End shows Pieces of Eight and One Over the Eight, Peter was ...

At the Courtauld

John-Paul Stonard: Chaïm Soutine, 30 November 2017

... obtaining from the butcher’s shop in Céret, perhaps explaining the title). ‘Pastry Cook of Cagnes’ (c.1922) The attraction of uniforms to Soutine seems to have been largely the opportunity they offered for painting uniform areas of colour, enlivened by tiny touches of chromatic variation – an excuse for pure painting. David Sylvester said ...

JC’s Call

J.I.M. Stewart, 2 April 1981

Joseph Conrad: Times Remembered 
by Joseph Conrad.
Cambridge, 218 pp., £10.50, March 1981, 0 521 22805 0
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... died at the age of 67 on 3 August 1924, the day following the 18th birthday of his younger son, John Conrad, the author of the present book. John’s memories, which reach astonishingly far back into his earliest childhood, begin with his family living in poverty in a tiny cottage, ‘a dark and gloomy place’, at ...

Philip’s People

Anna Della Subin: Divine Prince Philip, 7 May 2014

... of white explorers said to have been hailed as gods – Francis Drake, Hernán Cortés, Captain Cook, Christopher Columbus, to name a few – acquired a new star in the mid-1970s, when Prince Philip vacationed off the coast of Tanna, in what was then the New Hebrides, aboard HMY Britannia. Ever since, a string of Englishmen have made the pilgrimage to the ...
A Slight and Delicate Creature: The Memoirs of Margaret Cook 
Weidenfeld, 307 pp., £20, January 1999, 0 297 84293 5Show More
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... their story in its unedited detail to paper. Among these mounds of autobiography will be Margaret Cook’s effort at self-valuation. It is a classic of the genre. Unlike most of these productions, Dr Cook’s memoir has been professionally published, but that is her consolation prize for having had the misfortune or bad ...

After Smith

Ross McKibbin, 9 June 1994

... Like many others I have been puzzled by the reaction to John Smith’s death. It was reported as though it were at least that of a prime minister, and his funeral was, as the BBC noted, in effect a state funeral. The decision of both the BBC and ITV to double the ordinary length of their evening news broadcasts on the day of his death could be put down to the social democratish inclinations of the programmers, but the speed with which the coverage had to be assembled suggests that it was more instinctive ...

Dreamland

Jonathan Lamb: 18th-century seafaring, 20 March 2003

Voyages of Delusion: The Search for the Northwest Passage in the Age of Reason 
by Glyn Williams.
HarperCollins, 467 pp., £8.99, March 2003, 0 00 653213 6
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Voyage to Desolation Island 
by Jean-Paul Kauffmann, translated by Patricia Clancy.
Harvill, 177 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 1 86046 926 4
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... The great Pacific navigations of the mid-18th century were officially failures. Cook managed to map the missing north-eastern section of the coast of a land he claimed for Britain as New South Wales, and he also produced a complete outline of New Zealand – with surprising accuracy, given that he was entirely dependent on lunar observations ...

Aloha, aloha

Ian Hacking, 7 September 1995

What ‘Natives’ Think: About Captain Cook, For Example 
by Marshall Sahlins.
Chicago, 316 pp., £19.95, July 1995, 0 226 73368 8
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... with Europeans, not only regarded the white men as superior beings, but also took Captain Cook to be their god Lono, a very important one in their world, which was tilled with gods. Or, is that story a European myth in itself, subsequently foisted on Hawaiian self-memory by British and other foreign chroniclers? The latter is the thesis of Gananath ...

Prynne’s Principia

Elizabeth Cook, 16 September 1982

Poems 
by J.H. Prynne.
Agneau 2, 320 pp., £12, May 1982, 0 907954 00 6
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... is the route by which d became t?’ Changing states attract Prynne’s attention much as they did John Donne’s. Here we don’t get ‘gold to ayery thinnesse beat’ or flesh ‘calcined’ into dust. Instead we have syrups, doughs, pastries, and snow that melts into slush: images of reconstitution and dissolution. The first volume included in Poems is ...

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