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The Case of Agatha Christie

John Lanchester, 20 December 2018

... also phoning it in. Witness the completely pointless recent remake with Kenneth Branagh as Poirot. John Malkovich is about to impersonate the great detective in a Christmas adaptation of The ABC Murders – now that one I’m looking forward to.) A novel in which the detective did it. A novel in which the entire structure of the story was suggested by a title ...

Was He Quite Ordinary?

Mary Beard: Marcus Aurelius, 23 July 2009

Marcus Aurelius: Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor 
by Frank McLynn.
Bodley Head, 684 pp., £20, March 2009, 978 0 224 07292 2
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... of Pliny’s speech in praise of Trajan (the Panegyric) and some commentary on the Gospel of St John. But the prize finds, making up the largest part of the book, were faintly legible copies of the correspondence of Marcus Cornelius Fronto, one of the leading scholars and orators of the second century ad, and tutor to the ...

Shaving-Pot in Waiting

Rosemary Hill: Victoria’s Albert, 23 February 2012

Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the Monarchy 
by Helen Rappaport.
Hutchinson, 336 pp., £20, November 2011, 978 0 09 193154 4
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by Jules Stewart.
I.B. Tauris, 276 pp., £19.99, October 2011, 978 1 84885 977 7
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... Plays, paintings (famously Delaroche’s Execution of Lady Jane Grey), new editions of John Lingard’s revisionist History of England, as well as Pugin’s architectural manifesto Contrasts, all treated it as the determining event in national history. The facts were fiercely argued and at a popular level there was much debate about whether or not ...

The Getaway Car

Glen Newey: Machiavelli, 21 January 2016

Machiavellian Democracy 
by John McCormick.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 0 521 53090 3
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Machiavelli in the Making 
by Claude Lefort, translated by Michael Smith.
Northwestern, 512 pp., £32.50, January 2012, 978 0 8101 2438 7
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Redeeming ‘The Prince’: The Meaning of Machiavelli’s Masterpiece 
by Maurizio Viroli.
Princeton, 189 pp., £18.95, October 2013, 978 0 691 16001 6
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... boasts of being ‘admired of those that hate [him] most’. ‘A sicke Machiavell Pollititian,’ John Stephens wrote in his Essays of 1615, ‘is a baked meate for the devill.’ No other political theorist has received remotely similar treatment. Hobbes, who came in for a handsome share of vilification from the 1650s, was namechecked as an early exponent of ...

Business as Usual

J. Hoberman: Hitler in Hollywood, 19 December 2013

Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-39 
by Thomas Doherty.
Columbia, 429 pp., £24, April 2013, 978 0 231 16392 7
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The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler 
by Ben Urwand.
Harvard, 327 pp., £19.95, August 2013, 978 0 674 72474 7
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... between American moral enforcers and the Third Reich. Only two low-budget independent features – Cornelius Vanderbilt’s quasi-documentary Hitler’s Reign of Terror (1934) and the exploitation docudrama I Was a Captive of Nazi Germany (1936) – escaped the net. The producer of I Was a Captive managed this by presenting the finished film for ...

What’s going on, Eric?

David Renton: Rock Against Racism, 22 November 2018

Walls Come Tumbling Down: The Music and Politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge 
by Daniel Rachel.
Picador, 589 pp., £12.99, May 2017, 978 1 4472 7268 7
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... Front’s 168 candidates secured an average vote of 8.9 per cent. During a Commons debate in July, John Stokes, the Conservative MP for Halesowen and Stourbridge, a former admirer of General Franco and a supporter of the Monday Club, pointed to the growing constituency for the National Front and insisted that ‘a date must soon be fixed beyond which no ...

My Old, Sweet, Darling Mob

Iain Sinclair: Michael Moorcock, 30 November 2000

King of the City 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 421 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 684 86140 2
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Mother London 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 496 pp., £6.99, May 2000, 0 684 86141 0
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... exploited by Michael Moorcock in fables of sword and sorcery, the reality-collages of the Jerry Cornelius saga, the dark shadows of the Pyatt quartet. But the salutation at the start of this new epic is unexpected: ‘pard’. Moorcock, in high Victorian conceit, likes to get the story rolling by speaking directly, as writer and performer, to his ...

Unnatural Rebellion

Malcolm Gaskill: ‘Witches’, 2 November 2017

The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present 
by Ronald Hutton.
Yale, 360 pp., £25, August 2017, 978 0 300 22904 2
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... conceptualised witchcraft as a conspiracy against an established monotheistic religion. Pope John XXII (1249-1334) was an enthusiastic enemy of witches and magicians, and his actions against them – issuing injunctions, launching investigations, executing malefactors – caused reverberations as far away as Ireland. There, Petronilla de Meath ended up ...

Episteme, My Arse

Christopher Tayler: Laurent Binet, 15 June 2017

The Seventh Function of Language 
by Laurent Binet, translated by Sam Taylor.
Harvill Secker, 390 pp., £16.99, May 2017, 978 1 910701 58 4
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... that he does. Who? ‘The Stalinists! The fascists! Alain Badiou! Gilles Deleuze! Pierre Bourdieu! Cornelius Castoriadis! … Um, Hélène Cixous!’ Bayard writes these names down in his notebook, but they’re no more help than what he’s told by Foucault, to whom he pays a visit at the Collège de France. ‘The big baldy’, who seems unaccountably ...

Twenty Kicks in the Backside

Tom Stammers: Rosa Bonheur’s Flock, 5 November 2020

Art Is a Tyrant: The Unconventional Life of Rosa Bonheur 
by Catherine Hewitt.
Icon, 483 pp., £20, February, 978 1 78578 621 1
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... hailed as a ‘picture of the century’; it toured widely in Britain and the US, and thanks to Cornelius Vanderbilt, it now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum. ‘Ploughing in the Nivernais’ (1849) Bonheur was a new kind of celebrity. ‘Life had taught her self-reliance,’ Hewitt writes, ‘and accepting, even flaunting, her own idiosyncrasies had ...


Pat Rogers, 7 August 1986

Mothers of the Novel: One Hundred Good Women Writers before Jane Austen 
by Dale Spender.
Pandora, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 86358 081 5
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Scribbling Sisters 
by Dale Spender and Lynne Spender.
Camden Press, 188 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 948491 00 0
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A Woman of No Character: An Autobiography of Mrs Manley 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 176 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13934 5
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by Fanny Burney.
Virago, 919 pp., £6.95, May 1986, 0 86068 775 9
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Millenium Hall 
by Sarah Scott.
Virago, 207 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86068 780 5
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by Susan Ferrier.
Virago, 513 pp., £4.50, February 1986, 0 86068 765 1
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by Maria Edgeworth.
Pandora, 434 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 074 2
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by Mary Brunton.
Pandora, 437 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 9780863580840
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The Female Quixote: The Adventures of Arabella 
by Charlotte Lennox.
Pandora, 423 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 080 7
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... follows a remarkable passage: ‘Among the neglected men I have found Robert Bage, Henry Brooke, John Bunyan, Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Delaney [sic], Emanuel Ford, William Godwin, Richard Graves, Robert Greene, Robert Henryson, Charles Johnstone, Charles Lever, M.G. Lewis, Thomas Lodge, Henry MacKenzie [sic], Thomas Malory, Charles Maturin, Walter ...


Julian Barnes: People Will Hate Us Again, 20 April 2017

... French town in the north, towards Belgium; the time must be the late 1930s. The original Krull, Cornelius, was German, but has spent four-fifths of his life in France, and became naturalised before the First World War; he still barely speaks French and is losing his German. A weaver, he had spent a peripatetic time before settling, as a man does, for no ...

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