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Freaks, Dwarfs and Boors

Thomas Keymer: 18th-Century Jokes, 2 August 2012

Cruelty and Laughter: Forgotten Comic Literature and the Unsentimental 18th Century 
by Simon Dickie.
Chicago, 362 pp., £29, December 2011, 978 0 226 14618 8
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... refuges for repentant prostitutes or bankrupted merchants. Shortly before his death in 1791, John Wesley looked back on the century as one in which ‘benevolence and compassion toward all the forms of human woe have increased in a manner not known before, from the earliest ages of the world.’ Not everyone was sympathetic to forms of woe – especially ...

The Honoured Society

Edward Luttwak, 10 October 2013

Mafia Republic: Italy’s Criminal Curse: Cosa Nostra, Camorra and ’Ndrangheta from 1946 to the Present 
by John Dickie.
Sceptre, 524 pp., £25, May 2013, 978 1 4447 2640 4
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... appendage of a high-cost economy with Germany at its centre. No such contentions are advanced in John Dickie’s potboiler. He attempts an overview of organised crime groups in the Italian south (and its northern extensions) under their colourful but deeply misleading regional monikers: Cosa Nostra (Sicilian-American, but not Sicilian); and Camorra, a ...

Not a desire to have him, but to be like him

Slavoj Žižek: Highsmith is the One, 21 August 2003

Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith 
by Andrew Wilson.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £25, June 2003, 0 7475 6314 4
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... symmetrical remakes, Matt Damon in Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) and John Malkovich in a new Ripley’s Game by Liliana Cavani (2003). Although, on their own terms, all four are good movies, their Ripley is not Highsmith’s Ripley because they somehow humanise his inhuman core: Delon is a demoniac European; Hopper an ...

You’ve got it or you haven’t

Iain Sinclair, 25 February 1993

Inside the Firm: The Untold Story of the Krays’ Reign of Terror 
by Tony Lambrianou and Carol Clerk.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.99, October 1992, 0 330 32284 2
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Gangland: London’s Underworld 
by James Morton.
Little, Brown, 349 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 356 20889 3
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Nipper: The Story of Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read 
by Leonard Read and James Morton.
Warner, 318 pp., £5.99, September 1992, 0 7515 0001 1
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Smash and Grab: Gangsters in the London Underworld 
by Robert Murphy.
Faber, 182 pp., £15.99, February 1993, 0 571 15442 5
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... of Blythe Street, Bethnal Green. Ron and Reg were inside, keeping company with a known associate, Dickie Morgan. Reg was nicely cased in a blue three-piece by Woods of Kingsland Road. Dickie matched him. (The Twins were very influential that way. All the faces were expected to dress to a middle-management standard.) Reg ...

Learning to speak

Gay Clifford, 21 February 1980

Gya/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism 
by Mary Daly.
Women’s Press, 485 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 7043 2829 1
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The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the 19th Century 
by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar.
Yale, 719 pp., £15.75, October 1980, 0 300 02286 7
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Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes 
by Margaret Dickie Uroff.
Illinois, 235 pp., £6.95, November 1980, 0 252 00734 4
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Women Writing and Writing about Women 
edited by Mary Jacobus.
Croom Helm, 201 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 85664 745 4
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... to hated courtiers, who would then promptly ruin themselves on its costly maintenance.) Yet John Goode notes in Women Writing that Lawrence is here unwittingly acute about something central to sexist ideology: that ‘woman is an image to be uttered’ – uttered, that is, by other people. One feature of these four books allows them to be discussed ...

Labour and the Bouncers

Paul Foot, 4 June 1987

Prime Minister: The Conduct of Policy under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan 
by Bernard Donoughue.
Cape, 198 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 224 02450 7
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Time and Chance 
by James Callaghan.
Collins, 584 pp., £15.95, April 1987, 0 00 216515 5
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... able’ Principal Private Secretary, Elizabeth Arnot a ‘bright young education specialist’, John Lyons a ‘very able’ general secretary, and Tom McNally an ‘excellent political secretary’. They were all quite wonderful, brilliant and magnificent, but unfortunately they could not tackle the main issue: ‘There was part of the unemployment ...

tarry easty

Roy Foster: Joyce in Trieste, 30 November 2000

The Years of Bloom: James Joyce in Trieste 1904-20 
by John McCourt.
Lilliput, 306 pp., £25, June 2000, 1 901866 45 9
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... down the coast from Genoa’s seductive murkiness, and the bay of San Remo where Ripley bludgeoned Dickie Greenleaf to death, but a world away from both. The resort now thrives on conferences, and there was a world congress of Nietzscheans in full swing. This was apposite. Even if its attractions stop short at the Edwardian bathing-huts still primly ...

Meltdown

Anthony Thwaite, 26 October 1989

Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath 
by Anne Stevenson.
Viking, 413 pp., £15.95, October 1989, 0 670 81854 2
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... uncanny faculty of melting’ had become a meltdown. Plath’s doctor during her final months, Dr John Horder, wrote afterwards: My judgment has always been that this was a very determined attempt to end her life ... I believe ... she was liable to large swings of mood, but so excessive that a doctor inevitably thinks in terms of brain chemistry. This does ...

The Ruling Exception

David Cannadine, 16 August 1990

Queen Victoria: Gender and Power 
by Dorothy Thompson.
Virago, 167 pp., £6.99, May 1990, 0 86068 773 2
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... Ziegler’s official life of Lord Mountbatten suggested that the royal family’s ‘beloved Uncle Dickie’ was an interfering manipulator of unscrupulous methods, and a shameless adventurer of colossal and inordinate vanity. With so much daylight now being let in, it is hardly surprising that the old royal magic is not quite what it once was. By its very ...

Winklepickers, Tinned Salmon, Hair Cream

Bee Wilson: Jonathan Meades, 14 July 2016

An Encyclopedia of Myself 
by Jonathan Meades.
Fourth Estate, 341 pp., £9.99, February 2015, 978 1 85702 905 5
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... in the wetness and reach safety in the cafeteria at the summit. But a 34-year-old man called John Mattinson who left the same café half an hour later was struck by lightning and died. When she read about it in the newspaper, Meades’s mother said: ‘Well, if you will stand on a cairn in a thunderstorm …’ True to his interest in ...

Beefcake Ease

Miranda Carter: Robert Mitchum and Steve McQueen, 14 January 2002

Robert Mitchum: Solid, Dad, Crazy 
by Damien Love.
Batsford, 208 pp., £15.99, December 2001, 0 7134 8707 0
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Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don’t Care 
by Lee Server.
Faber, 590 pp., £20, October 2001, 0 571 20994 7
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McQueen: The Biography 
by Christopher Sandford.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £16.99, October 2001, 0 00 257195 1
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... Seven, which made him a star, he was known as ‘Supie’, short for superstar, and ‘Tricky Dickie’ because of the lengths he would go to to steal scenes. One story goes that every time Yul Brynner – who as the nominal star was always in the centre of the shot – opened his mouth, McQueen, in the background, would fiddle ostentatiously with his ...

Trouble down there

Ferdinand Mount: Tea with Sassoon, 7 August 2003

Siegfried Sassoon: The Making of a War Poet 1886-1918 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Duckworth, 600 pp., £9.99, September 2002, 0 7156 2894 1
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Siegfried Sassoon: The Journey from the Trenches 1918-67 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Duckworth, 526 pp., £30, April 2003, 0 7156 2971 9
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Sassoon: The Worlds of Philip and Sybil 
by Peter Stansky.
Yale, 295 pp., £25, April 2003, 0 300 09547 3
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... includes a dozen of them, mostly in their entirety. Interest in his life is sharpening. After John Stuart Roberts’s compact and readable single volume of 1999, we now have Jean Moorcroft Wilson’s double-header, with Max Egremont’s somewhat shorter Life expected soon. Sassoon’s story has also reached a wider audience through television re-creations ...

All change. This train is cancelled

Iain Sinclair: The Dome, 13 May 1999

... concept was revealed to the world, years later, as the Millennium Dome. But, like his namesake Dr John, the Elizabethan magus and imperial geographer, Simon Dee was exploited by the Secret State and then abandoned to provincial obscurity. Now it can be told: the Dome represents the consciousness of the lost years of Simon Dee. Finally, on Friday 12 ...

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