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John Kerrigan: Late Yeats, 3 March 2005

W.B. Yeats: A Life. Vol. II: The Arch-Poet 1915-39 
by Roy Foster.
Oxford, 822 pp., £16.99, March 2005, 0 19 280609 2
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... play has tended to muffle its strangeness. It is the great achievement of the second volume of Roy Foster’s superb biography that it delivers us late Yeats in all his troublesome immediacy. Foster does this not just by cutting across the record with new facts from the archive – itself a considerable feat, given that half ...

Anti-Liberalism

Alan Brinkley, 7 January 1988

Armed Truce 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 667 pp., £14.95, November 1986, 0 241 11843 3
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The Wise Men 
by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas.
Faber, 853 pp., £15.95, January 1987, 0 571 14606 6
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Ike 
by Piers Brendon.
Secker, 478 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 0 436 06813 3
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May-Day 
by Michael Beschloss.
Faber, 494 pp., £14.95, November 1986, 0 571 14593 0
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... to the reckless domestic and international adventurism of his liberal successors. Admirers of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and of the dynamism of their years in office interpret the new defence of Eisenhower – correctly – as an assault on their own belief in active, affirmative government, an assault different in its origins but oddly similar in ...

Too Proud to Fight

David Reynolds: The ‘Lusitania’ Effect, 28 November 2002

Wilful Murder: The Sinking of the ‘Lusitania’ 
by Diana Preston.
Doubleday, 543 pp., £18.99, May 2002, 0 385 60173 5
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Lusitania: Saga and Myth 
by David Ramsay.
Chatham, 319 pp., £20, September 2001, 1 86176 170 8
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Woodrow Wilson 
by John Thompson.
Longman, 288 pp., £15.99, August 2002, 0 582 24737 3
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... whose rigid commitment to these ideals brought him enormous success but also ultimate failure. John Thompson offers us a different Wilson. He plays down the President’s Christianity, arguing that this was sincere but not dominating, and portrays him as ‘a practising politician’ who ‘travelled with very little ideological baggage, adopting and ...

New Ways of Killing Your Father

Colm Tóibín, 18 November 1993

Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History 
by R.F. Foster.
Allen Lane, 305 pp., £22.50, October 1993, 0 7139 9095 3
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... in our glorious past, and it was essential for our past to be glorious if our present, in what Roy Foster in his new book of essays calls ‘the disillusioned tranquillity of the Free State’, was to have any meaning. This was what our ancestors fought for; we had it now; it had to be good. At the launch of his book Thomas Pakenham sat on a podium at the top ...

Mrs Straus’s Devotion

Jenny Diski, 5 June 1997

Last Dinner on the ‘Titanic’: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner 
by Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley.
Weidenfeld, 128 pp., £9.99, April 1997, 1 86448 250 8
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The ‘Titanic’ Complex 
by John Wilson Foster.
Belcouver, 92 pp., £5.99, April 1997, 0 9699464 1 4
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Down with the Old Canoe 
by Steven Biel.
Norton, 300 pp., £18.95, April 1997, 9780393039658
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... in first class, and the hopes of the dispossessed in steerage. The Titanic was a ship of fools. As John Wilson Foster tells us, the grand staircase came in William and Mary style, though the balustrade was Louis XIV; the first-class dining saloon and reception rooms were Jacobean, the restaurant Louis XVI, the lounge Louis ...

Tomorrow is here again

Anne Wagner: The First Pop Age, 11 October 2012

The First Pop Age 
by Hal Foster.
Princeton, 338 pp., £20.95, October 2011, 978 0 691 15138 0
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... When Hal Foster uses the word ‘first’ in the title of his confidently focused study, he means to start us thinking about Pop now and then. It is a reference to Reyner Banham’s Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (1960), which argued that modernism’s prewar optimism was over and done. ‘We have already entered the Second Machine Age,’ Banham declared, ‘and can look back on the First … as a period of the past ...

Butterflies

David Pears, 5 June 1986

Berkeley: The Central Arguments 
by A.C. Grayling.
Duckworth, 218 pp., £19.50, January 1986, 0 7156 2065 7
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Essays on Berkeley: A Tercentennial Celebration 
edited by John Foster and Howard Robinson.
Oxford, 264 pp., £22.50, October 1986, 0 19 824734 6
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... irresistibly lucid prose: it seems as if the decisive move was made before he put pen to paper. John Austin borrowed a phrase from Aristotle’s Poetics to describe this effect: ‘events outside the tragedy’. If we want to get off this stage, how are we to do it? The ladder seems to have been kicked away. The parallel argument current today hustles us ...

The Looting of Asia

Chalmers Johnson: Japan, the US and stolen gold, 20 November 2003

Gold Warriors: America’s Secret Recovery of Yamashita’s Gold 
by Sterling Seagrave and Peggy Seagrave.
Verso, 332 pp., £17, September 2003, 1 85984 542 8
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... concerned with postwar Japan highly classified, in violation of its own laws. Most important, John Foster Dulles, President Truman’s special envoy to Japan charged with ending the occupation, wrote the peace treaty of 1951 in such a way that most former POWs and civilian victims of Japan are prevented from obtaining any form of compensation from ...

What he did

Frank Kermode, 20 March 1997

W.B. Yeats: A Life. Vol. I: The Apprentice Mage 
by R.F. Foster.
Oxford, 640 pp., £25, March 1997, 0 19 211735 1
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... large-scale biography of Yeats, died in 1983, and after some vicissitudes the task devolved on Roy Foster, the professor of Irish history at Oxford. He has had access to Lyons’s notes and transcripts, invaluable to a successor confronted, as he says, with ‘a vast and unfamiliar subject’. Vast it remains, but the unfamiliarity has clearly ...

Yellow Ribbons

Hal Foster: Kitsch in Bush’s America, 7 July 2005

... in fidelity to men gone to battle. Yet this origin is mythical, put in circulation by the 1949 John Ford film She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, which starred John Wayne as a cavalry officer in the Indian battles in the West. And even this source is shaky: as used today, the ribbons date only to the ‘hostage crisis’ of ...

Let’s Do the Time Warp

Clair Wills: Modern Irish History, 3 July 2008

Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change c.1970-2000 
by R.F. Foster.
Penguin, 228 pp., £8.99, July 2008, 978 0 14 101765 5
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... and political progress. It is the baffling, ‘fast-forward’ nature of these changes that Roy Foster seeks to capture in this pacey narrative, which brings his 1988 history, Modern Ireland 1600-1972, up to date. Rather than offer a straightforward narrative account, Foster tracks the transformation of contemporary ...

Ikonography

Keith Kyle, 4 July 1985

Eisenhower. Vol. I: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect 1890-1952 Vol. II: The President 1952-1969 
by Stephen Ambrose.
Allen and Unwin, 637 pp., £12.50, February 1984, 0 04 923073 5
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Ike’s Letters to a Friend: 1941-1958 
edited by Robert Griffith.
Kansas, 211 pp., $19.95, October 1984, 0 7006 0257 7
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... far when he writes that ‘Dulles carried messages; he did not make policy.’ Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was a powerful formulator of policies. Eisenhower had a rather arm’s-length view of the separation of powers: Congress was not normally to be too much chivvied by the White House, nor was Congressional curiosity about his executive ...

Acapulcalypse

Patrick Parrinder, 23 November 1989

Christopher Unborn 
by Carlos Fuentes, translated by Alfred MacAdam.
Deutsch, 531 pp., £13.95, October 1989, 0 233 98016 4
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The Faber Book of Contemporary Latin American Short Stories 
edited by Nick Caistor.
Faber, 188 pp., £11.99, September 1989, 0 571 15359 3
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Hollywood 
by Gore Vidal.
Deutsch, 543 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 9780233984957
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Oldest living Confederate widow tells all 
by Allan Gurganus.
Faber, 718 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 9780571142019
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... The action spans fifteen years, from the end of the Depression to the advent of Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles. Vidal keeps track of the major political developments but concentrates on the inter-generational conflicts between Burden and Blaise and their respective children. From time to time a famous politician appears in the middle distance ...

Eritrean Revolution

Jeremy Harding, 15 October 1987

... with a legion of flies, before returning to pose the question. The first part was answered by John Foster Dulles, the US Secretary of State at the time of the misbegotten federation. ‘From the point of view of justice,’ he said, ‘the opinions of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless the strategic interests of the United ...

Separation Anxiety

David Hollinger: God and Politics, 24 January 2008

The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West 
by Mark Lilla.
Knopf, 334 pp., $26, September 2007, 978 1 4000 4367 5
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... meeting of the leaders of the national, informal ‘Protestant Establishment’. It was chaired by John Foster Dulles, who a decade later would be named secretary of state by Eisenhower. The delegates proclaimed their identity as Americans, but were highly conscious of their independence. A resolution declaring that ‘the Church as such is not at ...

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