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8 February 1990
The Vanished Library: A Wonder of the Ancient World 
by Luciano Canfora, translated by Martin Ryle.
Radius, 205 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 09 174049 5
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Herodotus 
by John Gould.
Weidenfeld, 164 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 9780297793397
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... and of the translation finally completed by 72 translators in 72 days; we read, at the end, of John Philoponus and his nearly successful attempts to win over the Arab conquerors in order to reprieve the library; and there is much, much more. In all this Canfora is not just telling a story: in the second part of the book he offers a series of detailed ...

On Darwin’s Trouble with the Finches

Andrew Berry: The genius of Charles Darwin

7 March 2002
Evolution’s Workshop: God and Science on the Galapagos Islands 
by Edward Larson.
Penguin, 320 pp., £8.99, February 2002, 0 14 100503 3
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... The Beagle had been at sea for nearly four years, and, as he wrote to his Cambridge mentor, John Henslow, Charles Darwin was increasingly anxious to get home: ‘I look forward with joy and interest to [visiting the Galapagos], both as being somewhat nearer to England, & for the sake of having a good look at an active Volcano.’ He had cause to expect ...

Diary

Patrick Wright: The Cult of Tyneham

24 November 1988
... the Government wavering, the Tyneham campaigners played their last card. Lord Fenner Brockway took John Gould, a road-sweeper who was already among Tyneham’s most symbolised villagers, to 10 Downing Street. A life-long member of the Labour Party, Gould presented Harold Wilson with a wreath made of ivy picked from the ...

Almighty Gould

Roy Porter

23 April 1987
Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time 
by Stephen Jay Gould.
Harvard, 219 pp., £15.50, May 1987, 0 674 89198 8
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... Years ago Sir John Plumb declared: ‘The past is dead.’ He didn’t add: ‘long live history.’ But try as historians will to put the past behind them, others are always resurrecting it and abusing it for their own purposes. Take the mindless mouthings of ‘Victorian values’, the ‘good’ (or the ‘bad’) old days, the Dunkirk spirit, the ghost of Ramsay MacDonald – in all such sloganising, the ghosts of the past are conjured up to clinch arguments about the present ...

Tinkering

John Maynard Smith

17 September 1981
The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History 
by Stephen Jay Gould.
Norton, 343 pp., £6.95, April 1981, 0 393 01380 4
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... The apparent ‘thumb’ is a modification and extension of a small bone in the wrist. For Stephen Gould, this is a particular and fascinating fact, but it is also an illustration of a general principle. The principle is that evolution proceeds by tinkering with what is already there, and not by following the canons of optimal design. Had the panda been ...
16 April 1998
Joe Gould's Secret 
by Joseph Mitchell.
Cape, 200 pp., £9.99, October 1997, 0 224 05107 5
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... forty years by giving an annual ball for the benefit of himself’. And the book introduces Joe Gould, the character who would become Mitchell’s dependant, shadow, mirror-image and bête noire. Mitchell first wrote about ‘blithe and emaciated Joe Gould’ in 1942, in a profile entitled ‘Professor Sea Gull’ – the ...

Why so cross?

Thomas Nagel: Natural selection

1 April 1999
Unweaving the Rainbow 
by Richard Dawkins.
Penguin, 350 pp., £20, October 1998, 9780713992144
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The Pattern of Evolution 
by Niles Eldredge.
Freeman, 225 pp., £17.95, February 1999, 0 7167 3046 4
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... on one side and Eldredge on the other. Eldredge is associated in this controversy with Stephen Jay Gould, his long-term research collaborator.* The disagreement, and the heat that it generates, are difficult for an outsider to understand, but they appear to have something to do with the way in which evolutionary theory is to be presented to a broader ...

In the Chair

Edward Said

17 July 1997
Glenn GouldThe Ecstasy and the Tragedy of Genius 
by Peter Ostwald.
Norton, 368 pp., $29.95, May 1997, 0 393 04077 1
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When the Music Stops: Managers, Maestros and the Corporate Murder of Classical Music 
by Norman Lebrecht.
Simon and Schuster, 400 pp., £7.99, July 1997, 0 671 01025 5
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... One of the most talked and written about musicians after World War Two, Glenn Gould quite consciously set about making himself interesting and eccentric. Most performers do, but Gould went beyond anyone. It helped a great deal that he had a phenomenal digital gift, a perfect memory, a very high intelligence, but in addition he was self-conscious and self-observant to an extent most other performers would scarcely be able to imagine ...

Allendistas

D.A.N. Jones

5 November 1992
Death in Chile: A Memoir and a Journey 
by Tony Gould.
Picador, 277 pp., £15.99, July 1992, 0 330 32271 0
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Some write to the future 
by Ariel Dorfman, translated by George Shivers and Ariel Dorfman.
Duke, 271 pp., £10.95, May 1992, 0 8223 1269 7
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... the college manciple: ‘Are you asking me or are you telling me – peasant?’ Similarly, Tony Gould met a Chilean caballero, when they were Cambridge undergraduates, some thirty years ago. He was called Cristian Huneeus, a young man of landed family, a gentlemanly left-winger and already a published novelist. In those days, British readers were not so ...

Past Masters

Raymond Williams

25 June 1987
Joachim of Fiore and the Myth of the Eternal Evangel in the 19th Century 
by Marjorie Reeves and Warwick Gould.
Oxford, 365 pp., £35, March 1987, 0 19 826672 3
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Beauty and Belief: Aesthetics and Religion in Victorian Literature 
by Hilary Fraser.
Cambridge, 287 pp., £25, January 1987, 0 521 30767 8
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The Correspondence of John Ruskin and Charles Eliot Norton 
edited by John Bradley and Ian Ousby.
Cambridge, 537 pp., £45, April 1987, 0 521 32091 7
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... has its fascination: yet there is also a more serious problem, which the new study by Reeves and Gould directly addresses. By what actual processes are ideas preserved, circulated and developed? ‘Can the ideas of one person or group lurk around in the atmosphere, having, as it were, a continuing life of their own, so that they can be plucked out of the air ...
1 December 1983
Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History 
by Stephen Jay Gould.
Norton, 413 pp., £11.95, September 1983, 0 393 01716 8
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The Great Chain of History: William Buckland and the English School of Geology, 1814-1849 
by Nicolaas Rupke.
Oxford, 322 pp., £22.50, September 1983, 0 19 822907 0
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... In the concluding essay of an adventurous collection, Stephen Jay Gould observes that most ‘classic stories’ in science are wrong. There are good reasons why he is right. In their reconstruction of the past, practising scientists have been apt to celebrate the insight of those who anticipated their own ideas, tacitly dismissing those who were blind to where the future would lie ...

Putting on the Plum

Christopher Tayler: Richard Flanagan

31 October 2002
Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish 
by Richard Flanagan.
Atlantic, 404 pp., £16.99, June 2002, 1 84354 021 5
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... a dilapidated book. He steals it, reads it, and becomes obsessed. This book is the manuscript of Gould’s Book of Fish, which immediately announces itself as something special. Its binding emits a supernatural glow, and – rather like Borges’s ominous ‘Book of Sand’ – its contents don’t seem to end: ‘each time I opened the Book of Fish what ...

Suppose the Archduke had ducked

Andrew Berry: Game theory and human evolution

7 September 2000
Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny 
by Robert Wright.
Little, Brown, 435 pp., £22.50, March 2000, 0 316 64485 4
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... Herbert Spencer’s death, Beatrice Webb, who had known him well, referred to him as Darwin’s John the Baptist. Spencer would have relished the description, which is in many ways appropriate: he coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ and was responsible for popularising the term ‘evolution’. Indeed, his adherence to evolution, ‘a profession ...

Going Against

Frank Kermode: Is There a Late Style?

5 October 2006
On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain 
by Edward Said.
Bloomsbury, 176 pp., £16.99, April 2006, 9780747583653
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Late Thoughts: Reflections on Artists and Composers at Work 
edited by Karen Painter and Thomas Crow.
Getty, 235 pp., $40, August 2006, 0 89236 813 6
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... music), would not have approved, so Said here listens instead to another of his heroes, Glenn Gould. Gould was a serious admirer of Strauss, whom he praised for employing ‘the fullest riches of late romantic tonality’. But Said is interested also in an affinity the composer exploits between the present time and the ...

Ideologues

Peter Pulzer

20 February 1986
The Redefinition of Conservatism: Politics and Doctrine 
by Charles Covell.
Macmillan, 267 pp., £27.50, January 1986, 0 333 38463 6
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Thinkers of the New Left 
by Roger Scruton.
Longman, 227 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 582 90273 8
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The Idea of Liberalism: Studies for a New Map of Politics 
by George Watson.
Macmillan, 172 pp., £22.50, November 1985, 0 333 38754 6
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Socialism and Freedom 
by Bryan Gould.
Macmillan, 109 pp., £25, November 1985, 0 333 40580 3
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... Party a divergent, indeed an almost totally dissonant, perception of what socialism means. Bryan Gould, who used to be on the left of the Labour Party and sits for the ‘safe’ constituency of Dagenham (Labour vote 39 per cent, compared with 76 per cent in 1966), asks why his constituents, mostly council tenants, car workers or public sector ...

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