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Incandescences

Richard Poirier, 20 December 1979

The Powers that Be 
by David Halberstam.
Chatto, 771 pp., £9.95
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... including Life, owned by Henry Luce; the Washington Post and Newsweek, run by Philip and then by Kay Graham; and the Chandler family’s Los Angeles Times. Beginning in the Thirties with President Roosevelt, who, more than any President before him, manipulated the newspapers and the new possibilities of radio (which President Hoover seldom used), the book is ...

Waving

Anthony Thwaite, 27 October 1988

Stevie Smith: A Critical Biography 
by Frances Spalding.
Faber, 331 pp., £15, October 1988, 0 571 15207 4
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... In a long tape-recorded conversation she had with Kay Dick in November 1970 (the best source for the flavour of her speech), Stevie Smith remarked: I’m straightforward but I’m not simple ... In some ways I’m romantic but my basic root is profoundly sensible – profoundly sensible. About everything. There is a balance; I am aware of a balance ...

Vita Longa

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 1 December 1983

Vita: The Life of V. Sackville-West 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Weidenfeld, 430 pp., £12.50, September 1983, 0 297 78306 8
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... never ceased to love her from that moment.’ The person who said that was known as Christopher St John, though her real name was Christabel Marshall. We know how she felt about the object of her passion, Vita Sackville-West, because she kept a ‘love-journal’ in Vita’s honour. Miss Sackville-West, who had recently (and most unusually) been abandoned by ...

Not Telling

Ronan Bennett, 23 September 1993

The Blue Afternoon 
by William Boyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 324 pp., £14.99, September 1993, 1 85619 366 7
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... is primarily a storyteller, and has never been shy of letting us know it. In The New Confessions John James Todd speaks confidentially to the reader: ‘Anyway, I digress. Let me tell you something about this enterprise upon which we have both – you and I – embarked. Here is the story of a life. My life ... If on occasion I have used some innocent ...

Karl Miller Remembered

Neal Ascherson, John Lanchester and Andrew O’Hagan, 23 October 2014

... editorial office was one small book-and-paper-suffocated room, with four of us in it: Karl, Mary-Kay Wilmers, Susannah Clapp and me. Even that staffing level sounds more lavish than it was, because Karl split his time with his other job as Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London, about a ten-minute walk away. This was ...

Diary

Mary-Kay Wilmers: The Menopause, 10 October 1991

... makes Léa give Chéri up for a biologically-appropriate wife. ‘Men,’ man-in-the-news Iron John Bly reports, ‘are more lonesome in every generation.’ In the last few days, as I’ve been getting more and more inflamed in my thoughts about the human (i.e. female, i.e. menopausal) condition, I’ve been hearing a lot about how hard it is being a man ...

Diary

Mary-Kay Wilmers: Karl Miller Remembered, 9 October 2014

... The LRB became a paper in its own right in May 1980, when the first independent issue appeared. (John Lanchester will write about Karl and the LRB in the next issue.) For all its genius Karl’s Listener was still a conventional London weekly, though affiliated to the BBC, rather than a political entity of one sort or another. The LRB is more sedate (no ...

Ambifacts

Gary Taylor, 7 January 1993

Shakespeare: The Later Years 
by Russell Fraser.
Columbia, 380 pp., $35, April 1992, 0 231 06766 6
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Shakespeare: His Life, Work and Era 
by Dennis Kay.
Sidgwick, 368 pp., £20, May 1992, 0 283 99878 4
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William Shakespeare: The Anatomy of an Enigma 
by Peter Razzell.
Caliban, 188 pp., May 1992, 1 85066 010 7
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Politics, Plague and Shakespeare’s Theatre: The Stuart Years 
by Leeds Barroll.
Cornell, 249 pp., £20.80, January 1992, 0 8014 2479 8
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Shakespeare Verbatim: The Reproduction of Authenticity and the 1790 Apparatus 
by Margreta de Grazia.
Oxford, 244 pp., £30, February 1991, 0 19 811778 7
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... or deepen my grasp of human possibility, as in their different ways the history of Thomas More or John Milton does. The extant marks of Shakespeare’s mortal passage don’t tell us anything we don’t already know about the world or the human. The works – various and ambiguous as they are – tell us something about both; the life doesn’t. Instead, far ...

Brotherly Love

Susan Pedersen: Down and Out in Victorian London, 31 March 2005

Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London 
by Seth Koven.
Princeton, 399 pp., £19.95, September 2004, 0 691 11592 3
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... who monitored the baths and assigned sleeping places, and the young and depraved pauper ‘Kay’ – even found themselves propelled onto the music hall stage or living a ghostly afterlife in fiction and verse. Traces of Greenwood’s prose and characters can still be heard in Orwell’s ‘down and out’ accounts, written more than fifty years ...

God’s Iceberg

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 4 December 1986

The ‘ Titanic’: The Full Story of a Tragedy 
by Michael Davie.
Bodley Head, 244 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 9780370307640
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The IT Girls: Elinor Glyn and Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon 
by Meredith Etherington-Smith and Jeremy Pilcher.
Hamish Hamilton, 258 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11950 2
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... on in their cabin, and the electric heater – so that it ‘would be warm on our return’. John Thayer, a young neighbour of the Eustis’s in Pennsylvania, shared a suite of rooms with his parents. After the impact, which he noticed hardly at all (‘if I had had a brimful glass of water in my hand not a drop would have been spilled’), he told them ...

Diary

Christopher Hadley: The Lake Taupo Stamp, 18 September 1997

... was quite sure he had no brother or any friends or relatives in New Zealand. In 1991 Bridger and Kay hosted an auction in Guernsey. The Lake Taupo was Lot 624 and failed to sell in the room, but it’s widely believed that it was bought privately by someone after that sale, and has been in the same hands ever since. The following year Stanley Gibbons ...

Diary

Tom Crewe: The Queen and I, 1 August 2019

... like a moth beating against a bulb, briefly altering the light. In 1832, Carlyle reviewed John Wilson Croker’s new edition of Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson, and emphasised, as Hermione Lee has noted, how biography, by recording ‘many a little Reality’, can make the reader see the world as it existed around the central figure, its depths and ...

How Shall We Repaint the Kitchen?

Ian Hacking: The Colour Red, 1 November 2007

Cognitive Variations: Reflections on the Unity and Diversity of the Human Mind 
by G.E.R. Lloyd.
Oxford, 201 pp., £27.50, April 2007, 978 0 19 921461 7
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... had the classic Germans before him; Alexander von Humboldt came more readily to his mind than John Locke did. The issues between us, Leibniz said of Locke, are matters of some importance; he referred to Plato the good guy and Aristotle, not so good. Many of the nature/nurture arguments seem also to recapitulate the scholastic Christian and Muslim problem ...

What if you hadn’t been home

Mary-Kay Wilmers: Joan Didion, 3 November 2011

Blue Nights 
by Joan Didion.
Fourth Estate, 188 pp., £14.99, November 2011, 978 0 00 743289 9
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... wedding anniversary. Joan Didion’s daughter, Quintana Roo, was married at the Cathedral of St John the Divine on Amsterdam Avenue in New York in 2003. Dates are important. In a writer as fastidious as Didion they carry a lot of weight. Detail matters too, sometimes more than the main thing, or instead of it: Seven years ago today we took the leis from ...

The Great Scots Education Hoax

Rosalind Mitchison, 18 October 1984

The Companion to Gaelic Scotland 
edited by Derick Thomson.
Blackwell, 363 pp., £25, December 1983, 0 631 12502 7
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Experience and Enlightenment: Socialisation for Cultural Changes in 18th-Century Scotland 
by Charles Camic.
Edinburgh, 301 pp., £20, January 1984, 0 85224 483 5
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Knee Deep in Claret: A Celebration of Wine and Scotland 
by Billy Kay and Cailean Maclean.
Mainstream, 232 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 906391 45 8
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Education and Opportunity in Victorian Scotland: Schools and Universities 
by R.D. Anderson.
Oxford, 384 pp., £25, July 1983, 0 19 822696 9
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Scotland: The Real Divide 
edited by Gordon Brown and Robin Cook.
Mainstream, 251 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 906391 18 0
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Wealth and Virtue: The Shaping of Political Economy in the Scottish Enlightenment 
edited by Istvan Hont and Michael Ignatieff.
Cambridge, 371 pp., £35, November 1983, 0 521 23397 6
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... substantial minority under 18th-century mortality levels. At some point in their lives Adam Smith, John Miller, William Robertson and David Hume began to question the theology in which they had been reared: Camic is convinced that ‘their revolution was a union of circumstances’ – in other words, that it was their rearing which freed them for it. That ...

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