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Always a Diet Coke

Jason Brown, 16 March 2000

Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age 
by John Jakle and Keith Sculle.
Johns Hopkins, 394 pp., £27, January 2000, 0 8018 6109 8
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... When I eat at McDonald’s, it’s because I’ve lapsed into a fugue state brought on by nostalgia for my 1970s childhood. Or simply resorted to an act of roadside desperation. Driving on the highway in America is like flying economy class: you take your own food or suffer the consequences. Fast food can easily stand for all that is wrong with America, but that is not the way John Jakle, a professor of geography, and Keith Sculle, a professor of history, see it ...

Beware Bad Smells

Hugh Pennington: Florence Nightingale, 4 December 2008

Florence Nightingale: The Woman and Her Legend 
by Mark Bostridge.
Viking, 646 pp., £25, October 2008, 978 0 670 87411 8
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... enterprise has not failed to show itself in the most favourable light. Thus in the Crimea Uncle John has carried his railroads with him, and the locomotive is used there to wheel up shot, shell and other implements of war … from the camp in the Crimea, to the War Office in London, the Commander in Chief now reports direct the state of the siege every few ...

Diary

Julian Barnes: On the Booker, 12 November 1987

... whole event in some sane perspective? They cannot retreat into a grand carelessness until they are John le Carré or John Fowles. They might begin, however, by running through the list of previous winners and working out how many of the last 19 would feature in any ‘true’ list of Top 19 Novels 1969-87. They might observe ...

Making My Moan

Irina Dumitrescu: Medieval Smut, 7 May 2020

Obscene Pedagogies: Transgressive Talk and Sexual Education in Late Medieval Britain 
by Carissa Harris.
Cornell, 306 pp., £36, December 2018, 978 1 5017 3040 5
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... from contemporary events, most notably the case of the footballers Ched Evans and Clayton McDonald, who were accused of rape (Evans was convicted, had his conviction quashed and was acquitted on retrial), and Trump’s ‘Grab ’em by the pussy’ interview. These examples testify to the enduring structures of power that enable sexual violence, but ...

Money Man

Michael Neill: Shakespeare in Company, 6 February 2014

Shakespeare in Company 
by Bart van Es.
Oxford, 357 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 0 19 956931 1
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... with easy pleasures and made … playgoers work harder than they had ever worked before’. Citing John Aubrey’s image of a reclusive playwright who was never ‘a company keeper’, Shapiro insists that the business of biography is not to attempt to recover ‘Shakespeare in love’ but rather to discover ‘Shakespeare at work’. As its recasting of ...

Smirk Host Panegyric

Robert Potts: J.H. Prynne, 2 June 2016

Poems 
by J.H. Prynne.
Bloodaxe, 688 pp., £25, April 2015, 978 1 78037 154 2
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... It is the fate​ of some artists,’ John Ashbery once remarked, ‘and perhaps the best ones, to pass from unacceptability to acceptance without an intervening period of appreciation.’ For a long time – more than forty years in fact – there seemed no danger that this fate would befall J.H. Prynne: take him or leave him, it didn’t seem possible that he’d ever be acceptable ...

The Hell out of Dodge

Jeremy Harding: Woodstock 1969, 15 August 2019

Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music 
by Michael Lang.
Reel Art Press, 289 pp., £44.95, July 2019, 978 1 909526 62 4
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... also billed, alongside veterans from the founding festival: Santana, David Crosby, Country Joe McDonald, the remains of the Grateful Dead, Canned Heat and others. But Lang’s fifty-up began to unravel when his top-dog investor, the Japanese digicoms company Dentsu Aegis, announced from its London HQ that it was pulling out. Like many ageing music ...

Diary

Anne Enright: Mrs Robinson Repents, 28 January 2010

... shaming. ‘I denounce you as the Antichrist,’ he shouted, in the European Parliament, at Pope John Paul II. ‘Harlot’ was also a favourite, but this was rarely applied to an actual woman, being reserved for the Church of Rome. The same applied to ‘whore’, as in, ‘of Babylon’. The purity, in this uncracked patriarchy, of their own women, was a ...

Social Policy

Ralf Dahrendorf, 3 July 1980

Understanding Social Policy 
by Michael Hill.
Blackwell, 280 pp., £12, April 1980, 0 631 18170 9
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Poverty and Inequality in Common Market Countries 
edited by Vic George and Roger Lawson.
Routledge, 253 pp., £9.50, April 1980, 0 7100 0424 9
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Planning for Welfare: Social Policy and the Expenditure Process 
edited by Timothy Booth.
Blackwell, 208 pp., £12, November 1980, 0 631 19560 2
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The City and Social Theory 
by Michael Peter Smith.
Blackwell, 315 pp., £12, April 1980, 9780631121510
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The Good City: A Study of Urban Development and Policy in Britain 
by David Donnison.
Heinemann, 221 pp., £4.95, April 1980, 0 435 85217 5
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The Economics of Prosperity: Social Priorities in the Eighties 
by David Blake and Paul Ormerod.
Grant Mclntyre, 230 pp., £3.95, April 1980, 0 86216 013 8
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... when it deals with the world at large. The sentence in the chapter on the military budget, by John Blackaby, is surely a candidate for the saying of the year: ‘The Soviet Union is a long way away.’ To recommend, on the one hand, a systematic violation of the Treaty of Rome by an import surcharge, and, on the other, the permanent vetoing of ...

‘My God was bigger than his’

Colin Kidd: The Republicans, 4 November 2004

The Right Nation: Why America Is Different 
by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge.
Allen Lane, 450 pp., £14.99, August 2004, 0 7139 9738 9
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Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet 
by James Mann.
Penguin, 448 pp., $16, September 2004, 0 14 303489 8
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Nixon’s Shadow: The History of an Image 
by David Greenberg.
Norton, 496 pp., £9.99, November 2004, 0 393 32616 0
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America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism 
by Anatol Lieven.
HarperCollins, 274 pp., £18.99, October 2004, 0 00 716456 4
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... also provoke a degree of puzzlement, as much on the right as on the left. In The Right Nation, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, two centre-right journalists who work on the Economist, ask why only 54 per cent of voters earning over $100,000 a year voted for Bush in 2000. Why does the party of big business, deregulation and tax-cutting engender less ...

The Tangible Page

Leah Price: Books as Things, 31 October 2002

The Book History Reader 
edited by David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery.
Routledge, 390 pp., £17.99, November 2001, 0 415 22658 9
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Making Meaning: ‘Printers of the Mind’ and Other Essays 
by D.F. McKenzie, edited by Peter D. McDonald and Michael F. Suarez.
Massachusetts, 296 pp., £20.95, June 2002, 1 55849 336 0
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... History Reader privileges empirical case studies over theoretical generalisation, omitting the John Sutherland who composed the polemic ‘Publishing History: A Hole at the Centre of Literary Sociology’ in favor of the John Sutherland who compiled ‘The Victorian Novelists: Who Were They?’ – a question he answers ...

A Bit Like Gulliver

Stephanie Burt: Seamus Heaney’s Seamus Heaney, 11 June 2009

Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney 
by Dennis O’Driscoll.
Faber, 524 pp., £22.50, November 2008, 978 0 571 24252 8
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The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney 
edited by Bernard O’Donoghue.
Cambridge, 239 pp., £45, December 2008, 978 0 521 54755 0
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... during the 1970s, when holidays brought together the Heaneys, the Hammonds, Deane, Brian Friel and John Hume; there is a book to be written about those summers and their consequences, in politics and in the arts. But Heaney’s debts to music pre-date Hammond, and extend far beyond his example. A blind musician, Rosie Keenan (remembered in the poem ‘At the ...

Let us breakfast in splendour

Charles Nicholl: Francis Barber, 16 July 2015

The Fortunes of Francis Barber: The True Story of the Jamaican Slave Who Became Samuel Johnson’s Heir 
by Michael Bundock.
Yale, 282 pp., £20, May 2015, 978 0 300 20710 1
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... without exception he is spoken of with affection, or anyway approval. The chief exception is Sir John Hawkins, the author of the first proper biography of Johnson (published in 1787, four years before Boswell’s), and also the man for whom Johnson invented the word ‘unclubbable’ (a nice way of saying he was a crusty old snob who seldom had a good word ...

White Power

Thomas Meaney, 1 August 2019

Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America 
by Kathleen Belew.
Harvard, 330 pp., £23.95, April 2018, 978 0 674 28607 8
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Revolutionaries for the Right Anti-Communist Internationalism and Paramilitary Warfare in the Cold War 
by Kyle Burke.
North Carolina, 337 pp., June 2018, 978 1 4696 4073 0
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... which led some to gravitate toward the fringes of American society both left and right. John Rambo, for his part, did both. In First Blood (1982), Sylvester Stallone’s character is a ‘half-German, half-Indian’ veteran, traumatised by the war, who arrives in a small town to pay his respects to a black comrade killed by exposure to Agent ...

A Time for War

Peter Clarke, 21 October 1982

The Rebirth of Britain 
edited by Wayland Kennet.
Weidenfeld, 275 pp., £12, October 1982, 0 297 78177 4
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Claret and Chips 
by Hugh Stephenson.
Joseph, 201 pp., £8.95, September 1982, 0 7181 2204 6
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... the origins of the Labour Party, entwined with the achievements of Keir Hardie and Ramsay McDonald, and appraising the fate of the New Liberalism, as it unfolded in the era of Asquith and Lloyd George, had served to open their minds to the historic frailty as well as the inherent strength of Labour’s position. In looking at the displacement of the ...

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