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On the Turn

Clive Wilmer, 22 June 2000

Collected Shorter Poems: 1966-96 
by John Peck.
Carcanet, 424 pp., £14.95, April 1999, 1 85754 161 8
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... a kinship with that Ezra Pound are likely to be ignored. This is the case with the American poet John Peck, who, now in his late fifties, with a massive and challenging achievement behind him and the devotion of an active British publisher, is unknown not only to general readers but to those who think they know about modern poetry. To be strictly ...

Kingdoms of Paper

Natalie Zemon Davis: Identity and Faking It, 18 October 2007

Who Are You? Identification, Deception and Surveillance in Early Modern Europe 
by Valentin Groebner, translated by Mark Kyburz and John Peck.
Zone, 349 pp., £18.95, April 2007, 978 1 890951 72 6
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... Identity documents certainly served Reuveni’s purposes: a papal letter of recommendation to John III, the king of Portugal, when Clement VII decided not to help him further; a letter of safe conduct into Portugal (whose Jews had been forcibly converted or expelled some years before); and a royal letter of safe conduct out of the kingdom once ...

Nothing but the Present

Lorna Scott Fox, 23 May 1996

The Law of Enclosures 
by Dale Peck.
Chatto, 287 pp., £15.99, February 1996, 0 7011 6160 4
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... The first thing the literary world noticed about Dale Peck was his youth. Now 28, he produced the harrowing Martin and John (attractively published in Britain as Fucking Martin) at 25. Why do we expect so little of the (not all that) young? Peck’s sophistication needs no excuse or applause on those grounds ...

On the Money

John Hartley Williams, 9 March 2006

... was squeaky in a bonnet. She handed me Excalibur (a replica). I stuck it on the wall. The bills peck daily through the door – they give no quarter – but I riposte with inky flourishes: a demon of the notepad. We camp here on an edge beside a hole inside a ...

We must burn them

Hazel V. Carby: Against the Origin Story, 26 May 2022

The 1619 Project: A New American Origin Story 
edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones.
W.H. Allen, 624 pp., £25, November 2021, 978 0 7535 5953 6
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Exterminate All the Brutes 
directed by Raoul Peck.
HBO, April 2021
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... as it then existed, but sought its radical transformation.Exterminate​ All the Brutes, Raoul Peck’s four-part film, situates the emergence of the land that would become the United States within an account of the global ambitions of European imperialism, using its ideologies and praxis of domination to organise the narrative: civilisation, colonisation ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Telly, 9 August 2001

... Bloomsbury have sent out the first publicity pack for Kenneth Tynan’s diaries, edited by John Lahr, which are to be published in October. Among the slogans (‘Think Alan Clark meets Alan Bennett’ – no, don’t) and the paraphernalia (a padlock and key) is a pamphlet of highlights. A good many of the selected entries concern spanking, and a good many others are anecdotes about Hemingway, Dietrich, Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Miles Davis, Gregory Peck, but it’s not all like that ...

The Greatest Geek

Richard Barnett: Nikola Tesla, 5 February 2015

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age 
by W. Bernard Carlson.
Princeton, 520 pp., £19.95, April 2015, 978 0 691 05776 7
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... Alfred Brown, a senior official in the Western Union telegraph company, and the lawyer Charles Peck – who helped him to become a major force in the War of the Currents. Impressed by his capability and charisma, Brown and Peck went into partnership with him. They would put up the money for a workshop; Tesla would build ...

Well, duh

Dale Peck, 18 July 1996

Infinite Jest 
by David Foster Wallace.
Little, Brown, 1079 pp., £17.99, July 1996, 0 316 92004 5
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... and they do keep cropping up. I think there’s more than a little Pynchon floating around John Kennedy Toole, whose A Confederacy of Dunces is a book nearly as bloated as its protagonist; Don DeLillo’s social, um, satires owe more than a little to Pynchon’s work; and in a recent essay in Harper’s magazine the young novelist Jonathan Franzen ...

In the Box

Dale Peck, 6 February 1997

How Stella Got Her Groove Back 
by Terry McMillan.
Viking, 368 pp., £16, September 1996, 0 670 86990 2
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by Sapphire.
Secker, 142 pp., £7.99, September 1996, 0 436 20291 3
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The Autobiography of My Mother 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Vintage, 228 pp., £8.99, September 1996, 0 09 973841 4
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... of new schools of literature has become a given, a plot point in a narrative as familiar as a John Grisham thriller or a Danielle Steel romance: somewhere, ‘out there’, a few writers are preparing the ‘next big thing’, and these writers will ‘unexpectedly emerge’, usually at a time when critics are bemoaning the lack of fresh talent on the ...

Rotten, Wicked, Tyrannical

Bernard Porter: The Meek Assassin, 5 July 2012

Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister 
by Andro Linklater.
Bloomsbury, 296 pp., £18.99, May 2012, 978 1 4088 2840 3
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... is the only British prime minister ever to have been assassinated? But both he and his nemesis, John Bellingham, are more interesting than this implies, and the fatal act that brought them together, Andro Linklater thinks, is more significant and also more mysterious. They have been the subject of two previous books, by Mollie Gillen (1972) and David ...

Extreme Gothic Americana

James Lasdun, 6 June 2019

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee 
by Casey Cep.
Heinemann, 314 pp., £20, May 2019, 978 1 78515 073 9
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... the reverend submitted insurance claims on his nephew to the Beneficial National, the Vulcan, the John Hancock and the World Wide insurance companies. The reverend, who was black, was assisted in his macabre actuarial pursuits, as well as in his legal battles, by a white lawyer called Tom Radney. Exploiting the vulnerabilities of an insurance industry that in ...

Playboy’s Paperwork

Patrick Collinson: Historiography and Elizabethan politics, 11 November 1999

The World of the Favourite 
edited by J.H. Elliott and L.W.B. Brockliss.
Yale, 320 pp., £35, June 1999, 0 300 07644 4
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The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: The Political Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1585-97 
by Paul Hammer.
Cambridge, 468 pp., £45, June 1999, 0 521 43485 8
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... had been at least part of the inspiration for a book by one of the editors of this volume, John Elliott: his Richelieu and Olivares (1984). For all that this volume is produced with the lavishness we have come to expect from Yale University Press, with no less than 74 illustrations, most of them portraits of 37 ‘favourites’ and of the monarchs they ...

Tacky Dress

Dale Peck, 22 February 1996

Like People in History: A Gay American Epic 
by Felice Picano.
Viking, 512 pp., $23.95, July 1995, 0 670 86047 6
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How Long Has This Been Going On? 
by Ethan Mordden.
Villard, 590 pp., $25, April 1995, 0 679 41529 7
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The Facts of Life 
by Patrick Gale.
Flamingo, 511 pp., £15.99, June 1995, 0 602 24522 2
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Flesh and Blood 
by Michael Cunningham.
Hamish Hamilton, 480 pp., £14.99, June 1995, 9780241135150
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... cool luminous reportage that reminds one of the work of our more storied essayists, Joan Didion or John McPhee. In the past few years the incidence of these big books has increased rapidly: three years ago, Christopher Bram published his Washington tale, Almost History; in 1994, Laura Argiri’s 19th-century melodrama The God in Flight came out, along with ...

Who killed Alison Shaughnessy?

Bob Woffinden, 3 December 1992

... had a number of early leads, and also a hunch about Michelle Taylor. Michelle worked alongside John Shaughnessy, Alison’s husband, at the Churchill Clinic in Lambeth, and the police quickly picked up the gossip about an affair between them. For some weeks, however, the hunch didn’t seem to be leading anywhere. The police were in the process of dealing ...

On wanting to be a diner not a dish

P.N. Furbank, 3 December 1992

The Rituals of Dinner 
by Margaret Visser.
Viking, 432 pp., £17.99, September 1992, 0 670 84701 1
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... illumination, of the kind Visser’s book is full of. At the Last Supper, as we know, the apostle John lies ‘on Jesus’s breast’, but it seems we need not take this as any sign of special affection. Diners at a Jewish banquet would recline close together on a couch for two, each of them raised on his left elbow; and accordingly, to address one’s ...

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