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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Project Nim’, ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ , 8 September 2011

Project Nim 
directed by James Marsh.
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Rise of the Planet of the Apes 
directed by Rupert Wyatt.
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... sequence of apes infesting San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge on their way to take over the redwood forest, but it lingers for a very long time on the dilemma that is the precise theme of Project Nim. Nim Chimpsky was a chimpanzee brought up from birth in a human family, playing with the children and the dog, being breastfed by the mother, and ...

Fear in Those Blue Eyes

David Runciman: Thatcher in Her Bubble, 3 December 2015

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography Vol. II: Everything She Wants 
by Charles Moore.
Allen Lane, 821 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 7139 9288 5
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... Like all the best whodunnits, it is a slow burner. A group of clever young men – Oliver Letwin, John Redwood, William Waldegrave, among others – gather in various restaurants and country house hotels to bat around ideas for reforming the financing of local governance, encouraged and provoked by their mentor, Lord Rothschild. They were much clearer ...

Where the Apples Come From

T.C. Smout: What Makes an Oak Tree Grow, 29 November 2007

by Oliver Rackham.
Collins, 609 pp., £25, September 2006, 0 00 720243 1
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Beechcombings: The Narratives of Trees 
by Richard Mabey.
Chatto, 289 pp., £20, October 2007, 978 1 85619 733 5
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Wildwood: A Journey through Trees 
by Roger Deakin.
Hamish Hamilton, 391 pp., £20, May 2007, 978 0 241 14184 7
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The Wild Trees: What if the Last Wilderness Is above Our Heads? 
by Richard Preston.
Allen Lane, 294 pp., £20, August 2007, 978 1 84614 023 5
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... century, with being one of the first writers to praise the loveliness of trees. This won’t do. John Evelyn, a century before, had spoken of beeches making ‘spreading trees and noble shades with their well-furnish’d and glistering leaves’, and also of Xerxes’ admiration of the plane: ‘that so beautiful and precious tree’. Timothy Pont, at the ...


Stephen Sharp: The ‘Belgrano’ and Me, 8 May 2014

... didn’t answer my other questions didn’t make me doubt for one minute he could read my mind. John Gavin who played Sam in Psycho was Reagan’s ambassador to Mexico. Psycho was the first Hollywood film to show a toilet flush. Encopresis is another mental illness I suffered from. It involves farting. The initials of the history student, now a ...

Omnipresent Eye

Patrick Wright: The Nixon/Mao Show, 16 August 2007

Seize the Hour: When Nixon Met Mao 
by Margaret MacMillan.
Murray, 384 pp., £25, October 2006, 0 7195 6522 7
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... what took place at Beijing airport on Monday, 21 February 1972. It’s also the opening scene of John Adams’s opera Nixon in China, premiered in Houston in 1987, and staged again at the London Coliseum over a few evenings last summer. An actual occurrence then, but also, as Adams and his librettist Alice Coleman understood, a brightly lit performance with ...

Scary Dad

J. Robert Lennon, 10 May 2018

My Absolute Darling 
by Gabriel Tallent.
Fourth Estate, 432 pp., £12.99, August 2017, 978 0 00 818521 3
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by Fiona Mozley.
John Murray, 311 pp., £8.99, March 2018, 978 1 4736 7649 7
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... we will eventually learn is Mendocino, a tiny town in northern California surrounded by cliffs and redwood forests. We realise on the very first page that we are in the Weathered Americana school of fiction: an old house, climbing roses and peeling paint; bullet-riddled sheet metal and spent shell casings; a pickup truck, flannel, a pair of Levi’s. (The word ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1995, 4 January 1996

... Smith Institute for the Criminally Insane, banging the same drum in the Independent. Not long ago John Bird and John Fortune did a sketch about the privatisation of air. These days it scarcely seems unthinkable. 28 February. There have been football riots in Bruges, where Chelsea have been playing, with, responsible for ...

The Magic Bloomschtick

Colin Burrow: Harold Bloom, 21 November 2019

The American Canon: Literary Genius from Emerson to Pynchon 
by Harold Bloom, edited by David Mikics.
Library of America, 426 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 1 59853 640 9
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... editor had taken a blue pencil to Whitman’s typically over-expansive line in the ‘Song of the Redwood Tree’, ‘A chorus of dryads, fading, departing, or hamadryads departing’, even if it seems unlikely that Eliot drowned Uncle Walt full fathom five in Phlebas the Phoenician, or tilled his blood into his rose garden. Bloom’s American canon does not ...

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