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Back to Byzantium

John Thompson, 22 January 1981

Destinations 
by Jan Morris.
Oxford, 242 pp., £7.95, July 1980, 0 19 502708 6
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The Venetian Empire 
by Jan Morris.
Faber, 192 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 9780571099368
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... There’s a jet on the cover of Destinations, soaring silently above New York, bathed in the rosy, gauzy haze of a dawn sun. The serenity of it all is deceptive, because Jan Morris is screaming in on a special assignment from Rolling Stone. Her collection of essays touches down in a quick succession of trouble-torn areas – India in the Emergency, post-Watergate Washington, Southern Africa, Panama, even London with its National Front marches – then screams off again for a further twenty culturally-absorbent pages elsewhere ...

Ideal Speech

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 19 November 1981

Hegel contra Sociology 
by Gillian Rose.
Athlone, 261 pp., £18, May 1981, 0 485 11214 0
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The Political Philosophy of the Frankfurt School 
by George Friedman.
Cornell, 312 pp., £9.50, February 1981, 9780801412790
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Metacritique 
by Garbis Kortian, translated by John Raffan.
Cambridge, 134 pp., £12.50, August 1980, 0 631 12779 8
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The Idea of a Critical Theory 
by Raymond Geuss.
Cambridge, 99 pp., £10, December 1981, 0 521 24072 7
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The Politics of Social Theory 
by Russell Keat.
Blackwell, 245 pp., £12.50, August 1981, 0 631 12779 8
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Critical Hermeneutics 
by John Thompson.
Cambridge, 257 pp., £17.50, September 1981, 9780521239325
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Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences 
by Paul Ricoeur, translated by John Thompson.
Cambridge, 314 pp., £20, September 1981, 0 521 23497 2
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... It is a formidable test, and although the sun often goes in behind his prose, Kortian meets it. John Thompson also reaches back and does so to reach forward again. He goes back not to Kant or Fichte or Hegel or Marx but back, and a little sideways, to Wittgenstein: Wittgenstein the genitor of the view that an analysis of the rules of language use ...

Absent Framers

Andreas Teuber, 31 March 1988

... to the text may not have been so different from that of an author like Jane Austen who, in John Bayley’s words, ‘set her characters going to see what they might do’, or Pushkin, who in the midst of composing Eugene Onegin wrote to a friend: ‘My Tatiana has gone off and got married. I never would have expected it of her.’ No doubt the drafters ...

Too Proud to Fight

David Reynolds: The ‘Lusitania’ Effect, 28 November 2002

Wilful Murder: The Sinking of the ‘Lusitania’ 
by Diana Preston.
Doubleday, 543 pp., £18.99, May 2002, 0 385 60173 5
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Lusitania: Saga and Myth 
by David Ramsay.
Chatham, 319 pp., £20, September 2001, 1 86176 170 8
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Woodrow Wilson 
by John Thompson.
Longman, 288 pp., £15.99, August 2002, 0 582 24737 3
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... to politics. The son of a Southern Presbyterian minister, he had taught history and politics at Johns Hopkins and Princeton before serving as Princeton’s president from 1902 to 1910. He was almost 54 when he won his first political post as Governor of New Jersey, yet only two years later, in November 1912, he was elected President of the United ...

Memories of Tagore

E.P. Thompson, 22 May 1986

... of Western Orientalism and of Eastern Occidentalism, both of which Tagore confounded. Edward John Thompson (1886-1946) was then an educational missionary at the Wesleyan College at Bankura. He had published several volumes of verse, and was approaching proficiency in Bengali. After a brief meeting in Calcutta, Tagore invited him to visit him at his ...

But she read Freud

Alice Spawls: Flora Thompson, 19 February 2015

Dreams of the Good Life: The Life of Flora Thompson and the Creation of ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ 
by Richard Mabey.
Allen Lane, 208 pp., £9.99, March 2015, 978 0 14 104481 1
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... An outsider​ by birth as well as by disposition, Flora Thompson took solitary pleasure in observing her fellow villagers. She stored away characters and scenes from an early age – the naughty children who pulled her hair, Queenie who spoke to bees, the annual pig killing, May Day, the harvest – but published nothing until she was in her thirties, and nothing on her childhood until her early sixties ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: How to Type like a Man, 10 May 2007

... Cronenberg, Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, J.G. Ballard and Hunter S. Thompson: in other words, men. He says more than once that he’s less interested in typewriters as machines (once upon a time the word also referred to the people, usually women, who used the machines) than in typewriting as discourse. But this is typewriting as ...

John Homer’s Odyssey

Claude Rawson, 9 January 1992

Customs in Common 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin, 547 pp., £25, October 1991, 0 85036 411 6
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... Edward Thompson’s Customs in Common is described as a ‘companion volume’ to his The Making of the English Working Class, and rises to the occasion. It has the wide range of reference, the densely-textured documentation, a special quality of charged impressionism (sometimes tendentious, more often honourably concerned with generous perspectives and panoramic insight), the embattled moral fervour, which established the earlier book as a classic of historical scholarship and indeed of English letters ...

The Ruling Exception

David Cannadine, 16 August 1990

Queen Victoria: Gender and Power 
by Dorothy Thompson.
Virago, 167 pp., £6.99, May 1990, 0 86068 773 2
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... monarchy comparable in scholarly stature to Denis Mack Smith on the Kings of Italy. Dorothy Thompson’s study of Queen Victoria is thus the more to be welcomed, for she is a writer in a very different tradition from such conventional courtly biographers as Elizabeth Longford, Cecil Woodham-Smith and Georgina Battiscombe. She lectures in history at ...

Ashamed of the Planet

Ian Hamilton, 2 March 2000

No Other Book: Selected Essays 
by Randall Jarrell, edited by Brad Leithauser.
HarperCollins, 376 pp., $27.50, June 1999, 0 06 118012 2
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Remembering Randall: A Memoir of Poet, Critic and Teacher Randall Jarrell 
by Mary von Schrader Jarrell.
HarperCollins, 173 pp., $22, June 1999, 0 06 118011 4
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... too early. A full-of-himself student in Nashville in the 1930s, he was taken up by Allen Tate and John Crowe Ransom, and most of his later academic appointments could be traced back to this connection. Not that Jarrell ever felt inclined to gratitude: another of his famous, and most joyous, thrusts as a reviewer was aimed at the vitals of his early Agrarian ...

Diary

Christian Lorentzen: Are books like nappies?, 2 August 2012

... after midnight mice chased each other in sprints across the floor, and you could watch hookers and johns file into a building two blocks south. I pushed the production schedule ahead two months so that we could print the bulk in China and ship them back in a boat, but we printed some in Indiana too. I visited the press in Crawfordsville, the town where in the ...

The Partisan Coffee House

Nicholas Faith, 31 May 2017

... left came in 1957 after the majority of communism’s finest intellects, headed by Edward Thompson and John Saville, quit the Communist Party following the Soviet invasion of Hungary. As the exhibition’s curator, the historian Mike Berlin, explains in the catalogue, the venture ‘deserves to be celebrated. The ...

So it must be for ever

Thomas Meaney: American Foreign Policy, 13 July 2016

American Foreign Policy and Its Thinkers 
by Perry Anderson.
Verso, 244 pp., £14.99, March 2014, 978 1 78168 667 6
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A Sense of Power: The Roots of America’s Global Role 
by John A. Thompson.
Cornell, 343 pp., £19.95, October 2015, 978 0 8014 4789 1
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A Superpower Transformed: The Remaking of American Foreign Relations in the 1970s 
by Daniel J. Sargent.
Oxford, 369 pp., £23.49, January 2015, 978 0 19 539547 1
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... of a German-controlled Europe made such detachment harder to sustain. As the liberal historian John Thompson shows in A Sense of Power, it was neither the threat that the Germans and Japanese posed to the US mainland that drove the country into the war, nor the imperative to secure international markets, since the US economy in the 1940s was ...
The Aristocracy in England, 1660-1914 
by J.V. Beckett.
Blackwell, 512 pp., £22.50, September 1986, 0 631 13391 7
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... undignified and unnatural circus tricks. At the end of this formidable survey of the aristocracy John Beckett notes that they have survived into the late 20th century ‘as protectors of the nation’s heritage’ and that some ‘even argue that as collectors of beautiful objects over time their families were thinking not merely of self-interest but of the ...

Pulp

Scott Bradfield, 14 December 1995

Jim Thompson Omnibus: The Getaway, The Killer inside Me, The Grifters, Pop. 1280 
Picador, 570 pp., £7.99, November 1995, 3 303 34288 1Show More
Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson 
by Robert Polito.
Knopf, 543 pp., $30, October 1995, 0 394 58407 4
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... Jim Thompson never actually claimed to write capital-L Literature, but today, nearly twenty years after his death, many of his admirers are making the claim for him. Born in a sheriff’s apartment over the Caddo County Jail in Oklahoma in 1906, Thompson, like many good American boys, grew up to be a lot like his father ...

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