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Maughamisms

Elizabeth Mavor

18 July 1985
A Traveller in Romance 
by W. Somerset Maugham, edited by John Whitehead.
Muller, Blond and White, 275 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 85634 184 3
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... I’, declares a mysterious character in one of the short sketches that makes up this collection of fugitive pieces, ‘am a Traveller in Romance.’ It does not seem an apt title for Somerset Maugham, for apart from a passing whim to end his days at Angkor Wat, he strikes one as very little tinged with romance. He describes himself as ‘more inclined to look forward than to look back’, as having ...

Elephant Tears

James Macdonald: Goldman Sachs

3 November 2011
Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World 
by William Cohan.
Allen Lane, 658 pp., £25, 9781846144547
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... at risk. This time it was saved by the huge real estate assets of the railroad, which yielded a decent return to creditors when they were sold. Levy died suddenly in 1976, and Sidney Weinberg’s son John took over as senior partner with JohnWhitehead. Both were investment bankers rather than traders, and it was Whitehead who attempted to carve in stone the firm’s code of business practice with his ...

Plummeting Deep into Cold Pop

Zachary Leader: Colson Whitehead

13 December 2001
John​ Henry Days 
by Colson Whitehead.
Fourth Estate, 389 pp., £12, June 2001, 1 84115 569 1
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... Colson Whitehead’s first novel, The Intuitionist (1999), won several prizes and extravagant praise from American critics. Whitehead is black and comparisons were made to Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison and Ishmael Reed. John Updike has called him ‘blithely gifted’, ‘the young African-American writer to watch’. Whitehead’s ...

Third World

Frank Kermode

2 March 1989
... 40 can have very little idea of how it felt. What they probably feel sure of is that the Third reeked of the Forties and Fifities, a monument to the deluded cultural presuppositions of its day. Kate Whitehead, who is now a Radio Four producer – to judge by her book, a shrewd choice of channel – hit upon the Third as a topic for research in institutional history.* Her prose, efficiently trawling the ...

Ghost Artists

J.I.M. Stewart

18 December 1980
The Case of the Philosophers’ Ring by Dr John​ H. Watson 
by Randall Collins.
Harvester, 152 pp., £6.95, September 1980, 0 85527 458 1
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... A good many years ago the late Sir John Masterman, when Provost of Worcester College, had the idea of creating a species of Sherlock Holmes Apocrypha. He wrote two or three short stories which appeared, I think, in an evening newspaper. I ...

Narco Polo

Iain Sinclair

23 January 1997
Mr Nice: An Autobiography 
by Howard Marks.
Secker, 466 pp., £16.99, September 1996, 0 436 20305 7
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Pulp Election: The Booker Prize Fix 
by Carmen St Keeldare.
Bluedove, 225 pp., £12.99, September 1996, 0 9528298 0 0
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... a few streets from his old place in Cathcart Road, and well within crawling distance of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where, unknown to him, his high-life associate, the film-maker Peter Whitehead, had been taken, after suffering a heart attack. It was one of those mornings of indulgent sunshine, filtered through gauze. Lilies and bell-shaped purple flowers. Twigs. A long pine table which gave ...
28 May 1992
The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell. Vol. I: The Private Years, 1884-1914 
edited by Nicholas Griffin.
Allen Lane, 553 pp., £25, March 1992, 0 7139 9023 6
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... Russell was an incessant letter-writer. At the height of his passion for Ottoline Morrell, he wrote her three or more times a day: on a train journey to stay with the mathematician A. N. Whitehead in the West Country, he posted one letter at Reading and another at Marlborough, before writing another from the Whitehead’s house. Admittedly that was shortly after he had celebrated Christmas ...

Beasts or Brothers?

J.H. Elliott: When Columbus Met the Natives

3 July 2008
The Discovery of Mankind: Atlantic Encounters in the Age of Columbus 
by David Abulafia.
Yale, 379 pp., £25, April 2008, 978 0 300 12582 5
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Hans Staden’s True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil 
edited and translated by Neil Whitehead and Michael Harbsmeier.
Duke, 206 pp., £12.99, September 2008, 978 0 8223 4231 1
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... were they; and indeed, were they people at all, or did they belong to those monstrous races described by Herodotus and Pliny, whose existence, apparently validated by the traveller’s tales of John Mandeville, haunted the medieval imagination, including that of Columbus? If they were in fact rational human beings, in the full sense of these words, why had they never heard of the Christian ...

Just a Way of Having Fun

Eleanor Birne: John​ Piper

29 March 2017
The Art of John​ Piper 
by David Fraser Jenkins and Hugh Fowler-Wright.
Unicorn, 472 pp., £45, June 2016, 978 1 910787 05 2
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... At the start​ of the war, John Piper – who had made his name as an avatar of high abstraction in the mode of Braque and Mondrian, his paintings hanging among the Giacomettis and Calders in the seminal 1936 show Abstract and ...
9 July 1992
‘Rain-Charm for the Duchy’ and other Laureate Poems 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 64 pp., £12.99, June 1992, 0 571 16605 9
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... officially. Then came Shadwell, Tate, Rowe, Eusden (who celebrated the Duke of Newcastle from whom he received the office and ‘sleeps among the dull of ancient days’ in Pope’s Dunciad), Cibber, Whitehead, Warton, Pye, Southey, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Austin, Bridges, Masefield, Day-Lewis, Betjeman ... In 1921 E.K. Broadus wrote a book, The Laureateship. After the First War there must have been a need ...
20 May 1982
Philosophical Explanations 
by Robert Nozick.
Oxford, 765 pp., £15, November 1981, 0 19 824672 2
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... on their ‘scientific’ devotion to truth, hardness of nose, and sheer cleverness. The so-called ‘speculative’ and ‘Continental’ philosophers – those impressed by the examples of Hegel or Whitehead or Heidegger – take on the third. They weave webs of words which put their predecessors in their proper dialectico-historical places. The analysts despise the fuzziness of the speculators. The ...
26 November 1987
Ruling Performance: British Governments from Attlee to Thatcher 
edited by Peter Hennessy and Anthony Seldon.
Blackwell, 344 pp., £25, October 1987, 0 631 15645 3
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The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Institutions 
edited by Vernon Bogdanor.
Blackwell, 667 pp., £45, September 1987, 0 631 13841 2
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Judges 
by David Pannick.
Oxford, 255 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 19 215956 9
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... on post-war British governments, starting with Paul Addison on the wartime background to Attlee’s success, and ending with some surprisingly detached reflections on Mrs Thatcher from the pen of John Vincent. As a final savoury, Tony Benn, Michael Fraser, David Marquand and David Butler sum up the entire era. The argument starts with the first and by some way the best piece in the collection ...
2 February 1984
Course in General Linguistics 
by Ferdinand de Saussure, translated by Roy Harris.
Duckworth, 236 pp., £24, March 1983, 0 7156 1738 9
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Semiotic Perspectives 
by Sandor Hervey.
Allen and Unwin, 273 pp., £15, September 1982, 9780044000266
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... and I.A. Richards in The Meaning of Meaning, where he is dead and buried by page six, charged with having ‘concocted’ the chief object of his inquiry, la langue, and of being at one with A.N. Whitehead in naively falling for the ‘Method of Intensive Distraction’. Saussure’s definition of language (langue) as an abstract system of which actual languages were the living evidence was too ...

Oh God, what have we done?

Jackson Lears: The Strange Career of Robert Oppenheimer

20 December 2012
Inside the Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer 
by Ray Monk.
Cape, 818 pp., £30, November 2012, 978 0 224 06262 6
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... man, but his fiction provoked only withering criticism from Fergusson. Gradually he turned to chemistry and then physics, and also took a seminar (only one other student enrolled) with Alfred North Whitehead on the Principia Mathematica, which Whitehead had written with Bertrand Russell twenty years earlier. However, once Oppenheimer had decided on physics he was champing at the bit to be ‘near the ...

Edited by Somerset Maugham

Wyatt Mason: Bedtime stories for adults

17 March 2005
Pieces for the Left Hand: 100 Anecdotes 
by J. Robert Lennon.
Granta, 213 pp., £10, March 2005, 1 86207 740 1
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... he suggested that ‘the wise reader’ will ‘get the greatest enjoyment out of reading them if he learns the useful art of skipping’. Skip, then, to the moment when the American publishing house John C. Winston Company, taking Maugham at his word, hired him to demonstrate this art. Under the series title ‘Great Novelists and Their Novels’, the books Maugham had chosen were issued in new ...

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