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What did Cook​ want?

Jon Lawrence: Both ‘on message’ and off

19 February 2004
The Point of Departure 
by Robin Cook.
Simon and Schuster, 368 pp., £20, October 2003, 0 7432 5255 1
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... Robin Cook’s memoir concentrates on the first two years of the second Blair government, from his ‘demotion’ to leader of the House immediately after the 2001 general election to his resignation over the ...

Made for TV

Jenny Diski

14 December 1995
Fight & Kick & Bite: The Life and Work of Dennis Potter 
by W. Stephen Gilbert.
Hodder, 382 pp., £18.99, November 1995, 0 340 64047 2
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Dennis Potter: A Life on Screen 
by John Cook.
Manchester, 368 pp., £45, October 1995, 0 7190 4601 7
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... between the writer, the writing and the world ... simply by taking them for granted’ may be waiting for the author to provide something more than a lesson in how to suck eggs. Stephen Gilbert and JohnCook (along with just about everyone else) would agree that Potter reached his reflexive nadir with Blackeyes, in which the story of the eponymous model based on the central character, Jessica, is ...
5 June 1980
Letters 
by John​ Barth.
Secker, 772 pp., £7.95, May 1980, 0 436 03674 6
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The Left-Handed Woman 
by Peter Handke, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Eyre Methuen, 94 pp., £4.95, April 1980, 0 413 45890 3
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Passion Play 
by Jerzy Kosinski.
Joseph, 271 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 7181 1913 4
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... Offering a critical account of John Barth’s new book within the confines of a periodical review is like trying to haul a whale on board a fishing smack. For the sake of brevity, even my formal description of the work must be brutally ...

In Myrtle Bowers

Blair Worden: Cavaliers

30 June 2011
Reprobates: The Cavaliers of the English Civil War 
by John​ Stubbs.
Viking, 549 pp., £25, February 2011, 978 0 670 91753 2
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... suicidally diffuse. Who could say, after its 500 or so pages, what it is about? Its unexplained title is presumably a market pitch. The subtitle, perhaps another pitch, lays bare a problem which John Stubbs never grips. We are two-thirds of the way through before we reach ‘the English civil war’ of the 1640s. The bulk of the book is set in the generation before it, from the years around the ...

Where am I?

Greg Dening

31 October 1996
Far-Fetched Facts: The Literature of Travel and the Idea of the South Seas 
by Neil Rennie.
Oxford, 330 pp., £35, November 1995, 0 19 811975 5
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... the least harm, prurient towards the liberties taken by those who ‘went native’. The ‘idea’ of the South Seas was always theatrical: the sexual titivations of Tahiti, the triumphs of James Cook and then his death, the loss of Jean François de la Pérouse, the mutiny on the Bounty, the debates on the good and evil effects of missions. The ‘literature’ of this theatre is the ...

John​ Sturrock

Mary-Kay Wilmers

20 September 2017
... It​ was John who had the idea that I should say something about his professional life at his funeral. It was a very nice idea and I’m glad – not to say flattered – that he had it. But I found it a spookily ...

At the Courtauld

John-Paul Stonard: Chaïm Soutine

30 November 2017
... to give it volume and relate it to the background (a red curtain that someone once recalled Soutine obtaining from the butcher’s shop in Céret, perhaps explaining the title). ‘Pastry Cook of Cagnes’ (c.1922) The attraction of uniforms to Soutine seems to have been largely the opportunity they offered for painting uniform areas of colour, enlivened by tiny touches of chromatic ...

After Smith

Ross McKibbin

9 June 1994
... Like many others I have been puzzled by the reaction to John Smith’s death. It was reported as though it were at least that of a prime minister, and his funeral was, as the BBC noted, in effect a state funeral. The decision of both the BBC and ITV to double ...
4 March 1999
A Slight and Delicate Creature: The Memoirs of Margaret Cook 
Weidenfeld, 307 pp., £20, January 1999, 0 297 84293 5Show More
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... and eventually, in a bid to come first with themselves and posterity, everyone will have committed their story in its unedited detail to paper. Among these mounds of autobiography will be Margaret Cook’s effort at self-valuation. It is a classic of the genre. Unlike most of these productions, Dr Cook’s memoir has been professionally published, but that is her consolation prize for having had ...

Dreamland

Jonathan Lamb: 18th-century seafaring

20 March 2003
Voyages of Delusion: The Search for the Northwest Passage in the Age of Reason 
by Glyn Williams.
HarperCollins, 467 pp., £8.99, March 2003, 0 00 653213 6
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Voyage to Desolation Island 
by Jean-Paul Kauffmann, translated by Patricia Clancy.
Harvill, 177 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 1 86046 926 4
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... The great Pacific navigations of the mid-18th century were officially failures. Cook managed to map the missing north-eastern section of the coast of a land he claimed for Britain as New South Wales, and he also produced a complete outline of New Zealand – with surprising accuracy ...

Aloha, aloha

Ian Hacking

7 September 1995
What ‘Natives’ Think: About Captain Cook, For Example 
by Marshall Sahlins.
Chicago, 316 pp., £19.95, July 1995, 0 226 73368 8
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... Think is entirely focused on the question of whether the Hawaiians, on their first prolonged encounter with Europeans, not only regarded the white men as superior beings, but also took Captain Cook to be their god Lono, a very important one in their world, which was tilled with gods. Or, is that story a European myth in itself, subsequently foisted on Hawaiian self-memory by British and other ...

Snob Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Modern Snobbery

3 November 2016
... style house’, not, under any circumstances, a bungalow. The corollary to this, as generations of exasperated Marxists have discovered, is pride in knowing your place and respecting your superiors. John Osborne’s autobiography A Better Class of Person (1981) is a sustained assault on that attitude in general and his mother in particular. It is no accident that, as Taylor quotes John Vincent saying ...

JC’s Call

J.I.M. Stewart

2 April 1981
Joseph Conrad: Times Remembered 
by Joseph Conrad.
Cambridge, 218 pp., £10.50, March 1981, 0 521 22805 0
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... Joseph Conrad died at the age of 67 on 3 August 1924, the day following the 18th birthday of his younger son, John Conrad, the author of the present book. John’s memories, which reach astonishingly far back into his earliest childhood, begin with his family living in poverty in a tiny cottage, ‘a dark and gloomy place’, at Aldington in Kent. Chance ...

Philip’s People

Anna Della Subin: Divine Prince Philip

7 May 2014
... savages who have never seen a white man before. Drop anchor. Enjoy your apotheosis. The constellation of white explorers said to have been hailed as gods – Francis Drake, Hernán Cortés, Captain Cook, Christopher Columbus, to name a few – acquired a new star in the mid-1970s, when Prince Philip vacationed off the coast of Tanna, in what was then the New Hebrides, aboard HMY Britannia. Ever ...

Diary

R.W. Johnson: Major Wins the Losership

3 August 1995
... Nothing provides a better insight into our antique political culture than a party leadership contest. I remember talking with Robin Cook just as the Blair bandwagon began to assume unstoppable proportions. Cook had outfought and out-performed every other Labour contender by a mile; he was cleverer, more experienced, funnier. And yet ...

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