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Sinking Giggling into the Sea

Jonathan Coe: Giggling along with Boris, 18 July 2013

The Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson 
edited by Harry Mount.
Bloomsbury, 149 pp., £9.99, June 2013, 978 1 4081 8352 6
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... original cast members) and the other three-quarters of the Beyond the Fringe team (Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore), who would go on to present their own take on the nuclear threat, in a sketch called ‘Civil War’.In that sketch, a worried Moore listens trustingly as a succession of posh-voiced government spokesmen seek to reassure him ...

Too Glorious for Words

Bernard Porter: Lawrence in Arabia, 2 April 2014

Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East 
by Scott Anderson.
Atlantic, 592 pp., £25, March 2014, 978 1 78239 199 9
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... wanted book-heroes.’ (It reminds me of the Beyond the Fringe sketch in which Peter Cook sends Jonathan Miller to his death: ‘We need a futile gesture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war.’) Lawrence seems to have realised that he was most useful as a myth. But only temporarily. He is also interesting in the broader history of ...

Respectful Perversion

John Pemble: Gilbert and Sullivan, 16 June 2011

Gilbert and Sullivan: Gender, Genre, Parody 
by Carolyn Williams.
Columbia, 454 pp., £24, January 2011, 978 0 231 14804 7
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... years on, HMS Pinafore is still afloat. Refitted and relaunched by directors like Joseph Papp, Jonathan Miller, Ken Russell and Mark Savage as post-copyright, post-D’Oyly Carte G&S, not only Pinafore, but The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado and Princess Ida too have been successfully revived on both sides of the Atlantic. Showbusiness professionals ...

Sic transit Marshall McLuhan

Frank Kermode, 17 March 1988

Letters of Marshall McLuhan 
edited by Matie Molinaro, Corinne McLuhan and William Toye.
Oxford, 562 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 19 540594 3
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... the rage of the academics. On the evidence of this collection, the critic who upset him most was Jonathan Miller, whose little book on McLuhan, published in 1971, accompanied, if it did not partly cause, the rapid decline in McLuhan’s reputation. The two men were acquainted: indeed they had got on very well together, partly because McLuhan, large and ...

Re-Readings

Chris Baldick, 10 November 1988

Poetry, Language and Politics 
by John Barrell.
Manchester, 174 pp., £21.50, May 1988, 0 7190 2441 2
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Garden – Nature – Language 
by Simon Pugh.
Manchester, 148 pp., £25, May 1988, 0 7190 2824 8
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Writing Ireland: Colonialism, Nationalism and Culture 
by David Cairns and Shaun Richards.
Manchester, 178 pp., £21.50, May 1988, 0 7190 2371 8
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The Shakespeare Myth 
edited by Graham Holderness.
Manchester, 215 pp., £25, May 1988, 0 7190 1488 3
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... or sample demonstrations of theoretical routines cried up as novelties. The series edited by Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield under the title ‘Cultural Polities’ has some twenty volumes in store already, covering popular fiction and music as well as canonical literature. Of these, the first four published titles present a mixed impression in ...

Everybody

Craig Raine, 3 February 1983

Confessions of an Actor 
by Laurence Olivier.
Weidenfeld, 305 pp., £9.95, October 1982, 0 297 78106 5
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... by changing one feature one can create a whole new face.’ By the time he was playing Shylock for Jonathan Miller, his only protection was a set of specially-made teeth (in the still, oddly enough, he looks like a handsome version of Ken Tynan on the facing page). Miller had persuaded him to jettison a more complicated ...

Karl Miller Remembered

Neal Ascherson, John Lanchester and Andrew O’Hagan, 22 October 2014

... idea of being a famous literary editor may seem oxymoronic. That, however, is exactly what Karl Miller was. As a result, it was possible to be well-briefed about Karl before meeting him for the first time. This was thanks to Clive James’s introduction to his collection Visions before Midnight. James said that Karl, who’d commissioned him to write about ...

Puck’s Dream

Mark Ford, 14 June 1990

Selected Poems 1990 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 176 pp., £6.95, March 1990, 0 19 282625 5
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Life by Other Means: Essays on D.J. Enright 
edited by Jacqueline Simms.
Oxford, 208 pp., £25, March 1990, 0 19 212989 9
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Vanishing Lung Syndrome 
by Miroslav Holub, translated by David Young and Dana Habova.
Faber, 68 pp., £10.99, April 1990, 0 571 14378 4
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The Dimension of the Present Moment, and Other Essays 
by Miroslav Holub, edited by David Young.
Faber, 146 pp., £4.99, April 1990, 0 571 14338 5
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Poems Before and After: Collected English Translations 
by Miroslav Holub, translated by Ewald Osers and George Theiner.
Bloodaxe, 272 pp., £16, April 1990, 1 85224 121 7
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My Country: Collected Poems 
by Alistair Elliot.
Carcanet, 175 pp., £18.95, November 1989, 0 85635 846 0
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1953: A Version of Racine’s ‘Andromaque’ 
by Craig Raine.
Faber, 89 pp., £4.99, March 1990, 0 571 14312 1
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Andromache 
by Jean Racine, translated by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 81 pp., £4.99, March 1990, 0 571 14249 4
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... Raine’s version was commissioned for a production at the Old Vic but was turned down by director Jonathan Miller, and a straightforward translation by Eric Korn was used instead. It’s not hard to see Miller’s objections. Beyond fulfilling the basic plot requirements, 1953 barely connects with Racine at all. It ...

Prada Queen

Elaine Showalter: Shopping, 10 August 2000

Shopping for Pleasure: Women in the Making of London’s West End 
by Erika Diane Rappaport.
Princeton, 323 pp., £21.95, January 2000, 0 691 04477 5
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... Times, ‘retail Darwinism’ is killing off the malls. ‘The traffic hassles are awful,’ notes Jonathan Miller, the main author of a 1999 report on real-estate trends, ‘and people just generally don’t have the time to spend wandering around in malls like they used to.’ Even teenagers are moving on. ‘Malls used to be our social centres, but ...

Half Bird, Half Fish, Half Unicorn

Paul Foot, 16 October 1997

Peter Cook: A Biography 
by Harry Thompson.
Hodder, 516 pp., £18.99, September 1997, 0 340 64968 2
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... a political party without quickly being disgusted by its humbug or convulsed by its absurdity. Jonathan Miller was surely wrong when he said to Thompson: ‘The idea that Peter had an anarchic, subversive view of society is complete nonsense. He was the most upstanding, traditional upholder of everything English and everything Establishment.’ My own ...

Making Do and Mending

Rosemary Hill: Penelope Fitzgerald’s Letters, 25 September 2008

So I Have Thought of You: The Letters of Penelope Fitzgerald 
edited by Terence Dooley.
Fourth Estate, 532 pp., £25, August 2008, 978 0 00 713640 7
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... Proffitt, in 1990 she wrote: ‘I think Tosca might be wasted on me as I am so fond of it, and Jonathan Miller is so silly. They encourage him to be silly.’ Fitzgerald believed that as a biographer she could get to know a subject as well as anyone she had actually met, ‘particularly if you have the letters’. In her case the letters are probably ...

Who’s under the desk?

Siddhartha Deb: James Lasdun’s Novel, 7 March 2002

The Horned Man 
by James Lasdun.
Cape, 195 pp., £10.99, February 2002, 0 224 06217 4
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... At the beginning of James Lasdun’s novel, Lawrence Miller, a professor of gender studies at a college on the outskirts of New York, is interrupted while reading a book. When he returns to his office the next day, he finds his bookmark has been moved forward thirty pages. ‘Either I had moved the marker inadvertently myself, or else some night-visitor had been reading the book in my absence ...

A Boundary Where There Is None

Stephen Sedley: In Time of Meltdown, 12 September 2019

Trials of the State: Law and the Decline of Politics 
by Jonathan Sumption.
Profile, 128 pp., £9.99, August 2019, 978 1 78816 372 9
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... has for a long time been the view of a neoliberal school of legal thought; but the argument of Jonathan Sumption’s 2019 Reith Lectures, delivered in May and June and now issued in book form, is more accommodating. It is that while law and due process have their place, they owe considerably more respect to the political process than the UK’s courts have ...

Tracts for the Times

Karl Miller, 17 August 1989

Intellectuals 
by Paul Johnson.
Weidenfeld, 385 pp., £14.95, October 1988, 0 297 79395 0
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CounterBlasts No 1: God, Man and Mrs Thatcher 
by Jonathan Raban.
Chatto, 72 pp., £2.99, June 1989, 0 7011 3470 4
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... and Waugh’s, are not the only traditions we have. There are others and they are in danger. Jonathan Raban presents himself, in his CounterBlast pamphlet, as an intellectual who perceives, in the Prime Minister’s ‘scant’ address last year to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, meanings that plain people might miss. Mrs Thatcher’s ...

Pen Men

Elaine Showalter, 20 March 1986

Men and Feminism in Modern Literature 
by Declan Kiberd.
Macmillan, 250 pp., £13.95, September 1985, 0 333 38353 2
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Women Writing about Men 
by Jane Miller.
Virago, 256 pp., £10.95, January 1986, 0 86068 473 3
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Phallic Critiques: Masculinity and 20th-century Literature 
by Peter Schwenger.
Routledge, 172 pp., £29.50, September 1985, 0 7102 0164 8
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... they have seen problems of sexual difference as women’s problems, addressing – to use Jonathan Culler’s terms – the issue of ‘reading as a woman’ but assuming that ‘reading as a man’ requires no attention. As a result, much male feminist criticism has inadvertently reproduced patriarchal attitudes to women, appropriating or challenging ...

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