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Rubbing Shoulders with Unreason

Peter Barham: Foucault's History of Madness, 8 March 2007

History of Madness 
by Michel Foucault, edited by Jean Khalfa, translated by Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa.
Routledge, 725 pp., £35, April 2006, 0 415 27701 9
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... In the 1950s, three individuals, unknown to one another and from different countries, were engaged in what seem, looking back, to have been remarkably similar projects vis-à-vis those whom society designates as mad. One was a philosophy student: ‘I used to work in a psychiatric hospital in the 1950s. After having studied philosophy, I wanted to see what madness was: I had been mad enough to study reason; I was reasonable enough to study madness ...

Respectability

Mary Hawthorne, 23 June 1994

The Seduction of Morality 
by Tom Murphy.
Little, Brown, 224 pp., £15.99, June 1994, 0 316 91059 7
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A Goat’s Song 
by Dermot Healy.
Harvill, 408 pp., £14.99, April 1994, 0 00 271049 8
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... Tom Murphy’s play Too Late for Logic centres on the response of a psychically disintegrated family to the death of one of its members. An oracular, disembodied voice-over gives the summation: ‘A group of porcupines on a cold winter’s day crowded close together to save themselves from freezing by their mutual warmth ...

Squidging about

Caroline Murphy: Camilla and the sex-motherers, 22 January 2004

Camilla: An Intimate Portrait 
by Rebecca Tyrrel.
Short Books, 244 pp., £14.99, October 2003, 1 904095 53 4
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... with Camilla. What made her so special? She was, he later told his official biographer, Jonathan Dimbleby, a ‘pretty’ and ‘bubbly’ girl, who ‘laughed easily and at the same sillinesses’ as Charles himself. Tyrrel is more blunt. Camilla was, she says, a ‘big-bosomed Goons fan’. But she clearly offered something more than ...

Short Cuts

Jonathan Meades: This Thing Called the Future, 8 September 2016

... any. The recondite wheezes, dystopian prophecies, soft-brained schemes and social essays Douglas Murphy scrutinises in Last Futures: Nature, Technology and the End of Architecture (Verso, £20) mostly led nowhere and spawned no progeny. Perhaps one should write ‘have’ mostly led nowhere, because there is still time, an infinity, for them to be exhumed in ...

Cough up

Thomas Keymer: Henry Fielding, 20 November 2008

Plays: Vol. II, 1731-34 
by Henry Fielding, edited by Thomas Lockwood.
Oxford, 865 pp., £150, October 2007, 978 0 19 925790 4
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‘The Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon’, ‘Shamela’ and ‘Occasional Writings’ 
by Henry Fielding, edited by Martin Battestin, with Sheridan Baker and Hugh Amory.
Oxford, 804 pp., £150
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... the profiteering manipulator of a stage-play world. If Fielding’s early biographer Arthur Murphy is to be believed, there was little exaggeration here. ‘When he had contracted to bring on a play,’ Murphy stiffly reports, ‘he would go home rather late from a tavern, and would, the next morning, deliver a scene ...

Clutching at Railings

Jonathan Coe: Late Flann O’Brien, 24 October 2013

Plays and Teleplays 
by Flann O’Brien, edited by Daniel Keith Jernigan.
Dalkey, 434 pp., £9.50, September 2013, 978 1 56478 890 0
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The Short Fiction of Flann O’Brien 
edited by Neil Murphy and Keith Hopper.
Dalkey, 158 pp., £9.50, August 2013, 978 1 56478 889 4
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... There were many wonderful running jokes in the first few years of ‘Cruiskeen Lawn’, the Irish Times column written, on and off, for almost a quarter of a century by Flann O’Brien (or, if you prefer, Myles na Gopaleen, or Brian O’Nolan). My favourite has always been the catechism of cliché. When things are few, what also are they? Far between ...

The Built-in Reader

Colm Tóibín, 8 April 1993

Dream of Fair to Middling Women 
by Samuel Beckett, edited by Eoin O’Brien and Edith Fournier.
Black Cat, 241 pp., £18.99, November 1992, 0 7145 4212 1
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... farting and shitting as though they were going to the fair’; or the celebrated first sentence of Murphy, published in 1938, a year after the letter was written: ‘The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new’; or sentences chosen at random from Beckett’s trilogy Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnameable – and we find that he is half in love ...

Hindsight Tickling

Christopher Tayler: Disappointing sequels, 21 October 2004

The Closed Circle 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 433 pp., £17.99, September 2004, 0 670 89254 8
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... In Like a Fiery Elephant, his recent biography of B.S. Johnson,* Jonathan Coe writes feelingfully about the perils of too much Eng. Lit. He ‘emerged from the experience of reading English at Cambridge’, he explains in the introduction, ‘imbued with a thriving, unshakeable contempt for anyone who had had the temerity to attempt the writing of literature in the last seventy or eighty years ...

Taking Refuge in the Loo

Leland de la Durantaye: Peter Handke, 22 May 2014

Versuch über den Pilznarren: Eine Geschichte für sich 
by Peter Handke.
Suhrkamp, 217 pp., £14.70, September 2013, 978 3 518 42383 7
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Peter Handke im Gespräch, mit Hubert Patterer und Stefan Winkler 
Kleine Zeitung, 120 pp., £15.36, November 2012, 978 3 902819 14 7Show More
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... again. Presenting the matter in the starkest possible terms, the human rights worker and novelist Jonathan Littell remarked in 2008: When a family is sitting in its house in Foca and suddenly someone bursts in with a machine gun, chains up the daughter to the radiator and rapes her in front of her family, this is no laughing matter. Okay you might say, the ...

How so very dear

Joshua Cohen: Ben Marcus, 21 June 2012

The Flame Alphabet: A Novel 
by Ben Marcus.
Granta, 289 pp., £16.99, June 2012, 978 1 84708 622 8
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... Marcus is a writer in an antique mode: the modern. Even those writers of his cohort, such as Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides, who publicly cursed the prophets Gaddis, Barthelme, Barth and Coover, forsaking the structural feints and syntactical feats of the 1960s and 1970s, would be mauled by the millennium, by a bearish market more interested in ...

Who Cares?

Jean McNicol, 9 February 1995

The Report of the Inquiry into the Care and Treatment of Christopher Clunis 
by Jean Ritchie, Donald Dick and Richard Lingham.
HMSO, 146 pp., £9.50, February 1994, 0 11 701798 1
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Creating Community Care: Report of the Mental Health Foundation into Community Care for People with Severe Mental Illness 
by William Utting.
Mental Health Foundation, 76 pp., £9.50, September 1994, 0 901944 17 3
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Finding a Place: A Review of Mental Health Services for Adults 
HMSO, 94 pp., £11, November 1994, 0 11 886143 3Show More
The Falling Shadow: One Patient’s Mental Health Care. Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Events Leading up to and Surrounding the Fatal Incident at the Edith Morgan Centre, Torbay, on 1 September 1993 
by Louis Blom-Cooper, Helen Hally and Elaine Murphy.
Duckworth, 230 pp., £12.99, January 1995, 0 7156 2662 0
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... the man who had frightened her was Christopher Clunis, on trial at the Old Bailey for murdering Jonathan Zito on the northbound Piccadilly Line platform at Finsbury Park tube station on 17 December 1992. According to his solicitor, Christopher Clunis, who was found guilty of manslaughter and sent to Rampton Hospital, is ‘contemplating’ suing North East ...

Made in Algiers

Jeremy Harding: De Gaulle, 4 November 2010

Le mythe gaullien 
by Sudhir Hazareesingh.
Gallimard, 280 pp., €21, May 2010, 978 2 07 012851 8
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The General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved 
by Jonathan Fenby.
Simon and Schuster, 707 pp., £30, June 2010, 978 1 84737 392 2
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... in his own myth-making as a means of empowerment and self-justification. In his new biography, Jonathan Fenby delivers the infant Charles into an era of anxiety, brought on by the growing strength of Germany and the sense that France had lost its way. The year was 1890; the smart of the Franco-Prussian War was still palpable; the Dreyfus Affair, which ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... is why it should always be conjoined to cock-up rather than counterposed to it). Jonathan Marshall of the San Francisco Chronicle, who is in my view the most sober and smart of those who study conspiracy theory, has an elegant and minimal guess about CIA reaction to this disaster. ‘Richard Helms asked himself: “Is my Agency responsible ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Notes on 1997, 1 January 1998

... flash and is put in perspective by the next item, a much more extensive piece about how Eddie Murphy invited a transvestite prostitute into his car with a view to putting him/her on the right road. 3 May. To the Chicago Art Institute, a relatively modest museum but with superb paintings. It’s Saturday and very busy so I confine myself to rooms with ...

Irangate

Edward Said, 7 May 1987

The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey 
by Salman Rushdie.
Picador, 171 pp., £2.95, January 1987, 0 330 29990 5
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Turning the Tide: US Intervention in Central America and the Struggle for Peace 
by Noam Chomsky.
Pluto, 298 pp., £5.95, September 1986, 0 7453 0184 3
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... this was termed ‘understandable self-defence’ by the President. It turned out later that Jonathan Pollard, given a life sentence in America in March of this year, had handed over the requisite information about PLO offices to Israel, as part of a spying operation. Here was a weird concatentation whereby anti-terrorism, condoned and encouraged by the ...

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