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The Cookson Story

Stefan Collini: The British Working Class, 13 December 2001

The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes 
by Jonathan Rose.
Yale, 534 pp., £29.95, June 2001, 0 300 08886 8
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... at least the middle of the 20th century. Can there be a proper history of working-class reading? Jonathan Rose believes that there can be, and after five hundred pages, 24 tables and more than 1600 footnotes it’s clear he has a point. His introduction (still more the publisher’s blurb) makes much of the book’s ‘innovative research ...

Gold out of Straw

Peter Mandler: Samuel Smiles, 19 February 2004

Self-Help: With Illustrations of Character, Conduct and Perseverance 
by Samuel Smiles, edited by Peter Sinnema.
Oxford, 387 pp., £7.99, October 2002, 0 19 280176 7
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... recommended by Smiles to fill leisure hours is the pursuit of mutual aid, which reminds us, as Jonathan Rose points out in The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, how many late Victorian labour leaders listed Smiles alongside Ruskin as a source of inspiration. Smiles worried in the preface to the 1866 edition that he might have given the ...

Poor Rose

Christian Lorentzen: Against Alice Munro, 6 June 2013

Dear Life 
by Alice Munro.
Chatto, 319 pp., £18.99, November 2012, 978 0 7011 8784 2
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... She writes about and redeems ordinary life, ordinary people – ‘people people people’, as Jonathan Franzen puts it. Ordinary people turn out to live in a rural corner of Ontario between Toronto and Lake Huron, and to be white, Christian, prudish and dangling on a class rung somewhere between genteel poverty and middle-class comfort. Occasionally they ...

Rapture in Southend

Stefan Collini: H.G. Wells’s​ Egotism, 27 January 2022

The Young H.G. Wells: Changing the World 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 256 pp., £20, November 2021, 978 0 241 23997 1
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... a kind of celebrity in this period that they probably could not have attained before or after. As Jonathan Rose has observed about the explosion of print towards the close of the 19th century: ‘Lord Salisbury’s oft-quoted sneer – “Written by office boys for office boys” – accurately summed up a revolutionary social fact: journalism had opened ...

The Tangible Page

Leah Price: Books as Things, 31 October 2002

The Book History Reader 
edited by David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery.
Routledge, 390 pp., £17.99, November 2001, 0 415 22658 9
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Making Meaning: ‘Printers of the Mind’ and Other Essays 
by D.F. McKenzie, edited by Peter D. McDonald and Michael F. Suarez.
Massachusetts, 296 pp., £20.95, June 2002, 1 55849 336 0
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... the virtues of The Book History Reader is that it brings such continuities to light, pairing Mark Rose’s densely particularised history of copyright law with Foucault and Barthes on authorship, or Janice Radway’s lovingly detailed reconstruction of the Book-of-the-Month Club’s marketing strategies with Stanley Fish’s aggressively perverse model of ...

Disorientation

Jonathan Coe, 5 October 1995

The Island of the Day Before 
by Umberto Eco.
Secker, 513 pp., £16.99, October 1995, 0 436 20270 0
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... the late Fifties, and then more than twenty years later, with the publication of The Name of the Rose, he appeared to achieve the impossible, by proving that these two seemingly incompatible forms could in fact be reconciled. This was particularly good news for publishers, who suddenly found themselves dealing with a product which not only had solid highbrow ...

I don’t want your revolution

Marco Roth: Jonathan Lethem, 20 February 2014

Dissident Gardens 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Cape, 366 pp., £18.99, January 2014, 978 0 224 09395 8
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... men of the same generation, born in the mid to late 1960s – are Michael Chabon, Junot Díaz and Jonathan Lethem. The books they wrote were interested in popular culture or counterculture as much as in the thoughts and passions of characters. Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000) chronicled the rise of superhero comics in postwar ...

Short Cuts

Jacqueline Rose: My Evening with Farage, 24 October 2013

... power, to bend the world to one’s will. When Farage travelled to Bulgaria earlier this year with Jonathan Rugman for a Channel 4 News special report, what was most striking was how far he was trapped by his own style. He smiles a lot, and laughs, especially when he thinks he has been clever, as, for example, when he points to the former Communist Party ...

Coloured Spots v. Iridescence

Steven Rose: Evolutionary Inevitability, 22 March 2018

Improbable Destinies: How Predictable Is Evolution? 
by Jonathan Losos.
Allen Lane, 364 pp., £20, August 2017, 978 0 241 20192 3
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... to experimental testing. That became the conventional wisdom among evolutionists. But no longer. Jonathan Losos, an evolutionary biologist, takes the dispute between Gould and Conway Morris as the starting point for his richly detailed account of pioneering research in experimental evolution. Recent studies, based on field observations as well as direct ...

Bard of Tropes

Jonathan Lamb: Thomas Chatterton, 20 September 2001

Thomas Chatterton and Romantic Culture 
by Nick Groom.
Palgrave, 300 pp., £55, September 1999, 0 333 72586 7
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... is clothed or ‘dight’ in the colours of various flowers: ‘The mornynge tynge, the rose, the lillie floure,/In ever ronneynge race on her dyd peyncte theyre powere’. ‘An Excelente Balade of Charitie’ begins with the earth ‘dighte in its mose defte aumere’ (‘daintiest garb’), and tells a story of the putting on and taking off of ...

Just Look at Them

Jonathan Beckman: Ears and Fingers, 27 January 2022

The Life of Giovanni Morelli in Risorgimento Italy 
by Jaynie Anderson.
Officina Libraria, 271 pp., £29.95, November 2019, 978 88 99765 95 8
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... to a particular artist based on its ‘general impression’, as though the essence of Botticelli rose off the surface like a scent. Morelli proposed a more robust methodology. What mattered was examining the forms within a painting, the peculiar way each artist configured human anatomy or drapery or haloes. ‘The only true record for the connoisseur is the ...

Guilty Men

Michael Neve, 5 March 1981

The Fate of Mary Rose 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Cape, 208 pp., £5.95, February 1981, 0 224 01791 8
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Darling, you shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble 
by Caroline Blackwood and Anna Haycraft.
Cape, 224 pp., £6.50, November 1980, 0 224 01834 5
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... how finally to come to be at its mercy, emerges again in the appalling clarity of The Fate of Mary Rose. The male narrator, Rowan Anderson, is a historian, albeit one with the right kinds of ‘sympathy’: he is engaged on the biography of a woman engineer who contributed to the war effort against German Zeppelins by developing a powerful arc lamp. Anderson ...

Palimpsest History

Jonathan Coe, 11 June 1992

Ulverton 
by Adam Thorpe.
Secker, 382 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 436 52074 5
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Kicking 
by Leslie Dick.
Secker, 244 pp., £13.99, May 1992, 0 436 20011 2
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Frankie Styne and the Silver Man 
by Kathy Page.
Methuen, 233 pp., £13.99, April 1992, 0 413 66590 9
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... In her recent collection Stories, Theories and Things, Christine Brooke-Rose was casting around for a generic term under which to classify such diverse novels as Midnight’s Children, Terra Nostra and Dictionary of the Khazars, and came up with ‘palimpsest history’. What all of these books have in common is their interest in the recreation of a national history: a history which, in each case, has been erased or fragmented, subsumed beneath layers of interpretation, forgetting, writing and rewriting ...

Wu-wei

Jonathan Barnes, 24 July 1986

The World of Thought in Ancient China 
by Benjamin Schwartz.
Harvard, 490 pp., £23.50, January 1986, 0 674 96190 0
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... In 1045 BC the Mandate of Heaven passed from the Shang to the Chou dynasty, and the sun rose on an age of gold. The tao prevailed in the land: the right path was taken, men were upright and amiable and rich, things went the way things ought to go. So at least thought Confucius five hundred years later. Finding his Utopia in the past, he claimed not to innovate but to transmit an ancient learning: in order to return to the tao, China need only recover the wisdom of the age of Chou ...

Dunny-Digging

Jonathan Coe, 11 May 1995

The Riders 
by Tim Winton.
Picador, 377 pp., £14.99, February 1995, 0 330 33941 9
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... The ground was mired and trodden. Shit stood in vaporous cakes between hoofs. The castle keep rose as a cudgel before them. He felt himself craning, waiting, almost failing to breathe. At the end of the book, the reappearance of this vision provides a measure of the emotional distance Scully has travelled by the time he returns from Europe: he realises ...

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