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Agro’s Aggro

Karl Miller

10 October 1991
Boss of Bosses. The Fall of the Godfather: The FBI and Paul Castellano 
by Joseph​ O’Brien and Andris Kurins.
Simon and Schuster, 364 pp., £15.99, September 1991, 0 671 70815 5
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... Staten Island, New York, is a sombre place as islands go, but it has managed to cast some spells. Once upon a time there was a Prospero there in the shape of Marius Bewley, literary critic, Anglophile and Adlai Stevensonian, who held court among his cats in a Gothic villa above the ferry terminal, where crowds would leave for work in their instalments, churning past the Statue of Liberty towards the ...

Clutching at Railings

Jonathan Coe: Late Flann O’Brien

23 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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... drinking. With such fame as he then enjoyed arising from his newspaper work rather than his more or less forgotten novels, the columns became ever less exuberant and ever more tetchy and cynical. As Joseph O’Connor wrote: ‘His fate, at least I think so, was to suffer one of the worst things that can happen: to be brilliant at something you don’t like doing. He deserved better than the ...
30 October 1997
Secret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American Presidency 
by Stephen Knott.
Oxford, 258 pp., £19.50, November 1996, 0 19 510098 0
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The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 367 pp., £25, December 1996, 1 85619 637 2
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American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson 
by Joseph​ Ellis.
Knopf, 365 pp., $26, February 1997, 0 679 44490 4
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Slave Laws in Virginia 
by Philip Schwarz.
Georgia, 253 pp., $40, November 1996, 0 8203 1831 0
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... step towards authentic anti-racist awareness is confession of past sins, then the civil religion needs Jefferson more than ever, not least to avoid charges that white America is in denial. Indeed, as Joseph Ellis notes, Jefferson has become ‘a contested prize in the ongoing culture wars’, a dead white male whose life and attitudes illuminate the dark side of the liberal tradition. A deep regard for ...

The Cruiser

Christopher Hitchens

22 February 1996
On the Eve of the Millennium: The Future of Democracy through an Age of Unreason 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Free Press, 168 pp., £7.99, February 1996, 0 02 874094 7
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... of the European war: When the chain of events that led to the war was set in motion by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo, Lenin was sceptical: ‘I cannot believe that Franz Joseph and our Nikolashka will give us that pleasure.’    Pleasure: Russia’s revolutionary destinies were now in the hands of a man who thought of the coming First World War as a pleasure. Say ...
24 February 1994
The Great Melody: A Thematic Biography and Commented Anthology of Edmund Burke 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Minerva, 692 pp., £8.99, September 1993, 0 7493 9721 7
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... detailed modern study of what Shelburne was and what he was doing. He was of Cromwellian settler stock in Ireland; but in England he was a patron of radical Dissenter intellectuals (Richard Price and Joseph Priestley), and there is something here about Burke’s increasingly vehement support of the Church of England of which O’Brien seems determined to take no notice. George III took his revenge after ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945

1 April 1999
The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... and the Welsh language, we have had difficulty in finding English versions of some Welsh poets which convinced us that they demanded inclusion’. Quite apart from the fact that Anthony Conran and Joseph Clancy have translated a good deal of Welsh poetry very well, and that there are seminal poets – Saunders Lewis, Euros Bowen, Waldo Williams among them – in easily available translations, this ...

Anti-Writer

Clair Wills: Plain Brian O’Nolan

4 April 2019
The Collected Letters of Flann O’Brien 
edited by Maebh Long.
Dalkey Archive, 619 pp., £20, April 2018, 978 1 62897 183 5
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... might be looking for someone to write advertising copy. He created fantastical backgrounds for himself under other names – whether as Flann O’Brien (‘As a lad I knew Ibsen … Swinburne and Joseph Conrad were also frequent visitors to my grandfather’s place … At dusk, Coleridge would sometimes look in on his way home for a final pipe, and more than once the burly shape of Lord Macaulay was ...

Knife and Fork Question

Miles Taylor: The Chartist Movement

29 November 2001
The Chartist Movement in Britain 1838-50 
edited by Gregory Claeys.
Pickering & Chatto, £495, April 2001, 1 85196 330 8
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... the original People’s Charter, Lovett’s men were soon overtaken by the Chartist leaders of the Midlands and the North: men such as Humphrey Price, ‘the good parson of Needwood Forest’, and Joseph Rayner Stephens, the Wesleyan preacher. Stephens famously declared Chartism to be a ‘knife and fork question’. He also made a pass at Bronterre O’Brien’s sister-in-law and was hounded out of ...

Bogey Man

Richard Mayne

15 July 1982
Camus: A Critical Study of his Life and Work 
by Patrick McCarthy.
Hamish Hamilton, 259 pp., £12.50, April 1982, 0 241 10603 6
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Albert Camus: A Biography 
by Herbert Lottman.
Picador, 753 pp., £3.95, February 1981, 0 330 26262 9
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The Narcissistic Text: A Reading of Camus’s Fiction 
by Brian Fitch.
Toronto, 128 pp., £12.25, April 1982, 0 8020 2426 2
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The Outsider 
by Albert Camus, translated by Joseph​ Laredo.
Hamish Hamilton, 96 pp., £5.95, April 1982, 0 241 10778 4
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... simple-minded – which goes for Sartre as well. A third myth, still current, is that Camus was an existentialist. This is partly an offshoot of his being so often coupled with Sartre. The blurb of Joseph Laredo’s new, rather too creamy translation of L’Etranger even alleges that Sartre was co-editor with Camus of the post-war Combat. But the more time passes the easier it becomes to see their ...
2 August 1984
... appearance, three days running, in your paper when the then editor reproduced a small photograph of a small portrait copied from a very small photograph of a young woman named, so Mossy averred, Nora Joseph Barnacle. A name, I need not tell you, well known by then throughout the world of literature.’ ‘Barnacle?’ said Hunty. ‘But that is a kind of goose.’ ‘Mossy’s story about it was that ...

Politics First

José Harris

19 April 1984
The Chartists 
by Dorothy Thompson.
Temple Smith, 399 pp., £19.50, February 1984, 0 85117 229 6
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Languages of Class: Studies in English Working-Class History 1832-1982 
by Gareth Stedman Jones.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £22.50, January 1984, 0 521 25648 8
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Class Power and State Power 
by Ralph Miliband.
Verso, 310 pp., £18.50, March 1984, 0 86091 073 3
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... categorised as a ‘true middle-class social and economic group’ – but it in no sense follows that they were therefore proletarian. Her unsung heroes of militant Chartism include the blacksmith, Joseph Capper, landlord of five houses; shoemaker, publisher and bookseller Joseph Lingard, ‘who wore a frock coat and had a genteel carriage’; and Lawrence Heyworth, later a successful railway promoter ...

I’m not an actress

Michael Newton: Ava Gardner

7 September 2006
Ava Gardner 
by Lee Server.
Bloomsbury, 551 pp., £20, April 2006, 0 7475 6547 3
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... a romantic soul which has not yet found the true object of her desires’ – and said, according to Server: ‘It is almost me.’ Again, when she read the script of The Barefoot Contessa, she told Joseph Mankiewicz: ‘I’m not an actress, but I think I understand this girl. She’s a lot like me.’ Gardner’s increasing identification with her screen performances is not a surprise. This was how ...

The Castaway

Jeremy Harding: Algeria’s Camus

4 December 2014
Algerian Chronicles 
by Albert Camus, edited by Alice Kaplan, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Harvard, 224 pp., £11.95, November 2014, 978 0 674 41675 8
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Camus brûlant 
by Benjamin Stora and Jean-Baptiste Péretié.
Stock, 109 pp., €12.50, September 2013, 978 2 234 07482 8
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Meursault, contre-enquête 
by Kamel Daoud.
Actes Sud, 155 pp., €19, May 2014, 978 2 330 03372 9
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... a deadbeat coastal town between Oran and the capital and, as the Europeans depart, mother and son have taken over a nearby house vacated by a family of settlers. They’re disturbed late at night by Joseph, a terrified Frenchman, returning to his relatives’ property to escape the wave of post-independence violence against the Europeans. Egged on by his crone of a mother, Haroun fires two rounds at ...
1 October 1998
Bodies of Law 
by Alan Hyde.
Princeton, 290 pp., £39.50, July 1997, 0 691 01229 6
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... the images consist of wafer-thin slices (1871 of them) through the frozen body and thus provide a microscopically detailed surgical map of his insides.* ‘Adam’ was a convicted murderer – Joseph Paul Jernigan, executed (by barbiturate poisoning) in Texas in 1993 – who donated his body to science. His bizarre, semi-eternal preservation represents the apotheosis of the displayed, reified ...

When Ireland Became Divided

Garret FitzGerald: The Free State’s Fight for Recognition

21 January 1999
Documents on Irish Foreign Policy. Vol. I: 1919-22 
edited by Ronan Fanning.
Royal Irish Academy and Department of Foreign Affairs, 548 pp., £30, October 1998, 1 874045 63 1
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... established under Eamon de Valera’s presidency ten weeks later, in which Michael Collins was appointed Minister for Finance. Plunkett was a wealthy builder who had been made a Papal Count. His son, Joseph, had visited Germany in 1915 to negotiate aid for the Easter Rising, and had been executed for his part in that event. In a by-election in 1917 Count Plunkett had been elected as an abstentionist ...

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