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Lucy Hughes-Hallett, 19 December 1991

The Emperor’s Last Island: A Journey to St Helena 
by Julia Blackburn.
Secker, 244 pp., £16.99, October 1991, 0 436 20030 9
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... Each chapter of Julia Blackburn’s peculiar and haunting book has its epigraph. The largest number of quotations are from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass; the second most frequent source is King Lear. Absurdity and tragedy alternate and overlap in this tale of pomp in reduced circumstances. As Lear discovered, a king’s no better than a fool when the winds are blowing ...

What, how often and with whom?

Lawrence Stone, 3 August 1995

The Social Organisation of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States 
by Edward Laumann, John Gagnon, Robert Michael and Stuart Michaels.
Chicago, 742 pp., £39.95, October 1994, 0 226 46957 3
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Sex in America: A Definitive Survey 
by Robert Michael, John Gagnon, Edward Laumann and Gina Kolata.
Little, Brown, 289 pp., £16.99, November 1994, 0 316 91191 7
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Sexual Behaviour in Britain: The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Life-Styles 
by Kaye Wellings, Julia Field, A.M. Johnson and Jane Wadsworth.
Penguin, 464 pp., £15, January 1994, 0 14 015814 6
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... In the early Eighties, Western governments, notably those of America, Britain and France, were anxious to assess the probable rate of growth and pathways of infection of Aids. They sponsored extensive sex surveys in order to find out, for example, the number of sexual partners an average male had in his lifetime and how many used safe sex. The British survey was carried out by four women, primarily trained in medical statistics, epidemiology and health care ...

Doing Philosophy

Julia Annas, 22 November 1990

The ‘Theaetetus’ of Plato 
translated by M.J. Levett and Myles Burnyeat.
Hackett, 351 pp., £20, September 1990, 0 915144 82 4
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... of the dialogue, to connect knowledge with the ability to explain, and to have mastery over a field, practical or intellectual, by way of having mastery over the basic elements of that field. Socrates finds it obvious, for example, that someone who can correctly spell the first syllable of ‘Theaetetus’ but gets ...

Ambassadors

Pat Rogers, 3 June 1982

The Samurai 
by Shusaku Endo, translated by Van C. Gessel.
Peter Owen, 272 pp., £8.95, May 1982, 0 7206 0559 8
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The Obedient Wife 
by Julia O’Faolain.
Allen Lane, 230 pp., £7.50, May 1982, 9780713914672
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Pinball 
by Jerzy Kosinski.
Joseph, 287 pp., £7.95, May 1982, 0 7181 2133 3
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Brother of the More Famous Jack 
by Barbara Trapido.
Gollancz, 218 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 0 575 03112 3
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... awful, whether they be shallow advice-mongers on local radio or self-dramatising actresses. Julia O’Faolain is good at rendering their excesses without falling into caricature. As for Carla, she is worried not just about reaching 40 but about reaching 37. When a neighbour’s child is hurt in a swimming-pool accident, she begins to fear ‘that ...

Was Ma Hump to blame?

John Sutherland: Aldous Huxley, 11 July 2002

Aldous Huxley: An English Intellectual 
by Nicholas Murray.
Little, Brown, 496 pp., £20, April 2002, 0 316 85492 1
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TheCat's Meow 
directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
April 2002
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... three events as having formed young Aldous’s personality: the premature death of his mother, Julia Huxley (née Arnold), when he was 14; his temporary blindness three years later; and – most damaging – the suicide of his older brother, Trevenen, who hanged himself when Aldous was 20. These traumas resurface, symptomatically, everywhere in his ...

Time of the Assassin

Michael Wood, 26 January 1995

Proust and the Sense of Time 
by Julia Kristeva, translated by Stephen Bann.
Faber, 103 pp., £20, July 1993, 0 571 16880 9
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Le Temps sensible: Proust et l’expérience littéraire 
by Julia Kristeva.
Gallimard, 451 pp., January 1995, 2 07 073116 2
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The Old Man and the Wolves 
by Julia Kristeva, translated by Barbara Bray.
Columbia, 183 pp., £15, January 1995, 0 231 08020 4
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... And so,’ Bréhal said, ‘love would be time become available to the senses.’ Julia Kristeva, Les Samouraïs The genuine charm and considerable strength of Julia Kristeva’s writing are inseparable from a certain solemnity and excess of diligence, a heavy shadow that dogs her like an obligation ...

Exceptionally Wonderful Book

John Sutherland, 6 October 1994

Knowledge of Angels 
by Jill Paton Walsh.
Green Bay in association with Colt, 268 pp., £14.99, July 1994, 0 948845 05 8
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... all celebrities (whatever the source of their celebrity) are experts. No one would appoint Julia Neuberger, distinguished person though she is, to judge a high-diving competition. The fact that they are judges and the competition a judicial process imposes an invincible solemnity. Comic novels don’t do well. Malcolm Bradbury’s Post-Modernist ...

Mythology in Bits

Tim Whitmarsh: Ancient Greek ‘Religion’, 20 December 2018

The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion 
edited by Esther Eidinow and Julia Kindt.
Oxford, 736 pp., £30, December 2017, 978 0 19 881017 9
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... among others. Only rarely was this sprawl of gods, rituals and ideas understood as a unified field. The Greeks wouldn’t have recognised our notion that religions are distinctive to particular peoples. They tended to see other peoples’ gods as versions of their own: the Egyptian Ptah was treated as the equivalent of Hephaestus, the Phoenician Melqart ...

Raymond and Saxon and Maynard and …

Penelope Lively, 19 February 1981

Memories 
by Frances Partridge.
Gollancz, 238 pp., £9.95, January 1981, 0 575 02912 9
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Notes from Sick Rooms 
by Leslie Stephen.
Puckerbrush, 52 pp., £1.50, March 1981, 0 913006 16 5
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... in which they do so. Frances Partridge was born in 1901: she spans the century – a rich enough field, one would think. And her previous book, A Pacifist’s War, is eminently, even compulsively readable: personal recollection is tethered to public events; the immediacy of her wartime diary allows the reader to share the depression, the sinking in the ...

Wormwood

Walter Patterson, 29 October 1987

Sarcophagus 
by Vladimir Gubaryev, translated by Michael Glenny.
Penguin, 81 pp., £3.50, April 1987, 0 14 048214 8
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The Star Chernobyl 
by Julia Voznesenskaya.
Quartet, 181 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 7043 2631 0
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Chernobyl: A Novel 
by Frederick Pohl.
Bantam, 355 pp., £4.95, September 1987, 0 553 05210 1
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Mayday at Chernobyl 
by Henry Hamman and Stuart Parrott.
Hodder, 278 pp., £2.95, April 1987, 0 450 40858 2
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State of the World 1987: A Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress toward a Sustainable Society 
by Lester Brown.
Norton, 268 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 393 02399 0
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... is one of the most encouraging signs thus far of the transformation taking place under Gorbachev. Julia Voznesenskaya is a Russian poet whose activities put her in prison in the Soviet Union and then exiled her to West Germany. She takes as her motif the startling quotation from the Revelations of St John: ‘And the third angel sounded, and there fell a ...

Fundamentally Goyish

James Wood: Zadie Smith, 3 October 2002

The Autograph Man 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 420 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 0 241 13998 8
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... contemporary ones.) And if Smith is really concerned about Alex’s destiny, his wandering in the field of signs that is his career, then why does the novel so willingly indulge in just the sort of pop-culture vacancy that Alex tries to resist? Such vacancy is embedded deep in the texture of the prose. Thus we read that ‘Alex folded into the door frame like ...

Where is this England?

Bernard Porter: The Opium War, 3 November 2011

The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China 
by Julia Lovell.
Picador, 458 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 0 330 45747 7
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... of the diplomatic row over the opium issue in 1839-42 (the period of the First Opium War, which Julia Lovell’s book focuses on) revolved around who should ‘kowtow’ to whom. It hardly seems surprising that the event has slipped British historical memory. I don’t imagine the topic will make it into Michael Gove’s ‘patriotic’ school history ...

Less than Perfectly Submissive

Susan Pedersen: No Votes, Thank You, 20 March 2008

Women against the Vote: Female Anti-Suffragism in Britain 
by Julia Bush.
Oxford, 340 pp., £35, October 2007, 978 0 19 924877 3
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... work from dawn till dusk for the public weal – but without the tools men had to hand. Why? Julia Bush’s earnest new book only partly answers this question. The anti-suffragists, she tells us, were much like their suffragist opponents: serious, high-minded, committed to a range of worthy causes, often possessed of advanced views about the need for ...

If you’re not a lesbian, get the hell out

Lidija Haas: Jane Bowles, 25 April 2013

Everything Is Nice: Collected Stories, Sketches and Plays 
by Jane Bowles.
Sort Of, 416 pp., £10.99, December 2012, 978 1 908745 15 6
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... pieces. In ‘A Day in the Open’, he and a friend take two prostitutes, Inez and the ailing Julia, on a picnic. He insists on carrying Julia into a river near a waterfall – ‘he liked nothing better than performing little feats that were assured of success from the beginning’ – and enjoys telling her that if he ...

Short Cuts

Philippa Hetherington: Canberra’s Coups, 27 September 2018

... openly plotting revenge. Before Turnbull and Abbott, the Labor prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard had repeatedly moved through the revolving doors of leadership, deposing each other with increasing bitterness. And on top of this, since mid-2017 Australian politics has been convulsed by a series of scandals related to Section 44 of the ...

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