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Mao Badges and Rocket Parts

Robert Macfarlane, 23 August 2001

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress 
by Dai Sijie, translated by Ina Rilke.
Chatto, 208 pp., £10, June 2001, 0 7011 6982 6
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The Drink and Dream Teahouse 
by Justin Hill.
Weidenfeld, 344 pp., £12.99, March 2001, 0 297 64697 4
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... readers from contemporary China, which tends to be neither seen nor heard in a fictional context. Justin Hill’s The Drink and Dream Teahouse is doubly unusual in that it is set in present-day China and that despite having a Western author, it contains no Western characters to mediate the narrative. Hill’s first ...


Richard Sanger: Nothing ever happens in Ottawa, 21 April 2022

... years after his father called in the army, hundreds of enormous rigs were rolling into town and Justin Trudeau was trying not to repeat his dad’s heavy-handedness. All three levels of government – federal, provincial and municipal – studiously avoided confrontation (except with one another). You could see why. Close up, the trucks were massive: two ...

Cute, My Arse

Seamus Perry: Geoffrey Hill, 12 September 2019

The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Oxford, 148 pp., £20, April 2019, 978 0 19 882952 2
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... You​ would be hard pressed to describe Geoffrey Hill’s final work. To say it is a sort of notebook cast as a prose poem in 271 sections of greatly varying length doesn’t get you very far. In one way it is squarely in the tradition of Pope’s Dunciad (which it mentions): it is a poem about the betrayal of England, a yowl of anger and outrage at the prevailing imbecility Hill often addressed in his later works ...

Out Hunting

Gary Younge: In Baltimore, 29 July 2021

We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops and Corruption in an American City 
by Justin Fenton.
Faber, 335 pp., £14.99, February, 978 0 571 35661 4
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... bad people and bad attitudes; others focus on policies, practices and power. In We Own This City Justin Fenton tells a story of bad people and bad attitudes, but – whether he intends to or not – his book reveals the way systemic discrimination operates, whom it affects and how it is sustained. His narrative is brisk and engaging. Unlike Jill Leovy’s ...


John Kerrigan, 18 July 1996

The ‘O’o’a’a’ Bird 
by Justin Quinn.
Carcanet, 69 pp., £7.95, March 1995, 1 85754 125 1
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Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time 
by Eavan Boland.
Carcanet, 254 pp., £18.95, April 1995, 1 85754 074 3
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Collected Poems 
by Eavan Boland.
Carcanet, 217 pp., £9.95, November 1995, 1 85754 220 7
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Captain Lavender 
by Medbh McGuckian.
Gallery Press, 83 pp., £11.95, November 1994, 9781852351427
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... In Irish poetry, from Ó Rathaille to the rebel songs, a paradigmatic encounter recurs. Up on a hill, or down by the glenside, the poet meets a woman who celebrates Ireland’s pastand speaks of national redemption. This emblematic figure, often glimpsed in a vision or ‘aisling’, can be a glamorous maiden awaiting her Stuart prince, but she also appears as the ‘poor old woman’ of the patriotic ballads ...

In an Empty Church

Peter Howarth: R.S. Thomas, 26 April 2007

The Man who Went into the West: The Life of R.S. Thomas 
by Byron Rogers.
Aurum, 326 pp., £16.99, June 2006, 1 84513 146 0
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... those jealously self-protecting autobiographies, though, or the socio-biographical approach of Justin Wintle’s Furious Interiors (1996), are the many testimonies from Thomas’s family, a more exacting test of character than any self-scrutiny the poet could come up with. ‘He found it difficult to focus on anything that wasn’t himself,’ his former ...

He Couldn’t Stop Himself

Michael Kulikowski: Justinian’s Wars, 21 March 2019

The Codex of Justinian 
translated by Fred H. Blume, edited by Bruce W. Frier.
Cambridge, three vols, 2963 pp., £450, May 2016
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... had been or still were part of the Roman Empire, you would probably have met a demon. Every tree, hill and stream, every hovel and hamlet, harboured some threat to mortal souls. Demons coiled round the legs of dying sinners and snatched them up in their gaping jaws. They landed in wine cups and tricked people into drinking them. But prayer, repentance or a ...

Incandescent Memory

Thomas Powers: Mark Twain, 28 April 2011

Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol. I 
edited by Harriet Elinor Smith et al.
California, 736 pp., £24.95, November 2010, 978 0 520 26719 0
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... his father was another of them. The date was 24 March 1847; the place was the home of a friend on Hill Street in Hannibal, where John Clemens had taken to his bed with a cold that developed into pneumonia. It was in that room, only minutes before his father’s final rattling breaths, that young Sam for the first time watched one member of his family kiss ...

By All Possible Art

Tobias Gregory: George Herbert, 18 December 2014

Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert 
by John Drury.
Penguin, 396 pp., £9.99, April 2014, 978 0 14 104340 1
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... Herbert has influenced poets from Henry Vaughan and Richard Crashaw to Dylan Thomas and Geoffrey Hill. And not only poets; reading Herbert has made converts, even in modern times. While reciting ‘Love (III)’, the famous last poem in The Temple, Simone Weil felt that ‘Christ himself descended and took possession of me.’ A recent series of Guardian ...

If I Turn and Run

Iain Sinclair: In Hoxton, 1 June 2000

by Bill Drummond.
Little, Brown, 361 pp., £12.99, March 2000, 0 316 85385 2
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Crucify Me Again 
by Mark Manning.
Codex, 190 pp., £8.95, May 2000, 0 18 995814 6
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... the railway arches (such as the spot where the former million-pound footballer and Barnardo boy, Justin Fashanu, hanged himself), and you can uncover the usual sub-metropolitan mix of high and low; a Darwinian realpolitik of twisters and twicers getting their retaliation in first. Wander down Curtain Road and you have a trajectory that swerves from ...

One Summer in America

Eliot Weinberger, 26 September 2019

... video of Ivanka waving her hands as she tries to enter into a conversation among Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau, Theresa May and Christine Lagarde, who grimaces. It is reported that a ‘friendship tree’, given months earlier by Macron to Trump and ceremoniously planted by both on the White House lawn as a symbol of the ties that bind France and the ...

The Satoshi Affair

Andrew O’Hagan, 30 June 2016

... with Wright, to seeing the patents and the new blockchain ideas. During our lunch in Notting Hill, Matonis suggested that this technology would change the world. One of the scientists said to me, ‘This isn’t Bitcoin 2.0. This is something magnificent that will change who we are. This is Life 2.0,’ and Matonis agreed. The idea was now to use the ...

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