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What did they name the dog?

Wendy Doniger: Twins, 19 March 1998

Twins: Genes, Environment and the Mystery of Identity 
by Lawrence Wright.
Weidenfeld, 128 pp., £14.99, November 1997, 0 297 81976 3
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... species (Herakles and Iphikles, the immortal and mortal infant twins born of Zeus and Amphitryon). Lawrence Wright grounds what he calls ‘this widespread fantasy’ in other peoples’ studies of separated identical twins: Babies actually do get lost or separated, and, however rare such an event may be, when a person finds his twin it feeds the common ...

The Original Targets

James Meek: The Birth of al-Qaida, 8 February 2007

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaida’s Road to 9/11 
by Lawrence Wright.
Allen Lane, 470 pp., £25, August 2006, 9780713999730
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... Zawahiri and his group immediately. It does not exonerate Zawahiri that the boys really had, as Lawrence Wright explains, tried to kill him: Ahmed by telling Egyptian spies exactly when Zawahiri was going to come to treat him for malaria; the other boy, Musab, by twice trying to plant a bomb. The assassination attempts were part of the Egyptian ...

Downland Maniacs

Michael Mason, 5 October 1995

The Village that Died for England 
by Patrick Wright.
Cape, 420 pp., £17.99, March 1995, 0 224 03886 9
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... we are blessedly enlightened, like South Sea cannibal islanders converted to Christianity. Patrick Wright’s new book is all about not being triumphalist, or taking any simple view on the history of attitudes to human use of the natural world. This sounds like an implausibly large endeavour for a book whose subject is just one bit of England (Purbeck), in the ...

Big Ben

Stephen Fender, 18 September 1986

Franklin of Philadelphia 
by Esmond Wright.
Harvard, 404 pp., £21.25, May 1986, 0 674 31809 9
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... Professor Wright’s third book on Benjamin Franklin is advertised as the ‘first comprehensive biography’ of the American printer, scientist and statesman ‘in fifty years’. What makes it possible is not only the life’s work of a British scholar but also, says the blurb, ‘Yale’s massive edition-in-progress of Franklin’s papers ...

Along the Divide

Nathan Thrall: Israel’s Allies, 5 November 2015

Periphery: Israel’s Search for Middle East Allies 
by Yossi Alpher.
Rowman and Littlefield, 196 pp., £23.95, January 2015, 978 1 4422 3101 6
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... period. In his useful book Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David, Lawrence Wright recounts a conversation between Sadat and his foreign minister, Mohamed Kamel, on the day before the signing ceremony, moments before Kamel resigned.* Kamel warned Sadat against a unilateral peace between Egypt and Israel that would isolate ...

Laptop Jihadi

Adam Shatz: Theoretician of al-Qaida, 20 March 2008

Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of al-Qaida Strategist Abu Musab al-Suri 
by Brynjar Lia.
Hurst, 510 pp., £27.50, November 2007, 978 1 85065 856 6
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... the true measure of jihadi fame. Since then, he has been read at West Point, profiled by Lawrence Wright in the New Yorker, heralded by Newsweek as the ‘Francis Fukuyama of al-Qaida’ and by CNN as ‘the most dangerous terrorist you’ve never heard of’. The ‘architect of global jihad’ seems to have been discovered by the umma and the ...

Getting on

Paul Addison, 9 October 1986

On Living in an Old Country 
by Patrick Wright.
Verso, 262 pp., £5.95, September 1985, 0 86091 833 5
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Religion and Public Doctrine in Modern England. Vol. II: Assaults 
by Maurice Cowling.
Cambridge, 375 pp., £30, November 1985, 0 521 25959 2
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... Here are two books about the relationship of the English to their past. According to Patrick Wright, England is a reactionary society burdened by a false mystique of national identity. To dissolve that mystique must be one of the first priorities of democratic socialists in establishing an alternative society with a renewed faith in its capacity for progress ...

At Dia:Beacon

Hal Foster: Fetishistic Minimalist, 5 June 2003

... the operation. Eventually de Menil’s family intervened, Friedrich resigned in 1985 and Charles Wright, a young lawyer from Seattle, was hired as director. Wright continued the focus on single-artist projects and long-term exhibitions, but he also opened Dia to the art community through new shows, adventurous symposia and ...


Patrick Wright: The Deer Park or the Tank Park?, 31 March 1988

... which is now given over to atomic energy research, and Bovington which is all tanks and T.E. Lawrence. The estate has certainly seen some changes but in many respects, as Mr Weld agrees, is holding up well. The loss of the castle was sad, but even this is beginning to come out quite advantageously now that English Heritage are involved: a tastefully ...

Crossed Palettes

Ronald Paulson, 4 November 1993

Painting for Money: The Visual Arts and the Public Sphere in 18th-Century England 
by David Solkin.
Yale, 312 pp., £40, July 1993, 0 300 05741 5
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... paintings were, in important ways, anti-academic, or ‘English’: Hogarth himself, Zoffany, Wright of Derby, Stubbs, Gainsborough, Rowlandson and Blake. The second group all shared something of Hogarth’s anti-authoritarian scepticism. Turner acknowledged his allegiance to it when he donated Hogarth’s palette to the Royal Academy, while Constable ...

Little England

Patrick Wright: The view through a bus window, 7 September 2006

Great British Bus Journeys: Travels through Unfamous Places 
by David McKie.
Atlantic, 359 pp., £16.99, March 2006, 1 84354 132 7
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... whose Towards Democracy was full of new English premonitions, H.G. Wells and, above all, D.H. Lawrence: Sons and Lovers had impressed Goldring as the best embodiment of the ‘curious, indefinable, essential English spirit’. In those early postwar years, Goldring had yearned for a ‘rebirth’ in which the recovery of England would be combined with a ...

Writing Absurdity

Adam Shatz: Chester Himes, 26 April 2018

Chester B. Himes: A Biography 
by Lawrence P. Jackson.
Norton, 606 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 393 06389 9
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... a twenty-year sentence for armed robbery. Himes had already seen his share of troubles but, as Lawrence Jackson writes in his impressive biography, they ‘did not inspire him’ the way that ‘stumbling through the gore of two cell block tiers’ worth of burned-alive men’ did. After the fire, Himes began to write fiction on a typewriter he had bought ...

Black and White Life

Mark Greif: Ralph Ellison, 1 November 2007

Ralph Ellison: A Biography 
by Arnold Rampersad.
Knopf, 657 pp., $35, April 2007, 978 0 375 40827 4
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... biographies of Ellison which are useful in quite different ways. Five years ago, the young scholar Lawrence Jackson published Ralph Ellison: Emergence of Genius. It was in effect the first real biography, and not much noticed, though it was a compelling portrait. Jackson chose as his subject-matter only Ellison’s history up to the publication of Invisible ...

Grandiose Moments

Frank Kermode, 6 February 1997

Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, Vol. II 
by Max Saunders.
Oxford, 696 pp., £35, September 1996, 0 19 212608 3
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... in The End of the Affair. These writers and many others of many stripes – Herbert Read, D.H. Lawrence, Hugh Walpole, for instance – admired him because he was shrewd and helpful about the business of writing. That Max Saunders is a fervent admirer in this tradition is amply proved by his devoting the best part of two decades to this biography. He ...


P.N. Furbank, 18 October 1984

Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusion of a Very Ordinary Brain (since 1866) 
by H.G. Wells.
Faber, 838 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 571 13330 4
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H.G. Wells in Love: Postscript to an Experiment in Autobiography 
edited by G.P. Wells.
Faber, 253 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 571 13329 0
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The Man with a Nose, and the Other Uncollected Short Stories of H.G. Wells 
edited by J.R. Hammond.
Athlone, 212 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 485 11247 7
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... the age, not just of colonial empires, but of shady financial ‘empires’ like those of Whitaker Wright and Terah Hooley. Wells, it seems to me, was haunted by the knowledge that his methods as thinker and prophet as much resembled those of Uncle Edward Ponderevo, promoter of the world-famous patent medicine Tono-Bungay, as they did those of Plato and ...

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