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Ghost Ions

Jonathan Coe: AA-Rated Memories, 18 August 2022

Offbeat: British Cinema’s Curiosities, Obscurities and Forgotten Gems 
edited by Julian Upton.
Headpress, 595 pp., £22.99, April, 978 1 909394 93 3
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The Magic Box: Viewing Britain through the Rectangular Window 
by Rob Young.
Faber, 500 pp., £12.99, August, 978 0 571 28460 3
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... the time I was composing a long, complicated spy story called Manhunt, and to make the title look more official on the front of the exercise book in which I was writing it, I added the two letters at the end of the word, in tiny block capitals, subscript. Manhunt by itself looked a bit feeble, but ManhuntAA looked incredibly cool. Yes, it was a book I was ...

The Immortal Coil

Richard Barnett: Faraday’s Letters, 21 March 2013

The Correspondence of Michael Faraday Vol. VI, 1860-67 
by Frank James.
IET, 919 pp., £85, December 2011, 978 0 86341 957 7
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... In the summer of 1831, James Woods, master of St John’s College, Cambridge, and Wordsworth’s former tutor, decided that his college should have a portrait of its most celebrated living alumnus. He commissioned Henry William Pickersgill – an apprentice Spitalfields silk-weaver turned Royal Academician – to produce a full-length oil painting of Wordsworth in an appropriately sublime setting, and in the early autumn of 1832 Pickersgill made the journey to Rydal Mount ...

Old Ladies

D.A.N. Jones, 20 August 1992

Dear Departed: A Memoir 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Maria Louise Ascher.
Aidan Ellis, 346 pp., £18, April 1992, 0 85628 186 7
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Anna, Soror 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Walter Kaiser.
Harvill, 256 pp., £7.99, May 1992, 0 00 271222 9
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That Mighty Sculptor, Time 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Walter Kaiser.
Aidan Ellis, 224 pp., £18, June 1992, 9780856281594
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Coming into the End Zone: A Memoir 
by Doris Grumbach.
Norton, 256 pp., £13.95, April 1992, 0 393 03009 1
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Anything Once 
by Joan Wyndham.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 178 pp., £15.95, March 1992, 9781856191296
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Within Tuscany 
by Matthew Spender.
Viking, 366 pp., £16.99, April 1992, 0 670 83836 5
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... and later his third wife’. As a septuagenarian in 1974, Yourcenar noted that she was more than twice as old as Fernande had been in 1903, and that she could ‘look at her as at a daughter whom I am trying my best to understand’. Set against this passage is a reproduction of Fernande’s souvenir pieux – ‘a small religious card that could ...

Walkers in the Ruined City

Anthony Grafton: History in Ruins, 6 May 2021

The Ruins Lesson: Meaning and Material in Western Culture 
by Susan Stewart.
Chicago, 378 pp., £23, June, 978 0 226 79220 0
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The Eternal City: A History of Rome in Maps 
by Jessica Maier.
Chicago, 199 pp., £25, October 2020, 978 0 226 59145 2
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... safely on the other side. Apparently Spartan virtue wasn’t dead yet.In the ghost stories of M.R. James, antiquarians are drier than dust: it takes an attack by a centuries-old ghoul to make them break out in a spot of mild tut-tuttery. In reality, they were volatile creatures. A visit to any ancient site but especially Rome – perhaps the greatest mass of ...

The Other Thomas

Charles Nicholl, 8 November 2012

... pretty well. He was ‘one of the twelve’, the inner circle of followers or disciples of Jesus. More particularly, he was the disciple who questioned the truth of Jesus’s resurrection. In John 20, the only gospel source for the story, he demands to see and touch the physical evidence of crucifixion – ‘Except I shall see in his hands the print of the ...

Physicke from Another Body

Michael Neill: Cannibal Tinctures, 1 December 2011

Medicinal Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture 
by Louise Noble.
Palgrave Macmillan, 241 pp., £52, March 2011, 978 0 230 11027 4
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Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: The History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians 
by Richard Sugg.
Routledge, 374 pp., £24.99, June 2011, 978 0 415 67417 1
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... the celebrated ‘St Michan’s mummies’, 60 years ago, I already knew of the church from M.R. James, whose tales of supernatural terror entirely possessed my nine-year-old imagination. We entered the crypt, and it was as though my schoolfellows and I had stumbled into the pages of ‘The Treasure of Abbot Thomas’, ‘Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook’ or ...

Get knitting

Ian Hacking: Birth and Death of the Brain, 18 August 2005

The 21st-Century Brain: Explaining, Mending and Manipulating the Mind 
by Steven Rose.
Cape, 344 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 224 06254 9
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... brains. One is implied directly: start at the beginning of life itself, tracing the appearance of more and more complex living creatures, some of which develop organs that better and better perform brain-like functions. This evolutionary story allows us to begin to understand the constraints governing the structure of ...

Drugs, anyone?

Seamus Perry: George Meredith, 18 June 2015

Modern Love and Poems of the English Roadside, with Poems and Ballads 
by George Meredith, edited by Criscillia Benford and Rebecca Mitchell.
Yale, 390 pp., £40, April 2015, 978 0 300 17317 8
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... to drugs, but to exercise, clean living, and cheerfulness.’ Drugs, anyone? Nothing could seem more absolutely consigned to history than the combination of a strong pair of legs and a healthy cast of mind that so powerfully appealed to the late Victorian intelligentsia. ‘He was all wire and whipcord,’ one of Meredith’s contemporaries recorded, ‘and ...

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