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Benjamin Markovits: Mark Costello, 5 August 2004

Big If 
by Mark Costello.
Atlantic, 315 pp., £10.99, February 2004, 9781843542179
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... Before Mark Costello became a writer he was a federal prosecutor. His first book, Bag Men (1997), was set in 1960s Boston. A priest is murdered on the runway at Logan. A new ultra-pure drug is killing the hippies in Cambridge; another one is sending them mad. The hero, just finished at Boston College Law School, explains to his wife why he wants to be a DA: they ‘help people ...

God wielded the buzzer

Christian Lorentzen: The Sorrows of DFW, 11 October 2012

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace 
by D.T. Max.
Granta, 352 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 84708 494 1
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... John McCain for Rolling Stone in 2000, he was basically a liberal Democrat.) His roommate Mark Costello became a lifelong confidant and sometime collaborator. (Costello is now a novelist in New York and teaches law at Fordham University.) Wallace’s depression was recognised by William Kennick, the philosophy ...

Illuminating, horrible etc

Jenny Turner: David Foster Wallace, 14 April 2011

Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace 
by David Lipsky.
Broadway, 320 pp., $16.99, 9780307592439
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The Pale King: An Unfinished Novel 
by David Foster Wallace.
Hamish Hamilton, 547 pp., £20, April 2011, 978 0 241 14480 0
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... infinitely dense thing. And that … had kind of exploded.’ He collaborated with his friend Mark Costello on Signifying Rappers (1990), an odd, fizzy book about ‘serious rap’ and ‘the “postmodern” inversion’. He started, and abandoned, a PhD at Harvard. He booked himself into hospital with suicidal thoughts. And then things started ...

Great Internationalists

Rupert Cornwell, 2 February 1989

Philby: The Life and Views of the KGB Masterspy 
by Phillip Knightley.
Deutsch, 291 pp., £14.95, October 1988, 0 233 98360 0
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Mask of Treachery: The First Documented Dossier on Blunt, MI5 and Soviet Subversion 
by John Costello.
Collins, 761 pp., £18, November 1988, 0 00 217536 3
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A Divided Life: A Biography of Donald Maclean 
by Robert Cecil.
Bodley Head, 212 pp., £15, October 1988, 0 370 31129 9
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The Storm Birds: Soviet Post-War Defectors 
by Gordon Brook-Shepherd.
Weidenfeld, 303 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 0 297 79464 7
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... Times book, Philby, the spy who betrayed a generation, which he co-authored in 1968. Mr John Costello has produced Mask of Treachery, dealing with Blunt, while Mr Robert Cecil has written a biography of his former Foreign Office colleague Donald Maclean. To round things out, we have The Storm Birds, Gordon Brook-Shepherd’s study of the Soviet agents ...


David Goldie: Morecambe and Wise, 15 April 1999

Morecambe and Wise 
by Graham McCann.
Fourth Estate, 416 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 1 85702 735 3
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... in which Morecambe and Wise began, mimicking the hard-edged wise-guy contentiousness of Abbott and Costello and writing it small on the British variety stage. Very small. Their partnership was established in 1940 when both, already seasoned entertainers, were in their mid-teens. As Morecambe would later recall, they were at this point ‘two boys of 14 with ...

Via ‘Bret’ via Bret

J. Robert Lennon: Bret Easton Ellis, 24 June 2010

Imperial Bedrooms 
by Bret Easton Ellis.
Picador, 178 pp., £16.99, July 2010, 978 0 330 44976 2
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... beginning to experiment with the narrative unreliability and psychological sharpness that would mark his most accomplished work. And then, in 1991, there was American Psycho. I’m having drinks with Charles Murphy at Rusty’s to fortify myself before making an appearance at Evelyn’s Christmas party. I’m wearing a four-button double-breasted wool and ...

How They Brought the Good News

Colin Kidd: Britain’s Napoleonic Wars, 20 November 2014

In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 739 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 571 26952 5
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... as a result of an exploding ammunition wagon. Starvation confronted Plunket’s comrade Ned Costello, unable to provide for Augustine, his common-law French wife, and their baby. In despair he used the £5 he received from the Patriotic Fund to get mother and baby back to France: ‘“Ne m’oubliez pas,” were her last words as she squeezed my ...

Reader, he married her

Christopher Hitchens, 10 May 1990

Tom Driberg: His Life and Indiscretions 
by Francis Wheen.
Chatto, 452 pp., £18, May 1990, 0 7011 3143 8
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... old life up to speed. He would go anywhere and do anything for the chance to suck somebody off. Mark you, even this desire had been coloured, if that’s the word I want, by advancing years. He tended to say that he did it on doctor’s orders (‘the potassium ingredient is frightfully good for one’). He did not, even when faced with decrepitude, much ...


Tom Nairn: The Australian elections, 13 December 2007

... for change? Well, possibly. In an Australian Financial Review article, the former Labor leader Mark Latham maintained that the last year has been marked by a crippling ‘convergence’ between the Liberal-National alliance and Labor. Just as Blairism took over so much of Thatcherism, so the new Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd, has been striving to ...

Stony Ground

Peter D. McDonald: J.M. Coetzee, 20 October 2005

J.M. Coetzee and the Ethics of Reading: Literature in the Event 
by Derek Attridge.
Chicago, 225 pp., £13.50, May 2005, 0 226 03117 9
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Slow Man 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Secker, 265 pp., £16.99, September 2005, 0 436 20611 0
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... of Coetzee as a mythically fastidious, apolitical figure. The caricature understandably left its mark: Coetzee has from the first displayed an acute awareness of the politics of his own authority as a novelist and, above all, as a white South African novelist. It is difficult not to read the opening of his 1992 essay on Erasmus’s The Praise of Folly ...

Are we there yet?

David Simpson: Abasing language, abusing prisoners, 17 February 2005

Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror 
by Mark Danner.
Granta, 573 pp., £16.99, February 2005, 9781862077720
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The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib 
edited by Karen Greenberg and Joshua Dratel.
Cambridge, 1284 pp., £27.50, February 2005, 0 521 85324 9
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... others, often involving the Special Forces, perhaps yet to be explored or convincingly resolved. Mark Danner’s opening thesis, formulated of course before this latest round of revelations, is that the wide circulation of the Abu Ghraib photographs, startling though they were when first released, has increasingly worked to ‘block a full public ...


Anne Enright: Call Yourself George, 21 September 2017

... Irish Times and found none. They were all by men. There was a short interview with a woman, Mary Costello, a writer whose sentences are notably clean and assured. Under her photograph a subeditor had put the quote: ‘I find the public side of being published very difficult.’ A single subheading read: ‘Shy and unassuming’. A poem, ‘Women’s ...

Before I Began

Christopher Tayler: Coetzee Makes a Leap, 4 June 2020

The Death of Jesus 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill Secker, 208 pp., £18.99, January, 978 1 78730 211 2
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... a cult’, but sometimes, when no one is around, he puts on the music Señor Arroyo composed to mark his wife’s death, and dances until he has visions of silvery spheres.Enter a new educational expert. Dr Julio Fabricante, the director of an orphanage called Las Manos, is rumoured, as these proper nouns suggest, to be ‘an advocate of practical ...

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