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Drowned in a Bowl of Blood

Josephine Quinn: Cyrus the Great, 13 July 2023

King of the World: The Life of Cyrus the Great 
by Matt Waters.
Oxford, 255 pp., £21.99, September 2022, 978 0 19 092717 2
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... of when he was born or how he came to power, nor do we have dates for many of his conquests. Matt Waters devotes much of his new biography to sorting through such problems. The outline at least is clear. Sometime in the eighth century bce, Cyrus’ ancestors migrated from Central Asia to the Zagros mountains in what is now Iran, east of the Fertile ...

Great Kings, Strong Kings, Kings of the Four Quarters

Peter Green: The Achaemenids, 7 May 2015

Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550-330 BCE 
by Matt Waters.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £19.99, January 2014, 978 0 521 25369 7
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... it. He claimed the otherwise obscure Achaemenes as an ancestor, and went out of his way, as Matt Waters points out, to insist that Cyrus, too, had been an Achaemenid, though Cyrus himself had never said anything of that sort. Darius became an even more dominant Great King and so, despite the possibly mythical status of Achaemenes, the rulers of the ...

Among Flayed Hills

David Craig, 8 May 1997

The Killing of the Countryside 
by Graham Harvey.
Cape, 218 pp., £17.99, March 1997, 0 224 04444 3
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... yellowhammers and partridges, voles and mice, to the kestrels, sparrowhawks and owls. Now all is matt yellow or matt green from edge to edge of each huge field. The downs and meadows are falling silent. The rivers are losing their clarity and their fish as nitrate residues leach into the watercourses. It has happened ...

Ropes, Shirts or Dirty Socks

Adam Smyth: Paper, 15 June 2017

Paper: Paging through History 
by Mark Kurlansky.
Norton, 416 pp., £12.99, June 2017, 978 0 393 35370 9
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... efficiency. This is the way to read Kurlansky’s book: as a diving board into deeper, stranger waters. But the history of paper, despite Kurlansky’s subtitle, is not the same as the history of writing. Paper has been used to make many things – Kurlansky briefly mentions hats, kites, lanterns, fans, money, umbrellas – and for much of its history, as ...

Not an Inkling

Jerry Coyne: There’s more to life than DNA, 27 April 2000

Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters 
by Matt Ridley.
Fourth Estate, 344 pp., £8.99, February 2000, 9781857028355
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... from abroad, for example, found less genetic influence on racial difference. These are turbulent waters, but Ridley wades in boldly, determined to demonstrate the hegemony of the genes. He begins on the right note by observing that ‘intelligence’ is a slippery notion that can be defined and measured in many ways. He immediately bypasses this ...

Speak for yourself, matey

Adam Mars-Jones: The Uses of Camp, 22 November 2012

How to Be Gay 
by David Halperin.
Harvard, 549 pp., £25.95, August 2012, 978 0 674 06679 3
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... works in ‘Homer’s Phobia’, from Season Eight of The Simpsons, first broadcast in 1997. John Waters provides the voice of a dealer in ‘collectibles’ who admires the family’s style, assuming it’s knowingly camp. Even Homer’s record collection – The New Christy Minstrels, Ballads of the Green Berets – presses every button on the jukebox of ...

Somerdale to Skarbimierz

James Meek, 20 April 2017

... bought out a local cocoa manufacturer and the product became popular with the tourists taking the waters at Bath. A century later, the Frys were owners of the largest chocolate factory in the world. In 1847, they started making the country’s first chocolate bar, Chocolat Délicieux à Manger. Like Joseph Fry, John Cadbury had gone from selling cups of ...

A Feeling for Ice

Jenny Diski, 2 January 1997

... the lines:Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.Hurley’s cumbersome cinematograph didn’t last long, so there is only still photography to record his time on Elephant Island. He kept the film as best he could, but even with modern ...

The Tower

Andrew O’Hagan, 7 June 2018

... Control saying, “I’ve just opened my door and there is thick black smoke outside,”’ said Matt Wrack, head of the Fire Brigades Union, when I asked him about it. ‘Telling them to evacuate is sending them to their deaths. So you’re in a flat where you can breathe, you go out of the flat you can’t breathe: there’s only one thing you can tell ...

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