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Diary

Tobias Jones: The Politics of Football, 7 May 1998

... desire to react to hooliganism by erecting unforgiving steel cages which became coffins’, Colin Ward writes in All Quiet on the Hooligan Front (1996). Lord Justice Taylor produced his interim report on the tragedy on 1 August that year. The chief superintendent in charge, Taylor decided, ‘could not face the enormity of the decision to open the gates and ...

Pure TNT

James Francken: Thom Jones, 18 February 1999

Sonny Liston was a Friend of Mine 
by Thom Jones.
Faber, 312 pp., £9.99, February 1999, 9780571196562
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... a doctor who is ‘about to smirk’ when walking in on a couple having sex in the hospital ward is arrested by the patient’s baleful stare – ‘Sonny Liston could give such a look’; a recently enlisted marine regrets his decision to join up when he meets boot-camp disciplinarians ‘most of whom looked like close relatives of Charles ...

A New Twist in the Long Tradition of the Grotesque

Marina Warner: The monstrousness of Britart, 13 April 2000

High Art Lite: British Art in the 1990s 
by Julian Stallabrass.
Verso, 342 pp., £22, December 1999, 1 85984 721 8
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This is Modern Art 
by Matthew Collings.
Weidenfeld, 270 pp., £20, June 1999, 0 297 84292 7
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... fury is rather Victorian – Ruskin’s rage against the immoralism of the Baroque. Oddly enough, Matthew Collings – in the book of his Channel Four series – says many of the same things as Stallabrass; he even borrows the term ‘art lite’. But most of the time he seems to like the art and the artists, for the same reasons that Stallabrass detests ...
... philosophise in their works, but also the Victorian ‘slice of life’ theory still admitted by Matthew Arnold, and later, permissive notions of the novel as a ‘spongy tract’ (Forster) or large loose bag into which anything would fit. Obviously novels of the old, discredited schools – the historical novel, the novel of adventure, the soap-box or ...

Into Your Enemy’s Stomach

Alexander Murray: Louis IX, 8 April 2010

Saint Louis 
by Jacques Le Goff, translated by Gareth Evan Gollrad.
Notre Dame, 947 pp., £61.95, February 2009, 978 0 268 03381 1
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... jurisdiction. The reign’s biggest disaster – one which, according to the St Albans chronicler Matthew Paris, caused a crisis in belief throughout Christendom – was Louis’s capture by the Egyptian sultan in 1250; and there may have been a Spanish element to that too, since Louis’s underestimation of Muslim power may have been encouraged by the recent ...

Straight to the Multiplex

Tom McCarthy: Steven Hall’s ‘The Raw Shark Texts’, 1 November 2007

The Raw Shark Texts 
by Steven Hall.
Canongate, 368 pp., £12.99, March 2007, 978 1 84195 902 3
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... This in turn reminded us that Benchley’s book contains a strangely Ballardian sequence in which Matthew Hooper, the marine biologist, and Ellen Brody, the police chief’s neglected wife, embark over lunch on a shared sexual fantasy that envisages them, distracted by mutual masturbation, crashing their car and dying on the freeway with their genitals ...

Little was expected of Annie

Dinah Birch: The Story of an English Family, 19 October 2006

Faith, Duty and the Power of Mind: The Cloughs and Their Circle 1820-1960 
by Gillian Sutherland.
Cambridge, 262 pp., £40, March 2006, 0 521 86155 1
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... making it impossible for him to declare his Anglican beliefs as the job required. Like his friend Matthew Arnold, Clough was rescued by the rapid professionalisation of education. It offered what his increasingly accomplished and innovative poetry could not: a gentleman’s occupation, and the salary he needed in order to marry. But his post in the Education ...

It is still mañana

Matthew Bevis: Robert Frost’s Letters, 19 February 2015

The Letters of Robert Frost, Vol. 1: 1886-1920 
edited by Donald Sheehy, Mark Richardson and Robert Faggen.
Harvard, 811 pp., £33.95, March 2014, 978 0 674 05760 9
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... thrills – or because of them – several of Frost’s letters appear to be written in order to ward something off. ‘I have nearly written myself tired for tonight,’ he ends one letter. ‘Write often and keep my courage up.’ A few months later, he confesses: ‘I’m too tired to be awake writing.’ The night fears he suffered as a child continued ...

It leads to everything

Patricia Fara: Heat and Force, 23 September 2021

Einstein’s Fridge: The Science of Fire, Ice and the Universe 
by Paul Sen.
William Collins, 305 pp., £20, April, 978 0 00 826279 2
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... water out of Cornish silver mines. Sen blames Watt and his business partner, the factory-owner Matthew Boulton, for causing a thirty-year hiatus by manipulating the patent system to ward off competitors, but engines produced power and generated money long before scientific laws and equations were developed to explain how ...

Blights

Patricia Craig, 23 April 1987

A Darkness in the Eye 
by M.S. Power.
Heinemann, 212 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 434 59961 1
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The Stars at Noon 
by Denis Johnson.
Faber, 181 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 571 14607 4
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Like Birds in the Wilderness 
by Agnes Owens.
Fourth Estate, 138 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 947795 51 0
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Fool’s Sanctuary 
by Jennifer Johnston.
Hamish Hamilton, 132 pp., £8.95, April 1987, 0 241 12035 7
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A Fatal Inversion 
by Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell).
Viking, 317 pp., £10.95, March 1987, 0 670 80977 2
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Sisters of the Road 
by Barbara Wilson.
Women’s Press, 202 pp., £3.95, March 1987, 0 7043 4073 9
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The price you pay 
by Hannah Wakefield.
Women’s Press, 245 pp., £4.95, March 1987, 0 7043 4072 0
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... from getting worse. To complete the cast of characters, and to promote continuity, we have Colonel Matthew Maddox, an honourable Englishman and the subject of an assassination attempt in book one, The Killing of Yesterday’ s Children, winkled out of Berkshire by a brigadier who tells him that his country needs him – needs him, in fact, to liaise with the ...

Go to the Devil

David Carpenter: Richard II, 22 July 2010

Richard II: Manhood, Youth and Politics, 1377-99 
by Christopher Fletcher.
Oxford, 336 pp., £24.95, August 2010, 978 0 19 959571 6
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... revolution of 1258: ‘When the king agreed to accept their counsel he did not make himself their ward, nor did he agree that they should give orders.’ Can Henry’s desire to make war on France in the late 1220s be interpreted, like Richard’s in the 1380s, as a desire to assert his manhood? And once Henry, unlike Fletcher’s Richard, realised that he ...

Underparts

Nicholas Spice, 6 November 1986

Roger’s Version 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 316 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 233 97988 3
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The Voyeur 
by Alberto Moravia, translated by Tim Parks.
Secker, 186 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 436 28721 8
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Dvorak in Love 
by Josef Skvorecky, translated by Paul Wilson.
Chatto, 322 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 7011 2994 8
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Moments of Reprieve 
by Primo Levi, translated by Ruth Feldman.
Joseph, 172 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 7181 2726 9
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... or overlooked it. But the consequence of this overreaching is guilt, fear of reprisal and – to ward this off – an equally savage and gleeful redoubling of disgust and anger upon the self. So it is no surprise that Roger should characterise himself as a bad man: for example, here, in a portrait of the evil, paranoid voyeur. Secret glimpses ... of life ...

Streamlined Smiles

Rosemary Dinnage: Erik Erikson, 2 March 2000

Identity’s Architect: A Biography of Erik Erikson 
by Lawrence Friedman.
Free Association, 592 pp., £15.95, May 1999, 9781853434716
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... war veterans. Always averse to the psychoanalytical view of the world as one vast psychiatric ward, he argued that these men were not pathological cases, ‘shell-shocked’ or ‘psychoneurotic’. They had experienced dramatic disruptions, loss of everything familiar, all ‘sense of personal sameness and historical continuity’, and had plummeted into ...

Bow. Wow

James Wolcott: Gore Vidal, 3 February 2000

Gore Vidal 
by Fred Kaplan.
Bloomsbury, 850 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 7475 4671 1
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... the challenge of Vidal’s cagey wit by bearing down even harder, giving him the full Leon Edel-Matthew Bruccoli filing-cabinet treatment. For years Vidal has made fun of ‘scholar-squirrels’ – myopic trivia buffs who comb the lives of Hemingway and Fitzgerald hoping to find the one itty-bitty piece of factual lint no one else has – and here comes ...

Masses and Classes

Ferdinand Mount: Gladstone, 17 February 2005

The Mind of Gladstone: Religion, Homer and Politics 
by David Bebbington.
Oxford, 331 pp., £55, March 2004, 0 19 926765 0
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... accused him, with some justice, of rhetorical artifice. Many other critics, such as Mrs Humphry Ward, denounced him for lacking any sense of evidence and for being ready to make sweeping deductions from narrow premises. Gladstone was well aware of his defects as a writer. As early as his thirties, he confessed to his brother-in-law that he wrote ‘not by a ...

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