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What did he think he was?

Tom Shippey: Ælfred the Great, 10 May 2018

Ælfred’s Britain: War and Peace in the Viking Age 
by Max Adams.
Head of Zeus, 509 pp., £9.99, May 2018, 978 1 78408 031 0
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... The two words​ of Max Adams’s title are in a way antithetical. Alfred is the only English king to be referred to regularly as ‘the Great’, and once upon a time the reason was well known to everyone.* It was because, early in the year 878, hiding out incognito in a peasant’s hut in the Somerset Levels, he ‘burned the cakes ...

Jigsaw Mummies

Tom Shippey: Pagan Britain, 6 November 2014

Pagan Britain 
by Ronald Hutton.
Yale, 480 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 300 19771 6
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The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria 
by Max Adams.
Head of Zeus, 450 pp., £25, August 2013, 978 1 78185 418 1
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... own fictions from the facts. It may​ nevertheless be a relief to turn from nameless skeletons to Max Adams’s study of King Oswald, also Saint Oswald, king of Northumbria from 634 to 642 ce. It’s unclear why he was selected as the focus for Adams’s attention. There were many other kings in the north in the ...

The Man Who Stood Behind the Man Who Won the War

E.H.H. Green: Andrew Bonar Law, 16 September 1999

Bonar Law 
by R.J.Q. Adams.
Murray, 458 pp., £25, April 1999, 0 7195 5422 5
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... far from exciting. Yet he may have been more important than posterity has allowed. R.J.Q. Adams makes that case quietly but firmly. He was, on the face of it, an unusual choice for Party leader. To begin with, he was middle-class, a businessman with interests in metal and banking, when the Party hierarchy and backbenches were still overwhelmingly ...

Adored Gazelle

Ferdinand Mount: Cherubino at Number Ten, 20 March 2008

Balfour: The Last Grandee 
by R.J.Q. Adams.
Murray, 479 pp., £30, November 2007, 978 0 7195 5424 7
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... Five years later, Rosebery bitterly opposed Balfour’s OM. It is perhaps over the top for R.J.Q. Adams to subtitle his Life of Balfour, ‘The Last Grandee’, with Rosebery lurking up the Firth of Forth getting steadily fatter and redder in the face, while Balfour remained lithe and bonny on his 36 holes a day. But ...

Amigos

Christopher Ricks, 2 August 1984

The Faber Book of Parodies 
edited by Simon Brett.
Faber, 383 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 571 13125 5
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Lilibet: An Account in Verse of the Early Years of the Queen until the Time of her Accession 
by Her Majesty.
Blond and Briggs, 95 pp., £6.95, May 1984, 0 85634 157 6
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... Alfred Lord Douglas, briefly surfaces like the Kraken; the poem is here a Mort and there a Morte. Max Beerbohm’s parody of Henry James is readily and roughly transcribed: for ‘caught in her tone’, read ‘caught her tone’; for ‘feverish’, read ‘feverishly’; for ‘physically’, read ‘psychically’ ... Mis-spelling, mis-punctuation and ...

Kill the tuna can

Christopher Tayler: George Saunders, 8 June 2006

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil and In Persuasion Nation 
by George Saunders.
Bloomsbury, 358 pp., £10.99, June 2006, 0 7475 8221 1
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... the comedy is darker. ‘The Red Bow’ allegorises the political exploitation of 11 September, ‘Adams’ the decision to invade Iraq. Both establish their parallels obliquely and stand up as stories rather than editorial cartoons; ‘Adams’ is also very funny in a slightly disturbing way. Along with ‘My ...

Sea Creatures

Peter Campbell, 23 July 1987

Sidney Nolan: Such is life 
by Brian Adams.
Hutchinson, 275 pp., £16.95, June 1987, 0 09 168430 7
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Andrew Wyeth: The Helga Pictures 
by John Wilmerding.
Viking, 208 pp., £25, September 1987, 9780670817665
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Faces 1966-1984 
by David Hockney and Marco Livingstone.
Thames and Hudson, 96 pp., £8.95, June 1987, 0 500 27464 9
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... were to be his most famous work. The magazine Angry Penguins which had been started in Adelaide by Max Harris was now run jointly with John Reed, and one of Nolan’s paintings was reproduced on the cover of the notorious ‘Ern Malley’ issue. Ern Malley was a poet invented by two young men who thought Modernism had destroyed the craft of verse. They ...

Wounds

Stephen Fender, 23 June 1988

Hemingway 
by Kenneth Lynn.
Simon and Schuster, 702 pp., £16, September 1987, 0 671 65482 9
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The Faces of Hemingway: Intimate Portraits of Ernest Hemingway by those who knew him 
by Denis Brian.
Grafton, 356 pp., £14.95, May 1988, 0 246 13326 0
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... in 1932, the hero of which, as Kenneth Lynn cogently expresses it, is not ‘a haunted Nick Adams, or a crippled Jake Barnes, or a hollowed-out Frederic Henry, but an overbearing know-it-all named Ernest Hemingway’. Max Eastman said Hemingway had false hair on his chest. Gertrude Stein, in The Autobiography of Alice ...

Goodbye to the Aether

Brian Pippard, 20 February 1986

Wranglers and Physicists: Studies in Cambridge Mathematical Physics in the 19th Century 
edited by P.M. Harman.
Manchester, 261 pp., £27.50, November 1985, 0 7190 1756 4
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... of the analyst. It was the small discrepancies between prediction and observation that led Adams and Le Verrier to infer the existence of the so far unobserved Neptune, and to calculate with adequate precision where to point the telescope to find it. In this century Pluto was similarly predicted and discovered, and the methods of the French analysts ...

Neo-Catastrophism

Eric Klinenberg: Sinful Cities?, 9 October 2003

The Unfinished City: New York and the Metropolitan Idea 
by Thomas Bender.
New Press, 287 pp., $30, September 2002, 1 56584 736 9
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Dead Cities: and Other Tales 
by Mike Davis.
New Press, 448 pp., $16.95, October 2003, 1 56584 844 6
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... 2012 Olympics. Is New York in denial or is it simply entering another stage of what the historian Max Page sees as a continuous process of creative destruction, refusing to let any obstacle block its path? Thomas Bender and Mike Davis are two of America’s leading urban scholars. Bender is a cultural historian known for his accounts of the intellectual and ...

Omnipresent Eye

Patrick Wright: The Nixon/Mao Show, 16 August 2007

Seize the Hour: When Nixon Met Mao 
by Margaret MacMillan.
Murray, 384 pp., £25, October 2006, 0 7195 6522 7
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... took place at Beijing airport on Monday, 21 February 1972. It’s also the opening scene of John Adams’s opera Nixon in China, premiered in Houston in 1987, and staged again at the London Coliseum over a few evenings last summer. An actual occurrence then, but also, as Adams and his librettist Alice Coleman understood, a ...

I want to howl

John Lahr: Eugene O’Neill, 5 February 2015

Eugene O’Neill: A Life in Four Acts 
by Robert Dowling.
Yale, 569 pp., £20, October 2014, 978 0 300 17033 7
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... but a meteor had made the world irritable, nervous, querulous, unreasonable and afraid,’ Henry Adams wrote in his autobiography (1907): ‘All the new forces, condensed into corporations, were demanding a new type of man – a man with ten times the endurance, energy, will and mind of the old type.’ When O’Neill finally emerged on the scene in ...

Who whom?

Christopher Ricks, 6 June 1985

The English Language Today 
edited by Sidney Greenbaum.
Pergamon, 345 pp., £12.50, December 1984, 0 08 031078 8
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The English Language 
by Robert Burchfield.
Oxford, 194 pp., £9.50, January 1985, 9780192191731
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A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language 
by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik.
Longman, 1779 pp., £39.50, May 1985, 0 582 51734 6
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Words 
by John Silverlight.
Macmillan, 107 pp., £17.50, May 1985, 9780333380109
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Faux Amis and Key Words: A Dictionary-Guide to French Language, Culture and Society through Lookalikes and Confusables 
by Philip Thody, Howard Evans and Gwilym Rees.
Athlone, 224 pp., £16, February 1985, 0 485 11243 4
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Puns 
by Walter Redfern.
Blackwell, 234 pp., £14.95, October 1984, 0 631 13793 9
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Fair of Speech: The Uses of Euphemism 
edited by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 222 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 19 212236 3
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... frantic and sometimes tiring, he is not flippant, scheming or servile. True, he mildly mangles two Max Miller (not Max Müller) jokes, and even one (unacknowledged) of mine: but he does right by the things that matter.As for Fair of Speech, it has pace and pith, and it instructs by delighting. ‘The Uses of ...

Self-Made Man

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Edith Wharton’s Domestic Arrangements, 5 April 2007

Edith Wharton 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 853 pp., £25, February 2007, 978 0 7011 6665 6
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... first rented from the Vanderbilts. If she socialised with other expatriates like James and Henry Adams, she also moved in worlds familiar to Proust, the successive volumes of whose masterwork she read almost as soon as they appeared. The two never met – Wharton later implied, rather implausibly, that she deliberately avoided the encounter on the grounds ...

He was the man

Robert Crawford: Ezra Pound, 29 June 2016

Ezra Pound: Poet: A Portrait of the Man and his Work: Vol. III: The Tragic Years, 1939-72 
by A. David Moody.
Oxford, 654 pp., £30, September 2015, 978 0 19 870436 2
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... He sieved biographies, letters and accounts of those he considered great men – whether John Adams or Confucius – to produce poems with distinct overtones of hero-worship. In politics this tendency led to his admiration for Mussolini, and even to that view of Hitler as ‘a Saint’. While caged in Pisa in the closing days of the war, he set to work on ...

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