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Mixed Blood

D.A.N. Jones, 2 December 1982

Her Victory 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 590 pp., £8.95, September 1982, 0 246 11872 5
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This Earth of Mankind 
by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, translated by Max Lane.
Penguin, 338 pp., £2.50, August 1982, 9780140063349
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... It was surprising to see the resemblances between Her Victory and This Earth of Mankind. Alan Sillitoe’s new novel is about 50-year-old Britons feeling rootless. Pramoedya Ananta Toer is concerned with young people of the Dutch East Indies in the 1890s, almost choked with different roots – religions, races, cultures, classes – all sprouting wildly ...


Ruth Dudley Edwards: Peddling Books, 21 January 1988

... is one thing to have your history* record that the firm’s founder – like Bodley Head’s John Lane – tried to avoid paying his authors. It would be quite another to have it alleged that the present management had inherited those proclivities. The distinguished journalist J.W. Lambert was certainly thorough and honest, but for the later period, together ...

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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... misremembering or paraphrasing a line of Virginia Woolf’s about Henry James) grew out of D.T. Max’s post-mortem profile of Wallace for the New Yorker, and is very much the version of his life as seen from Times Square. ‘Every story has a beginning and this is David Wallace’s’ is Max’s first sentence. It’s a ...


Patrick Hughes: What do artists do?, 24 July 1986

... in Edmund Leach’s review of Lévi-Strauss’s latest, The View from Afar, that ‘the essay on Max Ernst contains an analysis of that artist’s celebrated construction of a sewing-machine and an umbrella on a dissection table.’ It does not. I have been to the British Library and looked at The View from Afar. The essay in question refers, and presumes ...

Yeah, that was cool

Harry Strawson: ‘Rave’, 1 April 2021

by Rainald Goetz, translated by Adrian Nathan West.
Fitzcarraldo, 263 pp., £12.99, July 2020, 978 1 913097 19 6
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... of woodland beside a busy road in Hackney Wick; a squat with a full-size skate bowl off Brick Lane); and what drugs they took (ecstasy and mephedrone), but not, in any concrete sense, what happened or what music was playing or who was playing it. No one had an answer when I asked: ‘What was your first rave really like?’This is the question that ...


Ian Jackman: Killer SUVs, 7 October 2004

High and Mighty: SUVs, the World’s Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way 
by Keith Bradsher.
PublicAffairs, 464 pp., $14, December 2003, 1 58648 203 3
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... well and missed the worst of the traffic out of New York City, we will be doing 65 in the middle lane. Even so there’ll be a steady stream of vehicles passing us to left and right, many of them SUVs (sports utility vehicles), the truck-based four-wheel-drive giants that rule America’s roads. Other than the unironic Suburban, a name that has been in ...

Lucky Boy

Kevin Kopelson, 3 April 1997

directed by Scott Hicks.
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Shine: The Screenplay 
by Jan Sardi.
Bloomsbury, 176 pp., £7.99, January 1997, 0 7475 3173 0
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The Book of David 
by Beverley Eley.
HarperCollins, 285 pp., £8.99, March 1997, 0 207 19105 0
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Love You to Bits and Pieces: Life with David Helfgott 
by Gillian Helfgott, with Alissa Tanskaya.
Penguin, 337 pp., £6.99, January 1997, 0 14 026546 5
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... male pianists speak? King Vidor’s A Song to Remember (1945) exerted no such pressure. Nor did Max Ophuls’s Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948). Yet, while Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993) presented a woman incapable of speech, François Girard’s Thirty-Two Short Films about Glenn Gould (1994) presented a man who was abnormally articulate – one who ...

Simply too exhausted

Christopher Hitchens, 25 July 1991

Edwina Mountbatten: A Life of Her Own 
by Janet Morgan.
HarperCollins, 509 pp., £20, July 1991, 0 00 217597 5
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... as is the immediately-following intelligence that Edwina, after a shift or two helping ‘Max’ Beaverbrook strike-break at the Daily Express, ‘looked drawn and pale with dark shadows under her eyes: “Quite dead!” she wrote, on her Saturday morning off, “stayed in bed till 11.” ’ This tone – when ghastly things happen to sweet people ...

Gabble, Twitter and Hoot

Ian Hacking: Language, deafness and the senses, 1 July 1999

I See a Voice: A Philosophical History of Language, Deafness and the Senses 
by Jonathan Rée.
HarperCollins, 399 pp., £19.99, January 1999, 0 00 255793 2
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... of this story is told in other places, not only by Oliver Sacks, but, more extensively, by Harlan Lane, a noted deaf activist. Lane was a dedicated spokesman for a cause, however; and Sacks was taking the part of the deaf at Gallaudet University, a bastion of signing. Rée’s history is perhaps more telling than theirs ...

Looking back in anger

Hilary Mantel, 21 November 1991

Almost a Gentleman. An Autobiography: Vol. II 1955-66 
by John Osborne.
Faber, 273 pp., £14.99, November 1991, 0 571 16261 4
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... of the unacceptable faeces of theatrical capitalism’. There is some repetition: the comedian Max Miller is once again ‘a god ... a saloon-bar Priapus’, and various people are ‘a sphinx’, or, in the case of his second wife Mary Ure, ‘not a sphinx’. The spite, though, comes up new and fresh. When Look back in anger opened at the Royal ...

Golden Dolly

John Pemble: Rich Britons, 24 September 2009

Who Were the Rich? A Biographical Directory of British Wealth-Holders. Vol. I: 1809-39 
by William Rubinstein.
Social Affairs Unit, 516 pp., £20, May 2009, 978 1 904863 39 7
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... Irish company, and she’d caught the eye of Thomas Coutts after she’d graduated to Drury Lane and was performing for Sheridan on £12 a week. They married after the death of his first wife (the mother of his daughters) in 1815, when she was 37 and he was 79. She was trounced as a predator and lampooned as a parvenue. Disraeli portrayed her as the ...

A Dreadful Drumming

Theo Tait: Ghosts, 6 June 2013

The Undiscovered Country: Journeys among the Dead 
by Carl Watkins.
Bodley Head, 318 pp., £20, January 2012, 978 1 84792 140 6
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A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof 
by Roger Clarke.
Particular, 360 pp., £20, November 2012, 978 1 84614 333 5
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... in the form of a badger or white rabbit, invaded his rectory. The Age of Reason had the Cock Lane Ghost, a celebrated hoax, found to have been the work of a teenage girl. Around this time, ancient terrors begin to be reborn as mass entertainment – Defoe wrote a popular veridical tale, The Apparition of Mrs Veal, about a Mrs Bargrave in Canterbury who ...

Trouble down there

Ferdinand Mount: Tea with Sassoon, 7 August 2003

Siegfried Sassoon: The Making of a War Poet 1886-1918 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Duckworth, 600 pp., £9.99, September 2002, 0 7156 2894 1
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Siegfried Sassoon: The Journey from the Trenches 1918-67 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Duckworth, 526 pp., £30, April 2003, 0 7156 2971 9
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Sassoon: The Worlds of Philip and Sybil 
by Peter Stansky.
Yale, 295 pp., £25, April 2003, 0 300 09547 3
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... across all sorts of subjects: verse techniques, the difficulty of finding servants, staying with Max Beerbohm, the Test series, his first meeting with Thomas Hardy, the shortcomings of his wife/son/ daughter-in-law, his neglect by the critics – this last a recurring theme. ‘They don’t understand what a talent I have for light verse.’ He had no pudeur ...

The Bloody Sixth

Joshua Brown: The Real Gangs of New York, 23 January 2003

The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld 
by Herbert Asbury.
Arrow, 366 pp., £6.99, January 2003, 0 09 943674 4
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Gangs of New York 
directed by Martin Scorsese.
December 2002
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... of the nativist gang (adorned and equipped, like their adversaries, in Braveheart meets Mad Max style), the Rabbits are outlawed and Priest’s young son, Amsterdam Vallon (soon to be Leonardo DiCaprio), is bundled off to a reformatory. In 1862, during the Civil War, the grown-up Vallon returns to the unchanged frontier town of Five Points, still run ...


Inigo Thomas: My Father, Hugh Thomas, 15 June 2017

... of a Spanish entrepreneur who played an important political role after Franco’s death, Max Mazin, about whom he had written a book, but the journey had been cancelled at the last minute. Oral biography is more familiar in the US than it is in Britain: George Plimpton and Studs Terkel were two of its best-known exponents. In these books, the life ...

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