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Every Rusty Hint

Ian Sansom: Anthony Powell, 21 October 2004

Anthony Powell: A Life 
by Michael Barber.
Duckworth, 338 pp., £20, July 2004, 0 7156 3049 0
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... I happened to read Michael Barber’s rather off-beat and amusing biography of Anthony Powell while waiting for a delayed easyJet flight from Stansted to Belfast and enduring all the usual privations of short-haul, low-cost flying: being shunted from gate to gate, and from sky-blue-upholstered departure lounge to sky-blue-upholstered departure lounge; and being jostled, and jostling, on this occasion in the very burly company of the young men and women of the Scottish Gymnastics Display Team, and an elderly couple, both in wheelchairs, and a man tattooed from neck to wrist, and possibly lower, who was working his way loudly through a large box of Quality Street ...

Let us breakfast in splendour

Charles Nicholl: Francis Barber, 16 July 2015

The Fortunes of Francis BarberThe True Story of the Jamaican Slave Who Became Samuel Johnson’s Heir 
by Michael Bundock.
Yale, 282 pp., £20, May 2015, 978 0 300 20710 1
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... or port to the table. This anonymous figure is almost certainly Doyle’s depiction of Francis Barber – Dr Johnson’s ‘faithful negro servant’, as Boswell calls him. We cannot be quite sure, because Reynolds himself had a black servant, but he was a good deal younger and less prominent and Barber is a more likely ...

The Profusion Effect

Michael Wood: Salman Rushdie’s ‘Quichotte’, 12 September 2019

Quichotte 
by Salman Rushdie.
Cape, 397 pp., £20, August 2019, 978 1 78733 191 4
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... truth. Or think of this other subtlety threaded into an easy joke about reality. Quixote sees a barber’s basin and decides it is a knight’s helmet with a bit missing. It’s true the barber is wearing the basin on his head because it’s raining, but the narrator leaves us in no doubt as to the nature of the ...

Utterly in Awe

Jenny Turner: Lynn Barber, 5 June 2014

A Curious Career 
by Lynn Barber.
Bloomsbury, 224 pp., £16.99, May 2014, 978 1 4088 3719 1
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... doing this? What do you do on your own in a hotel room? Why? Questions like this are what Lynn Barber uses to open up her celebrity interviews, and I think you can see why. They’re simple, direct, upfront and conversational, but also come at you from an angle. You’d start happily blurting out an answer, only to find yourself in deep and completely ...

After Andropov

John Barber, 19 April 1984

Andropov 
by Zhores Medvedev.
Blackwell, 227 pp., £7.50, June 1983, 0 631 13401 8
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Andropov in Power: From Komsomol to Kremlin 
by Jonathan Steele and Eric Abraham.
Martin Robertson, 216 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 85520 641 1
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Life in Russia 
by Michael Binyon.
Hamish Hamilton, 286 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 241 10982 5
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The Soviet Union after Brezhnev 
edited by Martin McCauley.
Heinemann, 160 pp., £14.50, November 1983, 0 8419 0918 0
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Yuri Andropov: A Secret Passage into the Kremlin 
by Vladimir Solovyov and Elena Klepikova, translated by Guy Daniels.
Robert Hale, 302 pp., £11.50, February 1984, 0 7090 1630 1
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... limits of the available knowledge and the tentative nature of any conclusion. The warning given by Michael Binyon in his fascinating account of Russian life, which provides an invaluable background to an understanding of Soviet politics, is very apt. After four and a half years as the Times correspondent in Moscow, he writes: ‘When you are confident that you ...

Gaol Fever

David Saunders-Wilson, 24 July 1986

Prisons and the Process of Justice 
by Andrew Rutherford.
Oxford, 217 pp., £5.95, June 1986, 0 19 281932 1
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Growing out of Crime: Society and Young People in Trouble 
by Andrew Rutherford.
Penguin, 189 pp., £3.95, January 1986, 0 14 022383 5
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... as villains. The star of London Weekend Television’s new Once a thief? is 22-year-old Michael Baillie, who began his criminal career as a burglar at the age of eight, and served his first borstal sentence at the age of 15. According to the Sunday Times, he originally wanted to play football for Aston Villa, but now he’s thinking of taking acting ...

Royal Pain

Peter Campbell, 28 September 1989

A Vision of Britain: A Personal View of Architecture 
by HRH The Prince of Wales.
Doubleday, 156 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 9780385269032
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The Prince of Wales: Right or Wrong? An architect replies 
by Maxwell Hutchinson.
Faber, 203 pp., £10.99, September 1989, 0 571 14287 7
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... For decades the Barber Surgeons lanced boils, cut for the stone and trimmed whiskers indiscriminately. Then the surgical specialists got a little education, left off hairdressing and became a profession. The architects, by contrast, made no clean break between the art of building and its ancillary sciences. In the 18th century, as the profession emerged from its gentlemen-and-surveyors phase, it may have seemed that art had rules – that aesthetic and practical decisions were of the same kind ...

Vibrating to the Chord of Queer

Elaine Showalter: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, 6 March 2003

Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity 
by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.
Duke, 216 pp., £14.95, March 2003, 0 8223 3015 6
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Regarding Sedgwick: Essays on Queer Culture and Critical Theory 
edited by Stephen Barber and David Clark.
Routledge, 285 pp., £55, September 2002, 0 415 92818 4
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... computer images of her body, an X-ray and CAT-scan images of her spine. Interviewed by Stephen Barber and David Clark, the editors of Regarding Sedgwick, she said that she was finding it hard to ‘take pleasure in writing’, and was much more drawn to the visual than the verbal, to texture rather than texts. In her introduction to Touching ...

Don’t pick your nose

Hugh Pennington: Staphylococcus aureus, 15 December 2005

... were penicillin-resistant. By early 1947 the percentage had tripled. The bacteriologist Mary Barber showed that this rise was not due to the development of resistance while patients were being treated, but to the spread of a penicillin-resistant strain in the hospital. Some staphylococci had the ability to make penicillinase, a penicillin-destroying ...

Vicarious Sages

Michael Mason, 3 November 1983

John Forster: A Literary Life 
by James Davies.
Leicester University Press, 318 pp., £25, June 1983, 0 7185 1164 6
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Mr George Eliot: A Biography of George Henry Lewes 
by David Williams.
Hodder, 288 pp., £12.95, June 1983, 0 340 25717 2
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Johnnie Cross 
by Terence de Vere White.
Gollancz, 153 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 575 03333 9
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... ill-will one may suspect them to be. There is a tenacity in Lewes as ‘an old-fashioned French barber or dancing master’, or Forster as ‘the toady of Sir E.L. Bulwer and Mr Macready’, which has not made the difficult project of embracing their careers any more attractive. The two books which have taken up these long-standing biographical challenges ...
Issues of Death: Mortality and Identity in English Renaissance Tragedy 
by Michael Neill.
Oxford, 404 pp., £45, May 1997, 0 19 818386 0
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... to ‘discover’ extinction in the sense of gaining actual experience of the phenomenon. But, as Michael Neill points out, human beings do imagine dying and in the process they inevitably invent a notion of death capable of matching their presuppositions. To that extent, death could be said to be something that each society discovers for itself. As a ...

From Old Adam to New Eve

Peter Pulzer, 6 June 1985

The Conservative Party from Peel to Thatcher 
by Robert Blake.
Methuen/Fontana, 401 pp., £19.95, May 1985, 0 413 58140 3
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Westminster Blues 
by Julian Critchley.
Hamish Hamilton, 134 pp., £7.95, May 1985, 0 241 11387 3
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... Qui trop embrasse, mal étreint. His tribute to the organisational genius of Lord Woolton and Sir Michael Fraser is diminished by the extravagant encomia for Anthony Barber and Cecil Parkinson. We cannot yet write the history of post-Thatcherite Britain, but perhaps it is not too soon to start summarising the ...

Physicke from Another Body

Michael Neill: Cannibal Tinctures, 1 December 2011

Medicinal Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture 
by Louise Noble.
Palgrave Macmillan, 241 pp., £52, March 2011, 978 0 230 11027 4
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Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: The History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians 
by Richard Sugg.
Routledge, 374 pp., £24.99, June 2011, 978 0 415 67417 1
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... were proclaimed in standard pharmacopoeia and extensively promoted by physicians, apothecaries and barber-surgeons throughout the Christian West. Imported from the Middle East, the drug originally consisted of a mixture of pitch and asphalt, materials traditionally used in the mummification of dead bodies, but by the 12th century mumia had come to refer to the ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I Did in 2015, 7 January 2016

... in his digs in Keble Road in Oxford when I was with Eric Korn and possibly, over from Cambridge, Michael Frayn. Oliver said that he had fried and eaten a placenta. At that time I don’t think I knew what a placenta was except that I knew it didn’t come with chips.11 September. David Cameron has been in Leeds preaching to businessmen the virtues of what he ...

Shee Spy

Michael Dobson, 8 May 1997

The Secret Life of Aphra Behn 
by Janet Todd.
Deutsch, 545 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 233 98991 9
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... called Colonel Colepeper, we can be fairly confident that Behn was the daughter of a Canterbury barber called Johnson, born on 14 December 1640 and christened Eaffrey. From here onwards, though, things get difficult. When we next hear of her, Eaffrey/Aphra is in her mid-twenties and calling herself Mrs Behn, though of Mr Behn we have only a report in the ...

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