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All change. This train is cancelled

Iain Sinclair: The Dome, 13 May 1999

... Cruises). This improved landscape cuts directly from the Royal Naval College to the Thames Barrier, so that the peninsula is not merely occulted, it doesn’t exist. Geography shifts to suit the strategic needs of the mappers. Territory belongs to those who sponsor the means of transport. If you have to visit the Dome, the local politicians imply, the ...


Iain Sinclair: The Thames, 25 June 2009

Thames: Sacred River 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Vintage, 608 pp., £14.99, August 2008, 978 0 09 942255 6
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... The wall – weathered yellow brick grouted with carbon deposits and grime – is enough of a barrier to have doubled in television films, cop shows or faked documentaries as the exterior of a prison. The polluted acres of the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company were re-created, after war and bomb damage, as Haggerston Park. The man in the black ...

Larkin was right, more or less

Michael Mason, 5 June 1997

Fertility, Class and Gender in Britain 1860-1940 
by Simon Szreter.
Cambridge, 704 pp., £50, January 1996, 0 521 34343 7
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... historians have come to doubt if late 19th-century birth-control was in fact achieved by such barrier methods. They have also performed close studies of particular groups which suggest a great diversity within the courtship and bedroom practices in English society at any one time, and which point to birth control as a strategy resorted to, under certain ...

Beware Remembrance Sunday

Tim Parks: Graham Swift, 2 June 2011

Wish You Were Here 
by Graham Swift.
Picador, 353 pp., £18.99, June 2011, 978 0 330 53583 0
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... of storytelling in this novel has to do with the death of a dog. Three characters are involved: Michael Luxton, a taciturn dairy farmer; Jack, his elder son, aged 26; and Tom, his much younger son, approaching his 18th birthday. The old sick dog, named Luke, was originally just a farm dog, then for many years Jack’s close companion, but now more recently ...

Big Bang to Big Crunch

John Leslie, 1 August 1996

The Nature of Space and Time 
by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose.
Princeton, 141 pp., £16.95, May 1996, 0 691 03791 4
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... cuts’. A three-part companion videotape can be had. Still, when the Foreword by Michael Atiyah remarks that ‘some of the presentation requires a technical understanding of the mathematics and physics’ this can seem a grave understatement. Very little of the volume will be intelligible to the ‘broader audience’ to which Atiyah ...

Loadsa Serious Money

Ian Taylor, 5 May 1988

Regulating the City: Competition, Scandal and Reform 
by Michael Clarke.
Open University, 288 pp., £25, May 1986, 9780335153817
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Regulating fraud: White-Collar Crime and the Criminal Process 
by Michael Levi.
Tavistock, 416 pp., £35, August 1987, 0 422 61160 3
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... emptiness of the Thatcherites’ early insistence on the effectiveness of penal coercion (‘the Barrier of Steel’ of which Mrs. Thatcher spoke in an infamous speech of May 1979) look obvious enough. But the narrow – ‘realistic’ – focus on street crime adopted by ‘left realist’ criminologists – who are in other ways quite critical of ...

Fire and Water

Rosalind Mitchison, 17 October 1985

Water Power in Scotland: 1550-1870 
by John Shaw.
John Donald, 606 pp., £25, April 1984, 0 85976 072 3
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The History of the British Coal Industry. Vol. II: 1700-1830, The Industrial Revolution 
by Michael Flinn and David Stoker.
Oxford, 491 pp., £35, March 1984, 0 19 828283 4
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Industry and Ethos: Scotland 1832-1914 
by Sydney Checkland and Olive Checkland.
Arnold, 218 pp., £5.95, March 1984, 0 7131 6317 8
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The Jacobite Clans of the Great Glen: 1650-1784 
by Bruce Lenman.
Methuen, 246 pp., £14.95, November 1984, 0 413 48690 7
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The Prince and the Pretender: A Study in the Writing of History 
by A.J. Youngson.
Croom Helm, 270 pp., £16.95, April 1985, 0 7099 2908 0
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Canna: The Story of a Hebridean Island 
by J.L. Campbell.
Oxford, 323 pp., £25, December 1984, 0 19 920137 4
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... been a government-promoted Plan for Coal. No major industry could be allowed to languish. But, as Michael Flinn points out, it was not with the actual process of mining that 18th-century government concerned itself, but with the trading of the product. The coastwise traffic in coal was the largest activity of British shipping, a major training ground of ...

Animal Crackers

Michael Neve, 22 May 1986

Sexual Selection and Animal Genitalia 
by William Eberhard.
Harvard, 244 pp., £21.25, January 1986, 0 674 80283 7
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Females of the Species 
by Bettyann Kevles.
Harvard, 270 pp., £16.95, May 1986, 0 674 29865 9
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A Concise History of the Sex Manual 
by Alan Rusbridger and Posy Simmonds.
Faber, 204 pp., £10.95, April 1986, 0 571 13519 6
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... organs’ and ‘genitalic contacts’. Which would be a great loss. Kevles has her own language barrier, but gives a neutral and informative account of female animals working out. Eberhard delineates a world, concealed from view by the weight of his academic burden, which is quite extraordinary. To advance his argument against the male focus in the history ...

Two Sad Russians

Walter Kendrick, 5 September 1985

The Confessions of Victor X 
edited by Donald Rayfield.
Caliban, 143 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 9780904573947
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Novel with Cocaine 
by M. Ageyev, translated by Michael Henry Heim.
Picador, 174 pp., £7.95, February 1985, 0 330 28574 2
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... was first published, in Paris, in ‘the early Thirties’, according to its English translator, Michael Henry Heim. It appeared in the émigré journal Numbers and shortly thereafter as a book; fifty years of oblivion later, a copy turned up in a second-hand bookshop and was translated into French, bringing overdue fame to its ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: James Cameron under Water, 26 April 2012

... who says it’s OK to carry on with the experiment. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, and Michael Collins, who circled the Moon while the first two men walked on it, years later admitted to each other that they privately put the mission’s chance of success (read: survival) at 50-50. That level of risk is no longer acceptable for anything carried on ...

How Not to Invade

Patrick Cockburn: Lebanon, 5 August 2010

Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East 
by David Hirst.
Faber, 480 pp., £20, March 2010, 978 0 571 23741 8
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The Ghosts of Martyrs Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon’s Life Struggle 
by Michael Young.
Simon and Schuster, 295 pp., £17.99, July 2010, 978 1 4165 9862 6
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... over others that has blighted the rest of the Arab world. Here Hirst is in agreement with Michael Young, whose eloquent, colourful book is mostly about Syria’s attempt to control Lebanon: its murder of the Sunni leader and former prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005; the anti-Syrian protests which followed, known as the Independence Intifada ...

Snobs v. Herbivores

Colin Kidd: Non-Vanilla One-Nation Conservatism, 7 May 2020

Remaking One Nation: The Future of Conservatism 
by Nick Timothy.
Polity, 275 pp., £20, March 2020, 978 1 5095 3917 8
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... imperialism, remained pointedly un-Tory. He favoured a protectionist tariff wall: an external barrier behind which a global empire might trade, the revenues supporting social welfare at home. Tariff reform plagued the Tories for three decades, and a version of it was eventually implemented in the form of imperial preference by Chamberlain’s son ...


Frank Field: Reading Kilroy-Silk’s Diary, 6 November 1986

... and the rot runs deep, not only in Liverpool and London, but in other big cities too. Read Michael Crick if you need convincing – and he is concerned only with Militant’s structure within the Labour Party: The March of Militant3 is a brilliant piece of detective work, cool and dispassionate. How will the political future look from Kilroy’s new ...

All hail the microbe

Lavinia Greenlaw: Things Pile Up, 18 June 2020

Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils 
by David Farrier.
Fourth Estate, 307 pp., £16.99, March, 978 0 00 828634 7
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... Farrier wants to hold an ice core – who wouldn’t? He wants his children to visit the Great Barrier Reef and ‘to see a future fossil in the making’. His account of their bleak tourist trip on an overcrowded boat under a sky busy with helicopters rubs up against his description of the scale, beauty, vulnerability and ecological importance of ‘the ...

London Lefties

Paul Foot, 17 September 1987

If voting changed anything, they’d abolish it 
by Ken Livingstone.
Collins, 367 pp., £12, August 1987, 0 00 217770 6
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A Taste of Power: The Politics of Local Economics 
edited by Maureen Mackintosh and Hilary Wainwright.
Verso, 441 pp., £22.95, July 1987, 0 86091 174 8
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... transport frontbenchers in the Commons, up-and-coming young hopefuls called Margaret Thatcher and Michael Heseltine, welcomed the transfer, and specifically stated that this would enable the Council, if it felt like it, to hold transport fares down with a subsidy from the rates. Labour won back the GLC in 1973, but lost it to the Tories in 1977, when the new ...

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