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8 June 2006
Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq 
by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor.
Atlantic, 603 pp., £25, March 2006, 1 84354 352 4
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... has not by any means run its course, we are now in a position to begin evaluating the results of their handiwork. To that effort, this very fine book makes an important contribution. A decade ago, MichaelGordon, a reporter with the New York Times, and Bernard Trainor, a retired US Marine Corps lieutenant general, collaborated on The Generals’ War, still perhaps the best narrative history of the ...

Mr Straight and Mr Good

Paul Foot: Gordon​ Brown

19 February 1998
Gordon​ Brown: The Biography 
by Paul Routledge.
Simon and Schuster, 358 pp., £17.99, February 1998, 0 684 81954 6
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... shines from afar.’ Judging from this hagiography, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must be very unhappy. The guiding star of his youth has entirely vanished from his firmament. In 1975 the young Gordon Brown compiled, edited and published a socialist manifesto entitled Red Paper for Scotland. At 24, he had just completed a three-year term as rector of Edinburgh University and chaired the University ...

What a Woman!

J.L. Nelson: Joan of Arc

19 October 2000
Joan of Arc 
by Mary Gordon.
Weidenfeld, 168 pp., £12.99, April 2000, 0 297 64568 4
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Joan of Arc: A Military Leader 
by Kelly DeVries.
Sutton, 242 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 7509 1805 5
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The Interrogation of Joan of Arc 
by Karen Sullivan.
Minnesota, 208 pp., £30, November 1999, 0 8166 3267 7
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... problems apart, this is to move too swiftly, and anachronistically, to high-level ducal politics. The local context seems the right one to focus on at this early stage of Joan’s career. Mary Gordon is no military specialist, nor a medievalist, yet her account of Joan’s initial motivation rings true: Joan’s mission was a psychological response to the trauma of the church’s destruction and ...
13 June 1991
Literature and Liberation: Selected Essays 
by Arnold Kettle, edited by Graham Martin and W.R. Owens.
Manchester, 231 pp., £9.95, February 1991, 9780719027734
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... books under some twenty different names. (He also found time to found a political party called rather grandly the All Party Alliance, although a wit said that his only allies were Anthony Morton, Gordon Ashe, Michael Halliday and other Creasey pseudonyms.) His books were popular but not highly regarded, and this worried and baffled him. Why, he asked me once, was there thought to be so much ...
22 November 1990
Leonard Bernstein 
by Joan Peyser.
Bantam, 430 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 593 01454 5
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Leonard Bernstein 
by Michael​ Freedland.
Harrap, 273 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 245 54499 2
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Leonard Bernstein 
by Peter Gradenwitz.
Berg, 310 pp., £15, October 1987, 0 85496 510 6
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Make the music: The Life and Work of Marc Blitzstein 
by Eric Gordon.
St Martin’s, 605 pp., $29.95, March 1989, 0 312 02607 2
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... everything musically useful that the biographers of 1987-88 contrived to ‘reveal’ by parting so many domestic and other curtains would have been almost negligible but for one episode recounted by Michael Freed-land. As an example of what he shyly calls Bernstein’s ‘other side’ the episode has a small but central place in his book; and the fact that its real significance seems to have been lost ...

Exit Humbug

David Edgar: Theatrical Families

1 January 2009
A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and Their Remarkable Families 
by Michael​ Holroyd.
Chatto, 620 pp., £25, September 2008, 978 0 7011 7987 8
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... Harry Irving were both actors (the former was a playwright as well). Terry’s daughter, Edith (Edy) Craig, had a career as a designer, director and producer of feminist plays; her brother, Edward Gordon Craig, acted with Irving, but became disillusioned with the English theatre and, like other maverick theatre visionaries since, moved to the Continent, where his (rare) productions and extensive ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: ‘Stop-Loss’

8 May 2008
Stop-Loss 
directed by Kimberly Peirce.
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... American films about the war in Vietnam were slow in coming. Saigon fell in 1975, and Hal Ashby’s Coming Home and Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter both date from 1978. Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now was 1979. In their separate ways these films were all about damage done to Americans; any damage done to others ...

A New Kind of Being

Jenny Turner: Angela Carter

3 November 2016
The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography 
by Edmund Gordon.
Chatto, 544 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 7011 8755 2
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... the height of her fame and family happiness when she died in 1992. Her instructions for the work she left behind were that it should be used in any way possible – short of falling into the hands of Michael Winner – ‘to make money for my boys’: Mark Pearce, her second husband, and Alexander, the couple’s son, born in 1983. As Edmund Gordon says towards the beginning of his biography, Carter was ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: ‘The Dark Knight’

14 August 2008
The Dark Knight 
directed by Christopher Nolan.
July 2008
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... partners, the consolidated mobs of Gotham. It’s alright, he informs them with a cackle, he is burning only his half of the proceeds. The background to this event is an anecdote-cum-fable that Michael Caine, as the faithful servant Alfred, tells Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne. There was a bandit in Burma, apparently, who stole jewels at will from almost everyone and was never caught – because he ...
28 September 1989
... spectacular is the absorption of venerable middle and small-sized publishing houses into conglomerates, often with non-publishing or foreign management at the highest level. Penguin, Hamish Hamilton, Michael Joseph, Frederick Warne and Longman – all once imprints with independent identities – now congregate within the Pearson group (best known for its ownership of the Financial Times). Random House ...
3 April 1997
Once a Jolly Bagman: Memoirs 
by Alistair McAlpine.
Weidenfeld, 269 pp., £20, March 1997, 9780297817376
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... When did it suddenly become obvious that the Tories were going to lose the election? Was it that golden moment when Michael Portillo, that scourge of unnecessary public spending, announced that £60m of public money was earmarked for a new yacht for the richest woman on earth – even though Her Majesty had made it plain ...

North and South

Linda Colley

2 August 2012
... ministers have been influenced by this north-south divide. It says something about the ambiguities of the Union that all three are of Scottish ancestry, as is the current Conservative pretender, Michael Gove. Gordon Brown was born in Scotland, went to university there and has represented only Scottish constituencies: and this unalloyed Scottishness undoubtedly worked against him in sectors of the ...

Family Values

Michael​ Wood

17 October 1996
The Last Don 
by Mario Puzo.
Heinemann, 482 pp., £15.99, October 1996, 0 434 60498 4
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... the reverse of the Victorian patriarch, or like Orson Welles’s Mr Arkadin, the Don wants to leave no legacy, to erase the blood and violence and illegality which formed his own career. This is why Michael Corleone is supposed to stay out of his father’s business, to become respectable, a senator maybe, or the governor of a state; and the whole plot of two movies concerns his reluctant, and then not ...

The Paranoid Elite

Michael​ Wood: DeLillo

22 April 2010
Point Omega 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 117 pp., £14.99, March 2010, 978 0 330 51238 1
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... us, as their title suggests, an unnamed man, and trace in close, slow detail the account he gives to himself, in indirect speech, of watching a movie – no, not a movie, an installation, Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho, a version of the famous film slowed down to two frames a second, which was in fact, a note in Point Omega tells us, on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2006. The ...
30 November 1995
The New Untouchables: Immigration and the New World Worker 
by Nigel Harris.
Tauris, 256 pp., £25, October 1995, 1 85043 956 7
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The Cambridge Survey of World Migration 
edited by Robin Cohen.
Cambridge, 570 pp., £75, November 1995, 0 521 44405 5
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... If you want a nigger neighbour, vote Labour.’ Almost as grotesque as Mr Griffiths’s performance in that election was the response of his main adversary, the sitting Labour MP, Patrick Gordon-Walker. Gordon-Walker had led Labour’s Parliamentary opposition to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, the first ever legislative restriction on the right of entry into Britain of some 600 ...

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