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Who’s sorry now?

Andrew O’Hagan: Michael Finkel gets lucky, 2 June 2005

True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa 
by Michael Finkel.
Chatto, 312 pp., £15.99, May 2005, 0 7011 7688 1
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Burning Down My Master’s House 
by Jayson Blair.
New Millennium, 288 pp., $24.95, March 2004, 9781932407266
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The Journalist and the Murderer 
by Janet Malcolm.
Granta, 163 pp., £8.99, January 2004, 1 86207 637 5
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... up our stories and in terms of feeling really bad about it afterwards. This new memoir from Michael Finkel streaks across a firmament already glittering with apologetic precedents. Stephen Glass, once a popular and ambitious young thing at the New Republic, invented email addresses and whole companies to hide his deceit, and later went on to invent a ...

Bevan’s Boy

R.W. Johnson, 24 March 1994

Michael Foot 
by Mervyn Jones.
Gollancz, 570 pp., £20, March 1994, 0 575 05197 3
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... At the Party Conference following Labour’s crippling defeat in the 1983 election Michael Foot stood before the massed ranks of the faithful to account for his stewardship of the Party. ‘I am deeply ashamed,’ he began. Unfortunately for Mervyn Jones, who both loves and admires his subject and would have us dwell on other things, it is the freeze-frame of that moment which lives on ...

It was worse in 1931

Colin Kidd: Clement Attlee, 17 November 2016

Citizen Clem: A Biography of Attlee 
by John Bew.
Riverrun, 668 pp., £30, September 2016, 978 1 78087 989 5
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... of leadership potential. He became parliamentary private secretary to the party leader, Ramsay MacDonald, and slowly ascended the rungs of minor ministerial office, becoming postmaster-general in March 1931. What transformed Attlee’s career was the financial crisis of 1931 and the estrangement of the fiscally orthodox ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘No Country for Old Men’, 21 February 2008

No Country for Old Men 
directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.
January 2008
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... The plot ends in an accident too. After he has killed Moss’s wife (very well played by Kelly MacDonald), Chigurh’s truck is hit by a car full of joy-riding kids, and he gets his arm broken along with multiple other injuries. He borrows a shirt from two boys gawking at the accident, ties up his arm and limps off, no more to be seen. As you realise ...


A.J.P. Taylor: Enough about Politics, 15 April 1982

... power, and that this applied to the moderates as well as to the radicals in the Party. When Ramsay MacDonald offered a peerage to R.H. Tawney, greatest of the moderates, Tawney replied: ‘What harm have I ever done the Labour Party?’ Labour men who accepted peerages were regarded as renegades, unless they did it as Lord Stansgate, Tony Benn’s father, did ...

It’s got bells on

Michael Neve, 21 June 1984

A Leg to Stand On 
by Oliver Sacks.
Duckworth, 168 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 7156 1027 9
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... books and articles of Doctor Sacks. A collection of excellent essays on equally weird events, like Macdonald Critchley’s The Divine Banquet of the Brain, published in 1979, does not seek the same literary place, or share the same desire to link neurones to Novalis which is among Sacks’s aspirations. Sacks’s standing with literary people is not just due ...

Forget the Dylai Lama

Thomas Jones: Bob Dylan, 6 November 2003

Dylan's Visions of Sin 
by Christopher Ricks.
Viking, 517 pp., £25, October 2003, 9780670801336
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... is the new sound – the song is the first on Highway 61 Revisited – of Dylan’s expanded band: Michael Bloomfield’s taut guitar-playing, the easy-going piano, the optimistic warble of the Hammond organ. But Ricks doesn’t write about any of that: instead, he writes about Larkin (‘Home is so sad’). This comes as less of a shock than perhaps it ...

Bevan’s Boy

John Campbell, 20 September 1984

The Making of Neil Kinnock 
by Robert Harris.
Faber, 256 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 571 13266 9
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Neil Kinnock: The Path to Leadership 
by G.M.F. Drower.
Weidenfeld, 162 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 297 78467 6
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... than it ever was in life. For thirty years he railed in vain against the leadership, first of MacDonald, Snowden and Jimmy Thomas, then of Attlee, Morrison, Bevin and the upstart Gaitskell, antagonising the union bosses and the PLP equally, the darling only of the constituencies. He was expelled from the party in 1939 and very nearly again in 1955, and by ...


Andrew Scull, 29 September 1988

Mind Forg’d Manacles: A History of Madness in England from the Restoration to the Regency 
by Roy Porter.
Athlone, 412 pp., £25, August 1987, 0 485 11324 4
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The Past and the Present Revisited 
by Lawrence Stone.
Routledge, 440 pp., £19.95, October 1987, 0 7102 1253 4
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Sufferers and Healers: The Experience of Illness in 17th-Century England 
by Lucinda McCray Beier.
Routledge, 314 pp., £30, December 1987, 0 7102 1053 1
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Illness and Self in Society 
by Claudine Herzlich and Janine Pierret, translated by Elborg Forster.
Johns Hopkins, 271 pp., £20.25, January 1988, 0 8018 3228 4
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Medicine and Society in Wakefield and Huddersfield 1780-1870 
by Hilary Marland.
Cambridge, 503 pp., £40, September 1987, 0 521 32575 7
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A Social History of Madness: Stories of the Insane 
by Roy Porter.
Weidenfeld, 261 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 297 79223 7
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... their eyes back on the pre-reform era, saw little reason to dispute its unsavoury reputation. Even Michael MacDonald, whose splen did Mystical Bedlam used the casebooks of the astrological physician and divine Richard Napier to illuminate the mental world of the 17th century, and to suggest that mental alienation and distress might then have been dealt ...

The Luck of the Tories

Ross McKibbin: The Debt to Kinnock, 7 March 2002

Kinnock: The Biography 
by Martin Westlake.
Little, Brown, 768 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 316 84871 9
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... since Labour began electing ‘leaders’) never to have held a ministerial post – being PPS to Michael Foot for a year does not count. He is the only British party leader to have been an EU Commissioner – and is likely to remain so. As a result his record in ‘government’ is hard to judge, since what the Commissioners do (unless it is thought to be ...
... and about socialism as the rhetoric of the Labour Party. There was even a hasty attempt to redraw Michael Foot as a moderate, a nice old thing who had had a wild youth, a sheep in wolf’s clothing. This reappraisal, however grotesque, may in part have been motivated by a sudden desire to be analytical and reasonably truthful, after all the intoxicating ...


A.J.P. Taylor: Living with Prime Ministers, 2 December 1982

... Disraeli, a miscellany of works which I also passed by, Disraeli not being my favourite man – Michael Foot can have him; Asquith, 600 pages of love-letters to a girl not half his age; Churchill, first of two volumes of biography by an American writer, a disquisition on his political philosophy, and a massive collection of documents relating to his career ...

Country Life

David Cannadine, 5 November 1981

The Victorian Countryside 
edited by G.E. Mingay.
Routledge, 380 pp., £25, July 1981, 0 7100 0734 5
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... and Kegan Paul published The Victorian City: Images and Realities, edited by H.J. Dyos and Michael Wolff, a Wagnerian epic in which history went to town in exuberant, zestful and flamboyant fashion. Understandably, the two volumes won immediate and widespread acclaim as a tour de force of entrepreneurial inspiration and editorial skill: ‘a study in ...

What did Cook want?

Jon Lawrence: Both ‘on message’ and off, 19 February 2004

The Point of Departure 
by Robin Cook.
Simon and Schuster, 368 pp., £20, October 2003, 0 7432 5255 1
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... such as Prescott, Blunkett and Hain merged into the Blairite mass or, like Margaret Beckett, Michael Meacher and Kinnock himself, became bit players on the political stage, Cook remained a prominent and prickly reminder of the electoral calculations that had won Blair the leadership in 1994. In this respect, he was undoubtedly helped by being banished to ...

What Blair Threw Away

Ross McKibbin: Feckless, Irresponsible and Back in Power, 19 May 2005

... and assume that Labour will sooner or later come a cropper. The Australian strategies adopted by Michael Howard and his advisers at this election were, on the other hand, very risky and, in the end, mistaken, exaggerating as they did the significance of immigration and crime within British politics. Many people ‘care’ about immigration and crime, but ...

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