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Making them think

J.I.M. Stewart

18 September 1986
G.K. Chesterton 
by Michael Ffinch.
Weidenfeld, 369 pp., £16, June 1986, 0 297 78858 2
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... In a Foreword to this very substantial book Michael Ffinch says that G.K. Chesterton ‘was above all things a great champion of Liberty’. He goes on: ‘This being so, it has often come as a surprise that in religion Chesterton should have moved away from the Liberal Unitarianism of his childhood towards Catholicism ...
7 January 1988
The Sea and Summer 
by George Turner.
Faber, 318 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 571 14846 8
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The Dragon in the Sword 
by Michael Moorcock.
Grafton, 283 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 246 13129 2
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by Stanislaw Lem, translated by Michael Kandel.
Deutsch, 322 pp., £11.95, August 1987, 0 233 98141 1
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... than just passively ‘reflecting’. The centre of Turner’s book is a cry for more information. Michael Moorcock’s The Dragon in the Sword has nothing at all to do with any of these concerns, and on the face of it, it is hard to see how the two books could belong in the same genre. Perhaps Moorcock’s should be reclassified as fantasy, for it is set in a ...

At the V&A

Jeremy Harding: 50 Years of ‘Private Eye’

15 December 2011
... mostly familiar, come from dozens of the Eye’s contributors, including the superb Ed McLaghlan, Michael Heath (Great Bores of Today etc), Ken Pyne, whose National Association of Builders Convention (1986) is proudly displayed (as are the many builders’ cracks in the drawing), Barry Fantoni, Nick Newman, Martin Honeysett, Willie Rushton … the list is ...

The Excavation

Joseph Roth, translated by Michael Hofmann

4 January 2001
... illnesses. People got belly-aches and died from eating rotten fruit, the water ran out in the wells, a couple of pine forests burned down, and the dry grass on the steppes caught alight. At night, the horizon was red, and there were acrid fumes in the air. We kept getting new visitors to the morgue. The authorities announced that the water was ...


Michael Dibdin: Ulster Questions

21 April 1988
... churches disdain such tactics; they would no more think of second-guessing the Deity than Stanley Wells would of paraphrasing Shakespeare. The result is that pure blasts of 17th-century English peal out amid the High Street mix, creating acute problems of harmonisation. John Julius Norwich pointed out that St Paul can sound like Nancy Mitford (‘How shall ...


Susannah Clapp

18 February 1988
A Woman of Passion: The Life of E. Nesbit, 1858-1924 
by Julia Briggs.
Hutchinson, 473 pp., £16.95, November 1987, 9780091682101
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Narratives of Love and Loss: Studies in Modern Children’s Fiction 
by Margaret Rustin and Michael Rustin.
Verso, 268 pp., £22.95, November 1987, 9780860911876
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... velveteen all day. I wore it only in the evening.’ Beneath the velveteen was venom. When H.G. Wells tried to propel the Fabians towards more vigorous political action there was a row with the Blands. When Wells was intercepted with Bland’s daughter Rosamund at Paddington Station, en route for the Continent, there was ...


Iain Sinclair: My Olympics

30 August 2012
... bonanza. The soft-spoken Californian rodent was attended by his sleepover pal and minder, Michael Jackson. We have heard it stated, quite accurately, that construction work on the Olympic Park has been carried out with few casualties. But cycle deaths are mounting, from the early casualties of the fresh-painted lanes at the base of the Bow ...

The Great Exhibition

John Sutherland

6 September 1984
Empire of the Sun 
by J.G. Ballard.
Gollancz, 287 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 575 03483 1
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Enterprise Red Star 
by Alexander Bogdanov, translated by Charles Rongle, edited by Loren Graham and Richard Stites.
Indiana, 266 pp., $22.50, June 1984, 0 253 17350 7
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Hotel du Lac 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 184 pp., £7.95, September 1984, 0 224 02238 5
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Conversations in Another Room 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Methuen, 121 pp., £7.95, August 1984, 0 413 55930 0
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An Affair on the Appian Way 
by Michael Levey.
Hamish Hamilton, 219 pp., £8.95, August 1984, 0 241 11315 6
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... He died, in 1928, experimenting on himself with blood donations from an infected patient. Like Wells’s vampiric Martians, Bogdanov’s aliens in Red Star are interested in blood – but only as something to be shared among themselves, in semi-religious ‘comradely exchanges of life’. A scientific amateur and Socialist philosopher, Bogdanov developed a ...

Babylon with Bananas

Michael Newton: Tarzan's best friend

29 January 2009
Me Cheeta: The Autobiography 
by Cheeta.
Fourth Estate, 320 pp., £16.99, October 2008, 978 0 00 727863 3
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... books on animal behaviour and sleazy anecdotes of the Hollywood Golden Age. That these two wells of inspiration should be so strikingly similar is the premise of the book. ‘Life ain’t perfect, as the one and only Wallace Beery supposedly told Gloria Swanson after raping her on their wedding night.’ In such asides we are told more than we ever ...
10 May 2007
William Shakespeare, Complete Works: The RSC Shakespeare 
edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen.
Macmillan, 2486 pp., £30, April 2007, 978 0 230 00350 7
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... Institute and was long rumoured to have been the source for the cut of its former director Stanley Wells’s beard; for some reason this picture looks slightly out of focus, as though seen through the wrong reading glasses). Macmillan’s accountants must be relying on the book selling in large quantities and over a long period in order to recoup their ...

Swiping at Suburbs

Andrew Saint: The course of British urbanism

31 March 2005
Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City 
by Tristram Hunt.
Weidenfeld, 432 pp., £25, June 2004, 0 297 60767 7
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... the costs of land and of transport. One Edwardian he quotes but might have made more of is H.G. Wells. In an eloquent essay of 1901, Wells prophesied the problems which urbanists everywhere are facing today. Already, he saw, capitalism’s pursuit of lower costs was revolutionising the choice of location and unpicking the ...

How did the slime mould cross the maze?

Adrian Woolfson: The Future of Emergence

21 March 2002
Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software 
by Steven Johnson.
Allen Lane, 288 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 7139 9400 2
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The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture 
by Mark Taylor.
Chicago, 340 pp., £20.50, January 2002, 0 226 79117 3
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... the guilds of Florence, Johnson addresses his key question – one that was anticipated by H.G. Wells in his World Brain (1938). Is it possible that the World Wide Web, a complex artificial system, might one day exhibit emergent behaviour or develop autonomous ‘higher-level consciousness’? Wells speculated that a ...
2 December 1982
The ‘Private Eye’ Story: The First 21 Years 
by Patrick Marnham.
Private Eye/Deutsch, 232 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 233 97509 8
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One for the Road: Further Letters of Denis Thatcher 
by Richard Ingrams and John Wells.
Private Eye/Deutsch, 80 pp., £2.50, October 1982, 9780233975115
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Sir James Goldsmith: The Man and the Myth 
by Geoffrey Wansell.
Fontana, 222 pp., £1.95, April 1982, 0 00 636503 5
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... staffer of the Eye and co-published by the Eye. Reviewers? Auberon Waugh in the Daily Mail; John Wells twice, once in Harper’s and once in the Times; Christopher Booker in the Spectator; Malcolm Muggeridge in the Daily Telegraph; Candida Lycett-Green (who was in love with Ingrams at Oxford, speaks adoringly of him in this book, and once worked for the ...
26 September 1991
Bernard Shaw. Vol. III: 1918-1950, The Lure of Fantasy 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 544 pp., £21, September 1991, 0 7011 3351 1
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... broadcast, and wrote letters no less prodigally than before. He stayed friends with the Webbs and Wells, adored T.E. Lawrence (so did Charlotte) and was close to Apsley Cherry-Garrard, who happened to be a neighbour at Ayot (Shaw had an editorial hand in The Worst Journey in the World). And – a real proof of vigour – he made new friendships of remoter ...
12 January 1995
Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright 
by Mark Rose.
Harvard, 176 pp., £21.95, October 1993, 0 674 05308 7
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Crimes of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation 
by Susan Stewart.
Duke, 353 pp., £15.95, November 1994, 0 8223 1545 9
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The Construction of Authorship: Textual Appropriation in Law and Literature 
edited by Martha Woodmansee and Peter Jaszi.
Duke, 562 pp., £42.75, January 1994, 0 8223 1412 6
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... the brink of those works entering the public domain, the public whose domain it is was informed by Michael Black of Cambridge University Press that the standard Lawrence texts were culpably imperfect. A new authorised edition was put in hand – and a new copyright thereby created. As I recall, the Lawrence estate’s agents, Laurence Pollinger, initially ...

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