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Mecca Bound

Robert Irwin

21 July 1994
The Hajj: Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places 
by F.E. Peters.
Princeton, 399 pp., £19.95, July 1994, 0 691 02120 1
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Pilgrims and Sultans: The Hajj under the Ottomans 
by Suraiya Faroqhi.
Tauris, 244 pp., £34.50, May 1994, 1 85043 606 1
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The Hadj: A Pilgrimage to Mecca 
by Michael Wolfe.
Secker, 331 pp., £19.99, January 1994, 0 436 58404 2
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... early decades of this century, some Africans financed their pilgrimage by selling their children. Michael Wolfe’s The Hadj is the story of an American convert’s pilgrimage made in 1990. Wolfe, who also writes novels, conscientiously avoids the politics of the contemporary hajj and his responses seem curiously ...

Pissing in the Snow

Steven Rose: Dissidents and Scientists

18 July 2019
Freedom’s Laboratory: The Cold War Struggle for the Soul of Science 
by Audra J. Wolfe.
Johns Hopkins, 302 pp., £22, January 2019, 978 1 4214 2673 0
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... science in the ‘free world’ and in the Soviet Union. It is with the Lysenko affair that Audra Wolfe begins her history of the CIA’s covert role in promoting the allegedly neutral, objective nature of scientific inquiry as a Western value. Since the 17th century, Western scientists and their philosophical supporters had insisted that science and its ...

The First Person, Steroid-Enhanced

Hari Kunzru: Hunter S. Thompson

15 October 1998
The Rum Diary 
by Hunter S. Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 204 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 9780747541684
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The Proud Highway: The Fear and Loathing Letters. Vol. I 
by Hunter S. Thompson, edited by Douglas Brinkley.
Bloomsbury, 720 pp., £9.99, July 1998, 0 7475 3619 8
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... For Tom Wolfe, the New Journalism was defined by the appearance of all kinds of literary devices in non-fiction writing, but chiefly by an unwillingness to adopt the traditional journalistic tone of polite neutrality. He made the business of voice appear as if it was simply a matter of style, a confident new generation trying on a linguistic version of one of his own well-cut suits ...

Over the Top

Michael Howard

8 February 1996
A Genius for War: A Life of General George Patton 
by Carlo D’Este.
HarperCollins, 977 pp., £25, November 1995, 0 00 215882 5
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... Mad, is he?’ George II is reported to have said of General Wolfe; ‘Then I wish he would bite some of my other generals!’ Both remarks might have been made about General George S. Patton Jr, and no doubt frequently were. His sanity was seriously in question. As S.L.A. Marshall, the most judicious of American military historians, put it: ‘Any man who thinks that he is the reincarnation of Hannibal or some such isn’t quite possessed of all his buttons ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Jeffrey Epstein’s Little Black Book

15 August 2019
... Tom Wolfe​ lived round the corner from the Metropolitan Museum, at 21 East 79th Street, between Fifth and Madison. A mahogany elevator went to the sitting room of his 14th-floor apartment, much as it does to Sherman McCoy’s in The Bonfire of the Vanities. Wolfe’s ‘Master of the Universe’ – who could be Jeffrey Epstein – soon brings ignominy to his marble halls, but he never commits the basic crime of not knowing how wonderful his Upper East Side spread is ...

Money Talk

Victor Mallet

21 December 1989
Liar’s Poker: Two Cities, True Greed 
by Michael Lewis.
Hodder, 224 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 0 340 49602 9
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Lords of Poverty: The Free-Wheeling Lifestyles, Power, Prestige and Corruption of the Multi-Billion Dollar Aid Business 
by Graham Hancock.
Macmillan, 234 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 333 43962 7
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High Life 
by Taki.
Viking, 198 pp., £11.95, October 1989, 0 670 82956 0
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The Midas Touch: Money, People and Power from West to East 
by Anthony Sampson.
BBC/Hodder, 212 pp., £15, October 1989, 0 340 48793 3
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... starving children of Ethiopia, on the other the wheeler-dealers of the international markets, the Michael Milkens and their hundred million dollar salaries. Michael Lewis deals wittily with the bizarre and shameless world of the wealthy bond-dealers in Liar’s Poker. In Lords of Poverty Graham Hancock looks at the other ...

Everybody knows

Christina Gombar: Kate Jennings

22 August 2002
Moral Hazard 
by Kate Jennings.
Fourth Estate, 180 pp., £10, April 2002, 1 84115 737 6
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... while those who aren’t – those who work with them – may be just plain sick of them. Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities and Michael Lewis’s bond-trading memoir, Liar’s Poker, in common with the many chronicles that imitated them, keep their focus tightly trained on the upper echelons, as if they were all ...

The Most Beautiful Icicle

Inigo Thomas: Apollo 11

15 August 2019
Reaching for the Moon: A Short History of the Space Race 
by Roger D. Launius.
Yale, 256 pp., £20, July 2019, 978 0 300 23046 8
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The Moon: A History for the Future 
by Oliver Morton.
Economist Books, 334 pp., £20, May 2019, 978 1 78816 254 8
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... even the photography was practised and programmed. ‘They would loan us a Hasselblad,’ said Michael Collins, the third member of the Apollo 11 mission, who stayed behind in the moon’s orbit in Columbia, the command module, while his companions descended to its surface. Mia Fineman, curator of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New ...

Mganga with the Lion

Kenneth Silverman: Hemingway

2 September 1999
Hemingway: The Thirties 
by Michael Reynolds.
Norton, 360 pp., £9.95, October 1998, 0 393 31778 1
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Hemingway: The Final Years 
by Michael Reynolds.
Norton, 416 pp., £19.95, July 1999, 0 393 04748 2
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True at First Light 
by Ernest Hemingway.
Heinemann, 319 pp., £16.99, July 1999, 9780434008322
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... Michael Reynolds is the marrying kind of biographer: president of the Hemingway Society, he has published a 140-page annotated chronology of Hemingway’s life, a 2300-item inventory of Hemingway’s reading, and a monograph-length study of the creation of A Farewell to Arms, as well as three serial volumes of biography: The Young Hemingway (1986); Hemingway: The Paris Years (1989); and Hemingway: The American Homecoming (1992 ...

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 ...

Britishmen

Tom Paulin

5 November 1981
Too Long a Sacrifice: Life and Death in Northern Ireland since 1969 
by Jack Holland.
Columbus, 217 pp., £7.95, July 1981, 0 396 07934 2
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A History of Northern Ireland 
by Patrick Buckland.
Gill and Macmillan, 195 pp., £3.95, April 1981, 0 7171 1069 9
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... of 1912, towards the ideals of the United Irishmen, the revolutionary organisation founded by Wolfe Tone and a group of Belfast radicals in 1791. Holland, however, is sceptical about the change that has taken place in Loyalist attitudes: some Loyalists, he says, have replaced ‘a sheep-like willingness to follow their middle-class leaders’ with ...

Davitt’s Part

Charles Townshend

3 June 1982
Davitt and Irish Revolution 1846-1882 
by T.W. Moody.
Oxford, 674 pp., £22.50, April 1982, 9780198223825
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... active and gentlemanly-looking; his age is about 30 years.’ Such was the picture of the young Michael Davitt, Fenian suspect, produced by the police detective who was watching him in 1869. (In fact, he was working-class, and 24 years old.) Somewhat later, after seven years’ penal servitude, he was seen by the Irish Parliamentarian F.H.O’Donnell as ...

I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters

24 January 2013
Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... with R. Blakeslee Gilpin. The irony of Styron’s career is that as a literary son of Faulkner, Wolfe and Hemingway, he expended massive energy and mountaineering stamina into making himself a major prestigious novelist – and succeeded! – yet that ‘slender little volume’ has left its big brothers behind. It is the one book of Styron’s that ...

Just one of those ends

Michael Wood: Apocalypse Regained

13 December 2001
Apocalypse Now Redux 
directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
August 2001
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Marlon Brando 
by Patricia Bosworth.
Weidenfeld, 216 pp., £12.99, October 2001, 0 297 84284 6
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... The continuing American blindness to Vietnam itself, in this and many other instances, notably Michael Cimino’s film The Deer Hunter (1978), can be astonishing, but the myth also shows some genuine self-understanding. Apocalypse Now, in particular, is full of the sense that Americans exported whole chunks of their culture to Vietnam and discovered its ...

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