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Gerald Howard

18 July 1996
Secret Life 
by Michael Ryan.
Bloomsbury, 352 pp., £7.99, February 1996, 0 7475 2545 5
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... MichaelRyan’s memoir, Secret Life, is a book essentially unthinkable before the triumph of the therapeutic in contemporary American life. By virtue of its core subject-matter – the consequences of Ryan’s ...

Family Romances

Anthony Thwaite

2 February 1989
A Little Stranger 
by Candia McWilliam.
Bloomsbury, 135 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 9780747502791
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Running wild 
by J.G. Ballard.
Hutchinson, 72 pp., £5.95, November 1988, 0 09 173498 3
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Breathing Lessons 
by Anne Tyler.
Chatto, 327 pp., £11.95, January 1989, 0 7011 3391 0
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... whole brief horror story is reconstructed by a deputy psychiatric adviser to the Metropolitan Police. Clearly, what Ballard is up to here isn’t some sort of documentary imitation of anything like MichaelRyan and Hungerford, but a Ballardesque extrapolation of such incidents as those involving the Baader-Meinhof gang, Patty Hearst, and other manifestations of the ‘children of revenge’: moments ...

He ate peas with a knife

John Sutherland: Douglas Jerrold

3 April 2003
Douglas Jerrold: 1803-57 
by Michael​ Slater.
Duckworth, 340 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 7156 2824 0
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... The tenth and central chapter of Michael Slater’s biography is entitled ‘Jerrold, Dickens, Thackeray’. This, as Slater reminds us (often), is the company his contemporaries expected Douglas Jerrold to keep. Some partisans might even ...

Bunches of Guys

Owen Bennett-Jones: Just the Right Amount of Violence

19 December 2013
Decoding al-Qaida’s Strategy: The Deep Battle against America 
by Michael Ryan.
Columbia, 368 pp., £23.15, September 2013, 978 0 231 16384 2
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The Terrorist’s Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organisations 
by Jacob Shapiro.
Princeton, 352 pp., £19.95, July 2013, 978 0 691 15721 4
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... another six months he is saying something must be done in Nigeria and Libya too. Ayman al-Zawahiri surely views his period as leader of al-Qaida with satisfaction. In Decoding al-Qaida’s Strategy MichaelRyan draws a useful distinction between the drawn-out or ‘deep’ battle of ideas and the ‘close’ battle of combat. The recent al-Qaida advances can be seen as close-battle victories of ...

Taking Flight

Thomas Jones: Blake Morrison

7 September 2000
The Justification of Johann Gutenberg 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 259 pp., £14.99, August 2000, 0 7011 6965 6
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... A few pages later Morrison says something in connection with his father’s will which would seem to endorse this: ‘The books here on my shelves have countless examples of similar behaviour.’When MichaelRyan murdered 14 people in Hungerford in 1987 (and then killed himself), the idea was put about that he’d been motivated by watching Rambo videos. That someone could, apparently without motive ...

White Slaves

Christopher Driver

3 March 1983
Prostitution and Prejudice: The Jewish Fight against White Slavery, 1870-1939 
by Edward Bristow.
Oxford, 340 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 19 822588 1
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Peasants, Rebels and Outcastes 
by Mikiso Hane.
Scolar, 297 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 0 85967 670 6
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... would keep the women happy, if nothing else would, and he built them their own synagogue. The term ‘white slavery’ was first used in the context of prostitution by a British vice campaigner, Dr MichaelRyan, as early as 1839, and it was used with special reference to Jewish procurers in the East End of London. When the Jewish Chronicle put aside the sense of shame in its community and decided to ...
12 May 1994
Pictures of Perfection 
by Reginald Hill.
HarperCollins, 303 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 00 232392 3
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... self-analyses, it is the whole problem and pleasure of novels on fragments of ivory, detective novels of manners, that Hill posits as his ground of composition. The reflection that Hungerford, where MichaelRyan murdered 16, is close to the border of Janeite Hampshire is not excluded; Pictures of Perfection can be read as Hill’s oblique return to the problem unsolved by A Killing Kindness, a return ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: The Ryanverse

11 July 2002
... and perhaps too Updiked, though Clancy didn’t mention that. So the stylised definite article has been dropped, and Red Rabbit will be hopping its way up the bestseller lists in a matter of weeks (Michael Joseph, £18.99). Clancy rocketed to fame – the cliché isn’t inapt for such a notorious gizmologist, though he’d no doubt give you the make and serial number of the rocket in question – in ...

Beyond Textualism

Christopher Norris

19 January 1984
Text Production 
by Michael​ Riffaterre, translated by Terese Lyons.
Columbia, 341 pp., $32.50, September 1983, 0 231 05334 7
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Writing and the Experience of Limits 
by Philippe Sollers, edited by David Hayman, translated by Philip Barnard.
Columbia, 242 pp., $31.50, September 1983, 0 231 05292 8
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The Reach of Criticism: Method and Perception in Literary Theory 
by Paul Fry.
Yale, 239 pp., £18, October 1984, 0 300 02924 1
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Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism 
by Paul de Man, edited by Wlad Godzich.
Methuen, 308 pp., £7.50, November 1983, 0 416 35860 8
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Displacement: Derrida and After 
edited by Mark Krupnick.
Indiana, 198 pp., £9.75, December 1983, 0 253 31803 3
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Authoritarian Fictions: The Ideological Novel as a Literary Genre 
by Susan Rubin Suleiman.
Columbia, 299 pp., £39, August 1983, 0 231 05492 0
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... deplore its self-occupied textual games. Several of Krupnick’s contributors make a point of stressing this alignment between deconstruction and a radical critique of existing political discourse. MichaelRyan has an essay on the inbuilt contradictions of liberal reason, arguing that we need a different epistemology – an alternative idea of language, politics and truth – in order to grasp and ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: ‘The Big Short’

18 February 2016
The Big Short 
directed by Adam McKay.
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... suggests that you can get into trouble for knowing as well as not knowing, even if the trouble is different. And that it may not matter what ain’t so as long as everyone else thinks the way you do. Michael Lewis, in the book the movie is based on, calls ‘not knowing’ a ‘talent’. ‘Their ignorance seems incredible,’ he says. ‘They’ in this case are traders who don’t know that sub-prime ...


Michael​ Mason

10 November 1988
Report of the Inquiry into Child Abuse in Cleveland 1987 
by Elizabeth Butler-Sloss.
HMSO, 336 pp., £14.50, July 1988, 0 10 104122 5
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When Salem came to the Boro 
by Stuart Bell.
Pan, 355 pp., £3.99, July 1988, 0 330 30503 4
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The Last Taboo 
by Gay Search.
Penguin, 192 pp., £3.99, August 1988, 0 14 011049 6
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Unofficial Secrets: Child Sexual Abuse – The Cleveland Case 
by Beatrix Campbell.
Virago, 226 pp., £4.50, September 1988, 0 86068 634 5
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... life. But these outcomes are not inevitable, being more in the way of statistical tendencies, and the notions of disturbance involved (though it is interesting to learn that the Hungerford gunman, MichaelRyan, may have been an abused child) can be unsatisfactory: ‘failure to form stable relationships’, for instance, is perhaps a trait which few of us would be confident in disavowing. Also, some ...

Do women like sex?

Michael​ Mason

8 November 1990
Making sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud 
by Thomas Laqueur.
Harvard, 352 pp., $27.50, October 1990, 0 674 54349 1
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... theories of conception, for it is taken clearly to precede the recognition that ovulation in the human female is spontaneous. The main evidence Laqueur brings forward is an ambiguous anecdote from MichaelRyan’s Manual of Jurisprudence of 1836 about a comatose girl conceiving. He is misleading in not quoting Ryan from his more directly medico-sexual Philosophy of Marriage: ‘amorous impulse ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: ‘Stop-Loss’

8 May 2008
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 ...
18 October 1984
Property and Political Theory 
by Alan Ryan.
Blackwell, 198 pp., £15, August 1984, 0 631 13691 6
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... professional epistemic scruple – the rational cowardice – of modern intellectuals. (Pick a subject your own size; affect a style which will readily hold up in your customary social milieu.) Alan Ryan’s Property and Political Theory is thus a bolder venture than it may at first appear. There has been a small handful of serious philosophical or historical works on the nature of property rights ...


Alexander Nehamas

22 May 1986
Contest of Faculties: Philosophy and Theory after Deconstruction 
by Christopher Norris.
Methuen, 247 pp., £16, November 1985, 0 416 39939 8
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Philosophical Profiles 
by Richard Bernstein.
Polity, 313 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 7456 0226 6
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Against Theory: Literary Studies and the New Pragmatism 
edited by W.J.T. Mitchell.
Chicago, 146 pp., £12.75, November 1985, 0 226 53226 7
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... to ‘the kind of inertly consensual thinking which denies that theory can possibly transcend the cultural conditions of its production.’ In support of this claim, Norris paraphrases an argument of MichaelRyan from his Marxism and Deconstruction, makes numerous, if cryptic allusions to the writings of Derrida, and relies on his interpretation of the ‘hard’ deconstruction of Paul de Man. This ...

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